I’m in a relationship with a girl but now it has become very toxic and she is taking unfair advantage of me. How can I end the relationship?– Amna
Another question about toxic relationships! I did not envision how popular my original post on toxic relationships would be, but I have gotten so many questions about this subject after publishing the post. It looks like it is a problem so many experience – and not only in a romantic sense as we saw in this post about toxic in-laws.
Letting Go of a Toxic Relationship
Ending a relationship is difficult — toxic or not. However, getting out of a toxic relationship can seem impossible. You are dealing with many different forces that are trying to keep you in that relationship.
It’s actually one way you can tell the relationship is toxic — you are stripped of the power to leave. In the end, that’s what a toxic relationship comes down to: power and control.
One way of taking back power is to end all contact and protect yourself. Sometimes, blocking someone and removing all access to you is the best way to proceed. You deprive them of their ability to manipulate and control you. That isn’t always possible though, so I’ve set out other things you can do to get yourself out.
Am I in a toxic relationship?
For the benefit of those who are reading who may not recognise the signs and have not read my previous posts, I set out below a few signs of a toxic relationship. These are not exhaustive, of course, and there could be other signs. One or more of these red flags could mean you are in a toxic relationship.
- Constant feelings of self-doubt
- Refusal to communicate with you
- Controlling behaviour
- Criticises you all the time
- You make excuses for your partner’s behaviour all the time
- Making you dependent on them
The first step in leaving a toxic relationship is to recognise it for what it is. Admit that your relationship is not healthy and that it is not benefitting you. This should give you the resolve and understanding that you are not crazy and motivate you to start thinking about how you can deal with the problem.
How to leave a toxic relationship
Accept they will not change
To be clear, as I have said on many occasions, I believe people can change. I used to think once a bad egg, always a bad egg but it’s not necessarily true. Sometimes secure, healthy people can become toxic and vice versa. There are ways people can improve their negative flaws — we all have the capacity to change.
I actually was kind of toxic at the start of my marriage. I did a lot of things I regret and exhibited unhealthy behaviour. With therapy and a lot of reflection I was able to recognise my toxic traits and correct them, so I know this to be true.
However, for a person to change that person has to be willing to change and willing to do the work. They have to want to improve themselves and their relationship. They have to accept their mistakes and correct them. If a person does not want to do the work, they will probably never change.
If you’ve already started to think about leaving the relationship, chances are you have tried and you have asked for change. If they won’t listen to you and ignore your requests repeatedly then it is time you accept that they will not change. You will know if they are willing to change by their words and actions — empty promises and broken vows are just distraction tactics to get you to hang on a little longer.
Believe that you deserve better
To make your life better you need to accept that you deserve better. When people have been in a toxic relationship for a long time, they start believing that their partner is the best they can do, and they can’t do any better. Toxic people try to wear their partners down and ruin their self-esteem bit by bit. When our self-esteem is weak, it is easier to manipulate us and to make us believe that we don’t deserve better relationships in our lives.
Remember: it is better to be single than to be in a toxic relationship.
There are many ways to convince yourself that you deserve better. One method that helped me was learning to look at myself and life objectively. Thinking about your position and reflecting on things will help you get some distance and objectivity. Having that objectivity is one step towards gaining your power back.
What I mean by reflection is considering your situation as an outsider. If you were a stranger looking at your relationship what would they see? Would they see someone who was being taken advantage of? Someone who was being abused? Someone who was being stifled?
Would you be ok with one of your friends being in such a relationship?
The answers to those questions should hopefully help you realise that this is not right for you and that you deserve better — you deserve the same as you expect for anyone else that you love.
Being in a toxic relationship is a very emotional situation, but the more you can remove yourself from your emotions the easier it will be to free yourself. You need your mind and heart to understand that this is bad for you and that you deserve better. You need to understand that being treated poorly is not ok and not something that you should have to put up with. A relationship should be beneficial and make you happy, not make you miserable all the time. Empower yourself to accept better.
A lot of relationships break up when one person realises that they are not getting out of the relationship what they should. When you improve your self-esteem, you improve your standards and what you are willing to put up with.
Reach out to loved ones
Chances are if you are in a toxic relationship, you haven’t really shared your problems with your friends and family. One of the signs of a toxic relationship is pressure from your partner to keep everything to yourself and not share your problems with people you trust.
