There are many different reasons loving connections get broken. And unfortunately there is very little concise guidance out there about how to fix a toxic relationship.
We want to help you understand why and how they get broken – so you can use our specific and targeted advice on how to mend them (or leave them). Here is a step-by-step approach.
1. Identify: What is a Toxic Relationship?
Frequently, the source of a breakup lies in the fact that the relationship is toxic – and been so for a while. And while people talk about toxic relationships all the time, very few actually define what that is or, more importantly, why it happens. If you don’t know “the what” or “the why”, there is no way you will know how to fix that harmful relationship.
A toxic relationship is a relationship where you continually trigger each other’s core wounds. You act negatively on those triggers, hurting each other over and over again. This is a big statement, so let’s unpack it.
2. Explore Your Core Wounds
A core wound generally is inflicted during childhood. It happens as a result of not getting key needs met. Remember however – there is no such thing as a perfect parent. All of us experience certain unmet needs in our childhood.
You or your partner might have a core wound that leads you to believe you are not good enough, everyone is out to get you, or no one really cares about you, etc. When you have these wounds, you’re always looking around for proof that they are true. You even see proof when it isn’t actually there. And then you or your partner react – maybe with anger, testing, or punishments like the silent treatment, etc.
3. Realize the Implications of Your Toxic Relationship
As a reaction to feeling wounded when you fight with your partner, your fight-flight-freeze response gets activated. You may feel anxiety, urgency, or fear. You might also start to dissociate, leaving your body.
When fight-flight-freeze gets activated, certain chemicals like epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline) get released into your body, constricting blood vessels and raising your heart rate.
Additionally, the tension of holding in all those negative thoughts and feelings causes your body to release the hormone cortisol. This has the effect of lowering your immune system, raising blood pressure and sugar levels, decreasing your sexual drive, and creating skin problems and weight gain.
So literally – a toxic physical reaction to a toxic psychological situation.
4. Take Ownership of Your Role
Often the toxicity of a relationship goes both ways. It’s enormously important to look at yourself and what you are doing to harm the relationship – as opposed to just pointing the finger at your partner.
If you want to really learn how to fix your broken relationship, it has to start with you. You need to look at your behaviors first – particularly those that get in the way of intimacy.
You might be doing things that appear generous – being accommodating, trying to keep the peace, or taking care of your partner before taking care of yourself. But those activities can cause as much harm to intimacy in a relationship over the long-term as more negative-sounding behaviors like yelling or threatening to leave.
5. Assess Why You’re Staying in the Relationship
Even if you are keeping the toxicity going by staying past the time you should have left the relationship, it is important to gently look at yourself. And ask yourself why you are staying in this bad situation.
We want to note here that if physical or financial abuse is present, it may actually be dangerous to leave the relationship. In this case, it is important to reach out for help.
If you are instead being psychologically abused – told you are stupid, ugly, or worthless – it may feel really hard to lift yourself up. Perhaps you’re afraid to leave because you don’t want to end up alone. This too however is the perfect time to reach out to friends, loved ones, or a professional for support.
6. Reach Out to a Relationship Coach
To navigate the many devastatingly profound implications of a toxic relationship, it’s often a good idea to see a professional relationship coach. They can teach you to find self love, and give you the support and strength you need to leave your dysfunctional relationship.
If you feel there is still hope for you and your partner though, a relationship coach can also help you both repair your relationship.
Another fast-track option is to take an immersive workshop. Here, you learn the building blocks of emotional health in a relationship and then practice them with your fellow classmates. The Somatica® Core Training is an in-depth training with a safe container in which to practice intimacy and connection, learn, grow, and become part of a supportive community.