6 Steps to Leave a Toxic Relationship (2022)

A good relationship can elevate your life in ways that you never thought were possible. A bad one can leave you heartbroken, depressed, and listless. Toxic relationships are more common than you might think, and their effects can often be crippling.

These unhealthy relationships are often baffling to people on the outside. Surely, if someone makes you miserable or is physically or emotionally abusive, the obvious decision is to leave them—right? The reality is often more complicated due to many factors including finances, children, and emotions.

What Is a Toxic Relationship?

A toxic relationship is one that is harmful. While some signs of a toxic relationship are more obvious—like physical abuse, repeated infidelity, and inappropriate sexual behavior—others can be harder to detect. It may involve disrespectful, dishonest, or controlling behavior. For example, your partner cuts you down frequently. As a result, your mental health may begin to suffer.

Abuse and Domestic Violence

While a relationship does not have to involve abuse for it to be considered toxic, all abusive relationships are toxic. Abuse can manifest in different ways, including emotional, verbal, economic, sexual, and physical.

Signs of an abusive relationship can appear in physical or sexual violence, name-calling, humiliation, or threats. These types of relationships are typically characterized by possessive and controlling behaviors. If you're experiencing any type of abuse, know that you don't deserve to live that way and reach out for support immediately.

If you or a loved one are a victim of domestic violence, contact theNational Domestic Violence Hotlineat1-800-799-7233for confidential assistance from trained advocates.

For more mental health resources, see ourNational Helpline Database.

Why It's Hard to Leave

People get tied up in relationship patterns that can be hard to break out of. Some might feel trapped financially or worry about their children. In abusive relationships, victims make an average of seven attempts to end the relationship before they do, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Here are reasons why people find it difficult to get out of a toxic relationship:

  • Fear: In abusive relationships, one partner is likely to be extremely manipulative towards the other. This frequently involves making physical, emotional, or financial threats if the other person talks about leaving. As a result, the victim might be afraid to leave their partner.
  • Children: For couples who have children together, it can be very challenging to leave because of the perceived negative impact on the children. There may also be concerns about custody.
  • Love: There may be lingering feelings of love keeping someone in a relationship.
  • Finances: If one partner is financially dependent on the other, that could complicate the logistics involved in leaving.
  • Shame: A lot of people hide the nature of their relationships from their friends, family, and acquaintances. As a result, they silently suffer because they are too ashamed to ask anyone for help. They might turn to drugs or alcohol for solace, worsening the toll that the relationship is taking.
  • Codependency: It can be hard to break free from an imbalanced relationship dynamic where one partner consistently gives and the other takes, as in codependent relationships.

If you've been in a toxic relationship for a long time, it can be hard to see a way out the door. You may even believe that you are really the cause of the problem. Feeling this way is a common phenomenon as the perpetrator in the relationship is often an expert at gaslighting, which leaves you questioning reality.

Additionally, further complications may arise if your partner has a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), which is a personality disorder characterized by having an overblown sense of self-importance and lack of empathy.

(Video) How To Leave A Toxic Relationship - 6 Steps

A 2019 study from SAGE Open suggests that aggressive outbursts by narcissistic partners were due to fear of abandonment in the relationship. This could cause a narcissistic individual to lash out or try to prevent their partner from leaving—for example, through manipulation by playing the victim.

11 Signs Your Marriage Can't Be Saved

6 Steps to Leave a Toxic Relationship

Ending a bad relationship can be really complicated. Here are some things you can do to make the process easier:

