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How to Free Yourself from a Toxic Relationship

Once you’ve accepted that you have a relationship with a toxic person, the next step is to let it go. This post will help you get started on the process. Here’s how to free yourself from a toxic relationship.

Once you've accepted that you have a relationship with a toxic person, the next step is to let it go. Here's how to free yourself from a toxic relationship.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to let go of unhealthy relationships. Yet, that can be difficult to do for many reasons.

You probably cared for this person at one time. You’re no quitter! You might even think this person needs you to save them.

Unfortunately, toxic relationships rarely become healthy ones. Here is how to free yourself from a toxic relationship.

Getting free from a toxic relationship requires you to go through stages that are similar to the process of grief: shock, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Obviously this is not a fun process and it can take months or even years to work through this.

I’m a firm believer that knowledge is power and knowing someone is toxic is the first step. If you’re not sure, read this post, How to Tell if Someone is Toxic.

Stages of Accepting that a Relationship is Toxic

shock

It is shocking to realize that a person is toxic. This is probably when we should cut our losses.

But since most of us like to give people the benefit of the doubt, we tend to stay in toxic relationships way longer than we need to.

After tolerating bad behavior for a period of time, something will finally happen and you feel a sense of shock that this is even happening.

At some level, you sense the person has hurt you on purpose. Something happens and you get this sick feeling.

denial

It’s hard for your brain to accept that the person in your life is behaving this way to you on purpose. You come up with all kinds of reasons they are doing the things they are doing.

You don’t want it to be true and so you keep hoping that things will get better.

bargaining

You do all kinds of crazy things to keep the relationship. You beg other people to change and to quit hurting you.

You vow to yourself that you will be different. You might even start praying that the person will change and quit hurting you.

depression or anger

At some point, we turn our hurt and confusion on ourselves OR others. There must be something wrong with us that someone would treat us this way. Or we get mad about it. Finally we’ve had enough.

My experiences with toxic people left me feeling like life was hopeless. At this point, you might give up or you might get mad and decide to get out.

acceptance

Finally, you accept that the person you cared about is not being good to you and the relationship is toxic.

Blaming the toxic person is useless because they just don’t care.

You will not get the satisfaction of an apology or real changes. Eventually, YOU do realize you just won’t and finally accept this.

It might take months and it might take years to get to the acceptance stage.

I’ve known women who have spent years of their lives in toxic relationships hoping it will get better.  We hate to give up on anyone!

Why We Tolerate Toxic Relationships

We tolerate toxic relationships because we have often cared about that person at some point. Perhaps we were in love with them. We might be related to them.

It could be that we don’t even see them that often anymore and so it doesn’t seem important to let go of a relationship that isn’t a primary one anymore.

Once you've accepted that you have a relationship with a toxic person, the next step is to let it go. Here's how to free yourself from a toxic relationship.

The Gift of Letting Go of a Toxic Relationship

Toxic relationships take up a lot of energy! Toxic people and relationships take up a lot of brain.

We want the other person to play nice and quit causing us angst. Truly we don’t understand what we did to warrant the hurtful things this person does.

It’s surprising how often people tolerate toxic people in their lives.

You know that person you complain about all the time and after a while people just don’t want to hear it any more. If they are so bad—why not get rid of them.

Or you feel ashamed of yourself because you are in this relationship.

If the relationship goes on long enough, you doubt yourself. You lose trust in yourself. Even worse you may become depressed.

Letting go of a toxic relationship is life-giving to yourself. You are finally putting yourself and your emotional and physical health first.

Yes, it seems simple but it often takes some time. One of the reasons it takes a while is that we have to actually accept that someone is toxic to us.

Not sure if someone IS toxic, than read this post, How to Tell if Someone is Toxic.

How to Free Yourself from a Toxic Relationship

If someone is truly toxic, it’s better to not have anything to do with them. You don’t have to have their agreement about this.

You don’t have to have anyone’s agreement. It is a hard decision to not only make but to enforce. It requires strength that you probably haven’t had up until this point.

