Have you recently gotten out of a toxic relationship or are on the verge of ending one but struggling to move on and take the leap? The aftermath of a toxic relationship is a mixture of both relief and loss. There will be times when you’ll feel content with your decisions but then at times, you might start to doubt yourself.
Knowing what to expect after ending a toxic relationship and having some tools to deal with this phase will help you heal from all that you’ve been through.
Please know that you are not alone. With some guidance and tools, it’s completely possible to heal fully and move forward toward a more compelling life that lies ahead of you.
In this in-depth guide, we’ll explore the common experiences, phases, and emotions that come with ending a toxic relationship. We will also look into steps to support your healing journey and moving forward in life as well as a step-by-step guided therapy to help you overcome painful memories and stop missing your ex.
To summarize, here are the things we’ll address in this guide:
- Things to expect after ending a toxic relationship.
- How long does it take to heal from a toxic relationship?
- 5 Steps to Healing from a toxic relationship.
- A step-by-step guided therapy to stop missing your toxic ex and overcome painful memories.
- How long to wait before getting into a new relationship after a toxic one?
- Rebound Relationships.
See the full table of contents below:
Note: If you are still in a toxic relationship and struggling to fix it, please read my other detailed guide on “How to Fix a Toxic Relationship”. If you feel like you haven’t given your relationship a fair shot, this guide will help you do just that.
Effects of Toxic Relationships on Our Personality and Mental Well-Being
Those in a toxic relationship are often so consumed in the relationship that they forget who they are. They lose touch with themselves and their identity. Who they used to be before the relationship.
Their interests, hobbies, and how they view the world, they lose sight of that.
One of the characteristics of toxic relationships is the constant violation of boundaries, which can even lead to the enmeshment of the identities of both people, where an individual can’t identify which part of their identity is their own and which part they are mirroring from their partner.
In the emotional chaos of toxic relationships, we forget who we originally were because we were constantly occupied with trying to figure out ways to make things work and to somehow adapt to the relationship while avoiding conflicts which essentially changed our entire personalities and the way we operate in life.
Coming out of a toxic relationship can leave a person feeling lost and confused as to who they are without their partner/relationship, and where they stand in life, while at the same time feeling a sense of relief just like the silence after a storm.
How Long Does it Take to Fully Heal from a Toxic Relationship?
Give yourself at least a year to fully connect with yourself. It might seem like a long time in a fast-paced world but it’s important that you give yourself enough time to go through the healing process.
You will ruminate a lot about your ex on certain occasions. A lot of the things that you used to do together will remind you of them.
You will have to go through yearly events such as holidays and birthdays without them. Allow yourself that space to go through all those emotions and memories. You will definitely miss them during those events, and that is okay. It’s part of the healing process.
A year allows you to go through life without your ex-partner and makes you get back into the habit of living your life on your own. You gradually begin to ease into emotional independence and find your long-lost original self once again.
If you move on too quickly and get into another relationship without giving yourself enough time to process all the emotions, you’ll probably be taking all the emotional baggage and traces of toxicity to your new relationship.
This time also allows you to reflect on what happened in the relationship, what went wrong, and how things could’ve gotten better. These are extremely valuable life lessons and an opportunity to level up your wisdom.
Consciously take as much learning as you can from your past relationship, so you can enhance the quality of your future relationship and avoid the mistakes, red flags, and conflicts that affected your marriage previously.
What to Expect After Leaving a Toxic Relationship?
Anticipating and being aware of the phases that come after ending a toxic relationship will help you go through them proactively and consciously. Here are the most common things you can expect to experience:
The “Good” Days in the Toxic Relationship
What makes toxic relationships hard to leave are the emotional highs that you periodically get in between all the toxicity and chaos. The great days that you have in the relationship or the strong memories of the great days you had in the past seem to get in your way of moving on.
Since toxic relationships are very intense in every aspect, good or bad, those good times in the relationship might have felt like the best times you’ve ever had. That’s often what makes toxic relationships so addictive or toxic partners so magnetic.