  1. Build a safety net: If you're thinking of calling it quits, make a plan for how you are going to deal with the transition. Where will you stay? What possessions will you need to bring along? Don’t do this haphazardly. This process should be well thought out.
  2. Set a goal to be independent: If you do not have a career or a way to support yourself, it is time to begin carving this path. Go to school, get training, begin a job (even a low-level or part-time job). Your financial independence is one of the main roads to freedom.
  3. Let someone know: No more secrets. Confide in a family member or friend so that they can help you with the process. If you feel threatened, inform the local authorities that you are going to need help.
  4. Seek professional help: Leaving and recovering from a toxic relationship will take effort and time. Reach out to support groups or counselors who are experienced in relationship issues. A therapist can be a great impartial resource to guide you and hold you accountable for creating and meeting your goals. An experienced family law attorney is also necessary if you're leaving a marriage.
  5. Stop talking to your partner: Toxic people are very cunning and can use emotional blackmail to lure you back in. When you make the decision to leave your partner, stop any form of communication with them unless you have children and need to co-parent. In this case, only communicate about the children. If you need to file a restraining order, do so.
  6. Indulge yourself: Being part of a toxic relationship is extremely detrimental to your self-esteem and mental health. It may take some time before you are ready to be part of another relationship. Don’t rush this. Take time for yourself. To help yourself recover, make time for hobbies. Start working on a pet project or your own business. Take that trip you've always wanted to go on.

A Word From Verywell

Not only is being in a toxic relationship extremely hard, but you also might even feel trapped in it. You deserve to be happy, however, and rid of the harm and negativity that it's causing you. Leaving an unhealthy and toxic relationship is a tremendously difficult and brave step to take, but you can do it.

If you want to find happiness and comfort in your life again, you have to make the leap. There are good people out there. Don't let this experience sabotage your pursuit of joy. If you're having trouble coping or need help creating boundaries, be sure to reach out to a mental health professional.

8 Sources

(Video) 6 Steps To Leave A Toxic Relationship || What is Toxic Relationship

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. National Domestic Violence Hotline. Healthy relationships.

  2. MedlinePlus.Domestic violence. Reviewed August 28, 2019. Updated December 7, 2020.

  3. National Domestic Violence Hotline. Warning signs of abuse.

  4. National Domestic Violence Hotline. 50 obstacles to leaving.

  5. Cohen GJ, Weitzman CC, Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health; Section on Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. Helping children and families deal with divorce and separation. Pediatrics. 2016;138(6). doi:10.1542/peds.2016-3020

  6. Cleveland Clinic. Narcissistic personality disorder: Traits, tests, treatment. Reviewed June 19, 2020.

  7. Valashjardi A, Charles K. Voicing the victims of narcissistic partners: A qualitative analysis of responses to narcissistic injury and self-esteem regulation. SAGE Open. 2019;9(2). doi:10.1177/2158244019846693

  8. MedLine Plus. Narcissistic personality disorder. Updated September 7, 2020.

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FAQs

How do you break the cycle of a toxic relationship? ›

Toxic relationships: How to break unhealthy patterns
  1. Be active in your relationship. ...
  2. Make time to connect and share experiences. ...
  3. Take a step back and try and look at your relationship objectively. ...
  4. Learn to have better arguments. ...
  5. Beware that the thing you were once attracted to can be the thing that undoes you.

What to say to end a relationship? ›

What to Say and How to Say It
  • Tell your BF or GF that you want to talk about something important.
  • Start by mentioning something you like or value about the other person. ...
  • Say what's not working (your reason for the break-up). ...
  • Say you want to break up. ...
  • Say you're sorry if this hurts. ...
  • Say something kind or positive.

How do you walk away from dignity in a relationship? ›

Here are a few tips to help you walk away with dignity and be strong when things are not working out.
  1. Stop Making Excuses. While it may be appealing to make excuses about why things aren't going right, try your best not to. ...
  2. Let Go Of The Past. ...
  3. Be Honest. ...
  4. Do What Is Best For You. ...
  5. Accept The Situation.

How do I leave a relationship mentally? ›

How to let go of someone you love
  1. Identify the reason. Ask yourself why you're now deciding to detach from the relationship. ...
  2. Release your emotions. ...
  3. Don't react, respond. ...
  4. Start small. ...
  5. Keep a journal. ...
  6. Meditate. ...
  7. Be patient with yourself. ...
  8. Look forward.

