Learning how to leave a toxic relationship is never as easy as saying, “hit the road, Jack!” – especially not when you are in love with your partner.
If you’ve been in a toxic relationship, you know exactly how emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausting they can be. But if a toxic relationship is so taxing, why is it so hard to leave?
In this article, you will find out why leaving a toxic relationship is difficult and how to leave it for good. Let’s first start off with some of the most common signs of a toxic relationship.
Table of Contents
- How to Identify a Toxic Relationship
- Why Do People Remain in Toxic Relationships?
- How to Leave a Toxic Relationship
- Final Thoughts
How to Identify a Toxic Relationship
Sometimes it’s hard to know whether you are in a toxic relationship or not because most people don’t even know what a toxic relationship looks like. It is often because of the manipulation involved in a partner’s toxicity.
Another reason it may be difficult to admit that you’re in a toxic relationship is that there isn’t any outward abuse. According to statistics by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, “almost half of all women and men in the US ave experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime (48.4% and 48.8%, respectively).”
Your partner may not hit you or cross any obvious sexual boundaries, but that doesn’t mean you’re in a healthy relationship.
To identify a toxic relationship, here are some signs you need to look for:
1. Your Partner Has Become Apathetic
When you notice your partner being more disengaged, this may signify that they are beginning to give up on the relationship. You’ll notice either they don’t argue as much with you, or they just give in to your wishes because they don’t really care as much anymore.
Your partner has stopped feeling the same highs they felt when the relationship started. And when you work even harder to make the relationship work, this can become even more toxic if your partner just sticks around because of guilty. You find that the more of yourself that you keep giving, the less reciprocation you receive.
2. Your Partner is Controlling
An important part when it comes to a healthy relationship is to make decisions together. Not for each other.
People who are controlling feel the need to be in charge of everything and express this need by being manipulative with their environment and the people around them.
Controlling partners will also use threats to get you to do what they want, and they may even go as far as threatening to end the relationship. This kind of behavior stems from a deep sense of insecurity, and it’s toxic because it kills any opportunity for intimacy and connection.
While in the beginning, it might feel like your partner is making such strong suggestions because they care so much, you’ll eventually realize this type of controlling behavior really is more selfish than selfless. If you find yourself feeling like you need to ask for permission for simple things like meeting up with other friends or even family members, it’s a sign that you’re partner is exhibiting controlling behavior.
3. Your Partner Shames You
Do you often feel like a horrible person after interacting with your partner?
If you do, it may be time to start paying attention to how your partner speaks with you. If you find that your partner is often criticizing your character, this is a clear sign that they are shaming you.
And this will kill your relationship because of one crucial thing. Shame makes intimacy impossible.
When someone attacks your character, it causes you to feel shame rather than guilt. And to illustrate the difference, guilt is “I did something bad” versus shame, which is “I am bad.”
Rather than making you feel included in the relationship, shame will make you feel alone and isolated. In some cases, toxic partners might shame you by directly attacking your character with verbal abuse through yelling, criticizing, and judging.
Other times, partners may subtly shame you by making demeaning, sarcastic comments or saying hurtful jokes about you. This is cold violence.
4. Your Partner is Passive Aggressive
Have you ever had a situation where you ask partners if they’d be willing to do something for you, and they say yes, but do it in a resistant way? While helping you, they are half-hearted, making harsh complaints and resentful at what you asked them.
This is passive-aggressive behavior. It’s like you ask someone if they are okay, and you get the reply, “I’m fine,” but you get the silent treatment the whole time.
Passive aggressive behaviors will show themselves through procrastination, resistance, and sabotage. You’ll also notice a lot of passive-aggressive behaviors through non-verbal communication.
5. Your Partner Holds Grudges
People who bring up past issues you’ve already settled over and over again usually mean they haven’t gotten over it yet. Partners who hold grudges like this mean they have never truly forgiven you.
As more time passes in any relationship, there will come a point where you get hurt. And unless you’re planning to ditch every relationship you started whenever you get into a conflict, forgiveness will play a key part in keeping the relationship healthy and growing.
Research shows that harboring grudges prompts more aversive emotions and higher physiological stress responses. The strongest relationships are strong not just because of all the positive situations they have but also how they handle the negative ones together.
You’ll find that these couples know how to tackle tough conversations and always try their best to find a healthy way to use forgiveness to move towards reconciliation in times of conflict.
6. Your Boundaries Aren’t Respected
When you get comfortable in a relationship, it may be easier for your partner to try and pressure you to do something they want. It may be okay with you the first few times to give in, but the more frequently this kind of situation occurs, the more toxic the relationship becomes.
People in healthy relationships understand each other and know how to respect the other’s boundaries. When partners start to cross those boundaries, it’s a sign that they no longer respect your own needs and values.
7. You Feel Like You’re Always Walking on Eggshells
If you fear how your partner will react to something reasonable that you want to do, you’re likely in a toxic relationship already.
