You can learn how to get over someone you love (but is toxic). While it may seem overwhelming, and confusing, you can do this step by step.
In this article, you will learn the exact steps to get someone who is toxic for you. This article will help you whether you are still with this person – or recently broke up.
How to Know Someone You Love is Toxic
The first step to getting over someone toxic is to get clear on exactly why this person isn’t healthy for you.
To support yourself in getting over this person, it’s helpful to first define a toxic relationship. This will support you in the first step of getting over this person.
Defining a Toxic Relationship
The definition of toxic from Oxford languages includes “poisonous,” and “very harmful or unpleasant in a pervasive or insidious way.”
From this definition, you can see that the easiest way to describe a toxic relationship is that:
Toxic relationships are those that are harmful to the mental, emotional, or physical wellbeing of one or both partners.
Insidious means proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with harmful effects. An example of this “insidious” harm in toxic relationships is gaslighting. Bit by bit, someone who is gaslighting you, works to make you question your reality. This is done in subtle ways that make you wonder if you’re the “crazy” one.
Step #1 to Get Over Someone You Love But is Toxic: Be Honest about What’s Going On
When you are in love with someone, it’s natural to go back and forth with wondering how bad they truly are for you.
Often, there may be a part of you that knows, deep down, this person isn’t healthy for you. But another part of you will naturally want to keep the person in your life. This second part will often lead a person to bargain with reality.
Bargaining with Reality
You know you’re bargaining with reality if you ignore, minimize, or deny just how much this relationship is hurting your emotional, mental or physical wellbeing. You may find yourself saying “Well, it wasn’t that bad….” or “I was just asking for too much…” for example. Basically, you may gaslight yourself so that you don’t feel you have to let go of this toxic person.
This is completely natural and understandable. Yet this pattern prevents you from getting over them.
Honoring the Facts of this Relationship
For this first step, it’s helpful to take some time to journal. Writing this part down will help you in future moments where you naturally question reality again and want to reach out to this person.
To support yourself in getting over a toxic relationship, you will want to list exactly all the reasons you know this relationship isn’t healthy for you. This list can be observable facts. And you will also want to include things you may intuitively know but sometimes question.
Journal Prompts to Honor Reality
To help with step one, you may choose to journal using the following prompts:
- What has this person done that tells me they are toxic for me? List all the observable facts i.e., they often tell me I’m “too sensitive,” and mock my emotions, they call me names, they flirt with my friends, or they expect me to pay for everything and never will get a job
- What are the ways my health (mental, emotional, physical, financial) has declined since I’ve been with them? List all the examples such as the fact you can’t sleep at night, you’ve gotten into debt, or get panic attacks.
- Have I been honest with my friends and/or family about how they act or treat me? If not, why not? If yes, what is their feedback to me about this person and/or relationship?
- What tells me, deep down, that this relationship isn’t healthy for me? You don’t need to logically explain yourself. Pay attention to the nagging feeling in your gut like feeling something’s off and they’re lying to you about being “just friends” with a coworker they go to happy hour with all the time.
Please pay attention to the part of you that may even want to hide, or lie, in this exercise. Try to push yourself to be honest about what’s really happening in the relationship including abuse. This honesty truly is the first step to healing.
Step #2 to Get Over Someone You Love But is Toxic: Be Compassionate with Yourself
When you realize that the person you love is toxic for you, there may be a part of you that judges yourself. You may feel “foolish,” “weak,” or worse. These self-judgments may even be reinforced by some of the judgments you’re getting from others. For instance, a well-meaning friend may say that they would never find themselves stuck in a relationship like yours.
To counteract these natural judgments, it’s important to work on be compassionate with yourself. Self-compassion is the practice of giving yourself grace. This is a practice which includes interrupting negative self-talk and practicing self-care. It also includes honoring exactly why you are (or were) in a toxic relationship.
Step #3 to Get Over Someone You Love But is Toxic: Validate Why You Love this Person
A part of you may be judging yourself for this relationship, yet there are valid reasons you love this (toxic) person.
To truly heal and get over a toxic person, you must validate exactly why this person is attractive to you. To do this take time to journal about:
- What first attracted you to this person?
- What do you love about them?
- What draws you to them despite feeling, deep down, they aren’t healthy for you?
- What would you miss about this person?
- Do you feel guilty about thoughts to leave (or by leaving them)?
- Is there a part of you that feels obligated to take care of them and love them? Maybe, for instance, they had a bad childhood and you don’t want to add to their pain?
What Do You Think You Deserve
When you think about why you love this person, think about why this makes sense as well. This is the act of validating yourself. You honor, for yourself, that your reasons for loving this person or being with them make sense given your own values, life experiences and/or traumas. And when you validate yourself, please work on being kind to yourself. You don’t need to judge yourself for your reasons.
For example, maybe a controlling toxic partner was attractive to you because your parents were emotionally absent growing up. Therefore, a part of you made up that being controlled was love.
Or maybe, you needed to take care of your younger siblings as a child therefore a partner depending on you to pay for everything didn’t seem odd for a long time.
Step #4 to Get Over Someone You Love But is Toxic: Heal the Parts of You that Were Attracted to a Toxic Relationship
Attachment theory explains how people develop and maintain close relationships. Ideally, we want to have a secure attachment style as this provides the basis for healthy relationships.
Yet many people (estimates range between 35% to 50%) have a non-secure attachment style. These non-secure attachment styles are: anxious attachment, avoidant attachment, and anxious-avoidant attachment.
If you are struggling to get over someone who is toxic for you, there’s a strong likelihood you may have a non-secure attachment style. You can take a quiz here to discover your personal attachment style.