What is red flag in relationship? ›

“In relationships, red flags are signs that the person probably can't have a healthy relationship and proceeding down the road together would be emotionally dangerous,” explains Dr. Wendy Walsh, PhD, a clinical psychologist who specializes in relationships. Note that red flags in a relationship might not be obvious.

When should you end a relationship with someone you love? ›

After about a year of actively working on the relationship and unsuccessfully trying to meet each other's needs, the difficult decision to break up is likely the best decision, according to Chrisler.

How do you turn a toxic relationship into a healthy one? ›

These steps can help you turn things around.
  1. Don't dwell on the past. Sure, part of repairing the relationship will likely involve addressing past events. ...
  2. View your partner with compassion. ...
  3. Start therapy. ...
  4. Find support. ...
  5. Practice healthy communication. ...
  6. Be accountable. ...
  7. Heal individually. ...
  8. Hold space for the other's change.

How do you know when he is done with the relationship? ›

The warning signs your relationship is over for him
  • He makes little effort to communicate.
  • He becomes evasive – avoiding anything to do with you.
  • He pushes you away when you want to get close.
  • He doesn't show up when he promised.
  • He can't be bothered to be 'nice'.
  • He is mean to you.
  • He blames you for everything.
Sep 24, 2010

What are reasons to end a relationship? ›

Common causes for breakups include personality differences, lack of time spent together, infidelity, lack of positive interactions between the couple, low sexual satisfaction, and low overall relationship satisfaction. Ending a relationship is one of the most difficult things we have to do.

How do you walk away respectfully? ›

Ending a relationship (from a friendship to a marriage) respectfully means that you:
  1. Break up in the kindest way possible.
  2. Don't gossip about or badmouth them to other people.
  3. Don't say nasty things to hurt them.
  4. Don't try to get other people to dislike them just because you've had a problem with them.
Feb 23, 2018

How do you get dumped gracefully? ›

10 Rules for Breaking Up Gracefully
  1. Always Do It in Person and If Possible, Don't Do It in Public. ...
  2. Never Make a Scene and Keep Your Batshit to a Minimum. ...
  3. Do NOT Try to Make the Other Person Feel Better. ...
  4. After the Breakup, Respectfully Cut All Contact for a Short Period of Time. ...
  5. Talk to Somebody About It.

How do I get strong enough to leave? ›

5 Ways to Find The Courage (You Already Have) to Leave
  1. Keep a journal. Writing in a journal can be a great way to air out your thoughts and feelings. ...
  2. Find Some Joy. ...
  3. Cut Yourself Some Slack. ...
  4. Don't Rationalize Bad Behavior. ...
  5. Find Support. ...
  6. Ignore Bad Relationships Advice. ...
  7. Reconnect With Family/Friends Who Care.

What are 3 warning signs of an unhealthy relationship? ›

Unhealthy characteristics
  • Control. One person makes all the decisions and tells the other what to do, what to wear, or who to spend time with. ...
  • Dependence. One person feels that they “can't live without” the other. ...
  • Digital monitoring or “clocking”. ...
  • Dishonesty. ...
  • Disrespect. ...
  • Hostility. ...
  • Harassment. ...
  • Intimidation.

How do you know someone is not good for you? ›

Here are some warning signs to watch out for if you think you're dealing with a toxic person: You feel like you're being manipulated into something you don't want to do. You're constantly confused by the person's behavior. You feel like you deserve an apology that never comes.

How do I know if I'm in a toxic relationship? ›

If a relationship stops bringing joy, and instead consistently makes you feel sad, angry, anxious or “resigned, like you've sold out,” it may be toxic, Glass says. You may also find yourself envious of happy couples. Fuller says negative shifts in your mental health, personality or self-esteem are all red flags, too.

