“Toxic people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people’s buttons. ”   —  Travis Bradberry

The first step in breaking free is to realize that you are in a toxic relationship. Some toxic relationships aren’t so easy to end as others. If your partner isn’t physically abusive, an alcoholic or constantly demeaning you in public you may not even realize you’re in one.

Toxic partners rarely show up toxic. They don’t knock on your door saying, “Hi, I’m a mess. Please date me.” They show up as super sweet and affectionate, interested, and caring. Emotional abusers know how to pull you in and slowly take control.

I was in a toxic relationship for nearly three years. It happened so gradually that I didn’t even realize it until we got in a huge fight one day and suddenly it became so clear. I was nothing to him. He was subtly degrading me and insulting me in ways I didn’t even know.

Being Broken

The only way you can invite a toxic person into your life is if you are broken yourself. It isn’t something you do consciously, knowingly, or because you want it. A toxic person cannot maneuver their way into the life of a fully aware and self-assured individual, nor would they try.

What I realized during my toxic relationship is that I picked my abuser (childhood sexual abuse) all over again. I literally put myself right back in the hands of an abuser hoping against hope that someone would look out for my boundaries and I would be safe.

Surprise! It doesn’t work that way. Toxic people do not have regard for your boundaries and they choose their victims, I mean partners, carefully.

If you are broken inside and do not value yourself or do not know how to protect yourself, you will let them what they do because you don’t know how to do anything differently, and eventually they will control your life and your emotions.

Often, it starts with the little things. The color you wear. The way you drive. How you speak. Often it won’t even be obvious. But slowly, they will chip away at what little self-esteem you have until you have nothing left.

My toxic boyfriend would flaunt emotional relationships he had with other women. He would tell me how he had a crush on some girl at work, or how he was finding someone else interesting all the while slowly breaking down my confidence.

Not only did I not get mad; I thought it was all my fault, I thought I was unlovable and I thought if I could just be the right way he would love me. I thought I could make him see my worth.

Instead, it got so bad I stopped talking. I worried everything I said or did would be wrong, so it was easier to be quiet. I became meeker and meeker, slowly dulling myself to make my life with him tolerable.

The problem was I knew deep inside I didn’t want to live like that. I mean, who wants to live like that? No one!

It was awful. I felt awful. I was miserable and unhappy and needed to find a way out.

Self Esteem

I realized the only way to get out was to build up my self-esteem and stop being codependent. I bought a bunch of books. I did some self-esteem workbooks. Yes, you have to actually do some work. You can’t just read about it.

One of the most amazing books I came across was called I Want to Change but I Don’t Know How by Rusk & Read. This book provides insight and practical applications for change. I would highly recommend obtaining a copy.

If you have low self-esteem you need to figure out why. Did kids tease you in school? Were you always the chubby one? Were you abused? Were your parents never supportive? Were you told you would never amount to anything?

If you have low self-esteem you are an easy target for a toxic partner. Controlling you makes them feel better about themselves.

A toxic partner isn’t always a fundamentally bad person. Usually, they were hurt as children too, but they have a different way of coping. However, their problems are not your problems and you can’t fix them by changing to make them happy.

You need to learn to be happy with yourself first.


If you have low self-esteem chances are that you are also codependent. Codependency is an unhealthy relationship style where two parties enable one another in a merging of the selves instead of being individuals and coming together to form a relationship.

If you are doing everything to please your partner, have no goals of your own and live for the sake of the relationship then you are codependent.

If you were neglected or emotionally abused as a child, you are more likely to form codependent attachments as an adult.

If you are in a toxic relationship search out some codependents anonymous meetings (CODA). As a word of caution, be careful because these people (in CODA) can be very emotionally draining and not very insightful. Codependents often switch one addiction for another. Take what you can out of it and move on.

Getting Out

The key to a healthy relationship is knowing your worth and your value and not letting your partner define it for you.

Once you recognize you are in a toxic relationship it might take time to get out. Unless your partner is physically abusing you, that’s okay. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself.

Start reading. Join a support group. Start finding your voice again. Once you get out you will be amazed at the freedom you have and the joy you will feel to be yourself again. Plus, you will now have the tools you need so you don’t make the same mistake when choosing your next relationship.

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More from Thrive Global:

8 Things You Should Do After 8 P.M. If You Want to Be Happy and Successful

The One Relationship You’re Probably Ignoring

The One Word That Can Hurt Your Reputation at Work

If you would like to explore this issue a little more I have also written a free e-Book you can find here: How To Escape A Toxic Relationship

Originally published at www.acinglife.com


  • Carrie L. Burns

    Life Coach & Blogger

    Carrie L. Burns is a blogger and Certified Mars-Venus and Robbins-Maddanes trained Coach.  Because she is a sexual abuse survivor that struggled for years with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, insecurity, lack of self-love and relationship issues and overcame them all, she figured who could be better at teaching people how to navigate life and love than her.