4 Stages of Leaving a Toxic Relationship

Relationships can be such a rewarding and beautiful experience. They can be full of surprises and joy and new opportunities. Sharing your life with someone who you truly care about, and who mutually cares about you, is a gift that almost everyone wants.

Unfortunately, relationships aren’t always full of the joy and happiness everyone talks about. They can be riddled with disagreements, manipulation, jealousy and even worse experiences. As someone who recently escaped a very unhealthy relationship, I understand the wave of emotions that may overcome you afterwards. It’s scary and overwhelming, but it comes in stages that can be anticipated. If you don’t know, here are the four main stages that most people go through after taking the brave step of getting yourself out.

1. You’ll get angry at them because of what they did to you.

What they did to you could be a whole mix of things or one main thing, but whatever it was, it was not okay. Sometimes, what people call ‘small things’ can build up to create an ugly mountain. This anger, this fiery rage, is completely normal and very good. Being angry is an excellent indication that you know what they did was wrong, and you are NOT okay with it. 

The main thing is not letting this anger dictate your behaviour. It is okay to be angry, but it is not okay to take it out on other people. It is okay to be furious, but it is not okay to shit-talk your ex-significant-other to anyone that will listen. This includes mutual friends or anything involving social media. The best strategy for me was to talk it through with my parents and write down what they did to me and why it wasn’t okay. This was the best way to work through the anger without affecting anyone else.

Even if you want to do this, don’t! It won’t feel as good as you think it will.

2. Then, you’ll get very sad because you will think about how things could have been but definitely were not.

This was the person you chose to be vulnerable with and obviously had real feelings for. Relationships are very intimate, and everyone has a perfect vision of how it will end up. Most likely, there were ways in which the problems could’ve been fixed and you will know what they were, but it is important to remind yourself that they didn’t make these changes. Being sad about what could’ve happened is understandable, but always remember that your perfect vision is just that… a vision.

Let yourself feel all the sadness. Curl up on the couch, let the tears out and never doubt the power of a good hug (from personal experience, I have found my mom and roommates give the best hugs). Just know that the sadness will fade, and you will be okay.

3. You’ll get angry again, but at yourself this time for not leaving sooner.

This anger is powerful, so be ready for it. Over time, you will think of all the red flags you missed, times people tried to warn you and the number of excuses you made. These will infuriate you. Rose-coloured glasses are a concept people don’t give enough credit to. You will pull your hair out for not seeing the problems and getting out sooner.

This stage is the hardest, personally speaking. I find people are their own biggest critics and this is one thing that you can go to town on. I want to stress that love is such an overwhelming feeling that people do anything to preserve, even when it means compromising yourself for someone else. 

Be angry but also give yourself the benefit of the doubt and learn from this feeling going forward. You are strong, powerful and deserving of the world. Don’t let anyone else convince you of anything different.

4. At some point, a day will come when you just won’t care or think about this anymore, and if you are occasionally reminded of them, you won’t feel anything but a sense of peace.

If you’re in the middle of the storm and the emotions are still fresh, it is hard to imagine this moment. Time is truly a blessing, so give yourself heaps and heaps of it. Feel all the feelings you have and find someone that will talk through them with you. Talking out loud can help you hear yourself and internalize what you say.

There will come a time, when you have gone through all the stages, that you realize your time is better spent doing other things, like focusing on yourself and feeling good.  

Peace is a difficult concept but there will be a moment where you experience something that may have made you shed a tear or feel a tug in your chest in the past because it used to remind you of them. This time, though, it will spark a memory but nothing more. It was something you once experienced, but have moved on from because you know it wasn’t good for you. That is peace.

There is no timeline for any of these stages. This process may take a couple of weeks, months or years and that is completely okay. Be conscious of what stage you’re in, as you may need different kinds of help from friends and family in each one. Toxic relationships are hard to move forward from and they affect each person differently.

Focus on yourself and listen to what you need to heal. Be safe and be happy.