How do you emotionally detach from a toxic person? ›

Read on for tips on how to respond to this type of behavior.
  1. Avoid playing into their reality. ...
  2. Don't get drawn in. ...
  3. Pay attention to how they make you feel. ...
  4. Talk to them about their behavior. ...
  5. Put yourself first. ...
  6. Offer compassion, but don't try to fix them. ...
  7. Say no (and walk away) ...
  8. Remember, you aren't at fault.
Nov 20, 2019

How do you detach from a narcissist? ›

How to Disengage
  1. Stop all communication – take a break from social media, do not answer your phone or text messages from the narcissist. ...
  2. Have a plan – know when you are going to leave and where you are going to go. ...
  3. Find support – work with a therapist or counselor experienced in supporting people leaving narcissists.
Feb 1, 2021

What does Gaslighting mean in a relationship? ›

In this Article

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse in relationships. It happens when one person convinces their target that they're remembering things wrong or that they're misinterpreting events. The gaslighter is trying to manipulate the other person and presents their own thoughts and feelings as the truth.

What are yellow flags in relationships? ›

But have you ever wondered what 'yellow flags' mean in a relationship? Yellow flags are basically signs that tell you to be cautious or be on the lookout for any issues in your relationship or partner. While these may not be serious, they may hint you towards a bigger problem that's probably hiding in plain sight.

What are the signs of a breakup? ›

21 signs someone is about to break up with you
  • There's a growing distance between you. ...
  • They stop doing things for you. ...
  • They make up excuses. ...
  • They keep picking fights with you. ...
  • They talk about breaking up repeatedly. ...
  • They stop responding to your texts. ...
  • They've stopped paying you attention. ...
  • They find fault in everything you do.
Feb 24, 2022

What are the 5 stages of a breakup? ›

Even ifyou were the one who initiated the split, there are five stages ofgrief that you will go through. They are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, according to Mental-Health-Matters. These are the natural ways for your heart to heal.

Does space help a broken relationship? ›

Spending time apart can make your relationship a whole lot healthier, Erickson says, because it gives you both a chance to reconnect with your own values, desires. It'll be easier to connect in a genuine way after you've had some space, as well as a lot more exciting.

What is a toxic text? ›

Toxic texting is when someone texts you toxic messages, controlling your texting life and causing you anxiety. Toxic texters may insist that their texts receive immediate attention, read all your communications and police your phone, gaslight you, and then isolate you.

What do you say at the end of a toxic relationship? ›

Be direct about what's not working in the relationship and your decision to end it. You might say something like, "I don't think we're good together. We breakup and makeup all the time and I have started to alienate other people who are close to me. I want to end it."

How do you leave a toxic relationship with no money? ›

If you're ready to leave a relationship but stay because you have no money, it puts you in a pretty bad situation.
...
Here are six ideas.
  1. Start a side hustle. ...
  2. Sell items you don't need. ...
  3. Set a budget. ...
  4. Use coupons and shop sales. ...
  5. Trade services with friends or family. ...
  6. Ask family for help.
Aug 7, 2022

Why leaving a toxic relationship is so hard? ›

Because of the way it can impact your self-esteem, as well as the energy required to keep it going, an unhealthy relationship can feel like your everything — making it super difficult to leave. "For some, they see having an unhealthy relationship as better than not having a relationship at all," Madison says.

How do you detach from someone you love deeply? ›

How to let go of someone you love
  1. Identify the reason. Ask yourself why you're now deciding to detach from the relationship. ...
  2. Release your emotions. ...
  3. Don't react, respond. ...
  4. Start small. ...
  5. Keep a journal. ...
  6. Meditate. ...
  7. Be patient with yourself. ...
  8. Look forward.

What are the red flags in a relationship? ›

Physical, emotional, and mental abuse are undeniable red flags in any relationship. Physical abuse is easier to pick up. But emotional and mental abuse can be just as damaging in the long run. And just like physical abuse, mental and emotional abuse can cause PTSD.

