Healing from a toxic relationship can feel impossible.
You want to move on, but the awful words, emotions, and memories are lodged in your soul like a jagged ice pick.
You want to open your heart but it’s shriveled up and barely beating.
You want to smile at the nice new guy or girl across from you in the cafe but you feel like a broken husk and can barely manage to even make eye contact.
I know it all too well…
You feel like you’ve been cursed and are locked out of the world of healthy, smiling people around you.
So how can you move on?
The truth is that healing from a toxic relationship is not only possible but well within your reach – if you go about it the right way.
I’m not promising you that it’s going to be easy or painless, but by following the advice below you can absolutely make it happen.
Healing from a toxic relationship is possible
Healing from a toxic relationship is possible if you take the right approach.
The 15 tips below will help you move on and not only work through the trauma but also — potentially — be ready for someone new.
The search for true love and intimacy can be a long journey, but it’s always worth it in the end.
Here are the healing tips to detoxify from a disastrous ex.
1) Don’t beat yourself up
Toxic relationships are like a bad sunburn but multiplied by 100.
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They burn you badly and leave you writhing in pain, and they can take a long time to wear off and leave you feeling like yourself again.
It hurts when you’re awake, it hurts when you try to sleep and everything hurts.
You might even feel like a weakling or like an idiot.
“How could I walk into that situation like such a dumbo?” you may wonder.
Trust me, even the world’s richest man Jeff Bezos had his wife Mackenzie divorce him and recently remarry her kids’ high school science teacher.
Bezos also follows her on Twitter but she doesn’t follow him back.
Love fucking hurts.
As the Everly Brothers sang in their 1960 hit “Love Hurts” that was later made into a major hit by Nazareth, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Roy Orbison, and more:
“Love hurts, love scars
Love wounds and marks
Not tough or strong enough
To take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain…”
You’re not alone.
Don’t beat yourself up. Your broken heart is already doing a good enough job of that for both of you.
I’m not saying you didn’t make mistakes or that your decisions were sound. Maybe you screwed up royally and this man or woman was a flashing red warning sign that was screaming: keep away!
Maybe you approached anyway and then got snagged in a nightmare relationship or love affair.
But it honestly happens to the best of us, and sometimes the hottest – and most dangerous – part of the fire is exactly where we most want to touch.
2) Have a block party
When you get out of a bad relationship you’re going to be reeling.
It might feel like the worst hangover you’ve ever had or it might feel like a giant relief and getting over the worst hangover you’ve ever had.
You may feel amazing or absolutely terrible — or a combination of both.
But one thing you’re almost definitely going to feel is full of inner conflict.
This is particularly true if you’re still in love. It’s going to burn like a bitch and you’ll be tempted to remember the good times and try to reinitiate contact after a while.
The toxic connection you had probably had some amazing magic moments and your addict mind is going to want to re-experience them.
Don’t do it!
Instead what you need to do is calmly sit down with some classical music on and a glass of wine and have a big block party.
Open all your social media apps, websites, and phone numbers and press block, block, block.
Don’t send a long-winded “final” goodbye, don’t cling to what once was. It is up to you to break that codependent toxic cycle.
If you have kids together, a divorce proceeding, housing move, or other practical things that still need to be worked out then do so but do not hope or wait for some final last-minute comeback chance. Be very firm in yourself that this is now over and that you’re moving on from the relationship.
If your ex was manipulative or rubbed you the wrong way you can’t count on them to be responsible, and they may seek you out soon enough.
Do you want to go back down that “fucking rabbithole” or do you want to get on with your own life in a positive way?
3) Let friends be your lifeline
Your friends can be your greatest allies in your comeback as you begin healing from a toxic relationship.
You should never lean on your friends as a crutch or use them in a codependent way or as distraction or comfort.
But you can enjoyably spend time with them and mutually vent and communicate to each other about what’s going on in your life.
Try to avoid trash-talking your ex (which I’ll discuss later), but it’s perfectly fine to have a teary, alcohol-soaked night or two.
Go out for dinner and have fun together. Watch Dawson’s Creek. Swear at the characters and cry at their stupid, toxic teenage situations.
Let the difficult memories — good and bad — wash over you and let yourself be you.
