how to fix a toxic relationship

Toxic relationships aren’t fun. They mess with your mind and make you feel worthless. If you found yourself in such a situation, you are probably wondering how to fix a toxic relationship. And is it even worth fixing?

It depends on every individual case. The good news is that you can always break free and let it go. However, if you feel it is worth to give it another chance, this relationship challenge will level up your life. Pivoting away from a dysfunctional love pattern will provide you with life-long skills and insights.

I know how to fix a toxic relationship because I have first-hand experience of toxic behaviors in my marriage. It got to the point where it nearly ruined everything that we’ve built. If we made it through, so can you. Read on to find out how we healed and transformed our relationship.

What is a toxic relationship?

A toxic relationship can be defined as repeated, mutually destructive behavior between a couple. If you only have an occasional fight and you make up with your partner afterward, your relationship isn’t toxic. It is toxic if you have negative behavioral patterns in place that keep on repeating very frequently. What does this mean?

The tell-tale signs of a toxic relationship are when your partner frequently:

  • Criticizes you
  • Uses contempt against you
  • Blames you
  • Acts passive-aggressive
  • Gaslights you

This behavior undermines your self-worth and well-being. Let’s be honest: the chances of the relationship working out if it stays toxic are slim. In a healthy relationship, you’ll feel:

  • Empowered
  • Understood
  • Loved
  • Cherished
  • Valued
  • Respected

If you’re not finding these qualities in your relationship, it’s time to reassess it and take action.

Why do relationships turn toxic?

A relationship can turn toxic for many reasons, including mental health issues, addiction, being overly controlling, neglecting the relationship, trauma, or emotional immaturity. It always takes two for a relationship to get out of hand. While your partner has their role to play, let’s look at how you contribute to the issue.

The number one reason why relationships turn toxic is that people don’t set boundaries or don’t follow them. No matter what your partner does, it’s up to you to communicate and ensure that your boundaries aren’t violated.

The number one reason why relationships turn toxic is that people don't set boundaries or don't follow them. Click To Tweet

Can you fix a toxic relationship?

You can fix a toxic relationship if you are willing to grow and change yourself. Without a full commitment from your side, it won’t be possible. Keep in mind that even if you are eager and dedicated to turning things around, you still might have to walk away. You are in a relationship, after all, and the success of it also depends on your partner.

The good news is that you’ll be in a better place to create a healthy love life when you grow through this experience. Whether that is with your current partner or with somebody new. That’s right; you deserve the love that brings out the best in you, one that nurtures your soul.

Many people get so fixated on their current relationship that they feel like their life depends on it. That’s not very healthy, nor is it true. That’s why I will help you address your current relationship problem and set you up for long-term success, so you become more independent and confident.

How to fix a toxic relationship: 7 steps

If you are reading this article, you are probably wondering “How can I make my relationship healthy again?” There’s a way to fix a toxic relationship without compromising your life. Although it’s unpleasant, being in a toxic relationship isn’t a bad thing. It can be a point of transformation for all of the relationships. Why? Because it forces you to reexamine how you are showing up. No matter how things turn out, you’ll be a more resilient person. You’ll be more aligned with yourself.

It can be challenging, but it’s so worthwhile. Not only will you benefit from it, but your loved ones will too. You have the power in your hands to write a future that you look forward to. Let’s dive deep into how you can make things work with your partner.

1. Take the ownership of your life

Your relationship can’t change if you surrender responsibility to your partner, the past, or circumstances. To illustrate this point, let’s do this little exercise.

Say to yourself:

I am completely helpless. If only I had a different partner, I’d be in a better place. I can’t help but be with this person because I can’t imagine a future without them. Why am I always ending up with toxic people? Why can’t my love life be different? If I had better role-models of what a healthy relationship looks like, I would be better off. But my parents were just like my partner and me. My situation is hopeless. I guess I am just a worthless person.

How does this feel? Does it inspire action? Do you feel empowered? No.

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Now try this one:

I am the creator of my life. I am capable of creating the relationships I love in my life. I am gaining life-changing information about what I prefer and what I don’t in my relationships. I know that I have contributed to the problems I currently face, and I am the one who’s going to change it. I know that I am worthy of love, and I fully believe in myself. My past has no power over me. My partner has no control over me. The only people who have control are the ones who I have given it to. I reclaim that power today.

Do you notice the difference between these two stances? Do you see how you rob yourself of all energy when you believe that you’re helpless? That’s why it’s so crucial to take ownership of your life and your relationship.

You can, and you will create a healthy relationship if you’re willing to do the work necessary for it. With that in mind, let’s move on to the next step.

Your relationship can't change if you surrender responsibility to your partner. Click To Tweet

2. Examine yourself

It’s time to reclaim your power. You do that by taking a closer look at yourself. This is the sure-fire way to start gaining the control back that you have unconsciously given away. Doing this will shift the dynamic in your relationship.

