Toxic relationships can leave us feeling drained, insecure, and raw. Even when we are pleased to be out of a toxic relationship, we can still be left feeling vulnerable, lost, and unsure of ourselves. Finding peace after a toxic relationship takes work and a considerable investment in ourselves. But taking the time to work on ourselves and heal is always worth it.
A quick point to remember is that toxic relationships don’t have to be romantic in nature. They can also involve relationships with family or friends. In fact, because they are family and friends we sometimes allow the toxicity to continue for much longer than we should. We disregard the unpleasantness and emotional abuse because we think it’s something we have to put up with (more so when it involves family).
Like every experience in our lives, our relationships can be an integral part of our learning and personal growth.
Disclosure – This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Any compensation I receive does not affect the price you pay.
Let’s jump into 22 ways of finding peace after a toxic relationship.
1. Reconnect with yourself
Finding peace after a toxic relationship means finding the time to reconnect with yourself. It’s a time for self-discovery, self-awareness, and learning as much as you can about yourself.
Reconnect with the things that you love, your passions, and interests, and the family and friends that you might have neglected or lost touch with.
I know from painful, personal experience that reconnecting with yourself might be the last thing you feel like doing right now.
This will be even more relevant if you think you caused a lot of the problems in your relationship or if you blame yourself for things that happened in your relationship. Unfortunately, just because a relationship was toxic, doesn’t mean we don’t feel the loss of it, and if we are blaming ourselves for everything, we may struggle even more.
I totally understand (from experience myself) that you might not feel like doing anything other than hiding under the covers or watching television all day. Despite how you feel, it will speed the healing process up if you reconnect with yourself, even if you can only manage to do this for short periods of time every day.
Start small but be consistent.
The thing is you have to do something, you have to start somewhere, even if it’s just reading some self-help material and trying to make sense of all of the different emotions you are feeling.
Posts to help reconnect with yourself –
- 12 Things to Remember When You Feel Not Good Enough
- How to Be Self-Aware and Why It’s So Important
- How to Start A New Chapter in Life
- 10 Powerful Ways to Improve Your Self-Worth and Self-Esteem
2. Work on your self-worth
Our self-worth can really take a hit after being in a toxic relationship. Below are just some of the situations that can affect our self-worth and self-esteem.
- Someone making us feel like everything is our fault
- Someone making us feel like we are worthless
- Thinking being ignored is normal
- Someone constantly lying to you
- Someone constantly criticizing you
- Someone constantly yelling at you
- Someone regularly cheating on you
Finding peace after a toxic relationship means working on your self-worth. You need to rebuild your self-worth and self-esteem. It’s perfectly okay if working on your self-worth is a slow process. Working on your self-worth takes time.
Invest in yourself. Believe in yourself, even if right now you can’t see a picture of who you will be in the future.
If you are struggling with self-doubt, which many people do after being in a toxic relationship, then you may benefit from Mel Robbin’s excellent course How to Break the Habit of Self-Doubt and Build Real Confidence over at CreativeLive. I took this course myself and got a lot out of it. You can read my review of the course here.
3. Work out what YOU want and need right now
Often, when we are in a toxic relationship, it’s all about the other person.
We constantly think about what they need, what they want, and what we can do to make them happy (or more to the point stop them from being unhappy and confrontational).
Basically, we make our lives all about them, when what we really need to do is flip that on its head and make it about ourselves.
Here are some questions to ask yourself –
- What do I need in the way of support right now?
- What is the best thing for me to do today? (And yes, if the best thing is having a good cry, then that’s perfectly okay)
- What do I want my week to look and feel like? (Emphasis on the feel because you may be feeling very emotional and you want to direct yourself towards more positive emotions)
- What thoughts and actions will make me as happy and content as I can be today?
Write down your answers. Really think through them. Focus on today and this week. Don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking and worrying about things too far into the future.
Focus on what you need in the present.
4. Make yourself a priority in your life
When we are in a relationship with a toxic person we tend to make them the priority (because let’s face it a lot of the time they demand it). We make them the center of our world to keep the peace and avoid confrontation.
