Not too long ago on my Instagram page, I posted about surviving sexual coercion at the hands of an emotionally abusive partner. Less than a year later, I already feel like a completely different girl than I was in that relationship – actually, scratch that. I feel more like myself than I ever did in that toxic relationship.
The way I interact with others has completely changed since that relationship ended. Both my romantic and platonic relationships have flourished as a result of breaking up with that toxic partner. I think this is partly because I’ve learned what I don’t want in a relationship – or friendship, for that matter. (As it turns out, much of what makes a good or bad partner actually makes a good or bad friend, too. After all, why else would people fall in love with their best friends?!)
Additionally, just as I learned toxic behaviors from being in a draining relationship, I’ve unlearned my bad relationship habits from being apart from that partner. As a result, I’ve gone from feeling broken and unlovable to meeting the man of my dreams – and being closer to my gal pals than ever before!
But besides allowing you to be a more caring, giving friend and partner, science shows that there are numerous other benefits to leaving a toxic relationship behind. Namely, toxic relationships are a drag on your immune system, your self-esteem and even your drinking and drug-doing habits.
As you can see, there are many compelling reasons to put toxic relationships in the past. But once you’ve made up your mind to leave, how do you do so with tact – and more importantly, without further damaging your mental health?
Let me give you an example from my past to show you what I mean: the first time I tried to break up with my then-partner, I went about it completely the wrong way. As a result, the ball wound up back in my partner’s court – and I was convinced to stay together another week before I finally said I’d had enough.
That’s why I’m bringing you a crash course on ending toxic relationships with tact. Not only do you want to minimize the negative consequences of ending these relationships, but you also want to do it in the most tactful way possible. After all, being petty and catty during a breakup – even one with a partner who treated you like sh*t – only reflects badly on you in the end.
In conclusion, there’s a right and a wrong way to end a toxic relationship. Here is the right way to do things, so you don’t end up making the same mistakes that I did – and more importantly, so you can start healing and start living.
Do It In Person
Maybe I’m just rosy-eyed, but I believe every person deserves a baseline level of respect. One of the things I regret most about the way my toxic relationship ended was doing it over the phone. Because we were long distance, and because I’d been intimidated into continuing to date him when I’d tried to do it in person once before, I wound up breaking up with the guy over text – which, let’s face it, was pretty damn tacky of me.
Although it can be tempting to end a bad relationship as quickly and comfortably as possible, it’s ultimately most tactful to break up with your partner in person. The exception, of course, is anytime when breaking up with your partner in person would cause you to feel unsafe, or put you or someone else at risk of bodily harm.
If you’re in a physically abusive relationship, for example, or if your partner has used the threat of suicide or harming someone else you care about as a bargaining chip to make you stay with them, you may want to consider contacting a local domestic violence organization. They can help you make a comprehensive plan for getting out of an abusive relationship both swiftly and safely.
Give Up Trying to “Fix” Them
The most difficult thing to realize in a relationship is that you are never going to be able to change your partner. And sure, there may be little things you both dislike about each other. I hate that David is a neat freak, and he hates that I’m messy. Those kinds of disagreements are normal in any relationship, but in a toxic relationship, the problems tend to be bigger – and you’ve probably tried “fixing” them a million times to no avail.
So, why does “fixing” a broken relationship never work? Because in a healthy relationship, there’s nothing to “fix.” Both people genuinely want to make the relationship work, and both people are investing time and effort into becoming better versions of themselves for their partners. For example, David and I – as a long-distance couple – know that lack of communication is a root cause of many of our arguments. As a result, we are both trying to address the problem within ourselves – not because we’re desperately trying to salvage a broken relationship, but because when you love someone, even a healthy relationship is worth improving. More importantly, these moments of conflict are exceptions rather than the rule, which is a critical part of what separates “normal” relationships from “toxic” ones.
Often, when we’re trying to “fix” someone, it’s a one-sided endeavor. When you mention being unhappy to them, a toxic partner will probably deny that there’s a problem, or suggest the problem is with you instead…which is downright exhausting for the partner who sees the problem and is trying to fix it. Hence, my advice is to simply stop trying!
This is rule – “stop trying to fix your toxic partner” – has two important implications for breaking up with them: firstly, don’t rattle off a laundry list of things that went wrong in the relationship. You’re not going to be able to change them no matter how hard you try, so don’t waste your breath. Secondly, your toxic partner may try to convince you that they’re going to change. Somewhere deep down, chances are you know they won’t – but when you still love someone, it’s much more comfortable to stay with what you know and love, even when it’s somehow gone sour.
I say stop listening to your partner’s silver tongue, and listen to your gut instead. You’re never going to fix a relationship that was built on a broken foundation – so just stop wasting your breath. Your time on this earth is far too precious to waste another second of it being unhappy!
Surround Yourself with Support
Last but not least, the key to ending a toxic relationship is to have plenty of healthy, happy relationships to turn to when your relationship ends. A toxic partner may have tried to control who you hung out with or what you did in the past – but a true friend will understand, and will be there for you when you are trying to pick up the pieces.
It’s important to choose your circle of support selectively in the aftermath of a breakup with a toxic partner. Because toxic partners can often appear “charming” to outsiders, it’s critical to avoid people who won’t understand why you broke up with them, or who may leave you questioning your decision to leave. If you suspect a parent or friend will react negatively to the news of your breakup – for example, your mom who keeps asking when you’re going to get engaged already, or your mutual friend who’s still hanging out with your ex – don’t feel guilty about distancing yourself from them in the aftermath of the breakup. You deserve as much time and space as you need, and the best of friends will always be willing to wait.
A true friend won’t demand an explanation for why you broke up with someone (even if you did think that person was “The One”). They’ll simply ask if you’re okay and spend the night bingeing on Ben and Jerry’s and romantic comedies with you until dawn. Everyone deserves friends like these in their life – and chances are, as you’re reading this, you’re already thinking of all the wonderful people you know who will be there for you when life falls to sh*t. Those are the people you want to call right now, and those are the people you want to keep in your innermost circle of love and support.
In conclusion, breaking up with a toxic partner can feel scary. Often, the reason we don’t leave these partners is because we’re more scared of being alone than we are of being in an unhappy relationship. But life’s too short to settle for anything less than bliss in your love life. It’s time to honor your body, mind and spirit, take a deep breath and let go of your toxic relationship. Then, and only then, will you be able to become the best version of yourself you can possibly be.