Once you leave the relationship, you can expect to get hit with a barrage of those “good” memories which might even make you doubt yourself or regret your decision.
Wanting Them to Come Back
This practically roots back to having those flashbacks of the good times you had with your partner. After some time of staying away from your ex, the intensity of the painful moments begins to fade away and you are reminded of all the happy moments you’ve had with them.
This can make you lose sight of why you parted ways in the first place which can lead to you trying to justify their toxic behaviors or trying to give them the benefit of the doubt even after months or years of giving them chances and knowing that they still didn’t change.
Expect to go through this phase of wanting to get back together after ending a toxic relationship.
The Curiosity of Checking Up on Them
You will probably get urges to check up on them from time to time. It’s common to have the curiosity to know what your ex is doing and how they’re living their life without you.
You check their social media only to find out that they are doing just fine. They are hanging out with friends, traveling, and even posting stuff that they want you to see.
To be honest, checking their social media will only make you feel worse. Don’t do it no matter how much you want to. It will only make you feel stuck and unable to move on from them.
Some people try to get over the pain and loss of their partner by getting into a new relationship almost immediately after ending the previous one. That’s a really bad idea.
We’ll discuss rebound relationships further in a bit.
After getting out of a toxic relationship, you get hit with a sudden realization of how much more there is to life and how much you were missing out on.
Toxic relationships occupy us to the point that we become tunnel-visioned, unable to see or experience anything else but the relationship.
When you leave, you begin to experience the beauty, care, and love of other relationships such as your family and friends.
You realize that there is so much more you can do with your life now that you have all this freed-up mental and emotional energy which continues to expand by the day as you continue to move on and heal further.
You can also expect to rediscover your spiritual side and your connection with God.
How to Heal After a Toxic Relationship?
So how exactly do you emotionally recover from a toxic relationship? Here are 5 main steps to follow to facilitate the healing process:
1. Acknowledge and Accept Whatever Happened
A lot of times we tend to find excuses for the abuse or toxicity that happened in the relationship. We keep ruminating about alternate possibilities and “what ifs”. We try to think of ways we could’ve made it work somehow.
This keeps us in states of regret or wondering about other possibilities. It’s difficult to move on if we don’t accept reality as it is regardless of the reasons and causes.
Yes, it’s essential to reflect on the causes so that we can learn and grow from them, but whenever you find yourself downplaying the pain and struggle that you experienced in the relationship, remind yourself of why you left in the first place, and allow yourself to come to peace with the current reality.
Always forgive, but never forget the important lesson life taught you in the process.
2. Allow Yourself to Grieve
It’s okay to feel the loss. It’s okay to feel sad or confused. It’s okay not to have a clear direction to move toward while you grieve. It’s okay to take some days off and spend time by yourself.
Allow yourself the space to process the barrage of emotions that hit you after leaving a toxic relationship.
For the emotions to flow through you, you must find a way of expressing yourself. Something which is therapeutic for you and allows a safe channel for the emotions to flow out of you.
It can be talking to someone who understands you, or finding a therapist to talk to. It can be writing/journaling. Whatever is cathartic for you.
It’s crucial to process the grief and pain now as it’s happening instead of burying it down. The emotions that are buried down and not processed tend to come up at some other time in our lives in different forms, which might affect our future relationships.
3. No Contact or Limited Contact
One of the essential steps on the road to recovery from a toxic relationship is avoiding all contact with your ex.
Due to the addictive nature of toxic relationships, this can often be difficult to do. There are times when you are reminded of the great moments or even the arguments that you didn’t respond to. During those moments you might get a sudden urge to text them or check up on them. Don’t.
In order to reclaim yourself and your life, it’s important that you avoid things that trigger your old patterns.
Contacting your ex will only distract you from the healing process.
The goal is to get your mind completely off of your ex. In the first few months, if you can spend a few hours a day without any thoughts of your past relationship or your ex, that’s good progress in your healing journey. Contacting them will only make it infinitely difficult as you can imagine.
Out of sight, out of mind is an important rule to keep in mind.
If you are co-parenting, find ways to take care of things. Involve other family members to be the middleman for some time while dealing with your ex about the kids.