The 3 Steps of Releasing a Toxic Person from your Life

Give Up Your Need for Action on the Part of the Toxic Person: Acceptance is the first step to releasing a toxic relationship. You have to ACCEPT that this person or relationship is bad for you. In addition, acceptance means completely giving up any idea that you can fix the toxic relationship.

It means you give up on getting any apology or that the toxic person has to acknowledge how they have hurt you. Finally, it means that you don’t need or want the person to have any consequences.

It doesn’t mean those things won’t happen but you give up your need for them to happen so that you can move on.

Give Yourself some Space: Next, stop initiating contact with them. Don’t call or text them. Let go of your part of keeping up the relationship. Sometimes this is enough and they will fade away.

It can be difficult if you still have strong feelings. But if you’ve gone through the five stages above, you might just be sick and tired of the pain and it’s easier to give yourself this space.

When they reach out to you, have other plans. Don’t answer the phone where it’s easier to get caught off guard. If they text, be civil and pleasant but definitely say “NO” to any requests to get together.

The reason to be pleasant and civil? They key is to put some space and time between you and the toxic person without creating a discussion or conflict. If you try to get some closure or express your disappointment or anger—you keep the relationship going longer.

By giving a toxic person insight into your true feelings, you give them power over you. They will use it to keep you in the relationship even longer.

Toxic people can be perverse that way. They make you feel like shit and they like it.

Eventually, with enough space and time between interactions, you will begin to regain your sense of self and peace and you will be ready to really let go.

Letting Go of the Toxic Relationship

I remember the day I decided to let all my toxic relationships go.

In the months before that day, I had put plenty of space between me and two toxic relationships. I was not initiating any contact and I wasn’t accepting any in-person contact.

It was actually a lull, as I hadn’t heard from either person for a few weeks. Perhaps, I never would have. But there was a thought in my head, that they might call. They might text. I still had to be on guard.

And on that day, I decided to simply block their phones from contacting mine. I want to say here, that these were not physically dangerous relationships. These were emotionally hurtful but in general neither person was trying to go out of their way to hunt me down and hurt me.

When I blocked their numbers, I knew that they most likely would never try to connect in other ways. Though one did attempt to connect on LinkedIn. I finally felt peace.

What Happened After

Within a few weeks of releasing these relationships, things changed for the better.

I met the man that would become my fiancée eventually. Then a few weeks after that, I was approached and recruited for a new job that I love. My blog began to take off.

Over the next year, life continued to get better and better. I became more confident and started trying new things. I made new friends and reconnected with other friends.

Saying no to toxic relationships was the first step in creating a life that I love.

I know that it’s not easy to do or even easy accept that it’s necessary. But I can say with certainty that it will be one of the most important things you can do.

I wish you all the best!

Love, Sara

Related Posts

How to Tell if Someone is Toxic

Don’t Let a Toxic Person Steal Your Joy

Keep showing up my friends,

Sara

Sara

Hi, I'm Sara! As a counselor and college advisor/coach, I've helped thousands of people make positive changes in their lives. Join me on the adventure of thinking big and living well!

5 Comments

  1. sarah elliott on October 22, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    this helped me a lot.

  2. Lyn on May 18, 2018 at 11:36 am

    Very informative article. But what if this toxic person is a close relative? Then what? Cut all ties? I’m at a loss as what to do.

    • Sara on May 18, 2018 at 7:30 pm

      That can be difficult. But unless you are married to the person, you can usually distance yourself. Don’t initiate contact. Let things be. Be polite, civil. Take care of yourself. Don’t look for apologies or improved behavior. Gently, remove yourself from their life as much as possible.

  3. Patty on May 7, 2018 at 11:57 am

    Thank you for this insight and perspective.

  4. Melody Rosa on April 18, 2018 at 8:08 am

    Saving this post to simply remind myself why I let go

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Sara | MyThinkBigLife.com

Hi, I'm Sara and I'm so happy you're here! My Think Big Life began shortly after I turned 50. Big changes can happen with a small start, an adjustment of thought, or a simple process. Over time, you transform your life into the one you always dreamed of having.

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