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How to Leave a Toxic Relationship: 24 Steps to End It & Find Happiness

Unbalanced and unhealthy relationships leave you a shadow of your former self. Learn how to leave a toxic relationship and return to who you really are. 

how to leave a toxic relationship and get out of it

The right kind of relationship has the power to lift you off the ground and make you feel like you can conquer the world. It’s a wonderful feeling, but the exact opposite can happen when you’re in the wrong kind of relationship. Learning how to leave a toxic relationship is necessary to reclaim your future.

For sure, it’ll be painful to do. Toxic or not, you love this person and leaving them is going to pull at your heartstrings in a big way. But, you have to put yourself first.

This person is dragging you down and making you feel like someone you don’t recognize. If you want to reclaim your happiness and feel a sense of peace and contentment once more, you need to learn how to get out of a toxic relationship and focus on the future.

[Read: What is a toxic relationship? 53 signs to recognize the kind of love that hurts you]

What is a toxic relationship?

First things first, what is a toxic relationship exactly? It covers a wide range of things, but basically means any relationship which has an imbalance of power, includes abuse of any kind *physical, emotional or mental*, manipulation, constant lying and cheating, theft, or anything else which causes you to feel unhappy and less than yourself.

This type of relationship is unhealthy; therefore, toxic to your happiness and well-being. The problem is, just because a relationship is toxic doesn’t mean there is no love there. You can still love someone very deeply and know that the relationship you’re in is toxic.

Perhaps, you’re just not suited, and you bring out the worst in one another. It doesn’t mean you don’t love each other, but it does mean that staying together will not result in happiness for one or both of you. [Read: How to focus on yourself – 27 ways to create your own sunshine]

A toxic relationship is a form of slow poison

In essence, a toxic relationship is exactly what it sounds like. Like drinking bleach, a toxic relationship poisons you. This is a relationship that drains you. It hurts you emotionally, mentally, and even physically. It is damaging to just about every aspect of your life.

A toxic relationship can be obvious or more subtle. It can be all about manipulation so that you’re not even aware of how it is making you feel.

In fact, the manipulation can be so powerful that you believe your relationship is the only good thing in your life when it is in fact what is making you miserable.

When there is a lack of trust, jealousy, control, guilt, or abuse, the relationship is toxic. More often than not, there is no cure other than shutting it down. [Read: Manipulative behavior and the devious signs you should never ignore]

Think about your toxic relationship

One of the reasons why it is so hard to know how to end a toxic relationship is that we are often in denial about it. We may not want to admit to ourselves that the relationship we have invested so much of ourselves in is bad for us.

When you’ve been vulnerable with someone, it can be hard to leave that behind for any reason. Even if you feel the pain that is inevitable from a toxic relationship, you can fall into it instead of away from it because it is familiar.

If you feel like you’re in a toxic relationship, or at the very least a relationship you’re unhappy in, think about it. We don’t like to advise people to overthink or overanalyze things. But, reflecting on your relationship and why it is making you feel this way is an important part of leaving it behind.

You have to be able to come to terms with the truth before being able to say goodbye. Every relationship has its good parts, even the most toxic ones. Looking at how it is negatively impacting you can jump-start your plan to end it and allows you to figure out how to get out of a toxic relationship. [Read: How to tell your partner you’re unhappy in the relationship without hurting them]

How to leave a toxic relationship: The firm steps to move on

Whatever the picture, if you are in an unhealthy relationship, start thinking of the future and learning how to leave a toxic relationship behind. It’s not easy, that’s for sure, but it’s necessary for your future happiness.

If learning how to end a toxic relationship was easy, you wouldn’t be looking for advice on how to do it. Ending a toxic relationship seems like the obvious thing to do. It’s like leaving a room where a stink bomb went off, why wouldn’t you do it?

But, relationships, especially toxic ones are a lot more complicated than a bad odor. Relationships don’t just go bad and then you leave. There is a lot that goes into a toxic relationship, including love. That can make leaving a toxic relationship feel impossible.

Thankfully, it’s not. You can come out a lot stronger and a lot more confident if you know the right steps to leave a toxic romance. [Read: 20 steps to fix a toxic relationship and change before it’s too late]

1. Understand and acknowledge the detrimental effects of the relationship

The first step is the hardest, because it means coming to the conclusion that your relationship has no happy outcome, and, therefore, no future. It will hurt, but acknowledgment is key for learning how to leave a toxic relationship behind.

When you take off the blindfold and understand that your relationship is toxic, that’s when you know that you have to act. [Read: 18 emotions you shouldn’t feel in a healthy relationship]

2. Seek support from loved ones

Leaving someone you love means leaning upon friends and family members to help you get through it.