How do you end a relationship with nowhere to go? ›

8 Steps to Getting Out of a Relationship
  1. Tell yourself (and others) the truth. ...
  2. Question your thoughts. ...
  3. Tell one trusted person what you're going through. ...
  4. Clarify your reason for leaving. ...
  5. Be curious about your options for leaving! ...
  6. Be honest about your situation. ...
  7. Look at this “to do” list for leaving. ...
  8. Start letting go.
Aug 5, 2022

How do you leave a manipulative relationship? ›

  1. Assess your level of safety. For some, leaving a controlling relationship may just mean a few uncomfortable words and an otherwise clean break. ...
  2. Map out different paths and scenarios. ...
  3. Practice self-care. ...
  4. Reach out and ask for help — really. ...
  5. Understand that feelings can be mixed. ...
  6. Keep following through.
Feb 5, 2016

How do you emotionally detach from a toxic person? ›

Read on for tips on how to respond to this type of behavior.
  1. Avoid playing into their reality. ...
  2. Don't get drawn in. ...
  3. Pay attention to how they make you feel. ...
  4. Talk to them about their behavior. ...
  5. Put yourself first. ...
  6. Offer compassion, but don't try to fix them. ...
  7. Say no (and walk away) ...
  8. Remember, you aren't at fault.
Nov 20, 2019

How do you cut a toxic person you love? ›

How to eliminate toxic people from your life.
  1. Let them know how you feel. While you do not owe them an explanation, this is probably more for you. ...
  2. Put some distance between you and them. ...
  3. Set hard boundaries. ...
  4. Don't be pulled into a crisis. ...
  5. Spend more time with positive people. ...
  6. Talk to someone. ...
  7. Forgive but don't forget.
Sep 25, 2020

What are reasons to end a relationship? ›

Common causes for breakups include personality differences, lack of time spent together, infidelity, lack of positive interactions between the couple, low sexual satisfaction, and low overall relationship satisfaction. Ending a relationship is one of the most difficult things we have to do.

What to say to someone who has hurt you deeply? ›

If you're hoping to salvage the relationship with the person who has hurt you, then here are some great conversation points to add in:
  • “I care about you.”
  • “I respect you.”
  • “I want to fix our relationship.”
  • “I want to move past this.”
  • “I want to understand each other better.”
  • “I want to be open with you.”
Feb 11, 2022

How do you let go of someone you can't be with? ›

How to Let Go of Someone (Because Sometimes That's What's Best)
  1. 10 Ways to Let Go of Someone.
  2. Decide Whether the Relationship Is Worth It. ...
  3. Have a Conversation. ...
  4. Cut Off Contact. ...
  5. Accept That You're Only in Control of Your Own Actions. ...
  6. Lean on Friends and Family. ...
  7. Trust the Process. ...
  8. Prioritize Self-Care.
Aug 19, 2022

How do you let go of someone who doesn't want you? ›

But for now, let's talk about how to let go of someonewho doesn't love you.
  1. #1 – Ask yourself how determined you are to do this. ...
  2. #2 – Make three lists and refer to them often. ...
  3. #3 – Cut him off. ...
  4. #4 – Believe that you will find another love. ...
  5. #5 – Get back out there!

Videos

1. 6 Steps To Break A Toxic Relationship
(Self-Helpless Podcast)
2. Narcissistic Abuse: From Victim to Survivor in 6 Steps
(Prof. Sam Vaknin)
3. You MUST Walk Away from These People | Jordan Peterson on TOXIC Relationships
(Pursuit of Meaning)
4. 6 Steps to Get Out of a Toxic Relationships
(Domestic Violence Classes)
5. 6 Ways to Leave a Toxic Relationship
(KNG)
6. What you MUST do to LEAVE an Emotionally Abusive Relationship | Stephanie Lyn Coaching
(Stephanie Lyn Coaching)

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