4. Delete It All!
Part of “no contact” is to avoid exposure to anything that reminds you of the toxic relationship or your ex. This includes all the digital data surrounding your relationship.
Delete all photos and texts. Unfriend or unfollow on social media and don’t try to have a sneak peek at their social media profile out of curiosity about how they are doing.
In fact, I would highly suggest deleting social media for at least the first few months. There are a lot of other things on social media that might indirectly take you back to the past.
If there are any physical belonging that reminds you of your past and causes you pain such as gifts or your ex’s belongings, get rid of them. Give them away. Hand them down to someone else.
In all honesty, it won’t be easy. Getting rid of these things will feel like you are getting rid of a part of yourself. And yes, in essence, you must get rid of a part of your past self to welcome new beginnings in your life. It’s part of the therapeutic process.
5. Rediscover and Reclaim Your Life
After ending a toxic relationship, it’s common to feel free and lost at the same time.
Free, because you finally got some fresh air to breathe away from the toxicity.
Lost, because you don’t know what to do anymore. You have lost touch with who you are and you don’t really know what your life is supposed to be like without your partner.
This is the time to rediscover and reconnect with yourself. This is the time to build yourself up, one step at a time.
Reclaim your time, reclaim your mental and emotional energy, reclaim your body and spirit. Reclaim yourself.
Everyone has a different personality and different things that get them going. Find what drives you. Set and pursue new goals. They don’t have to be big and difficult. They could be everyday little things done mindfully.
Get into things that boost your confidence and self-esteem. Things that exercise your creativity. Things that help you heal.
If you find yourself ruminating too much about what happened in the past, gently draw your mind to focus on what you learned from those experiences. Reflect on the wisdom and life lesson they taught you for the future. This will help you get some closure to those thoughts and memories and help you move on.
Getting Over a Toxic Relationship When You Still Have Love for Them
It’s normal to still have feelings for your ex. After all, we are humans, not robots who can switch modes at the press of a button. Emotions take time to settle, especially when getting over a toxic relationship, so allow yourself that time.
In the first few weeks and months, expect to have strong emotions and urges. Expect to have doubts about your decision. When you do, make sure to talk to a family member to help you get clarity and sort your thoughts out.
Ideally, seeing a therapist or a life-coach will help you even more as they will guide you through the healing process and provide you with coping mechanisms to deal with the aftermath of the toxic relationship.
How to Stop missing your Toxic Partner and Get Rid of Painful Memories
Here I would like to mention Timeline Therapy. It’s a powerful NLP (Neuro-Linguistic-Programming) technique that can help you release the pain from your past and manage the memories that are holding you back.
Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to using Timeline Therapy to get rid of painful memories and emotional wounds from the toxic relationship:
- Relax and Get into a Meditative State: Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit where you can relax and be uninterrupted for the next 15-20 mins. Take a few deep breaths and allow your body to relax fully.
- Access Your Timeline: Once you are relaxed, imagine a timeline in front of you that represents your past, present, and future. It can be a straight line or a curved one, whatever feels natural to you.
- Go to the Specific Memory: Visualize yourself floating above your timeline and then gradually float down and zoom in to the point where you want to work on a particular event or memory that is causing you emotional pain.
- Change the Perception of that Memory: Once you reach that memory, observe it from a detached point of view as if you are a third person in that memory.
Now change the color and quality of the image. Desaturate the colors and make the picture blurry and out of focus. Notice how that feels. Does it reduce the intensity of the emotions?
How about turning down the volume of that memory so you don’t hear a thing when you access that memory?
Imagine you have physical buttons and controls for all these different variables/characteristics of your memories. You can turn down the color or the volume to any memory. You can make your memories blurry by turning down the focus.
- Extract the Lessons: Before you leave the memory, identify the learnings you’ve gained from it. What exactly did you learn from that experience? How can you use these lessons and learnings to grow and develop as a person?
- Leave the Memory: Now float away from that memory and as you float away. Notice it getting smaller and smaller to the point where it’s just a little speck. Notice how you feel now. Do you feel a sense of relief and relaxation?
