How To Heal From A Toxic Relationship In 5 Steps

Anyone who’s ever been in a toxic relationship knows that it takes over every part of your life. A toxic relationship is like a leech – it attaches to everything that gives you life and it sucks them all dry. And one of the most heartbreaking parts of being in a toxic relationship is how long it takes to get out of one. 

It’s been almost two years since I left my toxic relationship, and I still suffer from PTSD, trauma, and panic that the relationship caused me. I’ll always carry the effects of the relationship like a scar, no matter how much time passes. 

Thankfully, there are steps to take to get out of these terrible relationships and make your way towards a healthy and healed life after a toxic relationship.

What is a Toxic Relationship?

 
 
 
 
 
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One of the most meaningful things my therapist ever said to me is that everyone has a certain level of pain that they can handle. Something to keep in mind when you’re assessing whether your relationship was toxic is that everyone’s pain threshold is different. What is toxic to you might not be toxic to someone else. 

While there are some pretty cut-and-dry definitions of toxic relationships – those involving  gaslighting; physical, verbal, emotional, and financial abuse; and other forms of belittlement and abuse – it’s important to note that some people can withstand more toxicity in a relationship than others. 

Your feelings are valid. Even if someone’s relationship might be considered ‘more toxic’ than yours, that doesn’t mean yours didn’t hurt just as much (or more). 

The easiest way to measure if your relationship was toxic is to assess if your feelings were validated and your needs were met throughout the relationship. One of the worst things people can do for their mental health is not to identify a toxic relationship because “it wasn’t that bad.” If you feel pain or belittlement from your relationship, it’s a toxic relationship.


The Effects of a Toxic Relationship

Being in a toxic relationship can affect everything about your life. Once you’re out of one, it’s as though you have to relearn everything you were told throughout the relationship. 

Another issue that might arise is having low self-esteem. More than likely, your partner tore you down and belittled you so that you would become malleable to their abuse and lies. Because of this, you might not believe in yourself anymore, and it might be more difficult to think you can face the world on your own. In the end, you end up more mentally exhausted than anything as you begin to pick apart the lies from the truth. 

A toxic relationship will also affect your view on relationships in your future. You might suffer from trust issues and even doubt that someone could love you. That’s why it’s so important to have people in your corner as you recover. 


How to Recover from a Toxic Relationship

 
 
 
 
 
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Accept That You Were in a Toxic Relationship

The first step toward healing is accepting. Not many people know the correct definition of toxic, and thus, they can’t label a toxic relationship when they see one. At its core, a toxic relationship is one that makes you feel unsupported, misunderstood, demeaned, or attacked. So many people freehandedly throw out the phrase ‘toxic’ without really thinking about the context. 

More than likely, you know someone (or are someone) who has been in a toxic relationship. One in three women and men, and one in two trans or non-binary people have been in an abusive relationship. 

That being said, there’s not too much data on toxic relationships due to the fact that many people don’t report them, and some don’t even know they’ve experienced them. 

The first step to healing from a toxic relationship is acknowledging that you were in one.


Forgive Yourself

This step is arguably both the most important and the most difficult. There are days when you might hate yourself for getting into a toxic relationship. There are also days when that hate might be channeled toward your toxic ex. I would argue that both of these forms of hate aren’t beneficial to healing. Accept that it happened and it’s in the past. In the end, we can’t build a time machine and change what happened, but we can grow from it. 

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned since coming out of my toxic relationship is how I ought to be loved. I clearly didn’t know what true love was before my toxic relationship, so afterward, I sought out someone so completely opposite from my ex and I found the love of my life. 

If I never forgave myself for getting into the original toxic relationship, I could never have opened myself up to giving and receiving love. 

That being said, just like healing, forgiveness isn’t linear. There will be days when you do hate yourself and scream and cry because ‘you got yourself into that relationship.’ But there will also be days when you can extend grace, love, and compassion to your younger self and you can continue to grow in your journey of forgiveness.


Let Go of Anger

 
 
 
 
 
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As you’re processing your toxic relationship, you will more than likely feel an overwhelming amount of anger. This anger is completely justified. You feel anger toward yourself, the people who allowed you to be in the relationship, and toward the person who caused you all the harm. 

While it’s always okay to feel your feelings, understand that anger and resentment aren’t beneficial to your healing journey. Holding a grudge or anger towards someone is still a form of holding feelings for them. Your toxic ex isn’t worth your anger or your energy. 

Just like every other step, this is easier said than done. There will be days when you want to rage against your ex and call everyone around them and warn them about what a monster they are. There will also be days when you hope and pray that their lives fall apart. Again, these are completely justifiable emotions, but I encourage you to take your energy and redirect it to a cause that is more beneficial. This could mean talking out your feelings, seeking therapy, or looking into charities that help victims of rape and other forms of domestic violence. Don’t waste another minute of your energy on anyone toxic.


Reach Out for Help

A journey towards recovery shouldn’t be done alone. Find the people in your life who will be there for you while you recover. While you should seek therapy during this stage, you can also go to your friends and loved ones. 

More than likely, they’ve been wanting to see you get out of the relationship as well. While they might not have all the professional answers, they’ll be there for you for emotional support throughout your journey. 

You can also ask your loved ones to keep you accountable. Blocking your ex can feel empowering and necessary when your emotions are at an all-time high, but you might want to open the door for your ex later when you’ve started to recover. Be open and honest with your friends about those emotions when and if they do arise, and ask them to keep you accountable for not going back to your ex.


Heal Your Wounds

You may not know all the ways your ex has hurt you until you’ve had time to process and feel all your emotions. If you were in a toxic relationship where your ex constantly lied and gaslit you, you might have to take even more time to unravel the truth from the lies. Sadly, this step might take the longest amount of time as there will be parts of your trauma that might take years to unearth themselves. 

Be kind and patient with yourself on your healing journey, and be honest with yourself when you experience something that might bring you back to a traumatic time. There will be days when you can conquer everything you face and there will be days when you can’t get out of bed.

Nurture yourself during both of these times, and always remember that healing is not linear. Be proud of how far you’ve come and allow yourself the space to feel everything.


Slow and Steady

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. That’s another thing my therapist said to me as I was coming out of my darkest moments. The sad news is that you can’t just wave a magic wand and heal from your toxic relationship in a matter of minutes or even days. 

The good news is that you can heal from it, and that should give you hope. Look for the people and things that bring light and life back into your world. Be selfish about your healing time and take as long as you need. Coming out of a toxic relationship might be the most difficult thing you ever do, so take your time and be gentle with yourself as you do.

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Do you have any advice for someone coming out of a toxic relationship? Comment below.


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