Leaving a toxic relationship sounds like it should be pretty straightforward, but anyone who’s done it knows just how tough it can be. You know things just aren’t working and there’s no way to fix your relationship but that doesn’t make things any easier. Here’s why it’s such a struggle.
- There’s too much history. As you start brainstorming ways of how to end it, all of a sudden, all your good memories rush in while the bad stuff gets blocked out. Yes, there is a lot of history between you, but do the bad times outweigh the good? Probably, and that means it’s time to go.
- You find comfort in the familiar. If you’ve been with him for a long time, you’re comfortable together. You know what makes each other tick and how to co-exist. Thinking of having to put yourself out there again and getting to know a new guy from scratch isn’t a very inviting thought.
- You’re waiting for it to get better. Waiting for a relationship to get better is like standing in the desert waiting for the rain. It could happen, but the chances are pretty slim. If things are getting worse every time you think you’ve already hit rock bottom, then you need to stop waiting and end things already.
- You’re not just leaving him — you’re leaving other people too. The longer you’re together, the more your social and familial circles collide. You bond with the people who are close to him, create relationships with them, and vice versa. If you break up, you’re breaking up with their friends and family too and that makes your loss that much greater.
- You genuinely like being in a relationship (and that means any relationship). You don’t want to be single but you know you can’t be in a relationship with him. You love the feeling of being in a relationship, but if it’s hurting you more than it’s helping you, then it’s time to step away. You should never be in a relationship just for the sake of being in one. It has to work too.
- You don’t want to give up on everything you’ve fought so hard for. It’s hard to throw away all of the hard work and effort that you put into a long-term relationship. You don’t want to accept the fact that it was “all for nothing.” But sometimes, things just aren’t meant to be and that’s life. Don’t exhaust yourself for another second if it’s not working out.
More reasons leaving a toxic relationship is so hard
- You’re afraid that you won’t find someone better. There are plenty of other guys who can make you just as happy, if not happier than he can. Never believe that there isn’t someone else out there for you because there is. If it’s not working out with this guy, that just means there is someone else that it will work out with.
- You’re afraid that he’ll find someone better and forget about you. Never belittle yourself or compare yourself to another woman out there. You’re the only you there is and even if he finds someone else, that doesn’t mean she’s better than you, and it certainly doesn’t negate the things you shared.
- You’re afraid of being alone. Fear of loneliness is one of the worst reasons for not leaving a relationship. You should feel independent and strong even when you’re in one. He’s not the only person on this planet that’s for you. Think about your friends and family — you had them before him and you will have them after him as well.
- You’re afraid you’ll regret it. First off, there’s no need to stress about things that haven’t happened yet. You don’t know how you’ll feel once it’s over — if anything, you could feel a tremendous amount of relief. Secondly, you shouldn’t regret a decision you know is right. It may not be what you want but it’s what needs to happen, and that’s what matters.
- You don’t want to lose him as a friend. One of the scariest parts of leaving someone we’re in a relationship with is the fear of losing that person completely. Aside from him being your boyfriend, fiance, or husband, he was also (hopefully) your friend. However, if the relationship isn’t right, then you shouldn’t be with him. If you’re meant to be friends, you eventually will be.
How to make leaving a toxic relationship easier
While you can’t make the process entirely painless, there are some things you can do to make walking away seem not just possible but exciting.
- Work on developing self-love. This is absolutely vital not just when you’re thinking of leaving a toxic relationship but in life in general. Maybe you’re staying with him because part of you believes you don’t deserve any better. Maybe it’s because you’re terrified of being lonely and think that being with someone who’s clearly wrong for you is better than being alone. (Spoiler alert: it’s not.) When you develop a strong sense of self-love, you begin to realize your worth and suddenly, accepting less than that is no longer appealing. It’s amazing the difference it can make.
- Create a clear vision for your future. Where would you like to be and what would you like to be doing in five, 10 years? Imagine a future in which there were no limitations and don’t be afraid to dream big. Now, it’s time to face the fact that many of those things aren’t likely to happen if you stay in your current relationship. Will you write that novel, take a trip to Kenya to go on a safari? Will you go back to school and get a Ph.D. if you stay? If you know the answer is “no” to any of those questions, you also know it’s time to end things.
- Talk to your family and friends. Chances are, they’ve witnessed many displays of toxicity in your relationship and will be happy to remind you. Your closest friends and family members want what’s best for you, so don’t be afraid to express to them your desire to end things with your partner but your struggle to do so. They may have some great advice to offer you and even if they don’t, they’ll be more than willing to lend an ear and lend you their unwavering support.
- Start with baby steps. Leaving a toxic relationship sometimes can’t happen all at once. It’s okay to extricate yourself slowly, especially if you think it’s safer to do things that way. Start by distancing yourself from your partner a bit. Spend more time at work, with friends or family, or doing things away from them to get used to them not being around and vice versa. As you begin to adjust to the distance, it will become easier to think about ending things altogether.
- Make preparations where possible. If you’re very reliant on your partner in any way — he supports you financially, you live together, etc. — it’s no wonder the idea of a breakup is less than appealing. You shouldn’t have to worry about how you’re going to support yourself or where you’re going to live if you end a bad relationship, so do what you can now to make arrangements for a cushion. If possible, begin saving as much as you can from the minute you realize that it’s over. That money will come in handy when you’re without his financial help after the breakup. If saving a lot isn’t possible, talk to your family or best friends about perhaps providing you a temporary place to stay or other help once you get away. You’d be shocked how happily they’ll come to your aid.
- Talk to a therapist. Pretty much everyone, regardless of their relationship status, could benefit from speaking to a therapist. However, when you find yourself in a difficult and potentially mentally and emotionally damaging situation like a toxic relationship, it’s even more vital. Venting to a paid professional will not only make you feel less guilty about dumping your problems on people you know in real life (even though you shouldn’t!) but will provide you with some valuable and completely impartial feedback that will likely provide some great clarification on the relationship.
- Remember the person you used to be. Who were you before you got into this relationship? What was that girl like? What did she love doing, what made her happy? How did she spend her time and what did she want from love? The more you remember that girl you were previous to this relationship, the more you’ll be motivated to go out there and get her back.
- Make plans for the immediate aftermath. By this, I’m not referring to the practicalities listed above. Instead, you should make plans for something that you’re really looking forward to doing after leaving your toxic relationship. Maybe you finally book a weekend trip for you and your friends to a city you’ve wanted to visit for a while. Maybe you book yourself in for a full spa day for some pampering. Whatever it is that you can look forward to, plan it out. This will help get you through and soften the blow when you finally walk away.