Related: How Do I Heal My Attachment Style?
Developing Secure Attachment
Healing the parts of you that compelled you (or compel you) to stay in a relationship which hurts you is a complex process. The first step is to be aware that while you are not to blame for any abuse you may have experienced, you are responsible to heal the parts of you that allowed you to be in a toxic relationship.
Deepen Your Self-Love
Becoming more securely attached requires you to value yourself innately.
When you truly value yourself, you are more inclined to protect yourself. Your sense of love to yourself is so deep that you can’t compromise yourself for others.
But before this, sadly, it’s human nature to pick partners who see us the way we see ourselves. This is social verification theory. For example, if you think that you are are worthless than you may naturally date partners who demean you – whether they do this with their words, mocking you, gaslighting you, or by cheating on you as examples.
Learning to Value Yourself
Practicing self-care is invaluable to learning to deepen your sense of self-worth too. Attending therapy is a tremendous act of self-care and can greatly help you heal your relationship with yourself too. This can greatly support you in healing any underlying trauma which led to this relationship – or this relationship created.
You may also get the free daily journaling worksheet for self-worth here:
Step #5 to Get Over Someone You Love But is Toxic: Let Yourself Grieve
As you come to terms with the fact that someone you love is truly toxic for you, there is a necessary grieving process. This person, no matter how much you love them, is not a healthy person for you. This reality brings up grief because there’s truly a loss in this.
The loss may be how you may end up leaving (or have already left) because this person can’t be healthy for you. And even if you stay in this relationship, you lose out on the potential for a safe, nurturing relationship.
These realities naturally bring up a lot of pain and grief. It’s incredibly important to let yourself feel this pain. There is nothing wrong with feeling deep grief over losing someone even if they’re toxic for you. Both things are true.
Ups and Downs with Grief
Grieving isn’t a linear process (despite the 5 stages you may have heard of). Instead, grieving happens more like waves in the ocean.
Some days, it’s smooth sailing. You feel peace and relief that you left (or are preparing to leave) a toxic relationship. You feel self-respect perhaps on these days. These days will be easy to cope with naturally.
Yet other days, these seas will be choppy and you’ll be filled with anger and denial. You’ll be wondering why exactly you can’t make it work with this person on these days. Or you’ll fantasize about revenge. Or you’ll fantasize that they’ll finally see your worth and change to be healthy for you. Often there’s a combination of all these thoughts on the difficult days.
Eventually, when we cope well with grief though, these difficult days become less frequent and eventually subside.
Coping with Grief
On difficult days, you want to first go back to your list as to why exactly this relationship is toxic for you. This helps you look at the facts.
You will also want to work on letting go of fantasies whether they’re of revenge or this person magically changing. You can do this by practicing accepting reality for what it is – honoring the truth this relationship is toxic.
You can also meditate on letting go to help.
Connecting with your spirituality or religion (if this resonates with you) can also greatly help. For example, you may pray to God or your Higher Self for strength on these difficult days. You may also connect with the deeper meaning – that you’re learning to let go of this toxic person because you’re learning how to create space for healthy love.
You may also want to journal a goodbye letter to this toxic person on difficult days to validate your feelings.
Boundaries to Help with Grief
To help yourself grieve fully, and move past these difficult days, you may need to set boundaries with this person to grieve.
You may need to end the relationship as well as all communication with them. After all, each time you speak to them, you risk re-opening your wounds and denying reality again.
Blocking them on social media is helpful to avoid unnecessary triggers. Finally, it may be helpful to avoid certain places like your favorite restaurant with them for awhile. This gives your mind and heart some space to find some peace.
Coping with Loneliness
When you’re grieving a person you love, it’s natural to feel lonelier. It’s important to not equate your lonely feelings though as a sign that this person is right for you.
Instead to help yourself get over this person, it’s important to find healthy ways to cope with loneliness. These include connecting with your authentic self and doing activities you love. Often times, in a toxic relationship we stop doing things we like to focus on the other person. When you feel lonely, it’s an opportunity to get back to seeing your friends, or going to the gym, or painting as examples.
Getting into nature often has a powerful effect on making you feel better and less alone.
You are Being Brave
It’s a tremendous act of courage to be willing to see a relationship with someone you love as toxic. Take your time with these 5 steps, and be patient with yourself. You are doing powerful work!
Also, please remember healing isn’t linear. Some days you will feel you’re making a lot of progress in getting over this person. While other days, you may feel stuck. This is part of the change process. Just keep going and working on these steps – you will heal!
Finally, please remember, the pain of leaving this person who is toxic for you will eventually subside. But the pain of staying in a toxic relationship lasts for as long as you stay.
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About The Author
Krystal Mazzola Wood, LMFT is a practicing relationship therapist and author with over a decade of experience. Currently, Krystal sees clients at her private practice, The Healthy Relationship Foundation. She has dedicated her entire career to empowering people to find their voice, deepen their ability to self-love, and improve their relationships.
Her newest book, Setting Boundaries: 100 Ways to Protect Yourself, Strengthen Your Relationships and Build the Life You Want…Starting Now! (Therapy Within Reach), gives you the tools necessary to identify, set, and stay firm with your boundaries.
Her other books, The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle and The Codependency Workbook: Simple Practices for Developing and Maintaining Your Independence have helped many overcome people pleasing, self-neglect, and resentment to have a healthier relationship with themselves and others.
If you have any personal dating or relationship questions, Krystal is happy to provide advice using her expertise and compassion. If you feel comfortable, feel free to leave any questions in the comments of this post. Otherwise, you may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or DM her on Instagram. Your name and any other identifying information will always be kept confidential.