While I do believe a lot of things need to remain between a couple, if there are things that bother you or have been bringing you down you should share those with others. We all need support in different areas of our lives and relationships are no different. Sometimes we don’t want to admit that our partners are not a good fit but keeping silent will hurt more in the long run. A friend can give you an objective perspective or a wake-up call.
Even though you may be embarrassed or scared of being judged, talk to someone you trust. Explain what you have been going through. Explain how you’ve been feeling. They will try to support you and help you plan a way out. You will need all the support you can get.
Make a plan
When making any decision in life having a plan can be the difference between success and failure. Planning an exit strategy and finding solutions to potential pitfalls can be powerful. Think about who you can call when your resolve gets weak, think about coping mechanisms if your partner tries to use their toxic traits to keep you in the relationship. What will help you get through it?
If your partner is very persistent, sometimes going “no contact” is the best way forward (as I mentioned above). Part of your plan can be to block them from all communication. Of course, you may get the urge to speak to them again. It’s hard to go cold turkey on anything, especially relationships. You should include plans on how to deal with urges to get in touch with your partner or what to do if they do manage to contact you without your permission. Is there a friend you can call when this happens to stop you from engaging with them?
Professional help should be part of your plan if possible. There are charities and organisations that specialise in helping people get out of toxic and abusive relationships. A therapist can help you build your self-confidence and self-esteem to make the move and provide you with support while you do it.
Figure out what gives you the most strength. Figure out how to stop going back to a toxic relationship.
Understand it will hurt
This may be the hardest thing you have done or ever will do in your life.
Be prepared for pain and a long road ahead but know that things will get better. You will find your path to happiness and you have the power to change your life. You just have to get that power back.
Your partner has manipulated you into believing you need them in your life to be happy. They have taught you to believe you can’t survive without them. It will be hard to shed this mindset. It will be painful. If you can be firm, if you can make this commitment, you can get through the pain. You’ve endured so much — you can endure this. Remember that you are stronger than you think.
I think I sound like a broken record by now — but I have to repeat that self-care is a powerful tool. The more you take care of yourself the more strength you will build. Self-care reminds us we need to love ourselves, put ourselves first and that we deserve happiness.
To get out of this situation, you need all the strength you can get. Your partner will use all kinds of tactics to keep you under their control, so you need to ensure you find ways to help keep your mental health from deteriorating.
Self-care means self-love, the more you love yourself the easier it will be to remove harmful people from your life.
Know your worth
Your partner’s happiness is not more important than your own.
Toxic relationships start and end with breaking down the other person’s self-esteem and self-confidence. By knowing your worth and knowing you don’t deserve this, you will be one step closer to freedom.
You shouldn’t be with someone that makes you doubt yourself, makes you walk on eggshells all the time and makes you feel replaceable. There are people out there that will make your life better and not worse. You deserve to be in a relationship that makes you happy.
By building your self-esteem and creating as much distance as possible between you and this person you will find your way out. As hard as it is, we have to remove some people out of our lives so that we can move on and grow. Your mental health is important and if someone is constantly harming it, they do not deserve your time and attention.
You are worthy of happiness. You are worthy of freedom.
You are worthy of love and toxic love is not love.
You are doing your best
You may try all of these methods and still be unable to leave. And that’s ok — it doesn’t mean you are weak. None of this is your fault and leaving a controlling relationship is something very difficult to do.
I hate it when people see a bad relationship (or even an abusive one) and say, “why don’t they just leave?”
If your partner is very toxic, they will have been trying to prevent you from doing all of the above. They are pulling you away from your support system, they are traumatising you and trying to take away your power.
There are many reasons people can’t “just leave” some relationships. Be kind to yourself and don’t feel guilty. It’s your partner’s responsibility to treat you well.
You are doing what you can and sometimes your circumstances will make it more difficult for you to leave. The important thing is that you try and that you build yourself up, step by step.
Remember that you have value, and you should not be with someone who doesn’t know your worth and doesn’t value what you have to give in the relationship.
You deserve better.
I hope you find your way out, Anonymous.
Until next time,
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse please visit the Refuge website (where you may be able to chat to someone online) or contact the 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247 (freephone).
Lynn Mejia says
These are great tips! I know how hard it is to leave a toxic relationship especially when you’ve been dating/friends with this person for a long time. Thanks for sharing x