6 Steps to Fix a Toxic Relationship

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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. 

Sad girl, thinking about how to fix a toxic relationship

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.

Communication is a good tool in repairing a toxic relationship.

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® 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.

Find a Relationship Coach near you, or take a Free Intro Workshop to Somatica.

Find a professional sex coach near you or by expertise now.

Celeste Hirschman
Celeste Hirschmanhttps://www.somaticainstitute.com/faculty/celeste-hirschman/
Celeste Hirschman is the is the co-creator of the Somatica® Method and the co-founder of the Somatica® Institute. She received an MA in Human Sexuality Studies from San Francisco State University, and a BA in Women’s Students from UCSC.

In her teaching and coaching, Celeste routinely draws on her extensive training in attachment psychology, sociology, gender studies, and body-based modalities like Hakomi. She uses these embodied learning principles to help students and clients tap into their own somatic wisdom, deepen their experiences of pleasure, and realize their full personal and professional potential.

A prolific writer, Celeste researched and published a defining paper on adolescent sexuality development in 2006, during her tenure at SFSU’s Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality.

Since then, she has co-authored 3 books with Danielle Harel: Cockfidence, Making Love Real, and Coming Together. She writes frequently and is generally the first expert journalists turn to for quotes and information on sex, dating, and relationships.

No matter what she does – whether she is co-producing the sex-coaching-based TV series Here She Comes, or teaching at the legendary Esalen Institute – Celeste always brings her unconditional love, scintillating presence, erotic energy, and insight to every part of her work.

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