If you have been in a toxic relationship with a narcissist, it’s even more important that you focus on making yourself a priority.
I’ve written a separate blog post on the importance of making yourself a priority, so make sure you read How to Make Yourself a Priority in Your Life.
5. Remember what peace feels like
If you have been in a toxic relationship for a long time, you might have forgotten what peace actually feels like for you.
Once conflict, drama, and endless tension become part of our lives we can sometimes think that sort of lifestyle is ‘normal’. We might even get addicted to the drama. Without realizing it, sometimes we might even find ourselves chasing or creating that drama.
When drama becomes normalized, we can forget what our lives were like without it!
Remember back to a time before all the drama started when you were at peace, calm, and relaxed.
What does that look like for you?
By the way, if your answer to the question of when were you last at peace, was never, then I highly recommend you speak to a trained counseling professional.
An excellent book that can help is –
Whole Again: Healing Your Heart and Rediscovering Your True Self After a Toxic Relationship and Emotional Abuse by Jackson MacKenzie.
6. Know what you want peace and joy to look like in the future
What does your new version of peace and joy look like? What does it feel like?
Where would you be living? What people would you be spending your time with? What would bring you joy? What simple pleasures would you enjoy?
You don’t have to have your future all planned out here or start working on making these things happen, that’s not what we are going for at the moment. Projecting too far ahead when you first come out of a toxic relationship may feel too overwhelming.
What you can think about is what is going to bring moments of joy, peace, and contentment going forward.
Work out how to achieve those precious moments and you will be on the road to a more peaceful life.
7. No contact at all with your ex
Finding peace after a toxic relationship means cutting ties with your ex. Unless you have kids together and there is a reason you have to see each other, then it’s a case of cutting all contact.
This means no seeing them in person, no texting, no driving past their house, no asking friends what they are up to. Absolutely no drunken phone calls or texts in the middle of the night. If they go to your favorite bar or restaurant then find yourself another favorite.
I know this isn’t easy. I once had a guy dump with without even bothering to tell me and then because he was related to my flatmate at the time, I had to deal with him attending a party in my own home a couple of weeks later. I certainly didn’t want to see him after the way things ended so I spent the night at my friend’s house.
I realize not seeing your ex can be a bit tricky if you live in a small town or a close community but still, it’s important to try to stay away from places where they might be.
This might mean changing up your routines and doing things a bit differently than you are used to.
Then, of course, there is social media. No following them on Facebook, or following friends or relatives of theirs. No Instagram, LinkedIn searches, or any other apps of any description. You don’t need to see their happy videos when you are struggling, that will just set you back and make you feel terrible.
If you work with your now ex, staying away from them can be a lot more difficult. Unfortunately, I know this from bitter experience as well. In my twenties, I dated people from work but the relationships didn’t end well. Then I had to see them every day and hear about their latest dating conquests or their shiny new relationship. I won’t lie it was brutal.
If you can move to a different department or transfer internally without it negatively impacting your career or your career progression, then that’s an option. If moving isn’t a good career move, then I would focus heavily on healing. Focus on easing the pain of seeing them regularly so that seeing them doesn’t impact you at all.
8. Work on emotional distancing
Unfortunately, our toxic relationship may be with family members. Cutting family out of our lives can be more emotionally challenging than saying goodbye to an ex, particularly if it’s a close family member (such as a parent or sibling).
Depending on your individual situation (and how toxic the relationship actually was), you may not want to cut the person completely out of your life.
If that is the case, then what you may need to do is limit how much time with spend with them, plan the circumstances when you see them, and often most importantly you need to know what boundaries you need to be setting with them.
It’s important to point out that while you think you can physically run away from toxic people, the real problem is not physical distance, it’s an emotional issue.
In other words, you can’t escape what’s in your head, so these are the feelings that you need to be working on.
If you have been dealing with an emotionally immature parent or person in your life, these two books might help. I read the second book on this list and it was incredibly eye-opening! It helped me make sense of and find peace with some difficult situations from my past.
- Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Deal with Distant, Rejecting or Self-Involved Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson PsyD
- Recovering from Emotionally Immature Parents: Practical Tools to Establish Boundaries and Reclaim Your Emotional Autonomy by Lindsay C. Gibson PsyD
9. Process your feelings
I won’t lie, the way I used to process and deal with my feelings usually involved a lot of wine. Or more to the point, it involved not dealing with them at all.
Basically, I numbed myself hoping my feelings would go away. I thought if I could just numb them I wouldn’t have to deal with them. But that is a lie. A dangerous lie that just prolongs suffering and makes you more miserable.
I learned that the hard way.
Numbing your feelings just makes facing them even harder (plus on top of that I was dealing with regular hangovers). You tell yourself you’re partying and having fun when in fact you are completely miserable.
Numbing the pain makes it all so much worse.
Process your feelings. Get help from a counselor to help work through your feelings if you need it. I have reached out to counselors in the past and it has always helped me a great deal.
10. Don’t underestimate how strong and complex your feelings might be
Sometimes you can hate a person and love them at the same time. You can also still miss them.
Complex and conflicting emotions can often be confusing to deal with.
Don’t punish yourself for still having feelings. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Be compassionate and caring to yourself.
You will probably find that you feel like you are on an emotional rollercoaster, one day you hate the thought of them, and the next day you are missing them. None of this is fun to go through, but it’s quite normal after a breakup, particularly if it was a toxic relationship.
Below are some books that can help you process your feelings and emotions, particularly when it comes to toxic relationships.
- How to Do The Work: Recognise Your Patterns, Heal From Your Past and Create Yourself by Dr. Nicole LePera
- The Covert Passive Aggressive Narcissist: Recognizing the Traits and Finding Healing After Hidden Emotional and Psychological Abuse by Debbie Mirza
- The Highly Sensitive Person’s Guide to Dealing with Toxic People: How to Reclaim Your Power from Narcissists and Other Manipulators by Shahida Arabi MA
- Psychopath Free: Recovering from Emotionally Abusive Relationships With Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Other Toxic People by Jackson McKenzie
11. Deal with your down days
More than likely you will have down days. You will have dark days. Though a lot of people like to pretend that everything is okay and try to paint a picture of positivity to the outside world, they still have to deal with their dark days.
Positive people may not have as many dark moments as say someone who is prone to be more negative, but they will have down moments.
It helps if you have a list of healthy comfort activities or down-day activities that you can do when you are having a bad day. Work out what activities, books, or actions help you through those down days, and make sure you use them when the down days come along.
Related post to help with those down days – 45 Inspiring Feeling Low Quotes to Give You Strength When Feeling Down
12. Be on the lookout for feelings of denial
I know a lot of people go through bad breakups and they seem just fine. They tell everyone they are fine and they act like everything is fine.
The problem is that a lot of the time they are not fine at all, just in denial.
Denial feels easier than dealing with our painful feelings. Sometimes we think that if we start crying we might not stop.
Unfortunately, denial just keeps the whole healing process at bay, so it all takes much longer than it should. Denial drags the whole painful experience out.
Related post – How to Stop Lying to Yourself About Your Feelings and Actions
13. Work through any feelings of loneliness you might be feeling
Even when our relationships are toxic they can provide us with some form of connection and companionship. Toxic relationships are necessarily toxic all the time so we may still feel their loss when things are over.
If you are used to having someone around (even someone toxic) and you have spent very little time on your own, you may find it hard to be on your own.
Ending a relationship can be a lonely experience. I know this from my own personal experience. When I was in my twenties, I moved interstate with my boyfriend and it only took 3 months for the whole thing to crash and burn.
I was in a new city with very few friends, a new job that has a lot more responsibility than I was used to and I was incredibly lonely. So much so that when my boyfriend (who had already treated me badly for so long) came groveling back, I actually took him back. I understand now that was a move made out of loneliness and if I am being totally honest with myself, low self-esteem. I thought it was a decision I made based on love but it was really all about fear. Fear of being alone, fear of not feeling good enough.
