How to Identify and Safely Leave a Toxic Relationship

While no relationship is perfect, everyone wants (and deserves) to experience one that is healthy and happy. Unfortunately, there’s a difference between a lasting healthy relationship and the whirlwind of butterflies you might experience at the beginning. 

Sometimes, it’s easy to get swept up in feelings of romance that come at the beginning of a relationship. Everything feels good and you think things will last forever. Unfortunately, that often makes it difficult to see red flags as they pop up. That’s one reason why toxic and abusive relationships happen more often than not. 

Being able to recognize those red flags and knowing how to safely get away if your relationship is unhealthy is important. If you’re worried you might be involved in a toxic relationship, it’s time to prioritize your safety, as well as your mental and physical well-being. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some common toxic red flags, and how you can leave your relationship in a safe way that will help you find freedom from your abuser. 

How to Identify the Red Flags

Again, no one is perfect. Everyone has faults and flaws, and it’s important to be able to overlook some of those things and compromise in relationships. However, there’s a difference between a flawed individual and someone who is taking advantage of you or causing you harm. Some of the most common red flags in a toxic relationship include:

  • Controlling behavior
  • Codependency
  • Anger issues
  • Narcissism
  • No trust

Physical, emotional, or mental abuse are also often huge problems in toxic relationships. Even if your partner doesn’t harm you physically, mental and emotional abuse can be just as damaging, and leave you with long-term repercussions. 

There are more hidden health hazards to a toxic relationship than you might think. One study found that people in negative relationships are at a greater risk of developing fatal heart conditions

Even if you’re not able to identify these red flags in your relationship, ask yourself how you feel when you’re with your partner. Do you often have to walk on eggshells? Do you feel physically and emotionally safe? Does the relationship seem “fair,” in terms of giving and taking? How do you feel about yourself after spending time with your partner? 

By answering those questions honestly, you’ll get a better picture of what your relationship really looks like, and whether it’s healthy to stay involved. 

Safely Navigating Your Way Out of the Relationship

Once you’ve decided to leave a toxic relationship, it’s not always as simple as saying “I’m done” and walking away. You have to prioritize your well-being, and if your partner is abusive or controlling in any way, they might try to keep you from getting out. 

One of the best things you can do is to prepare yourself as much as possible ahead of time. If you live with your partner, make sure you’re financially secure so you can leave without having to worry about money. You can apply for credit cards safely and start securing your finances, but make sure you’re able to pay for your purchases instead of driving up debt. 

Next, make sure you have a support system in place if you decide to leave. Letting your family members and friends know will make the entire process easier, especially if you have to move. They’ll also know to keep checking in on you throughout the moving process to make sure you’re safe. 

Even if you don’t live with your partner, leaning on your support system will make a big difference in terms of your safety. People will know when to check with you, and you’ll always have someone to reach out to if your partner is making threats or trying to harm you. 

Moving On and Healing

Even when you know leaving the relationship was the right thing, it’s not always easy. Often, you won’t experience closure from a toxic relationship. Your ex might try to contact you for quite a while after you end things, making it even harder to move on. 

However, there are things you can do to jumpstart the healing process, learn to love yourself again, and rediscover who you are and what you want as you move forward. First, understand that it’s okay to express your feelings. Even if you don’t fully understand them, don’t be afraid to open up. Talk to family members and friends for support, or seek out professional help if you’re struggling. A few additional tips that can make moving on easier include: 

  • Standing firm in your decision
  • Journaling
  • Making a detailed plan for what you want to do next
  • Practicing self-care
  • Surrounding yourself with positive people

It’s important to understand that no matter how toxic the relationship was, it’s still okay to grieve. However, that doesn’t mean you made the wrong decision or that you should give that person “another chance.” Prioritize yourself and your well-being above all else, and you’ll eventually be able to start the next chapter of your life. You might even be ready to date again at some point, and you’ll have a clearer picture of the kind of person you truly deserve to be with. 

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