Your friends will understand, and if they love you they will enjoy the extra time they spend with you.
Friendship is amazing.
As clinical psychologist Kathryn Gordon writes:
“There’s no perfect thing to say in the most difficult situations, but we can support each other by opening dialogue, expressing compassion, and listening with the goal of understanding. Though sometimes hard to initiate, these conversations are the ones that strengthen our relationships. They make us feel we have a place to turn the next time the world feels lonely and dark.”
4) Maximize your health and fitness
Health and fitness are probably something you hear a lot about.
Go work out, go for a run or bike ride, eat healthily.
Blah, blah, heard that before you might be thinking. And I don’t blame you. It gets tiring to keep hearing the same old line.
But it also happens to be true.
Your health and fitness are core to your recovery from the toxic relationship that’s scarred your soul and brought your whole energy level down.
Whether it’s a morning walk, an improved diet, or meditation, such as this excellent meditation for finding inner peace even in the midst of chaos, your health and fitness are of the utmost importance.
Your mental and physical health are intimately connected.
And what ties it all together is your respiratory system, so I also highly advise trying to do a respiratory reboot.
As the shaman Rudá Iandê says:
“Can you turn your breath into a prayer? Forget your gods, forget your words, and make it very simple, just between your lungs and the air. Can you create a silent prayer from your inhalation, your exhalation, and your reverence and gratitude for life? Can you pray with your lungs?”
5) Embrace a champion mindset
One thing I hate is when I read advice about relationships and it’s filled with assumptions about me or my life experience.
So let me be totally clear:
I have no idea what happened in your relationship, how bad it was, or what you’ve been through.
And I have no right to act like I do know.
But what I can say is that even if you were badly victimized, you need to try to cling on to any scrap of endurance and make a comeback.
Maybe you also need to press charges. But either way, you can’t let that person live rent-free anymore in your head.
The champion mindset doesn’t deny that you’ve been hurt, victimized, tossed aside, and treated like shit. It simply continues in spite of that and wins at life anyway.
Let your revenge be living the best life possible.
Even if your ex never sees or thinks of you again, you will know deep inside yourself that you survived a raging storm that would take many frailer souls to the bottom of the deep blue sea.
You’re a survivor. You’re a winner. You’re able to keep going.
Feel it deep in your bones and absolutely know it is true.
You’re a goddamn champion.
6) Leave the past in the past as much as possible
When you’re healing from a toxic relationship you’re going to feel doubt and pain.
That’s a given.
Where you have some control is how much you allow it to dictate your actions and what you focus on with your time.
There will be days you’re just going to be out of it and that’s OK. You should never be forcing yourself to be positive or trying to repress negative emotions.
In fact, the whole idea of “negative” emotions often strips us of the power and energy contained in feelings like anger, sadness, and frustration.
Avoid blaming yourself and beating yourself up too much as well, like I mentioned in tip one.
The past is important and you need to face and deal with all those emotions that come and go through the healing process.
But you also need to eke out even the smallest area of forward progress you can.
It could start with a morning walk,
Cutting the lawn of the elderly couple next door,
Learning to cook a delicious meal,
Or just practicing meditation.
But find that little space of forward momentum and make use of it, leaving the past in the past as much as possible and processing the emotions that come up without making them part of your “story” or a victim narrative.
As the comedian and actor Kevin Hart writes in his book I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons:
“My future was out there. It was just waiting for me to find it. And the challenge was not to give up on myself just because it seemed like everyone else was pulling ahead of me— and leaving me further and further behind in the months that followed. That’s the test that each of us faces in life: Can you fail and still be strong? Can you not fit in and still accept yourself? Can you lose everything and still keep searching? Can you be in the dark and still believe in the light?”
7) Follow your bliss
The author and American religion professor Joseph Campbell famously said to “follow your bliss.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean getting wasted every night or dating every person you come across on Instagram.
But it does mean finding what you’re passionate about in life and then chasing it down like a wild mustang.
Because even if you never become a world-renowned painter, or stock whizz or chef, you’re going to have a hell of a good time on the way there if it’s what you love to do.
Now that you’re out of a relationship which took up your time, energy, and space, you have the opportunity to build something new.