If you want to find peace after a toxic relationship, you need to work on your self-esteem and self-worth and be able to enjoy your own company.
Related posts –
- 12 Ways to Enjoy Your Own Company and Make the Most of Your Time Alone
- How to Eat Alone and Actually Enjoy It
14. Get your journaling on
Journaling is a great way of getting the jumble of emotions out of our heads and onto paper.
I’ve been journaling for many years writing into notebooks, using a wide variety of different guided journals and now journaling in a personal growth app (which I am totally loving because it is interactive).
If you want to use an app, I highly recommend signing up for Growth Day. I totally love this app and have been using it a lot myself lately. The more I journal and fill out the life scores the more motivated and driven I feel. I’m not an affiliate for this one, I just really wanted to share it with you because I love using it so much. 🙂
These guided journals can help you process your thoughts and feelings.
- Let That Sh*t Go: A Journal for Leaving Your Bullsh*t Behind and Creating a Happy Life by Monica Sweeney
- Burn After Writing By Sharon Jones (I love this journal, it has so many thought-provoking questions and journal prompts about your past, present and future).
- Zen as Fu*k by Monica Sweeney
- I Can’t Fu*king Adult Today: A Journal for the Days You Would Rather Stay in Bed by Monica Sweeney
15. Let yourself grieve if you need to
Grief is such a strange beast. It’s not linear and it’s not logical.
Even though they say the stages of grief are – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, these stages can jump all over the place. They don’t follow a particular timeline and they don’t come with a set duration for each one. You never know what you are going to experience when it comes to grief.
Grief can be confronting and devastating. If you need help with your grief, make sure you seek out professional help.
Related post – 10 Grief Quotes to Help You Through the Grieving Process
16. Give yourself time
Healing takes time. Finding peace after a toxic relationship takes time. Building or rebuilding your self-confidence and self-worth takes time and effort. Give yourself that time. You deserve it.
Finding peace after a toxic relationship isn’t just about waiting out the time. You also need to do the work. You can’t magically expect to heal if you aren’t taking any steps to improve your life or doing anything to change your mindset.
Three excellent books that can help are –
- Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?: Everyday Tools for Life’s Ups and Downs by Dr. Julie Smith
- How to Stop Feeling Like Sh*t: 14 Habits That Are Holding You Back from Happiness by Andrea Owen
- You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
These are three of my favorite self-help books and I got a lot out of each of them.
17. Don’t rush into another relationship
I’ve seen a lot of people do this over the years. Unfortunately, I’ve done it myself. Rushing in too early (from my experience) just led to more heartache and pain for either me or the person I entered the relationship with.
We think the best way to cut loose from a bad relationship is to start a new one but that is rarely the answer when we haven’t done any healing from our previous relationship.
Instead, we take our baggage (which is usually a sh*t load of anger, insecurity, and self-doubt) into the new relationship. This either leads us to sabotage our new relationship and hurt people and potentially ourselves or leave ourselves vulnerable to another toxic situation (because we probably picked the wrong person to start a relationship with out of desperation and/or repeating old patterns).
When we haven’t had time to heal and don’t know any different, we often subconsciously go looking for more of the same. We seek out familiarity, even if that familiarity is abusive, painful, and toxic.
Finding peace after a toxic relationship involves resisting the urge to go rushing into another relationship. Let yourself heal. Let yourself find some peace first. Allow yourself to be happy again. Then you will be in a much better headspace for a new relationship.
Related post – 10 Inspiring Ways to Do More of What Makes You Happy
18. Don’t let your vices run wild
Difficult times can cause our addictions and insecurities to heighten.
When we come out of a turbulent relationship, it’s important that we don’t let our vices overwhelm us.
I know this can be easy to do when we are focused on numbing our pain. As I mentioned earlier my go-to numbing device used to be wine. Drinking too much involved making some awful decisions because I felt not good enough. I felt like I didn’t deserve love or respect and treated myself accordingly. I felt unworthy of love, even from myself.
