If you're in a toxic relationship, you probably know you want to get out. But you feel stuck, paralyzed, and nagged by doubts. You might cling to hope that he could change. You might cling onto the idea that things will revert to the way they were in the beginning. You might have had your self-esteem whittled away so badly that you feel like you can't leave or deserve all his abuse. Perhaps you are married and feel like you need to stick to the "worse" part of "for better or worse" even if that means having your soul gutted on a daily basis. For whatever reason, you haven't left yet. But here are 7 ways to get out of a toxic relationship.
1. Begin to live for you. The first step, even before you leave, is to begin to build back up your confidence and sense of yourself as a person outside of your partner. Think about what you'd like to do (not what HE would like you to do) and then start to do it. It might mean just reading a book. It might mean taking a class. It might mean joining a gym. Start to do things for yourself so you can begin to realize that there is a life outside of your relationship and you can get a little of your mojo back. Do it even if he complains about it.
2. Begin to "let go." Mentally begin to detach from the relationship, and I don't mean begin to harden your heart or tell yourself you don't care. I mean letting go of the idea that you can change anyone. If a person wants to change, they do it themselves. They start to look into therapy, classes, support groups, etc. Begin to accept that you can't make anyone happy, can't make anyone grow up, can't, in fact, make anyone do anything. If you could, wouldn't your partner have changed by now?
3. Sit with your feelings. The next time your partner makes you feel like utter shit, go to a quiet place, sit down, close your eyes, and feel how you feel. Do not try to run from it. Don't down a drink, take a pill, go for a walk, or do anything that might distract you from how you feel. It's super important that you feel how shitty he makes you feel deep down in your bones. Sit with it for as long as you can. Now ask yourself why you are letting someone make you feel that way.
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4. Write a list. Write down a list of all of the things you'd need to do if you were to leave. The list could include things like look for an apartment, get a job, enlist friends and family to help you, etc. The task of leaving will be more manageable if it's all written down. Then tackle one thing. If that is getting an apartment, go to look at apartments, price them. You don't have to move in that day. Just look and see what is out there. You might start to get excited at the idea of a new life.
5. Journal. Begin a journal about all of your feelings. Writing everything down is cathartic and helps you remember why the relationship isn't working. It's easy to brush things under the rug and "forge on" and "forgive and forget." But when you look back and see you've been writing about the same thing for months or even years, you will have concrete proof of how little things have improved. Is this the way you want the rest of your life to go?
6. Join a support group. There are many relationship support groups, both online and off. You might want to start with one like Getting Past Your Breakup, which gives advice for women and men who have left relationships or are thinking about it. If you live with an alcoholic, join Al-Anon. You don't have to have left already to join these groups, but they will give you a sense of community and show you that it can be done.
7. You don't owe anyone any explanations. You don't owe your family, friends, children, or even your partner justification that satisfies them as to why you want to leave. Yes, if you've never discussed the problems in your relationship with your partner, then you should talk. But chances are by the time you want to leave, you have talked about them ad nauseum. You don't need anyone's permission to leave. In fact, if you are waiting for that, good luck.
* Note: This advice does not necessarily pertain to women who are in physical danger. Please consult an abuse network or call a hotline on how to leave an abusive situation. Your life could be in danger and you need professional advice.
Have you ever left a toxic relationship? What did you do before you left?
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