One of the best things about a long-term relationship is sharing your life with someone else. You live together, eat together, and constantly share your thoughts. Your lives are totally blended. But when it comes to getting out of a long-term toxic relationship, these previously adorable things can make leaving feel impossible.
Ending a long-term relationship is no joke, toxic or not. Obviously it's hard to peel yourself away from someone who is so enmeshed in your life. But with unhealthy (or even abusive) relationships, there's the added mix of codependency, anxiety, fear, and low self-esteem. It's a nasty combination.
For those of you in such a situation, I bet you've tried 100 times to leave, and just don't know how (or when) to let go. You might feel sick at the thought, and put off the inevitable for another day (or year). Or maybe you've convinced yourself that it could all work out, or that your partner isn't so bad. But it's this type of thinking that makes long-term toxic relationships even longer, and that's not a good thing.
So how can you know when you're actually ready to leave? "Someone might realize they are finally ready to move on from a relationship like this, when they have done some work on themselves, and have a better sense of self-esteem. They know what they want and what they deserve ... When they start to think of things in these terms, they know it is likely time to start to move on," says Nicole Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC, in an email to Bustle.
Are you considering finally getting out? If so, here are some of your next steps. Here's hoping you'll soon be able to move on to a happier, healthier relationship.
1. Stop Making Excuses
First things first, you have to stop making excuses — for your partner's actions, for why you should stay in the relationship, for why you aren't leaving, etc. The moment you stop is the moment you'll be able to see the relationship more clearly, according to advice columnist Wendy Atterberry on TheFrisky.com. And once you do, you'll be able to see that you no longer want to be a part of it.
2. Take Some Responsibility
Once you can see clearly that this thing is totally over, it's time to make moves. "Take responsibility for your choice. Identify what you want from a partner, and from your life," suggested Marcia Reynolds, Psy.D., on Psychology Today. "If you are sure you can't find it in your current relationship, set a date to leave."
3. Remember Who You Used To Be
Now's the point where you might feel a bit on the fence (for the 100th time), as the looming thought of leaving fills you with dread. When that happens, daydream yourself back to what life was like pre-relationship. As Atterberry said, "... it’s easy to forget you were once an independent person with an enjoyable life." Think back to that life, with all it's people, places, and things. And look forward to having it all again.
4. Work On Your Self-Esteem
As you know, low self-esteem plays a major role in all this toxic relationship crap. And it may have you feeling like you shouldn't leave because you're lucky to have anyone at all (even if he or she is toxic), according to Suzanna Lachmann, Psy.D., on Psychology Today. Deep down you know that's not true, right? So start building yourself up. Realize you're not only awesome all on your own, but that you're awesome enough to attract a much better relationship — if only you'd give yourself the chance.
5. Let Your Partner Know
OK, so you've been working on yourself and have decided to leave. Now is the time to tell your SO. "Choose a private place to share your decision with your partner," said Reynolds. "Then prepare to stay calm if the response is anger or manipulative behavior." Yes, it's going to suck, but clearly it needs to be done.
6. Talk Logistics
Unraveling your lives may prove difficult, so talking logistics is a must. "If you have been living together, discuss who will move out and when. If you have any joint possessions, how will you split them? Will there be any contact? These are difficult conversations to have, but the clearer you can be the easier the break up will be for both of you," said columnist Sarah Abdell on The Telegraph.
7. Find A Place To Go
If you guys live together, then figuring out where to go after the breakup will be 100 times harder. Will you rent an apartment alone? Will you move back in with your parents? Not knowing can make the process much scarier than it needs to be, so figure this out early on. When you have a new home to go to, it'll make leaving that much easier.
8. Set Up Some Boundaries
In an effort to not undo all your progress thus far, you'll have to set up some boundaries. "If you have explained your reasons for leaving, you don't have to do it again," said Reynolds. Decide that the conversations are over, as are the phone calls and any other contact you've deemed unimportant. Shutting it off is the only way to truly move on.
9. Be Ready To Be Sad
There's a good chance you'll move on and feel better pretty much instantly. (Yay, no more drama!) But there's also a huge chance you'll be sad for days, or weeks, or months. Be ready for this, and don't let it undermine your progress. Give yourself time and feel all those feels. They'll dissipate soon enough, and you'll be so glad you stuck it out.
10. Take Good Care Of Yourself
If your relationship was truly toxic, then I bet you haven't taken good care of yourself in years. Am I right? Then now's the time to undo all that damage. "Get yourself outside for a jog or brisk walk ... Feed your body and nourish your soul with activities that make you feel good ... And as the old saying goes: 'fake it until you make it,'" said Atterberry. Pretty soon you'll be feeling right as rain.
11. Don't Talk To Them
Here's a gentle reminder: don't talk to to your ex. If you can be friends with your ex, cool. But more often than not, keeping in contact will only make things more painful. If that's seems to be the case, get rid of any trace of them — phone number, photos, their old t-shirt. Doing so make moving on a helluva lot easier.
12. Remember What You Learned
Toxic relationships suck in that they feel like a waste of time. And in most ways, they totally are. So as you're coming to terms with that, and moving on, it can help to remember what you learned from it all. As Reynolds said, "... ask yourself what you have learned from the experience. Write your answers down so you can frequently access them as you move forward. You left for a reason. Make sure it helps define, and not derail, your next relationship."
13. Abusive Relationships: Make A Clean Break
Let's finish this by chatting about the worst possible scenario — abusive relationships. If you're in one, it's undoubtedly difficult in so many ways, with leaving being one of the biggest issues. And yet it's still possible, and necessary, to do so. As Martinez says, "If the relationship is abusive, leave, get out as soon as it is safe to do so, and don't look back." Simple (and not simple) as that.
As you're going through this process, remember there are resources available, whether that be a close friend, a therapist, or a women's organization. Toxic relationships, no matter the degree, are not fun or healthy. The sooner you can move on, the sooner you can start feeling better. And that's totally worth it.
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