That could be a new skill, a new building, a new business or even a new mindset and spiritual practice.
This is your time to start out in something new that makes you happy, even if it’s just a little thing at the start.
If that all feels a little bit much right now do something simpler.
Read a good old-fashioned book with a cup of hot chocolate. You’ll be surprised how calming and pleasant it is to leaf through a book and get lost in another world.
8) Get comfy in your own skin
Take time for yourself. You deserve it.
While you can (and should) surround yourself with friends and family during this trying time, that doesn’t mean you need to become an overnight social butterfly.
If anything, this could be a good time to be alone to rediscover and love yourself.
According to Her Campus, this is a time to create a space for healing and love.
This means giving yourself permission to cry and feel sad.
Listen or watch things that’ll help you through this process or internally repeat a mantra to remind yourself how to love your inner child.
Your wounds are still healing, so don’t rush yourself through this process.
As Rayne Wolfe reminds us in her book Toxic Mom Toolkit,
“With grace and kindness, anything is possible.”
9) Do an honest self-assessment (even if it kicks your own ass)
Ask yourself the tough questions. This is an important step.
When you begin to feel like you’re healing (again, remember: healing isn’t linear, and that’s okay!), you may want to examine the experience you went through to see what you can learn from it.
For instance, Psychology Today suggests to ask yourself questions like,
“What did I miss in the vetting process that I allowed this person into my life?” or
“How can I grow from this experience – so it doesn’t repeat itself into a bad pattern?”
Remember to give yourself some time so you can answer these questions from a more objective standpoint. You don’t want to beat yourself up during this process; you won’t heal if you do.
Start thinking about what you want out of a relationship.
It’s time to start taking inventory.
Whenever you start to realize that you might want to jump back into the dating (or friendship) pool, be aware of what you want your next relationship to look like.
Do you want someone who is focused on their career?
Or someone who communicates clearly about what they want?
Identify your values and ask yourself how you want to feel when you’re with someone.
This can help determine what you want out of your next relationship before you dive headfirst into the dating world.
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 all my fault?
These are natural thoughts to have but just because you have them doesn’t mean they’re true.
Facing this truth head-on will allow you to recognize how and why the relationship turned toxic in the first place. 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 your healing process.
Shannon Thomas, author of Healing from Hidden Abuse, reminds us,
“No matter where we might find ourselves, we can make slow steady changes that will add up and get us pointed in a new and healthier life direction.”
10) Team up and get involved
Surround yourself with positive people. Happy, happy, joy, joy.
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn said we are the average of the five people we associate with the most.
This means that after you exit a toxic relationship, you need to surround yourself with folks who will lift you up — not people to just commiserate with.
The last thing you need is someone to badmouth your former partner, question your worth, or provide unsolicited advice.
You are looking to rediscover the joy in your life.
During this time, you should be doing things that will bring you joy, whether that’s going to a sports game, hanging in the park, or going to the movies with some friends, according to Psychology Today. Doing these things will help alleviate stress, which is exactly what you need to do right now.
11) Today is your day, amigo
Focus on the present, not the past.
Never look back, darling, it distracts from the now.
While it might be tempting to dig in your past and beat yourself up, the only reason why you should be thinking 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. But don’t criticize yourself if you can’t help it; you’re human after all.
Just be patient with yourself so you can learn to appreciate what that relationship has taught you, according to Thrive Global.
As you go forward in life, be very clear on your boundaries.
This will help ensure you don’t fall back into a toxic relationship with someone new.
12) No ifs, ands or buts
There’s a lot of confusion swirling in your mind after a breakup, especially if the relationship was rocky.
But the more you engage in ifs ands, or buts the worse the recovery is going to be.
“If I had just been more relaxed and less demanding…”
“I think she was the girl of my dreams, but the way she treated me was so bad. If only I’d found a way to not let it get to me so much.”
“He was perfect and our paths were so aligned, but then his fucking ex had to come back in the picture and ruin everything.”
None of this is going to rewrite the past, and it’s only to keep you stuck for longer in that bitter and depressing zone of post-breakup misery.
The past is the past and as painful as it might be you can’t relive it.
