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How to Heal From a Toxic Relationship

* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.

All relationships take work. We’re all human, and none of us come without our faults and quirks. A healthy relationship will prioritize compassion, love, safety, and compromise to make it work.

Unfortunately, some relationships can feel like an uphill battle. You may be prone to more disagreements and fights, and communication, respect, and compassion can feel futile. Then you wonder how to heal from a toxic relationship?

How to Heal From a Toxic Relationship

In these cases, the effort required to make it work is almost nonexistent – this is one of the first signs of a toxic relationship.

What Is A Toxic Relationship? 

Society worships romantic love. We want to be swept up in the dizzying passion of it all, and if the fights end in fits of tears and broken china, that’s endearing, right?

So we take the bad with the good and the good with the bad and choose to stay – even when it gets tough. 

Love is a choice. Arguing with our partners is normal, and some would say healthy. No relationship is immune to disagreement and challenge, but harassment, abuse, judgment, and disrespect are not part of the deal.

Passion is good, but no relationship should be irrational and dizzying to the point of toxicity. 

Toxic relationships make you feel attacked, misunderstood, demeaned, or unsupported. Any relationship that fills you with negativity can become toxic.

If your partner is displaying behaviors that are emotionally or physically damaging, and these are becoming a consistent pattern, you’re probably in a toxic relationship. Without care, compassion, and respect, a healthy and safe relationship will not form. 

Identify The Toxic Behaviors 

Was your partner toxic? If you’re still sporting your rose-colored glasses, it can be hard to acknowledge your partner’s faults. If you’ve noticed any of these behaviors in your own relationship, it may have been a toxic attachment: 

  • A lack of support
  • Frequent lying
  • Jealousy and insecurity
  • Controlling behavior 
  • Financial dependence 
  • ‘Walking on eggshells’ 
  • You feel neglected and unsafe 
  • Bad or nonexistent communication
  • You don’t receive empathy 
  • Everything you do is judged negatively
  • Patterns of disrespect
  • Harassment or abuse
  • You’ve become isolated and lost friendships

Healthy relationships are characterized by trust, honesty, open communication, effort, and compromise. There should be no imbalance of power, and you should feel like all of your needs are met.

If you can identify with any of the behaviors above, you may be, or have been, in a toxic relationship. 

Acknowledge What Happened

Are you familiar with the five stages of grief? Grief is a strong, overwhelming reaction to loss. Though we may commonly associate it with death, grief applies to a relationship breakdown, too – even a toxic one. 

This means that you’ll cycle through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance as your mind, soul, and body start to heal. Denial, however, is a stage that we often linger in for too long.

Denying the existence of a toxic relationship can be emotionally exhausting, so it’s important to acknowledge and accept what happened in your relationship. 

Was it really that bad? Did I bring this on myself? Am I making this up? These may be natural thoughts, but they’re not true. To begin healing, you need to accept that things turned sour, and allow yourself to feel hurt.

Feelings of regret, denial, and self-doubt are normal, but if you want to move forward, you can’t let them consume you.

How to Heal From a Toxic Relationship

Stop All Contact

Stopping contact allows you to heal without the risk of reopening healing wounds or tempting you to go back to your toxic ex. It’s tough, but it’s often the best way to heal. 

Take Time For Yourself

After everything you’ve been through, you’ll need some time alone to think, process, and regain your autonomy – especially if you were enmeshed with your partner.

You can balance alone time with a healthy social life, but alone time will allow you to process and regain independence. 

Feel Your Emotions

Allow yourself to feel hurt. Don’t be tempted to drown your pain in distractions or substances – the path to healing begins with acceptance.

Cry, scream, shout, or break things if you need to. Let yourself feel the anger, grief, sadness, loneliness, and pain before it consumes you. 