For example, you might hide certain text messages you received from certain people because you’re afraid of how your partner may react. Or maybe you’re afraid to go out with certain friends from work because you’re afraid your partner will get jealous.
Assuming that you’re a loyal and caring person, if you constantly feel this kind of fear and anxiety when making decisions, it means you don’t feel safe sharing these things with your partner. Hence, sometimes it makes you secretive and even dishonest about some things.
8. Your Partner is Overly Dependent on You
If you’ve felt you always have to tend to your partner’s needs at a moment’s notice, you have a partner that overly depends on you. This usually occurs in partners who don’t have a strong sense of identity and struggle with a low sense of self-worth.
This kind of relationship is toxic because you don’t feel free to be yourself. Instead, you start taking on the role of being a servant rather than a friend or partner. You’ll start to feel guilty for wanting to spend time on yourself when it’s probably one of the most important things for you to do at this point.
If these toxic behaviors remind you of your spouse, this may be the wake-up call you need to take action and get out of your dangerous relationship.
Why Do People Remain in Toxic Relationships?
One of the main culprits is oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone in your body that releases during moments of intimacy. This could include making love, holding hands, kissing, or even cuddling with someone.
When oxytocin is released, it causes you to be more trusting of your partner, even when trust is not warranted. This sneaky little hormone is also guilty of promoting bonding, making it impossible to leave your spouse, even when you know they aren’t good for you.
In addition to the effect of oxytocin, social pressures and social reactions, life-threatening dangers, and an “it will stop” mindset can be why many remain in toxic relationships.
How to Leave a Toxic Relationship
1. Know That You Deserve Better
Months or years of being told that you’ll never find anyone better than your spouse can wear on you, and you may even start to believe it. But this isn’t true. Tearing down self-esteem and self-worth is what abusers do to keep their victims trapped in the relationship.
Let “I deserve better!” become your daily mantra. Remind yourself of your worth every day.
You’ve tried your hardest to make your relationship work, but sometimes love is not enough, and you need to move on for your own mental and physical well-being.
2. Build a Support System
The emotions you go through for a toxic breakup are much the same as going through a breakup of a healthy relationship. You will feel conflicted, lovesick, relieved, depressed, and more.
Leaving a toxic relationship is especially difficult if you have been financially reliant on your ex – but don’t despair!
Instead of focusing on why this will be hard, focus on building a support system you’ll need when you take the plunge. Research shows that friend and family support during trying times lowers psychological distress.
Having a support system around will make it easier for you to move on.
3. Be Firm About Your Decision
Breakups are hard, no matter what the circumstance is. You’re leaving a life you’ve grown accustomed to, and even if you know the relationship is no longer safe, it still sucks, leaving the life you’ve built for yourself.
There may be times when you are tempted to get back with your partner, but stand firm! You deserve a partner who loves and respects you. Do not give your ex any false hope of getting back together. Be firm in your decision to leave the relationship, and don’t budge.
4. Cut Off Contact
One of the biggest times for how to leave a toxic relationship would be to cut off all contact with your ex once you’ve broken up.
Keeping in contact with your ex opens the door for you to get back together. Plus, seeing your ex on social media will make the memory of the relationship feel fresh in your mind.
Instead of dwelling on the past, focus on the future, and keep yourself motivated. Delete your ex from social media, block them on your phone, and find ways to avoid seeing them in person. These actions will make it clear that you want nothing to do with them.
5. It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken
If you’re at the point of breaking up, you’ve likely tried all of the tricks to get your spouse to change their toxic ways. Maybe you went to therapy, took a relationship class, or made date nights a priority – but nothing worked.
Your partner will not change, and it’s important to remind yourself of this often. You did everything you could to help them and reason with them, and it didn’t work. Do not expect miracles after a breakup.
Even if an abusive ex changes their ways, it is likely only due to the shock of the breakup. If you got back together, their likelihood of returning to their toxic behaviors is incredibly high.
Learning how to leave a toxic relationship is one thing, but following through with it is an entirely different story. If you are having trouble leaving an abusive or toxic partner, reach out to a trusted friend or family or contact a professional and/or support line.
Tips on Leaving a Toxic Relationships
It is often a feeling of attachment or loneliness to wanting to get into another relationship immediately after one gets out of a toxic one. Please take things easy, learn to discover yourself, and think of how the last one ended so you don’t experience the same thing. Take your time to heal completely from previous relationship hurts and pains before thinking about going into a new one.
Featured photo credit: Max via unsplash.com
|||^||National Domestic Violence Hotline: Domestic Violence Statistics|
|||^||Marriage: The Importance of Discussing Sexual Boundaries With Your Spouse|
|||^||NIH: Granting forgiveness or harboring grudges: implications for emotion, physiology, and health|
|||^||This is open house: Toxic relationships & oxytocin|