- Moving Forward: Once you are done with that memory and floated back up above your timeline, float forward to a time in the near future (probably a couple of months from now).
Visualize yourself moving forward in life as a wiser and stronger version of yourself. See good things entering your life as you navigate through life with all the wisdom and learnings you’ve gathered along the way.
Do this whenever you find yourself dwelling on a painful memory. Repeat this exercise as many times as you need. The more you practice it, the better you’ll get at it, and the better results you will reap.
Feel free to bookmark the page or write down the steps in the notes app on your phone.
How Long Should You Wait Before Seeking a New Relationship
It’s important to allow yourself to heal and give yourself plenty of time to reflect and get in touch with yourself before jumping into a new relationship.
The amount of time it takes to heal from a toxic relationship can vary from person to person. Generally, it is recommended to take at least 12-16 months before you consider the possibility of a new relationship.
This time frame will allow you to focus on rebuilding yourself both internally and externally, establishing a sense of independence and self-worth, as well as processing your emotions and working through the trauma and pain from the previous relationship.
Avoiding Rebound Relationships
While a lot of people feel like they are done with romantic relationships for a while after getting out of a toxic one, some try to cope with the pain and void by seeking a new relationship.
Entering a new relationship to get over the previous one is known as a Rebound Relationship.
It’s natural to seek comfort and to want to fill the void left by your ex, but entering a new relationship too quickly can lead to further emotional turmoil down the road.
The allure of a new relationship can be tempting as it apparently offers the promise of new beginnings and may provide a distraction from the pain and void left by the previous one. But this can mess with your mind and emotions in a lot of different ways and let’s not forget the impact it might have on your new partner.
It’s important to be mindful of your intentions and motives for entering a new relationship because you may end up hurting yourself and your new partner.
It’s crucial that you give yourself some time to heal, move on, reflect on the lessons you have learned, and reclaim yourself before starting a new chapter in your love-life.
Can You Have a Healthy Relationship After a Toxic One?
A lot of people are concerned about the impact of a past toxic relationship on their future relationships. Does a toxic relationship ruin the experience of an intimate relationship for them?
Being in a toxic relationship in the past can have both positive and negative impacts on your future relationship depending upon what you choose to carry into the new relationship.
If you get into a new relationship before sorting yourself out and healing from the previous one, there’s a good possibility that you will project resentment, generalizations, negative assumptions, fears, and insecurities from the past onto your new partner, which could single-handedly destroy a perfectly good relationship.
However, a lot of people are smart enough to learn from their past experiences and utilize those learnings to build a better relationship while avoiding the toxic patterns that led to the undoing of the previous one. That’s why we see a lot of people being happy in their new relationship after a toxic one.
Since they have seen things turn for the worse, they can now appreciate the little joys of life and cherish the contrasting qualities of their new partner.
Moving on with Life After a Toxic Relationship
Rebuilding Your Life
Depending on the amount of time you’ve been in that toxic relationship, you’ll have to do some rebuilding and get your life back together. It might sound a bit daunting but with time and consistent effort, you will eventually be able to build a life better than before because now you will have a better understanding of yourself, of other people, and of relationship dynamics in general.
The experiences you’ve gathered and the pain and struggle that you went through will help you craft a life that is more suited to you.
You might have a lot of clarity and understanding about what you DON’T WANT in life, and when you know what you don’t want, you begin to see exactly what you want. It’s a simple filtration process.
Start by setting some visions for each area of your life. Your health, profession, personal relationships (family & friends), romantic relationships, children, spirituality, and intellect. Envision each area vividly.
Write down what you want to build in each area.
- What kind of life do you want to live?
- What kind of relationships you wanna have?
- What kind of mental and physical health do you want to attain?
Try to be as specific as you can.
Having a compelling life vision to look forward to will inspire and excite you to move forward and begin the rebuilding process. Remember that turning your life around is completely possible. Your past doesn’t equal your future.
Additionally, you can use these Affirmations specifically curated to help you let go of your past and move on with your life.