Now all you can do is try to look after yourself the best that you can and avoid the same traumatic experiences in the future.
13) Let the healing flow
I know that anger and sadness are common feelings after a breakup, and this is especially true if it was a toxic or manipulative connection.
In order to let the healing flow, you will need to forgive yourself.
It’s not always easy, but it’s absolutely necessary.
Forgiving yourself is about much more than just saying everything is fine and sitting down to watch some Netflix that will absorb your attention.
You need to try journaling, painting, or verbalizing what’s happened and the hurt you feel and then specifically tell yourself and feel yourself being unshackled from the weight of that mistake or disappointment.
The pain isn’t going to go away, but if you really commit and understand that you need to forgive yourself to move on, then you can prepare a fresh page for the next chapter of your life instead of staying stuck in the nasty prologue.
In other cases, verbalizing out loud can be really helpful.
As relationship and trauma therapist Jordan Pickell explains,
“Sometimes a good way to forgive yourself is to say your mistake out loud. This vocalizes what went wrong and lets you hear out loud and forgive yourself out loud for the missteps you may have made.”
14) Vent — but don’t hyperventilate
Like I wrote earlier, you should avoid trash-talking your ex around friends.
This includes mutual friends who know both of you but also just in general.
But let’s be honest:
There’s a good chance you’re going to vent or let loose now and again or even go on an epic rant about your douchebag ex and how horrible he or she was in various ways.
That’s fine, it’s basically inevitable.
But don’t let the bitterness consume and overtake you.
In order to move forward with maturity and grace, it is vital that you avoid overly blaming or hating on your ex and what they put you through.
There’s a big difference between venting some of the frustration and actually committing to a dark storyline in which you’re a victim who was harmed by the devil and went through suffering nobody else can imagine.
Maybe you did, but it’s best not to express it publicly too much and if you feel that you do need to let it out there can be better venues such as with a licensed therapist or even through spiritual practices and prayer.
15) Channel your anger and frustration
Many of us come from cultures that divide things into binary constructions: good and bad, happy and sad, negative and positive, rich and poor, and so on.
Opposites are obviously something that exists in nature and life.
But when we think of things like anger or sadness as “negative” we actually perpetuate their most difficult and self-limiting consequences.
Sometimes anger, fear, and sadness can be the road to achieving our full potential.
But when we push them down, repress or feel shame over them we often only deny the validity of our experience and end up creating all sorts of roadblocks for ourselves in unresolved trauma and trapped energy that’s dying to be let out.
This includes after the breakup of a relationship.
As Ruda teaches, anger can be your best ally if you learn how to unleash your inner beast.
Learning to channel your anger and sadness into worthwhile causes, projects, other relationships and your life mission can be deeply powerful.
Don’t push down the anger and sadness you’re feeling, use it as rocket fuel for your dreams.
16) You’re never alone!
The last tip I have for you is one of the most important.
You’re never alone.
Sometimes when you’ve gone through a toxic relationship the hardest thing about it isn’t the horrible memories it’s the good ones.
You remember the amazing times together and that fiery connection you seemed to have, even if there were so many other parts of the relationship which were a let-down and a drag.
As Danielle Page writes:
“One of the hardest parts of getting over my ex was dealing with the positive memories that would hit me out of nowhere as I was going about my day, whether it was a jingle from a commercial he’d always sing to me or walking past one of the brunch spots that used to be ‘ours.’”
Even if you feel a bit relieved to be out of all the drama, one of the worst things about being on your own again is feeling isolated and alone.
But you’re never alone, and even if you engage in spiritual practices, prayer, talking to a friend or family member, or seeing a therapist you are part of a world that values you and wants the best for you.
You will make it through this and come out the other side as a stronger and wiser person.
And if you ever need a listening ear please hit me up in the comment section below.
The fine art of letting go
There’s a fine art to letting go.
Healing from a toxic relationship requires some balance.
You don’t want to push down all the hurtful emotions and memories, but you also don’t want to let them flow so freely that they overtake your future and bury you in mountains of misery.
By following the steps I’ve outlined above you can follow the path forward.
There will be hard days when you don’t want to get out of bed or feel cursed.
But I promise you that it will get better and that you can heal and meet someone who you deserve.