Talk to those around you. Be open and honest about what you’ve been going through. Be sure to listen to what they have to say, because they probably already know and have been waiting for this moment to come.

3. Talk things through some more

Before you actually do anything and make a plan and strategy on how to leave a toxic relationship, get everything out in the open. That way, you will be able to move on without any nagging doubts that haven’t been addressed.

Sit and write it all down, talk some more to a friend or speak to yourself, whatever you need to get the details out of your mind and into the open. This will be a cathartic sensation and will give you the confidence to move forwards, even though it still hurts and you still feel sad.

Learning how to get out of a toxic relationship isn’t going to be without pain, but the pain will be worth it in the end. [Read: How to take care of yourself emotionally and avoid falling apart]

4. Accept your part in the relationship

It takes two to tango, right? What we’re trying to say is you need to accept your role in the relationship. Though you may not have done things that you think were as bad as your partner, you’re certainly not blameless.

Reflect and think about your behavior. But also make a commitment to yourself that you won’t let yourself get sucked back into an unhealthy relationship again. [Read: How to quit attracting unhealthy relationships]

5. Stop making excuses

We know it’s hard to leave a relationship. Honestly, most of us stay in unhealthy relationships because we become accustomed to them. Simply, we’re comfortable.

But stop making excuses as to why you’re in the relationship. You need to ask yourself some questions. Do I want to spend time with x? Also, do I feel good after spending time with x? Do I genuinely like x? These are simple yet important questions to answer yourself. [Read: 24 sad signs of an unhealthy lover that ruins love forever]

6. What are the benefits?

Even shitty relationships have some benefits. There’s a reason why you’re staying with this person. Now, you need to figure out what those reasons are before you try figuring out how to get out of a toxic relationship.

Maybe you subconsciously enjoy drama in your life, or they make you feel attractive or is a good parent towards your children. There are always reasons why we stay with people who are inherently bad for us. Figure out what those reasons are.

7. Fill those benefits

You’re staying with this person for specific reasons, right? But you do know that they’re not the only person that can provide you with those benefits.

You have the power to give those positive feelings to yourself. This is where self-reflection and self-love come in. Find alternative ways to make yourself feel whole. [Read: How to love yourself – The 23 best ways to find self love and happiness]

8. Make a plan

How are you going to leave? Do you live together? If so, where are you going to stay, or are you going to ask them to leave? If you’re married and you have joint finances, how is that going to work?

Make a plan that covers your specific circumstances and which feels right to you. Of course, when learning how to leave a toxic relationship, you also need to make sure that your plan is realistic.

9. Don’t do anything until you’ve made a final decision

Before you execute the plan, spend some time being sure of what you’re doing. The choice to leave isn’t wrong, but perhaps the way in which you’re doing it could be done differently.

Taking the time to iron out the details beforehand will allow you to get out of there with minimal fuss, allowing the healing to start. [Read: 25 tips to end a relationship without making it messy]

10. Execute your plan without looking back

Decide when you’re going to do it, and without any doubts or delays, just do it. If you have nagging thoughts, push them away. If you need a friend by your side when doing the deed, don’t hesitate to ask them.

It’s never going to feel good when you decide that you want to leave a relationship, whether you’re still in love or not. But keep the bigger picture in mind — you deserve better.

11. Tell your partner

Not every situation calls for this as sometimes getting out safely with mental and physical health intact is a priority. But, if you can, share how you feel. Let them know you’re ending the relationship and why and that your mind is made up.

If you know this conversation will become angry or heated, try writing a letter to express your feelings. This lets the other person respond in their time and you can remain at a safe distance when they do so. [Read: How to break up with someone you love – 18 steps and the breakup conversation to know]

12. Focus on positivity

In the first few hours and days after leaving, you’re bound to feel down and start questioning yourself, but focus on the positives. You can now shape the life you deserve to have. No longer do you need to feel like you’re being dragged down.

Don’t focus on the positives in your relationship; however, focus on the positives in your future.

It’s easy to sit there with the rose-tinted glasses on, but make sure that you remove them. See things as they truly are. It’s high up on the list of rules when learning how to leave a toxic relationship. [Read: Dumper’s regret – The timeline and stages of remorse when you dump someone]

13. Lean on those around you

Your friends and family aren’t going to mind you leaning on them at this time, so don’t feel like you have to face it alone.

Spend time with them, distract yourself, reconnect, and let them help in the battle to build yourself up again.

14. Don’t look back, block everything

When you leave your partner, make sure that you block them for a while. It might sound harsh, but you need the distance and separation to be able to overcome the grief of leaving someone you love.

