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How To Move On After Being In An Unhealthy Relationship

Updated on January 5, 2012

It happens to so many of us in this life– we find ourselves in an unhealthy relationship and (in the best of cases) we make a conscious effort to remove ourselves from that relationship, but realizing that you are in an unhealthy relationship and having the courage to step out it is only the first step. To truly break free takes time, courage, and a little bit of help from those who have lived through similar situations. Take it from someone who has been there– you can do it!

In the past, I have chosen to end a number of unhealthy relationships which I had found myself in, so I know how hard it can be to stay strong after breaking free, especially when you spend a while being single and all your attempts to find someone to love fall on the rocky shores of rejection. I’ll admit it, there were even times where I thought the only person in the world who was capable of loving me was the woman I had left behind, but in the end, my confidence, my stubbornness and my resolve to stay single forever rather than return to an unhealthy relationship ultimately paid off. Just think– if I, at any point, had allowed myself to succumb to feelings of loneliness and had returned to an unhealthy relationship instead of waiting and searching for the right woman, I never would have met the girl of my dreams, I never would have fallen in love with her, and I most certainly never would have asked her to marry me. Happy endings do happen, you just have to have a few unhappy ones on the way there sometimes. To help you stay strong and keep yourself from going back to an unhealthy relationship, here are some tips that have served me well in the past:

Perhaps the most powerful psychological tool that I devised to keep myself from going back to any one of a series of damaging relationships was a list of reasons why I could not allow myself to go back at all (and why I was better off single anyway.) Your own list can contain any number of reasons why you left in the first place, but remember– the bigger you make your list, the more convincing it will be when you have to refer back to it (and refer back to it, you will.) Remember this list! Take the time to save it, back it up on your computer, and whenever you start to think about the “good old days” with the man or woman you broke free of (or start to think that maybe it wasn’t so bad, that you could tolerate whatever was going on because, deep down, you still love that person) read the list. Add to it. Remember each moment encapsulated in each reason you have for not going back and ask yourself: is what little happiness you might get out of the relationship worth all the crap you’re going to have to deal with in order to experience it? Trust me, if you had reason enough to leave the first time, it isn’t.

Take time to remind yourself why it is awesome to be single. If you can’t think of any good ideas (or just want some good reminders) check out this list that I put together to help me stay single until I found the woman who was right for me. It’s called 101 Reasons to Stay Single, and its become so popular that it has even been optioned to be adapted for television!

Remember to be nice to yourself. Give yourself time to adapt to the change and appreciate your newfound singledom. Be generous to yourself. Take time to go places by yourself and really enjoy the time that you’ve been given. Look at the time you spend being single as a gift. Suddenly you have so much time to do the kinds of things that you want to do! Suddenly you have time to pursue your dreams relentlessly and carve your niche in the wall of the world. You won’t have that if you go back to an unhealthy relationship, and you’ll be unhappy too! It’s a lose-lose situation!

It can also be a good idea to spend time with the friends who support your choice to end your unhealthy relationship (even if the only “friends” you have who support your choice are your parents.) Friends who think you’re crazy for ending your unhealthy relationship don’t have the kind of insight as to the nature of the relationship that you do, so they’re likely (unfortunately) to steer you in directions you’ll ultimately regret going in. Stay away from them (or limit your contact with them) during this period, especially if they make a point of trying to get you back together with the person you’re trying to avoid. Remember: They don’t know the relationship you left like you do. If things were bad enough for you to leave, then it shouldn’t matter what anyone says. Don’t go back. You can do better given enough time. I did!


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    • profile image

      Steph 6 years ago

      Its been two days since i ended things with my first love and i am DEVASTATED. I keep thinking should i have done that have i made a mistake. But he never had the time for me and i found myself the last few weeks becoming needy and crying every day. Please someone tell me not to go back to him, because i feel like i may give in even though i know it wasn't right.

    • profile image

      Tips to get back your ex 7 years ago

      moving on can be the hardest thing, but at the same time we need to consider that there is no point sticking to unhealthy relationship. Either make it healthy or leave it.

