Leaving a toxic relationship can be a difficult and sometimes delicate situation. How do you know if the relationship you are in is truly toxic and emotionally harmful? What are the next steps once you know you need to leave?
You are not alone in this journey away from toxicity and pain. Keep up your courage and learn to hold onto God’s guidance. On the A Healing Peace podcast, we heard from Graphic Designer and Overcomer Bishop Knapp on how to leave a toxic relationship. Here, we have collected the powerful tools and tips from this interview that will give you insight into getting out of an emotionally abusive environment. Keep in mind that you may need to adjust and customize a specific strategy to best fit your circumstances. The first points here will focus on identifying a toxic relationship and the last points will dive into the healing journey and specific details of how to leave a toxic relationship.
10 Tips on How to Leave a Toxic Relationship
1. Ask Tough Questions
Those that create toxicity and emotional harm in a relationship often disguise their true character in the beginning. Hidden by the excitement of feeling pursued and desired, these lies later unravel and reveal themselves in painful ways. Sometimes someone’s pursuit of you can come on so strongly that you miss learning anything real about that person.
The way to break through this distracting pursuit is to ask tough questions of this person and yourself. Make sure to ask about their background, work, family, and friends. Ask specific questions to understand their career situation. Ask about their hobbies. Ask how their previous relationship ended and what they learned from it.
Does it sound like this person is just telling you what you want to hear? This can easily become evident as you ask your questions.
2. Uncover their Contribution to Your Life
Is your partner all talk with cutesy names and romantic notions? One way to figure out if someone is just telling you what you want to hear to hide toxicity is to uncover the contribution behind the talk.
At some point, words are not enough. Anyone can say beautiful things but it is their actions that sometimes show us their true intentions. Besides telling you wonderful things, how has this person contributed to your life?
Is your partner positively contributing to your growth? Are they making your life better beyond their words? What do you want your partner to add to your life? Asking yourself these questions may help you understand what kind of relationship you are in and what you truly desire.
3. Reflect on Your Responsibility
If you have taken responsibility for someone else’s actions, that may be a sign you are in a toxic relationship. Do you feel like you are to blame almost all the time? There is your red flag. Spend time reflecting on experiences where you became responsible for something you did not do.
When you have been manipulated to believe the worst of yourself, learning who should be responsible for an action can be a difficult step. One example of this is if your partner becomes mad at you and treats you poorly because of how you dressed. In this situation, the way you dressed made their behavior your fault.
For each situation ask yourself, did you physically contribute to what you are being accused of? In the example of how you dressed, did you physically approach your partner and express that he or she should hate you because you dressed in that manner? Did you tell your partner that you should be punished because you wore something he did not like?
Another example involves cooking dinner. Say your partner did not like what you cooked and blamed you for being a bad mother and wife. You are ‘bad’ because you did not have time to cook a lavish meal. So, what does your partner do? He gets up, throws his food out, and gives everyone ice cream in protest. Let us break that down. Did you physically tell your husband’s taste buds to hate dinner? Did you intentionally prepare food that he would hate? Did you physically make him give ice cream to your children? Did you deliberately provide innutritious food or no food at all? If you successfully answered no to these questions, then you have a done wonderful job of identifying the truth and placing
responsibility on the appropriate person.
These seemingly small situations can add up. How often does your partner take responsibility for their actions? Your answer is key to identifying a toxic relationship red flag. If you begin to not eat or sleep, start drinking alcohol to cope, or even begin to have suicidal thoughts, this is a red flag that ought not to be ignored.
4. Look at Your Attempts to Mediate with God
Some people remain in toxic relationships because they think they can fix the person or that God will fix the person for them. God can fix anyone, but the person must be a willing participant in that fixing. God will not change someone who does not want it. He will provide growth opportunities. However, it is ultimately, up to the person to follow through on God’s opportunities for change.
Are you attempting to be the intercessor or mediator for your partner and God? Look closely and you will find a difference between you trying to get the person closer to God and the person pursuing their walk with God.
