We all want to experience love and connection in our lives, but sometimes we find ourselves stuck in toxic relationships that drain our energy, damage our self-esteem, and hold us back from reaching our full potential. Acknowledging that we’re in a toxic relationship isn’t always easy; we may be tempted to believe that what we’re experiencing is normal, because even people in healthy relationships have disagreements or conflict. In the long run, however, using this excuse and staying in a toxic relationship can have devastating consequences, which makes it imperative to recognize the red flags (and walk away) before it’s too late. In this last post of my series on toxic relationships, I share three strategies for breaking free and moving towards the future you deserve.
I’ve known, and often coached, several intelligent, talented, highly capable clients (the majority of them women) trapped in such relationships. It’s both heartbreaking and empowering to see them recognize the toxicity in their lives and take the necessary steps to break free. Here are the three pillars I’ve identified that are instrumental in escaping the cage of a toxic relationship: having the right mindset, having a clear vision of the life you want, and being willing to take bold action.
- Having the right mindset
To break free from a toxic dynamic it’s crucial both to shift from victim mode to an empowered mindset; and to have the self-love to walk away. One of my clients, Lilah, a high-achieving executive, felt suffocated in her marriage. Her husband constantly undermined her professional achievements and criticized her career choices. Even though she earned more than he did, she felt guilty and tried to downplay her successes. That didn’t feel right.
When she started recording her thoughts and feelings in her journal, she was able to see patterns and recognize that it was not her behavior or shortcomings that triggered her husband’s criticism, but his insecurities. Lilah worked with a therapist to strengthen her sense of self-worth, which not only led her to stop blaming herself for the toxicity in her marriage, but also to acknowledge that she deserved better treatment. Finally, through coaching, she identified and shifted the negative self-talk that prevented her from having the confidence to stand up to her husband, set boundaries, and, eventually, walk away.
- Having a clear vision of the life you want
While she was working on shifting her mindset, Lilah visualized a future where she had a loving, encouraging partner who didn’t make her feel guilty for her successes. She identified exactly what that future looked like for every area of her life – health, career, relationships, personal growth–, guided by her core values and goals, not the need to cater to her partner’s insecurities. That vision kept her going through the challenging times that followed.
- Being willing to take bold action
Breaking free from a toxic relationship almost always requires decisive, bold action. Having an empowered mindset, being grounded in self-love, and embracing one’s vision of a better future strengthen our resolve. In order to reclaim her freedom, Lilah had to make some tough decisions. These included: standing up to her husband and claiming her need to be treated with respect; asserting her autonomy by accepting a promotion he had been opposed to because it would mean “she’d have less time for him”; and eventually having the courage to ask him to move out of their shared home, despite being terrified of being alone. She never looked back and now thrives, both professionally and personally with her new partner.
As Lilah’s story illustrates, breaking free from a toxic relationship is not easy, but it’s a journey worth taking. The right mindset, a clear vision of the life you want, and the courage to make the necessary bold decisions make that journey possible.
We are the ones who build our cages, and we are also the ones who can open the door and walk through them.
If you (or someone you know) are feeling overwhelmed or unsure about how to begin the process of leaving a toxic relationship, I can help. Don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule a free 30-minute call. Together, we can explore your unique situation, discuss potential steps forward, and create a personalized plan to help you reclaim your freedom and live the life you want. You can take the first step towards that life today😊.
Thank you for being here! If you want to understand where you feel trapped in your life and how you can break free, take my free Break Free Quiz !
And if you are new to the Breaking Free blog, read my introduction here for more information about what it’s about and what topics I tackle in my posts. This is my third and final article on toxic (romantic) relationships. Read the first and second one.