The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
You went through the motions of an unhealthy relationship, the one that made you question yourself and your value daily. You suffered damage to your mental health and wellbeing.
Now, that person is gone. You cared enough about yourself and had the strength to walk away. What’s next?
Toxic relationships can feel like an endless loop. You may recognize the toxic behavior, acknowledge it, and go back, despite your better judgement while neglecting your own needs. You may have even played a part in the toxicity of a relationship despite having good intentions.
People and relationships aren’t perfect, but toxic and unhealthy relationships push the boundaries of these imperfect relationships and cross the line toward harmful and sometimes dangerous outcomes. When they end, this damage can have lasting impacts on our mental health and the way we view potential future relationships. They can cause us to question ourselves and even our capabilities of love. It is important to learn how to heal and be gentle with yourself during these times. You are more capable than you think when it comes to lifting yourself up and overcoming the feelings you were left with after the breakup.
One of the hardest things about toxic relationships is wanting to stay with the person that makes you feel unworthy. From the hope that maybe things will change to the strong emotional codependency that can develop, there are so many reasons why we decide to stay in relationships that are harmful.Walking away is one of the most difficult things to do.
To quote the classic, tear-jerker movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower, “we accept the love we think we deserve”. The love we receive is often just a reflection of how we view ourselves and what we believe is the treatment we deserve.
Walking away takes much more than strength and willpower; it requires a shift in your mindset and the realization of your inherent value. This helps us understand that leaving, no matter how much you want to stay, is going to benefit you in the long run over any short-term, codependent desires that you believe are being fulfilled by your toxic relationship.
It takes the realization that you are so much more deserving of love and happiness than you think, which can be harder to believe when someone has made you feel like you don’t deserve these things. Leaving the relationship is realizing that you are taking back control of your own life, but I believe it is only the tip of the iceberg toward the journey of healing and learning to love yourself despite what you went through.
Finding Your Way
Once this toxic person is removed from your life, the feelings you experienced during the relationship do not often magically disappear once you’re single again. The real healing comes after. It’s not always easy.
We may still feel the sense of self-doubt, insecurity, sadness, and anxiety. While this is normal, it doesn’t need to last forever. Healing from these relationships involves a lot of self care and personal reflection that can be difficult. I wanted to share some tips that helped me in this process of healing and finding self love after unhealthy relationships.
- Let yourself experience all the emotions. It’s tempting to fill every second of our day with any activity in order to distract ourselves from how we feel—trust me, I’ve been there. However, distracting ourselves from our feelings just delays the healing process instead of getting rid of the need to heal at all. Take time to journal about how you’re feeling, talk to someone you trust, and reflect. It is not ideal to sit with yourself and feel all the sadness. In the long run, you will be glad you didn’t prematurely push those feelings away only for them to pop up again much farther down the line. Bottling everything up makes it more difficult to improve your mental health or liberate yourself from the negative cycles. Feel all the feelings!
- Put that phone down. Reaching out or texting that toxic ex back is a surefire way to repeat unhealthy patterns. It doesn’t help you through the breakup or detach from them, and it doesn’t help that toxic person to know that you still think about them. Keep the power over your own life. Don’t give that other person the power of feeling wanted or needed by you, because at the end of the day, you don’t need the toxicity from them in your life.
- Learn how to spot toxic characteristics in relationships. Sometimes it can be super hard to tell when you are in a toxic situation. There are many resources you can use to educate yourself on what is and is not okay in any relationship. There’s tons of media that talks about these issues as well as how to let toxic people and behaviors go. You can listen to podcasts, read books and articles, and even scroll through TikTok. Some of my favorite resources are the podcast Just Break Up, the book Say What You Mean, and TikTok creator Dr. Marquis Norton. These all provide great information on toxic situations versus healthy communication and even how to let go of toxic people. By reading and learning, you can figure out how to spot things like manipulation, projected insecurities, and verbal abuse in your relationships in order to avoid continuing to accept them from others.
- Lastly, and arguably the most important tip, practice self-care and kindness toward yourself. Chances are, you’ve been made to feel unworthy or unlovable in your past toxic relationship. Know and convince yourself that those things aren’t true, and don’t blame yourself for feeling this way. Prioritizing being kind to yourself is the most important thing you can do in this stage of your healing. Do nice things for yourself like cook a nice meal, take a hot bath, or read a good book. Surround yourself with the people you love; a good support system is key. Right now, it is all about how you make yourself feel, no longer letting someone else dictate how you feel about yourself. Time heals most wounds, so the most helpful thing you can do is give yourself this time to take care of yourself. Healthy healing will follow!
More often than not, the road to healing is difficult, messy and your emotions can be in constant flux depending on the day. It’s exhausting, and yet it is also rewarding. Being able to find your happiness after a toxic relationship allows you to learn so much about yourself and what you desire in potential future relationships. Everything in life can be taken as a lesson in some shape or form.
It is increasingly important to heal before trying to find someone new. Healing from the trauma can help to keep these toxic cycles from repeating either by your or your future partner.
All in all, know your worth. You are completely deserving of beautiful and healthy relationships. First, make sure you have that beautiful and healthy relationship with yourself. After all, you are your biggest priority. Treat yourself as such, and don’t settle for someone who makes you feel otherwise. Then, you can say goodbye to toxic relationships for good and be your own biggest supporter.