Instead of accepting toxic behavior, you’ll speak up and be clear and firm with your boundaries. But if you don’t address yourself first, you’ll struggle to change the relationship dynamic.

Here’s how this has happened in my life. I used to think that a successful relationship meant that you played your part to make your partner happy. So I often said yes to things even when I didn’t want to. Why? I was afraid of my partner’s reaction. He wasn’t a scary guy or anything. But I was afraid to make him unhappy. It felt like my job was to please him.

So this pattern went on for years. My partner took the lead, and I followed along with whatever it was that he suggested. But it couldn’t last forever.

By over compromising myself and never speaking up for what I needed, I became an empty shell of who I was. My partner wasn’t in a relationship with me anymore. All he had was a ‘yes’ woman.

Deep down, it killed me to get my boundaries crossed again and again. But that’s what I was used to, growing up in my childhood. But in our relationship, I knew that I had to break the cycle.

First, I had to recognize what I had done. Yes, it wasn’t pleasant. But I wasn’t communicating at all. I was the one who was agreeing to things that I didn’t want.

It was my responsibility to share how I feel and what I need in a relationship with my partner. No matter how much love there is or how good of a match you are, your partner will never be able to read your mind.

You can break away from these dysfunctional and toxic patterns in your relationship. But first, you need to get clear on where you went wrong and which direction you need to go instead. This pivot is the first step of the relationship formula that saved my marriage.

Ask yourself this:

  • How are you showing up in your relationship?
  • What do you believe about yourself when it comes to love and relationships?

Exploring these questions will help uncover any limiting beliefs you might have that keep you stuck in a toxic relationship. Taking the time for this is super important because it will affect all areas of your life. But it doesn’t stop there; we want to make sure that you address all aspects of this issue.

3. Map out where the relationship is toxic

I’ve taken a general overview of how you’re contributing to the problem. But I want you to go deeper into this by really understanding how the relationship is toxic. You see, harmful behavior thrives on being unconscious. The more you become conscious of it, the less it can stay the same. With that in mind, let’s get started.

Write out the answers to the following questions:

  • How is the relationship toxic?
  • What behavior is my partner engaging in that’s toxic?
  • What’s my emotional response when they do it?
  • How am I responding to toxic behavior?
  • What behavior am I engaging in that’s toxic?
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These questions will give you a good overview of what’s happening in your relationship. Go through each behavioral pattern. The clearer you see how you’re both dancing a dysfunctional dance together, the better.

Now that you’re clear on how the dysfunctional patterns play out, answer these questions:

  • What has prevented me from changing the relationship dynamic?
  • What attempts have I made to change these behaviors?
  • What’s happened that I failed?
  • What fears do I have that stopped me from speaking up?
  • Why am I tolerating a toxic relationship in my life?

If you’re getting overwhelmed, take a break and come back to it later. You want to make sure that you get to the bottom of the problem. That’s the only way of getting out of a toxic relationship and never going back to it.

4. Discover your values

Suppose you want to have a fantastic relationship that makes you wake up in the morning feeling like the luckiest person alive. In that case, you have to define your values.

Toxic relationships thrive on being wishy-washy. You compromise yourself and your values for the ‘benefit’ of the relationship. The clearer you are on what you want and don’t want in a relationship, the less room for toxicity. Why? Because when the values aren’t respected, you either communicate that, or you walk away from the relationship.

The more you know that you have every right to be met with respect, dignity, and love, the less you tolerate behavior that does not align with that.

How do you discover your values? You can do that by asking yourself some simple questions:

  • What is important to me in the relationship?
  • If I look at my life, what values am I nurturing?
  • What are the behaviors that tick me off?
  • What are things I wouldn’t compromise on in a relationship?

For example, freedom is one of the top values I have. If someone is restricting my freedom, it gets to me. I know that if a relationship threatened this value, I would walk away from it.

Now that you know what’s important to you, let’s put it into practice.

Toxic relationships thrive on being wishy-washy. You compromise yourself and your values for the 'benefit' of the relationship. Click To Tweet

5. Redefine the relationship

Knowing your values is useless unless you respect them. Find out how you are or aren’t honoring these values in your relationship. Be especially aware of short-term solutions that are deceitfully disrespecting your values. For example, if you value harmony, you might avoid conflict to keep a harmonious relationship. You might even not say to your partner what you want because you want to keep the peace.

It may seem like this is a way of honoring your value of harmony. But is it? Aren’t you postponing the conflict and straying away from your truth? Aren’t you making yourself feel unsettled due to your lack of integrity?

Once you’ve taken stock on how your values are or aren’t respected in the relationship, it’s time to redefine it. To do that, take the time to sit back and ask yourself:

  • How does my ideal relationship look like?
  • If I could wave a magic wand to change my relationship for the better, how would it transform?

