Relationships should lift you up and fill you with love, not weigh you down and fill you with dread. If yours feels more like the latter, you might be in a toxic relationship. Toxic relationships are exhausting. They can also be tricky; you might not realize you’re in one at first. But if you constantly feel drained by your partner’s presence, ignored, bad about yourself after spending time with them, or that you’re giving more to the relationship than they are, you might be in a toxic relationship. Still not sure if you’re in one? Read on…

Spotting a Toxic Relationship

There are quite a few unpleasant aspects of a toxic relationship, anyone who’s experienced one will attest to that. Indeed, some of the signs are easier to spot than others, though this article does a good job of flagging them so you can learn to recognize toxic behavior.

Toxic relationships suck a lot of energy out of you and leave little room for much else. When you’re in a toxic relationship, not only are you responsible for your own emotional needs, but you’re often responsible for your partner’s emotional needs, too. If it’s time to call it quits, here’s how to end a relationship with a toxic partner.

Know your stance and be firm

One of the hardest parts about ending a toxic relationship is that even though you acknowledge it needs to end, you might still be in love with the person. It’s not easy, but it’s important to prioritize your emotional health and safety right now. 

Ending a relationship is hard enough as it is. But ending a toxic relationship can be even trickier because of the, well, toxic nature of your partner. Be prepared for them to start a fight, but don’t give in and stoop to their level. Instead, once you tell them it’s over, stand up for yourself and stay strong.

Let go of shame and guilt

After you end it, you might feel shame over a number of things: how your now-ex partner treated you when you were together, that you didn’t reach out to friends sooner, that you didn’t end things earlier. You might also feel guilty for breaking up with them. All of these are perfectly normal feelings, but don’t let them get to you. 

That nagging feeling that you did something wrong? That’s your ex talking. Walking away from a toxic relationship is nothing to be ashamed of or feel guilty about. It’s not easy, but the sooner you can let go of shame and/or guilt over the breakup, the faster you’ll heal and be ready to move on.

Lean on your support system

A big part of learning how to end a relationship with a toxic partner is knowing who to spend time with instead. After you break up with a toxic partner, it’s important to surround yourself with friends and loved ones, especially the positive ones. You know the people we’re talking about: the ones who are genuinely interested in your life, who rejuvenate you, and who know what questions to ask (and not to ask). 

Text that friend who gives amazing pep talks. Make plans with that person who always makes you feel good about yourself when you see them. You’re healing from your time spent with a negative person, so it’ll do you well to absorb their good vibes and positive attitudes right now.

Face the aftermath

Figuring out how to end a relationship with a toxic partner is only half the battle. Leaving is just the first step. For a while after it’s over—at least at first—you’ll have some work to do on yourself. 

That work depends on the nature of your toxic relationship, but can include practicing setting boundaries, reminding yourself to say “no” to things, and learning how to trust people. The aftermath of a toxic relationship is frustrating; your now-ex is responsible for your undoing, and you’re the one who has to do the work and heal? But in time, you’ll get there.

Learn from the experience

It’s not your fault that you were in a toxic relationship. But you can take some things away from the experience, even if you had nothing to do with its downfall. You can even turn the worst breakup into a positive experience. 

When you’re ready to start dating again, look for the types of red flags you missed in your last relationship. There’s no need to rush into a new relationship. Take as long as you need to ensure your next partner is a good, solid match who doesn’t exhibit any toxic tendencies.

Not everyone can walk away from a toxic relationship. If you feel like you don’t know how to end a relationship with a toxic partner, or if you’re scared of what will happen if you do, talk to a professional. They can offer more specific advice, help, and resources based on your situation. Always remember help is on hand, sometimes you just need to ask for it.

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