I don’t feel unworthy now, I know my worth now, so a glass of wine is for enjoying time with friends, not numbing myself or drowning my sorrows and heartbreak.
Your vice may not be drinking. It could be drugs, shopping, sex, watching television, gambling, or a range of other things. Diving into your vices is not finding peace after a toxic relationship. It’s inviting more chaos into your life, so try to avoid this at all costs.
An excellent book to help you overcome self-sabotage is The Mountain is You: Transforming Self-Sabotage into Self-Mastery by Brianna Wiest.
19. Forgive yourself
Forgive yourself for the mistakes you made in the relationship.
You may even need to forgive yourself for staying in the relationship for as long as you did. Been there and done that, more times than I would like to admit. I picked the wrong people and stayed in the relationships for far too long.
If you finally got the courage to end things, it may be hard to deal with the fact that it took you so long. Or you might struggle with the fact that you weren’t the one to end the relationship.
I have seen this rob people of their self-esteem. They are angry at themselves for not being the person to end the relationship.
Whatever your situation is you have to start working on forgiving yourself.
I’m certainly not going to ask you to forgive the other person at this point. You don’t have to forgive the other person for what they have done to you. The truth is though, your life will be more peaceful and less bitter and resentful if down the track you can find a way to forgiveness. Ultimately you forgive someone for yourself, not for them.
Your priority right now is forgiving yourself. Be kind to yourself. Be compassionate. Treat yourself like you would your closest and dearest friend.
Treat yourself with self-compassion and forgive yourself.
Related post by Psychology Today – Forgive Yourself for Choosing a Toxic Partner
20. Focus on rest and relaxation
Finding peace after a toxic relationship involves healing. Healing can take a lot of mental energy so make sure you give yourself the rest and relaxation you need. This will be different for each individual person, so work out what is best for you and go from there.
I know some people work on the keeping busy formula. That’s great but you need to make sure that you don’t push yourself too hard, physically or mentally. When we push ourselves too hard physically it opens us up to illness and infections.
Now is the time to be taking care of your body and mind. You don’t want to be throwing yourself into work, family, or projects to the point of burning yourself out.
21. Get help from a professional
Toxic relationships take a toll on us. We may be left doubting ourselves, feeling insecure and insignificant. It’s important that you invest in getting help from a qualified professional.
Look into what is available for you. You may be able to access professional counseling via your insurance, through a work assistance program, or through a Government agency. There may be phone-in services available. This will depend on where you live and what is available so it will be different for people in different countries.
Covid has made people a lot more aware of the importance of taking care of our mental health, so there may be more opportunities for help than you realize.
If you can’t quite afford to speak to a professional in person, then there is a large range of inexpensive books that can help you. I have mentioned quite a few of them in this article. Kindle books are cheaper than paperbacks and you can have them on your phone which means you can access them whenever you want. If money is an issue, many self-help books may be available for free from your local library. So get yourself a library card and start working on yourself!
22. Think about the goals you want to achieve going forward
When you are heartbroken or coming out of a toxic relationship, you are probably not in the right headspace to start setting goals and powering through them to make them happen.
But you can start thinking (and yes dreaming) about what goals you want to achieve. You can start thinking about what you want your future goals to be, even if right now you don’t have the energy, motivation, or drive to go after them.
The point is, you will over time, have your drive and motivation back and when that happens you will be ready to launch into the next exciting chapter of your life. You will already have a goal picked out, you can start formulating a plan and you will be ready to make your goals and dreams come true.
Related post – How to Achieve Your Goals – The Key to Setting Goals and Achieving Them
Finding peace after a toxic relationship
You deserve peace and joy. You deserve love (including self-love) and happiness in your life. Acknowledging that you are worthy of loving yourself should be your key priority right now. Self-love, compassion, and healing are important, so make your mental, emotional, and physical well-being your biggest priority.
This is about you and your self-worth. You deserve to find peace after a toxic relationship and with a little bit of help you will.
Read Next – When Life Gets Hard – 24 Important Things to Remember During Hard Times