They might be blowing up your phone with texts and social media messages, and that’s not going to help you. Block them out for a while. If you need to unblock them later on, to talk about house assets and the like, do so with a wall built around you, and only when you’re strong enough to face it. [Read: 15 reasons why your ex still texts you and wants to stay in touch]

15. Expect to miss them, it’s normal

You might wonder why you miss someone who was part of your toxic relationship experience. But, it’s part of learning how to get out of a toxic relationship.

Again, there’s love there and there are bound to be some happy memories amongst the bad. Expect to miss them, but remember that it’s part of the process and not a sign that you made a mistake. Distract yourself as best you can. [Read: How to stop obsessing over an ex and free your mind for something new]

16. Give yourself time

You’ve been through a difficult patch. Learning how to leave a toxic relationship doesn’t mean that you’re suddenly okay and healed.

The scars of your relationship may last for a long time. Depending upon the severity, you might need to seek support in the form of therapy. If that’s what you need, do it and embrace your bravery and positivity.

Whatever you need to do at this stage, do it. Take the time to focus on yourself. It’s time to build yourself back up again and that can mean anything you want it to mean.

It can be going on a vacation, cutting your hair differently, learning a new language, or simply being happy and fulfilled within your own skin and not needing to be part of a relationship in order to feel that way. [Read: 16 lessons to recover from a breakup one day at a time]

17. Gain help from outside sources

When you realize you’re in a toxic relationship, reach out to someone you trust. Talk to a friend or family member or even a coworker or spiritual leader. It might be easier to reach out to someone external, e.g. a therapist or someone that doesn’t know you that well.

Confiding in someone will help you not to feel alone. It will help you start a support system. Ending a toxic relationship can be exhausting. Whether you rely on them financially, are afraid of them, or have distanced yourself from others to be with them, rebuilding that support is vital to breaking free of the toxicity.

If you can’t find anyone in your life that you trust or are too worried it will get back to your partner, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for help from trained advocates dedicated to your safety. [Read: Why do women stay in abusive relationships? 15 honest reasons why]

18. Put yourself first

During the breakup, it is likely that your partner will try to get you back or at least involve themselves in your life. Exes from toxic relationships have a knack for manipulation and guilting. Try not to let them do this.

Remind yourself of why you are leaving. Look ahead. Your future is open to so many possibilities. You have so much positivity to look forward to. You have so much to live for in your life now that you can breathe fresh air. [Read: How to help your ex get over you, move on and find peace]

19. Surround yourself with love

You need to make sure you’re surrounded by a strong support system that loves you. This will help you when you’re experiencing hard moments after leaving your toxic relationship.

When you’re surrounded with support, the likelihood of going back to them reduces. You’re able to start living a healthy life.

20. Remember your value

Through all of this, remember who you are and what you’re worth. It’s easy to go back to a toxic relationship when you forget what you’re worth. To leave a toxic relationship, you need to always remember what you can offer and who you are.

Of course, you’re going to have moments where you’re going to miss your ex, but just because you miss them doesn’t mean they were good for you. [Read: The no contact rule – What it is, how it works and why it’s so powerful]

21. Be mindful of your emotional states

You’re probably going through various emotions. One day you’re sad, the other you’re angry. This is all normal when you’re planning on leaving a relationship.

But you need to be able to recognize the emotion and where it’s coming from. That way, you understand your feelings in hopes of being able to express them openly.

22. Keep expressing your feelings

You may still be with your partner or just recently broke up with them. Whatever state your relationship is in, it’s important to express your feelings.

If you avoid expressing your emotions, they’ll build up and you’ll resent your partner. If you want to leave the relationship in a positive way, repressing your feelings won’t help you. [Read: 20 best questions to ask your ex after a breakup to find real closure]

23. Know that you’re going to go through a period of self-healing

As much as we try to push these feelings down, many of the adult problems we suffer from are due to childhood trauma. Now, to rid yourself of the shame that you have when leaving a toxic relationship, dig down deep within yourself.

Look at what brought you to get involved in a toxic relationship. If you look hard enough, you’ll find the answer and that will help you learn how to get out of a toxic relationship. [Read: The harmful effects on being raised by a narcissist]

24. Forgive your ex

This isn’t for them, this is for you. If you want to fully move on from your partner and leave the relationship, then you need to forgive them and their part of the relationship.

If you’re holding feelings of anger, sadness, or regret, then you’re only going to hurt yourself.

In order to completely leave the relationship, you’ll have to let go. Otherwise, you’ll still mentally be connected to them.

[Read: Why do I feel so alone? Honest truths that can change your life forever]

Learning how to leave a toxic relationship requires time and planning. The most important thing is to first acknowledge the problem. Breaking free is a brave step but a necessary one. Your future is far brighter than you might believe right now.

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The editorial team of LovePanky comprises relationship experts and real-life experts that share their experiences and life lessons. If you want the best love ad...