Is there something you are trying to fix in your relationship that your partner does not want to fix? Allow yourself to discover areas of your relationship where you are powerless to
change. This is especially key when you are bombarded with lies that indicate everything is your fault.
5. Create an Exit Strategy
Once you have identified that you are in a toxic relationship, the first step to leaving and finding healing is to create your exit strategy. This exit strategy may begin with developing safe relationships. You may do this through family, work, friends, social media, or even apps. In safe relationships, you may find the opportunity to share her hidden experiences. These relationships can help you identify the truth behind the lies. As safe relationships grow, you may find the hope and strength to leave the toxic relationship.
In circumstances where you are heavily monitored or subject to physical harm, an exit plan requires more detail and care. One solution is to go to the library. You can use the internet there and access thehotline.org where you will find 24/7 support for abusive relationships. Consider that you may need multiple trips to the library and a library card. You may need to bring a utility bill to prove your address and get a card.
If you are in a relationship where your partner demands to know your whereabouts, then make sure you check out an item to prove that you went to the library that day. On the next trip, reserve at least 30 minutes to review TheHotline.org online resources.
TheHotline.org has an online safety plan that you can complete to help facilitate your exit strategy. The site also includes local resources and the steps to complete a police report. After reviewing their resources, call their support line. If you cannot use your phone, request the library phone.
This may sound overwhelming at the moment. However, each day is a new opportunity to take a new step toward leaving a toxic relationship.
6. Retrain Your Brain from Trauma
Over time, situations may occur that will remind you of the toxic relationship. It is important to participate in activities that help to retrain your brain from the trauma you experienced. Getting outdoors may help you release emotional trauma. Here you can feel closer to God while being in His nature.
Learning something new can also be extremely valuable as you recover from a toxic relationship. Whether you are learning to play an instrument, cook a favorite food, or start a new hobby, you are preparing yourself for another stage of life. You cannot move forward unless you are willing to prepare yourself for the journey.
7. Seek Professional Guidance
You can find incredible support through counselors or therapists who can provide tools and guide you through your experiences.
When you are in manipulative relationships, it becomes a challenge to distinguish between fact and fiction. A therapist can help to identify why you attract unhealthy partners. Sometimes we need an objective perspective to shed light on our behaviors.
8. Add Mirrors to Your Home
To combat the many lies you may have been told about yourself, look through a lens of truth. You are beautiful and loving. Seeing your true self in the mirror can give you the
confidence to embrace your creativity. God created a beautiful person.
Look at yourself more frequently in mirrors or take selfies. While you are looking, note the beauty of your body. Be specific. For instance, you may look in the mirror and say, “You have the most intelligent eyes. Oh, you have that red lipstick on, you are looking good.”
Bask in the beauty that God has created in you!
9. Separate the Past from the Present
This tip is a strategy for healthy processing triggers, more specifically not projecting
previous experiences onto new ones. When we do not handle with care our interactions with new people, we can easily fall into the trap of being a victim.
An instinct might be to think everyone is out against us. However, this is often not the case. Ask yourselves these questions to uncover thought distortion from reality when dealing with triggers in new relationships:
1. What is the heart or character of the person in the new relationship?
2. Is the person initially trying to make you angry?
3. What is making you feel like this, i.e., is it an experience?
4. Did the person have anything to do with your experience?
Ask yourself this series of questions when you are having a hard time processing new experiences because previous experiences are haunting. Please note that when you are stopping to reflect, you are also giving yourself a timeout. This pause will help you to respond to your partner healthily.
10. Prepare Your Response
For those who experience emotional pain in relationships, there will be moments when you are triggered. However, when you are triggered, it is not okay to lash out in anger and poorly treat your partners, family, or friends. You can discover different methods for how you respond.
One strategy is the three-times option. Your initial response to being triggered may be crazy, the second time, less crazy, and by the third time, a healthy response. In this tip, you are training your mind on how to respond to the trigger. The key is to prepare healthy responses to help you through your triggers. As you learn how to leave a toxic relationship, take your time to complete these actions. Not every step will be achieved in a week. Let go of these expectations and take it one step at a time.