    • lapin profile image

      lapin 7 years ago from Brittany

      How true your article is, I moved on from an unhealthy relationship,after I moved to brittany, after 20 plus years of living with a control freak, I had enough, my children had found their respective partners and are happy, I had spent the first few weeks on my own unpacking and sorting all the stuff I had from the uk, and it was having the time to think without any demands from family, work etc, I suddenly thought I like being my own person. In the first few weeks I lost 1 and half stone in weight, through not having a partner saying why don't you eat that up rather than waste it!ETC. It was also the fact that my partner suddenly announced that I wasn't to expect any more intimacy or sex, as he was too old he was 10 yrs older than me this side of our relationship had fizzled out over the last 10 yrs, the last 5yrs Rien!, it was this and his comment one day saying "life is to be enjoyed not endured " this is a new life now, I woke up one day and thought YES! I am going to enjoy my life from now on ! I took him at his word. I started going to local bar and talking with the locals which was good for my french language skills, The inevitable happened ! I met someone, and after about a month I came clean to my partner. he went back to england and left me with very little in the bank and I do mean little money, he would have left me nothing if hadn't pleaded my case. The fact I had the chance to meet someone new I think was meant to be, that was my first relationship with someone else in over 20 yrs, I then had a chance meeting with a lovely lady who said you need a good man in your life ! I know just the person. I met him last year and we have so much in common, when we first met it was love at first sight. He is all I had missing in my previous relationship and more, he's breton and his family have taken me under their wing, through a chance meeting through my friend I have a whole new life ahead of me, so yes one has to bite the bullet and move on, It took a lot for me to stand up to my now ex partner and say this is what I want, this is the friends I am choosing, not the wives of your biking friends etc( who were not necessarily my choice of friends.) It has been a difficult year dealing with the "aftermath" of a controlling and abusive relationship, but I am over the bad times and now looking forward at the good times ahead in my new relationship, I am now dealing with a clear head the practicalities of divorce etc. but hey I have something Good at the end of it all, a man I love with all my heart, and i know he loves too. abusive relationships are not all about physical abuse its those people who play games of guilt and debasing your self esteem etc, gradually by the "salami effect" slice by slice they take away control from you whether its money for housekeeping, making you feeling guilty about treating yourself to a new outfit or perfume/makeup etc, he never noticed I had made an effect to look good, Or I'll do that I do it this way(as if your way was completely useless) making you feel no good at anything gradually over 20+ years they make you feel unloved, no confidence or esteem in yourself or your abilities, YOU CAN STAND UP AND SAY YES THIS IS ME ! I HAVE MOVED ON , IT FEELS GOOD ME BEING IN CONTROL OF MY LIFE, IT FEELS GOOD KNOWING YOU ARE LOVED FOR BEING YOU NOT SOMEONE ELSE EXPECTATIONS OF WHT THEY WANT YOU TO BE, I HAVE THE LOVE OF GOOD A GOOD MAN, FRIENDS AND FAMILY WHO HAVE "BEEN THERE" FOR ME ! I HAVE A NEW FOUND CONFIDENCE AND ZEST FOR MY NEW LIFE, I AM LEARNING TO DRIVE, I CAN SPEAK PASSABLE FRENCH NOW, I AM PLANNING MY FUTURE, I AM ME, abuse of the mind the scars aren't visible to the naked eye, but they are there and take a long to get rid of, but I did it, you can regain control of your mind, life and destiny, its matter of being strong, kicking butt and saying to yourself , this is me, this is the new me, I like being the new me, I like being who I am now, to those sceptics and old partners , DEAL WITH IT !! get a life ! I DID !

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      The list idea is a great tool! Great article!

    • onlinedatingstars profile image

      onlinedatingstars 7 years ago from St. Petersburg

      Amazing piece of article . Enlightened to read

    • Earl S. Wynn profile image

      Earl S. Wynn 7 years ago from California

      @Roree: Thanks! Keep that confidence, and remember what it was like to be that confident whenever you start to question the path you have chosen to walk! Keep being strong! :)

      @Lucky: Thank you, my friend! Your feedback is awesome as always! :)

    • Lucky Cats profile image

      Kathy 7 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      Very concise and honest. I've been there and it helps to see, in writing, a confirmation for the decision to leave an unhealthy, enabling relationship. Very good "411" and very well are, btw, all your articles. Voted UP ande Useful!

    • Roree-Lily profile image

      Roree-Lily 7 years ago

      that was absolutely amazing reading your piece i really felt like i gathered a connection within myself that i didn't know i had and it has made me want to start being more appreciative of having more time to myself to do things that i enjoy even if it is sleeping in till 2pm i can do it cause i want to!!! im so happy to hear that you have found your dream lady and that you never gave up!!!you have given me the confidence to keep soldiering on and keep doing me!!!thank you Earl.S.Wynn