Practice Self-Care And Self-Kindness

You’ve been through a lot, and you deserve kindness. Make self-care and kindness a priority. Rely on yourself for joy, peace, and inspiration, and try some of the suggestions below: 

  • Spend time alone
  • Establish a healthy sleeping pattern
  • Eat regularly and healthily 
  • Spend time in nature 
  • Get your body moving
  • Say words of affirmation 
  • Validate your own emotions
  • Treat yourself to something nice 

Surround Yourself With Positivity

The key to healing is to surround yourself with positivity. This includes building a strong support system filled with positive and uplifting people who want the best for you and bring out the best in you.

This system can consist of friends, family, a therapist, and even a support group. 

Surrounding yourself with positivity can also mean doing positive things for yourself, such as the self-care and self-kindness activities listed above.

Turning anything negative into a positive will help you balance your emotions and give you an upbeat, compassionate outlook on life. 

Use Practical Coping Strategies

Make use of practical coping strategies to help you heal. Anytime you feel sad, angry or in denial, try journaling your thoughts and feelings.

You could also use techniques such as meditation, therapy, or exercise to give yourself a productive outlet. Using practical coping strategies will help you avoid destructive ones, such as using substances or binge eating. 

Make New Friends

Take the time to meet new people, and make new friends. Building a strong support system is imperative to healing, and you’ll need a group of healthy, uplifting, and supportive friends in your corner.

Meeting new people and making plans will also help keep you busy and help you reconnect with yourself. 

The Bottom Line

Remember that you are worthy of love, no matter how small, helpless or worthless your toxic relationship made you feel. You deserve to be content and secure, and with a productive approach to healing, you’ll see that.

Take time for yourself, feel your emotions and establish a support system to help you through. This experience doesn’t have to define you, and you shouldn’t let it. Better days are coming.

Emergency Numbers

Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) is the nation’s largest organization fighting sexual violence: (800) 656-HOPE / (800) 810-7440 (TTY)

988 Mental Health Emergency Hotline: Calling 988 will connect you to a crisis counselor regardless of where you are in the United States.

911 Emergency

The National Runaway Safeline: 800-RUNAWAY (800-786-2929)

Self Abuse Finally Ends (S.A.F.E)

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Trauma & Child Abuse Resource Center

Domestic Violence Shelters & Resources

Futures Without Violence

National Center for Victims of Crime

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Network to End Domestic Violence

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Prevent Child Abuse America

Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine: 1-800-950-NAMI, or text “HELPLINE” to 62640. Both services are available between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. ET, Monday–Friday

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255); www.suicidepreventionlifeline.orgOr, just dial 988

Suicide Prevention, Awareness, and Support: www.suicide.org

Crisis Text Line: Text REASON to 741741 (free, confidential and 24/7). In English and Spanish

Self-Harm Hotline: 1-800-DONT CUT (1-800-366-8288)

Family Violence Helpline: 1-800-996-6228

American Association of Poison Control Centers: 1-800-222-1222

National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependency: 1-800-622-2255

LGBTQ Hotline: 1-888-843-4564

National Maternal Mental Health Hotline: 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262)

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 678678. Standard text messaging rates apply. Available 24/7/365. (Provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning—LGBTQ—young people under 25.)

The SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline connects LGBT older people and caretakers with friendly responders. 1-877-360-LGBT (5428)

The Trans Lifeline is staffed by transgender people for transgender people:
1-877-565-8860 (United States)
1-877-330-6366 (Canada)

Veterans Crisis Line: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net

International Suicide Prevention Directory: findahelpline.com

The StrongHearts Native Helpline is a confidential and anonymous culturally appropriate domestic violence and dating violence helpline for Native Americans, available every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT. Call 1-844-762-8483.

‘Find a Therapist’ Online Directories

Canada

UK & Republic of Ireland

  • Emergency: 112 or 999
  • Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90 (UK – local rate)
  • Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 91 92 (UK minicom)
  • Hotline: 1850 60 90 90 (ROI – local rate)
  • Hotline: 1850 60 90 91 (ROI minicom)
  • YourLifeCounts.org: https://yourlifecounts.org/find-help/

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