Updated: Feb 3, 2021
We've all been there at some point. Toxic relationships can negatively affect our mental, emotional, physical and financial health. It's common and easy to engage in negative self-talk, but that damages us on many levels. Instead, put yourself back on the priority list by detoxing your life after ending the relationship.
While it can be incredibly hard to leave abusive partnerships, just know that it’s possible to leave something that no longer serves you. If you’ve already cut ties with the person who was making you feel crummy about yourself — first of all, congrats! — then you’re ready to take that next step to heal. However, if you don’t know where to begin, don’t worry, we've got you. Below is a list of ways you can heal after ending a toxic relationship.
1. Recognize What Happened
When you’ve just gotten out of a toxic relationship, you’ll most likely dip in and out of denial. Were they really that bad? Was this my fault? These are natural thoughts to have, but not necessarily true. Think through what really happened (or didn't) that caused the demise. What made the relationship toxic? Facing this truth head-on allows you to recognize how and why the relationship ended. You may not work out an exact timeline of where and when things went south, but denying that the relationship was damaging will slow down the healing process.
2. End Contact
No, you don’t need to be friends with them. That leaves the door open for more of the same. If you truly want to end a toxic relationship, why stay connected? Unfriend them from social media, block or delete their number, and removing any connection you may have with them. Yes, this will be hard to do, but the only way you’ll be able to move forward is if you focus on healing for yourself and not hanging on in hopes of change.
Sometimes you must be in contact with a toxic person on some level, for example, co-parenting or a professional work relationship. In this case, create a parallel relationship where you're calm and cordial around them, but limit contact as much as possible. Set firm boundaries.
3. Ask Yourself the Tough Questions
This is an important step to properly heal. Examine the relationship experience to see what you can learn from it. For instance, ask yourself questions like, why did I choose this person? What was I hoping for or ignoring? What did I miss in the vetting process that I allowed this person into my life? How can I grow from this experience so it doesn’t become a pattern? Give yourself time to answer objectively. Remember, don’t beat yourself up during this process; you won’t heal if you do.
4. Make Your Health a Priority
Spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, financial - all health matters! This is the time to turn inward and replenish. You just survived a trauma. Now is not the time to focus on someone else. Practice self-care by getting adequate or more sleep (the body heals when we rest), exercise, journal and eat healthy. Chronic stress weakens the immune system and can lead to long-term health issues. It’s imperative that you focus on your overall health right now.
When you’re in a toxic partnership, it’s easy to lose yourself. You can forget what you like, don’t like. Your personal goals may seem far away because your attention was poured into the relationship. This is the time to start filling your “empty space”. Find your passion again or learn something new. Take up a hobby, try new cooking recipes, travel or do something you've wanted to. Invest your time into a healthy relationship with yourself. A wellness consultation with practitioner VKnox may help you get back on track.
5. Be a Victor Not a Victim
Sometimes, we end up feeling like victims and wallow in self pity. You’re allowed to be sad and angry. Feelings of regret, self-blame or self-doubt are also natural after a toxic relationship breakup. Self-blame is a defensive mechanism we use to cover up our internal wounds. However, it’s important to remember why you left the partnership in the first place, no matter how compatible you believe the two of you were. You’re allowed to have mixed emotions about the end of a relationship, but recognize which emotions are serving you and which are keeping you stuck. Owning a victim mindset can prevent you from trusting yourself or finding healthy romantic relationships in the future. Transition into a survivor mindset where you see yourself strong, valuable, and capable of giving and receiving love.
Leaving a toxic relationship can be overwhelming and it's okay to ask for help. Reach out out to friends and family, join support groups or work with a therapist to help navigate the aftermath. If you are insured, contact your insurance company for options available through your health plan such as therapists or supplements that may be covered. Not only will support systems help you rebuild self-confidence, but they can help identify the lessons from this relationship, which can be hard to see when you're hurting.
6. Focus On Now Not Then
Never look back, darling, it distracts from the now. The only reason to think about your toxic relationship is to grow from it, not fixate on it. One of the best ways you can do this is by reminding yourself that you can’t change people or the past. It happened, you learned, and it’s time to move on. However, you’re human after all, so thoughts will come. Just be patient with yourself so you can learn to appreciate what that relationship has taught you. As my father told me many times growing up, "Once you get the lesson, don't sign up for that class again!" Thanks Dad, I think I've finally graduated.
7. What Do You Need vs Want From a Relationship
I was very fortunate to have an older brother that I could talk to about almost anything, including relationships. He was 16 years older than me and very wise. One conversation we had many decades ago stands out in my mind. Post divorce and living single for a while, I felt ready to date again. My brother encouraged me to think about my "needs, wants, and nice-to-haves" relative to a mate.
While this may or may not be a literal list on paper, it can help sort out the most critical things, which we often lose sight of in the beginning. The needs are the non-negotiable traits, for example, I need a chair. The wants are not deal breakers, but more like desirables - I'd want the chair to be leather. The nice-to-haves are details that appeal to you in some way. It's like icing on the cake - I want my leather chair to be pink! Relationships are 80% of what we want and 20% of what we don't - or are willing to put up with. Make sure your "needs" are not the 20%.
It’s time to start taking inventory. Whenever you think about getting back into the dating (or friendship) pool, be aware of what you need versus want you want in the next partner and relationship.
8. What Do You Have to Give
Relationships are not 50/50, they are 100/100! Two half people do not make a whole person. Before venturing into another relationship, consider what you have to offer, unconditionally. We can't give from an empty cup, so make sure your cup is full of joy, happiness, contentment, peace and love. It's a hefty responsibility to expect someone else to give you these things, because they can't. However, they can enhance what you already bring to the table. When you've become a whole person spiritually, mentally, emotionally and other ways, you are able to give from your abundance. You are able to allow some withdraws, but not complete depletion. Always have enough reserve to keep your personal love bank in the black.
VKNOX is a holistic nutrition wellness practitioner, certified behavior change specialist, certified fitness nutrition educator, lifestyle transformation coach and author. She is the creator of the R.A.W. Lifestyle System.