You want to make sure that you want to feel a ‘yes’ in your whole body when you dream up your ideal relationship. If it feels ‘that would be nice’, then you haven’t hit it. Pay attention to your body because it has more wisdom than your mind. Your dream relationship will have a full-body resonance. It would make you relaxed and energetic.

Once you have a clear vision, it’s time to see what is not aligning with it. You can find that out by asking the following questions:

  • What am I tolerating that is not aligning with my ideal relationship vision?
  • How is my behavior preventing me from having the ideal relationship?
  • How would I have to show up to create this kind of relationship?

Do you see how asking these questions moves you closer and closer to the relationship you want? I know that it’s not easy to look at yourself deeply. But it’s crucial if you want to live a life that’s true to you. So many people don’t dare to do that because they’re letting fear rule their life. You don’t have to join their ranks; you can be free and have a wonderful life and relationship! A life where you love spending time with your partner. All it takes is a clear commitment from your side to do whatever it takes to create the kind of relationship you want.

6. Seek communication

Now that you’re clear and committed to your relationship goal, it’s time to implement it. That means you shouldn’t allow harmful actions to be part of the relationship. It’s the only way you can move forward and fix your toxic relationship for the better.

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But first, you need to communicate where you stand and how you’d like to move forward to make your relationship work. Here’s an example of the conversation you should have with your partner:

I’ve been thinking a lot about our relationship, and I realized that it’s essential to me to create one where we both feel respected and loved. I don’t feel like we are bringing the best out in each other anymore. You know when we first met and how we were just unstoppable? I’d love it if we worked towards being more like that again. What do you think?

Important points of the conversation with your partner:

  • Start with what you want to have.
  • Don’t blame or criticize your partner.
  • Bring back a positive image of how the relationship used to be.

If your partner doesn’t want things to change, there are a few options:

  • You explore why they disagree with you and what their perception of the relationship is.
  • You restate why changing the relationship dynamic is important to you and that you can’t stay in the relationship if it stays this way.
  • You ask questions about the past and how you were back then.

Your partner might have lost sight of how amazing you were. Bringing memories back where you had a fantastic time together can make it possible and real in their mind again. If your partner has only horrible memories of your relationship, it is in serious trouble.

When your partner agrees that they want to create a better relationship, discuss with them how it should look like. Remember all the questions I outlined earlier? You want your partner to work through them as well. That doesn’t mean that they have to read the article, but it means that you seek to understand their perspective.

When both of you have been able to fully express yourself and understand how you’re bringing each other down, then it’s time to create an action plan. List all the behaviors that aren’t aligned with your dream relationship and see what behaviors support it. That’s the key ingredient to make your toxic relationship healthy again.

Even though pivoting towards a relationship that lights both of you up might feel impossible, the starting point is where you’re at right now. The problems you face today are clear indications of what kind of relationship you don’t want to have. So get a good feel for what you want because you do know deep down. The key is to let yourself dream big enough.

When your partner agrees that they want to create a better relationship, discuss with them how it should look like. Click To Tweet

7. Continuously commit and reassess

The best way to change the relationship dynamic is to commit on an ongoing basis. It’s all fine to talk about things, but nothing changes if you don’t implement them in your daily life. That’s why it’s so crucial that you want to improve how you relate to each other.

To stay on track with creating the relationship of your dreams, make sure that you take time each week to check-in with each other. Some old behavior can creep up here and there. That’s okay. What isn’t okay is to let it slip. That’s why continuous commitment is necessary for a healthy relationship.

The other thing you want to do is to reassess with your partner, whether you’re heading in the right direction. You might realize that some of the things you’ve set out to do aren’t suiting you anymore. If that’s the case, simply address it with your partner and change your outcome.

No one likes a toxic relationship. There is no reason to stay in it and ruin your self-esteem. Instead, you want to take ownership of the toxic relationship and set out to change it. Whether you succeed with your current partner or not doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you start living a life that’s true to you.

Now that you know you have power in your hands, what will you do about it? Will you rewrite your future by committing to a healthier and more loving relationship? For lasting change to occur, a fundamental shift needs to come from you. The toxic behaviors that you once put up with must no longer make sense to you. If you choose to stay in the gray area of inaction and doubt, you will remain in the same place in life.

So this is your chance to love and to respect yourself more and to speak up for yourself. You’re here in this world to be loved and cherished. And it starts with you. You’re not a victim nor the protagonist of your story. You’re the director who has the power to rewrite it all.

Jáchym and Natasha are the founders of Your Exceptional Relationship. They've worked with people all over the world and created The Exceptional Relationship Formula™ which takes away the guess-work and puts your marriage back on track for more intimacy, love, and connection.

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