How to Leave a Toxic Relationship

Relationships at their best elevate and invigorate life in wonderful ways, from the joy of sharing experiences, to the comfort and support spending time with someone special can bring.

However, being tied down into the wrong kind of union can—at its very worse—leave a person heartbroken and depressed.

But while the obvious solution to outsiders is to call time on a toxic relationship, the reality can be easier said than done, due to factors such as emotions, money and memories of happier times together.

Tina Wilson, Relationship Expert and Founder of dating app Wingman, believes "deciding to leave a toxic relationship is the hardest part."

She told Newsweek: "When you have made the decision, you will need your friends and family around to support you."

Read on to find out how to leave a toxic relationship, according to relationship experts.

What Is a Toxic Relationship?

A toxic relationship is a union between at least two people considered harmful to at least one of those involved.

Tell-tell signs of a toxic relationship can be abundantly obvious—like physical abuse, repeated infidelity, and inappropriate sexual behavior, but other signs can be more subtle, potentially involving a lack of respect, dishonesty, or manipulative behavior.

For example, a partner who repeatedly cuts another down frequently can all-too-easily result in someone's mental health starting to fray at the edges.

How To Leave A Toxic Relationship
Toxic relationships ca be surprisingly common and their effects can be crippling fizkes/Getty Images

Marisa Peer, a relationship expert, and best-selling author, believes unions not destined to work can easily be misunderstood.

She told Newsweek: "When we talk of toxic relationships, we immediately think of couples and romantic involvements.

"What I have found over the 30 years I've worked with clients is that toxic people leave a trail of relationship destruction in their wake be it with a partner, work colleagues, friends and family."

If you recognize any of these signs in your life, it is likely it is time to leave.

How to Get Out Of a Toxic Relationship

See Yourself Clearly

Lauren Smith, a certified mindfulness teacher, believes a key question to ask when in an unhealthy relationship is "How do you give yourself permission to leave?"

She told Newsweek: "Mindful self-acceptance is the key to healing feelings of unworthiness and shame that are keeping you stuck and feeling helpless in your current toxic relationship."

Smith suggests taking the appropriate time to reconnect with yourself can help get a real sense of perspective on time spent together.

She said: "Taking time to examine yourself as objectively as possible will reveal how you may have been projecting, self-sabotaging, or simply trying to cope with the hardships as all humans do.

"How have your behaviors and choices led you into this toxic relationship? It's not fun to take responsibility, and as much as you might want to deny it, you are the only one responsible for your happiness.

"Plus, without taking the time to know yourself amidst the current chaos, you might find yourself in yet another toxic relationship sooner than later."

How To Leave A Toxic Relationship
People get tied up in toxic relationship patterns that can be hard to escape. fizkes/Getty Images

Get Help From a Friend

Caroline Strawson, an award-winning trauma-informed therapist and coach, believes leaning on someone trustworthy can make a world of difference to those looking to escape the travails of a toxic relationship.

She told Newsweek: "Seeking support and help is essential because ending a relationship can feel massively triggering with feelings of shame and judgement of both oneself and worries of what others may say about your failed relationship especially if children are involved.

"It doesn't help that as a society, terms such as 'broken' home are used.

"Homes are not broke if there is toxicity and society should support, not judge."

Consult a Therapist

Dr. Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, believes seeking help from a qualified professional can be a critical step in the unpleasant process of breaking up.

She told Newsweek positive feeling associated with unhealthy relationships may not be quite as they seem.

She said: "What feels like 'chemistry' early on in a relationship can often be a feeling of familiarity.

"For someone in a toxic relationship, they may continue to repeat these relationship patterns because the chaos feels familiar and 'exciting' to them (when it is actually very anxiety-provoking).

As a result, she counsels someone who has a pattern of falling into toxic relationships, might "be re-enacting an old childhood trauma."

Dr. Touroni said: "Leaving these types of relationships can be difficult because they feel so familiar.

"This might be hard for an outsider to comprehend. But for the person in the relationship, the chaos has its own safety in its familiarity.

"My main advice would be to seek support from a therapist. If this is a pattern for you, a therapist can help you unravel where this stems from.

"They will also be able to safely guide you in finding the best way of moving forward."

How To Leave A Toxic Relationship
If you're experiencing trouble coping with a toxic relationship be sure to speak with a mental health professional. gorodenkoff/Getty Images

How to Leave a Toxic Relationship When You Live Together


Barbara Santini, a psychologist, sex and relationship adviser, believes it can be easy to underestimate how sharing a home with someone can make the process of breaking up all the harder.

She told Newsweek: "From my experience and other people's, I came to realize that a heartbreak grabs a piece of you, which remains with your ex.

"It takes time for the void to heal and acquire happiness despite the shared past memories. To me, this is the route to true love.

"But I advise my clients that self-love always comes first, then discover the best time to say goodbye to a relationship."

Consequently, having a series of open, honest and clear lines of communication with your cohabiting partner can produce tangible results.

She said: "Essentially, you should express your feelings to the other party. Please ensure the environment for doing this is safe. Suppose the person is short-tempered; you can write a note.

"Let them know how they make you feel without blaming or pointing fingers."

Make a Plan

Peter Burgess, partner at Burgess Mee Family Law, a practice for people leaving toxic marriages, believes you need to have a firm plan in mind.

He told Newsweek: "Early advice from a solicitor is going to be critical. All aspects need to be carefully considered and each possible resulting scenario catered for."

He suggests several key questions can typically spring to mind and how being "Forewarned is forearmed."

He said: "What will happen when you tell your spouse the relationship is over? Where will you go?

"Are there children to consider? How will you manage the finances on an interim basis? What are your rights?

"In our experience of dealing with situations where one spouse has a personality disorder (including narcissistic personality disorder) the client will need a clear set of rules and boundaries and be alive to the risk of manipulation via a combination of charm and a stubborn refusal to see things from anyone else's point of view."

How To Leave A Toxic Relationship
Ending a bad relationship can be really complicated, but following some steps can make the process easier. SunnyVMD/Getty Images

How to Get Over a Toxic Relationship

Believe In Yourself

Rocio Vázquez, founder of Mexican eatery Eat Like a Local Mx and survivor of "a very abusive relationship", believes positive thinking and self-belief can be of great use in moving on with your life.

She told Newsweek: "I [initially] stayed because I needed financial support and I was scared I wouldn't be able to provide for myself.

"[Then] I decided I was going to be big and successful. And when the time was right, I was going to create a women-only team with the best wages in town.

"Money sets you free - I know for a fact."

Stick to Your Decision

Relationship Expert Tina Wilson believes reminding yourself why you are leaving and taking steps to avoid falling under the other person's spell is important.

She said: "They will likely be on their best behavior, and almost have you believe they can change their ways.

"But remind yourself, after years of emotional manipulation and having your confidence knocked, there is a reason why you are leaving the unhealthy relationship."

As a result, the simple—but potentially painful act of blocking their number can bring very real closure to the toxic relationship.

She added: "Do not take calls from your ex or allow them to comment on your social media.

"A toxic partner will have pushed and pulled with your feelings before. To make a clean break to enable you to move on is the best way to get past the trauma they may have left you with."

How To Leave A Toxic Relationship
Being in a toxic relationship can be extremely taxing and you also might even feel trapped in it—so always remember you deserve to be happy. fizkes/Getty Images

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