Knowing when and how to leave a toxic relationship with dignity is one of the most commendable and self-supporting acts you could ever do. It not only raises your perceived value in the eyes of others but your own.
You have to be firm, honest and committed to leaving a toxic relationship. Make it clear that the relationship is not healthy and that the only way forward is to separate.
But before you can do that, I think it is incredibly important to understand the characteristics of a toxic relationship.
After doing some research and really going through all of the notes I’ve made over the years from dating or being with toxic partners, it’s quite surprising to see how monumental those breakups were.
Not only did those toxic relationships and dates impact my self confidence and happiness but it played a significant impact on my health, both physically and mentally.
This, in turn, impacted my work life and personal life.
And one of my biggest regrets was allowing myself to remain in that situation. This is why I put together this very direct and laser-focused collection of signs of an unhealthy relationship.
You need to be aware of what to avoid when you start dating. You can’t be cautious of something you aren’t aware of. So I strongly recommend you familiarize yourself with the traits of a toxic relationship first.
For the sake of convenience, here’s a list of toxic relationship traits.
- Your partner is over-controlling and possessive
- You are disrespected
- Your partner cheats
- Your partner is physically, emotionally and psychologically abusive
- Lies and more lies
- Passive-aggressive and not communicative
- Takes advantage of your kind nature without appreciation
- Prioritizes everyone else other than you
- You’re punished for your past and differences
- You’re constantly compared to old lovers
Not all of these warning signs are necessarily a deal-breaker but when they appear collectively, then the case for a toxic relationship grows stronger and you need to leave that relationship.
For a closer and more in-depth look into each of these toxic relationship signs and how they manifest in a relationship, please read this article I wrote on the topic.
With that being said, let’s get into exactly how to leave a toxic relationship with dignity.
1. You have to be firm, honest and committed to leaving
If someone has treated you poorly and you stumble with the decision to leave them, then not only do you appear weak but it also creates the impression that you don’t know your worth.
I don’t say that to be harsh.
But, coming from someone who has put up with some really abusive stuff in the past, I’ve learned not to ever tolerate toxic behavior or hesitate to prioritize what I deserve from a partner.
You’re a person who deserves to be treated kindly by someone you’ve ‘chosen’ to be with.
And that is an important differentiating factor between family and a romantic relationship.
We don’t choose our family but we do choose our romantic partners.
This means that you can choose to leave at any point if the person you willingly committed too has treated you like scum.
I like to look at it from this perspective. I’m not choosing to just leave you, I’m choosing my happiness over your abusive or toxic behavior.
Trust me, the amount of respect, self-confidence and appreciation you will feel towards yourself for making such a hard but important decision will do wonders for your mind, heart and body.
2. Don’t try to get an apology
Perhaps an apology may help you heal or give you some closure but more often than not, you will find yourself encountering a stone wall that refuses to take responsibility for their actions.
You’ll present your case only for them to create a narrative that paints them in a better light.
In the end, you’ll be feeling upset, frustrated and defeated because you failed to get what you were looking for.
If you want to maintain your dignity, don’t seek out an apology.
If someone truly loves you, an apology will find it’s way to you in one way or another.
And if someone doesn’t love or respect you, they’ll act unphased or completely in denial.
Be prepared to leave a toxic relationship with or without an apology from your soon to be ex.
Either way, the end goal is to heal and find someone better.
And you don’t need your ex’s apology for that. Heck, you won’t even think about your ex after you realize that you’ve found someone amazing.
3. Don’t backtrack after making the decision
People break up all the time, right? If they’re committed to moving on, it’s a permanent end to the relationship. And if they’re not, they boomerang back into it.
This may be okay with people who have enjoyed a relationship that is not toxic. But when you’re dealing with a bad relationship, then it’s an unhealthy thing to do.
When you yo-yo between breaking up and making up with a toxic partner, you devalue your worth.
Furthermore, it paints a picture of someone who isn’t strong-willed and doesn’t respect him or herself enough to remain true to their word.
When someone toxic catches on to that, it’s game over.
They’ll use and abuse you every chance they get because you have removed consequence from the situation.
If you’ve thought about it and you cannot see anything other than breaking up, do it and stay true to it.
4. Don’t sleep with him or her again
As I mentioned above, if you reward someone who treats you like a piece of trash, you are validating their behavior and devaluing your own worth.
That will change the way he or she looks at you. But more importantly, you’ll start to believe that a bad relationship is what you deserve.
It’s hard to break out of that way of thinking without a lot of hard work.
This is why prevention is better than cure.
To maintain your dignity, do not hook up with your ex.
Once the relationship is over, it’s the end of all communication. A clean break is the best tip I can give you on how to leave a toxic relationship with dignity.
5. End all communication
Change and success in any form is always dependant on consistent discipline.
Irrespective of how you feel or the obstacles in front of you, the undying commitment to walk away or towards something is what dictates whether you grow as a person or not.
It’s rough leaving a toxic relationship.
After so much investment and emotional turmoil, the urge to run away from the separation anxiety and pain is very tempting.
Unfortunately, we live in a society that encourages sacrificing long term happiness to avoid short term pain.
That’s a recipe for regret and much worse suffering.
When you decide to finally leave your toxic relationship, let it be the last time you talk to your ex in any form indefinitely.
It will be hard and you’ll have to go through some tough moments but don’t avoid that.
Remind yourself that it isn’t the breakup that actually caused this, it’s the toxic behavior of your ex that led you down this road.
And when you can make that differentiation, that’s when you’ll willingly and happily cut all communication with your ex.
6. Don’t do something bad to avoid being the one who ends the relationship
To avoid confrontation or blaming someone else, we can often paint ourselves in a bad light.
