Leaving toxic relationships can feel like both the best and worst moment of your life. The best because, well, you’re out of a relationship that sucked your soul dry. And the worst, because you have no idea where to go next.
“Loving yourself is the most important step in a relationship, and recognizing when to leave a relationship is the second. Relationships can consume a vast amount of our mental and emotional space and when they go wrong, they can cause immeasurable pain,” says physician Kristen Fuller, M.D.
If you’re recently free of a long-term relationship that turned out to be utterly toxic, here are the best ways to put yourself back together.
Here Are 10 Ways To Release Emotions and Heal From Toxic Relationships
1. Get help!
Really, honestly. Get help. It doesn’t have to be a therapist, but once you’re free of a bad relationship, you’re going to want to find someone to help you deal with yourself. Maybe it’s your mom, or maybe it’s your best friend. You’re going to need a support system to get through the next few tumultuous months.
“People in toxic relationships need help from friends, family, and professionals to commit to change. There is no AA or NA for this. Changing is a process and not simply a decision,” adds Fuller. So even if you pride yourself on being a strong, independent woman, it’s time to text your bestie and ask for some support. You can thank me later.
2. Let yourself wallow outside of the toxic relationship
In the absolutely timeless words of Lorelai Gilmore: you have to wallow. Sure, you might be happy that the relationship is over, but feelings are way more complicated than that. When a relationship is over, trying to bounce back into your normal life isn’t the best solution. It’s totally okay, and recommended, to take a day or two over the weekend and just eat an entire pint of chocolate ice cream while listening to the worst songs available on iTunes.
3. Okay, now stop wallowing
The wallowing stage needs to happen for a weekend, max. Then, it’s time to put on your big-kid pants and face the world again. You’re going to have a lot of feelings to process, but it’s time to process them in a healthier manner.
“Once you have given yourself four days of moping, it is time to cope. Sign up for community service, join a new yoga class, and go to brunch with your girlfriends … and plan your schedule out so that you are busy meeting new people and remembering how much fun life can be without your ex,” says celebrity matchmaker and relationship expert, Alessandra Conti.
Letting yourself feel your emotions is important. However, you want to make sure that you’re not letting them overwhelm you. Bad feelings happen, but there’s always a time to let them go and move on. Better yet, think of all the super cool things you can do with your newfound independence! Think positive.
4. Find a new outlet for stress (other than toxic relationships)
The relationship is over and now you’ve got all these feelings inside of you. Not good, right? Definitely not. But now is the time to find your brand-new stress outlet.
“Spend time with people who make you feel good, treat yourself to your favorite meal, go to church, spend time outside, or do whatever brings you joy. Going through a tough time in a relationship can cause incalculable stress: It’s important to try to replace those negative emotions with positivity,” adds Fuller.
Maybe you’re the type of person that really needs to write out all of your feelings. If so, buy yourself a brand-new journal, some fancy pens, and let her rip. Or, maybe you’re a more physical person. Taking up jogging or hitting the gym is probably a better way for you to burn off all those excess feelings.
5. Get out of your house and hang out with your friends
Seriously. How tempting is it, after the end of a relationship, to just hang out by yourself in your apartment? If your friends know about the break-up, they’re probably already chomping at the idea of getting you back in the groove. So, take them up on their offer. Treat yourself to feeling good and surrounding yourself with friends. It’s part of the healing process, so don’t think you can skip it. Because you shouldn’t.
6. Let yourself have brand new experiences
At the end of a bad relationship, you have the opportunity to experience all kinds of new things that you otherwise wouldn’t have. Don’t let yourself chicken out. You’re on the cusp of a brand-new chapter of life!
“Often, people in dysfunctional relationships start to lose themselves, forget themselves and their happiness is often no longer a priority,” says therapist Samantha Carbon.
Moving on and keeping yourself sane after a break up practically requires trying new things, even if those new things are something as small as a drink you’ve never tried before. New experiences are going to keep you going for a while, so don’t turn them down.
7. Stop checking up on them! Stop it!
“Toxic people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people’s buttons.” – Travis Bradberry
Yes, you need to stop pulling up their Facebook profile.
“You are deluding yourself and wasting precious time if you believe that you can somehow still be friends or have a phone relationship with a toxic ex-partner. These people have a way of manipulating and getting others to feel sorry for them. If you keep contact going, then you enable this individual to continue to work to draw you back toward them,” says psychologist Jill Weber, Ph.D.
Quit sneaking peeks of their Instagram. Don’t see what is on their Twitter feed. Stop texting your mutual friends to see how they’re doing. The relationship is over, and unless it ended amicably and you’re both still friends, there’s no reason to keep snooping on your ex.
8. Embrace the fact that you’re now single
The world is your freaking oyster! Sure, you might not feel ready to hit the dating scene again for a couple of months, and that’s totally fine. But you’re single now and that opens up a whole new world of possibilities for you. It’s time to embrace it. Become the hot, single friend and enjoy it while it lasts.
9. Date, but casually
After you’ve embraced being the hot, single friend, it’s time to date. Casually, though. You don’t want to rush into another relationship or have someone you genuinely vibe with becoming a rebound. Dating casually and meeting new people may just be the thing to help you feel like a normal human being, especially after the end of a rocky relationship. However, if you’re not comfortable with the idea of dating just yet, no problem. Take your time and do what feels right for you. Remember, you come first.
10. Remember: you’re going to be okay
As cheesy as it sounds, you’re going to survive this.
“… the only way to heal from these types of relationships is to give yourself both the space and time that you need to reevaluate the relationship in a healthy way to prevent repeating the same cycles,” says relationship expert and author Alexis Nicole White.
Final Thoughts on Exiting Toxic Relationships
In the beginning, it may seem rough or even impossible. You will absolutely survive this. When the going gets tough, sometimes all you need to do is remind yourself that you’re going to be just fine. Because you will. Don’t believe me? Look at yourself in the mirror; what do you see? I see you with a fierce determination to succeed.