Whether it’s being unfaithful, lying and so on, sabotaging a relationship and giving your partner a reason to leave you isn’t healthy, especially if they’re a huge factor in why the relationship is toxic.
Don’t give him or her the luxury of blaming you.
There is so much more to be gained from having the courage to confront a bad situation head-on than to look for an easier or less painful way out at the cost of your dignity and respect.
Forget about trying to sabotage the relationship. Instead, be courageous and leave it with your head held up high.
It’s not the easy way to do it which is why you must do it!
7. Don’t try to get even
Just because this toxic relationship has taken so much from you doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for you to try and get something back from it.
The cleanest break is the best thing for someone going through this situation.
If you try to get even or try to make him or her feel the pain that you felt, it will deplete you of whatever you have left inside.
That’s when emptiness and regret will eat you up.
What you need more than anything is time to heal by yourself.
You need nothing from this person you’ve shared a relationship with because what they have to give at this point isn’t what you need.
Maintain your dignity by holding your moral code and values close to your heart.
8. Don’t leave the door open
I don’t see any reason why an opportunity for a reconciliation to exist in a relationship that destroyed your happiness and well being.
If anything, someone who truly respects themselves will run away from the prospect of ever having to deal with that toxic situation again.
There’s this idea in life which dictates that all we get in life is a result of what we negotiate for.
Don’t allow a toxic relationship to remain on the table. Throw it off and only be willing to negotiate for something good and worth your effort, even if that means putting in more work.
Now that we have discussed how to let go of a toxic relationship with dignity, let’s take a look at preliminary steps you could take to possibly change the relationship from toxic to something good.
Discuss what makes you unhappy in the relationship
Not all toxic relationships are intentional or beyond redemption. Sometimes it could be caused by a lack of communication and an inability to resolve conflicts.
Here’s what I’ve learned about conflict resolution:
- Avoid blaming each other.
- Discuss how feelings were hurt and through what actions.
- Give a sincere apology by acknowledging how certain actions caused pain, unhappiness and hurt.
- Come to a compromise through negotiation and try not to repeat the same mistake.
With time and practice, these conflict resolution tips become a part of how you naturally deal with issues.
It will serve you well in all sorts of relationships.
Try couples counseling
If you find yourself constantly bickering and completely failing to resolve conflicts together, it may be useful to seek out the help of an unbiased third party.
Couples’ counseling always brings about a result.
Either you’ll have a breakthrough together and find happiness together or you’ll part ways.
Whatever the outcome may be, it usually results in the inevitable outcome.
I’m not saying this is true for every case. The type of counselor plays a significant role in whether such counseling is actually helpful or not so be mindful of that.
Explain the kind of actions you want your partner to avoid
You can’t fix something broken if you don’t know that it’s broken.
So if your partner is doing something bad without understanding the impact and consequences of his or her actions on you, explain it.
Help the relationship as much as humanly possible.
I understand that it sucks to be the one that has to explain things like this when you’re hurting but if you really want to exhaust your best options of fixing the relationship, it’s something you must try.
And if your partner continues his or her actions despite all the help you’ve given, then you have every reason to take another step towards leaving the relationship with dignity and without regret.
Skip the blame game and give your partner a chance to change things
Overnight change isn’t sustainable or probable but with time and effort, your partner could possibly drop all of his or her toxic habits.
It genuinely depends on whether you are willing to stick around in the relationship long enough to find out.
Usually, this is something that takes place much before the relationship reaches a particular height of toxicity.
However, until then, it’s far more productive to skip blaming each other and placing your focus on giving each other a chance to make the changes you’ve both discussed.
You have no other choice
When you take options off the table, there’s only one way forward and you embark on that journey no matter how scared, anxious or fearful you are.
But what’s important to remember is that you will get through this.
Not just survive but actually thrive.
Everything you overcome is another layer of maturity and mental fortitude added to your personality.
It’s okay to suffer from a breakup right now because you’re taking every single step necessary to have happiness and peace in your life.
This is how you negotiate a better life and a romantic story.
Take other choices off the table for yourself because if you continue to stay in a toxic relationship that has no promise of improvement, you are sacrificing more than just time.
You’re sacrificing your happiness, the chance of meeting someone who is amazing for you, a relationship that feeds your soul and the opportunity to make memories that you cherish for a lifetime.
Weigh the pros and cons
On more than one occasion, I’ve used this technique to achieve mental clarity when I’ve felt conflicted about something.
Sit down with a pen and page, draw a line down the center and list all the pros and cons of staying in this relationship.
Do this until you’ve listed every single thing you can think about.
This simple trick adds a layer of objectivity.
So if you’re feeling hesitant or doubtful, you should absolutely do this activity because it will remove a significant amount of doubt from the situation.
What you’ll usually find is that this list of pros and cons will confirm what you already feel is the right decision.
Find support from others
As much as it’s important to spend time alone processing your feelings, don’t isolate yourself from everyone.
After a toxic relationship, I found myself feeling elated and at peace when I was around my supportive and loving family and friends.
They reminded me of what is important in life and kept me sane during emotionally overwhelming moments.
Find that person or people and let them be there for you.
Chances are, if they love you, they’ll be knocking at your door with ice cream and pizza.
Everything will be okay
I promise you!
Tough times don’t last, tough people do.
And with every passing day, you’re toughening up.
You have no idea how brave and courageous you are to leave a toxic relationship.
You’re choosing happiness and growth over settling and sadness.
It may not be easy but it’s the right thing to do. You are earning every bit of the respect and dignity you deserve by doing this.
Hang in there and hold onto the image of a better future.
If there’s one thing I know, it’s that you’ll be okay.