How to go from a toxic relationship to a healthy one?

November 12, 2020

Relationships, Therapy

This question comes up a lot in my sessions and on my social media account “If I’m in a toxic relationship, how can I transform it into a healthy one? Sometimes this question is reflected in a desire to go back to the way things were before realizing that we are in a toxic relationship. This is one of the deepest desires when working with unhealthy relationships, to go back before becoming aware. It reflects the fact that we know what we are suffering, we want a change in our relationship, but we do not want to lose the person we love. For this reason, I want tell you something important:

 

We can’t change anyone, no matter how much we want to. A person has to want to change on their own.

This statement is tough to hear, especially when the change we desire is the one we deserve, like being loved, heard, or appreciated. You have all the right to wish things were different, and to feel sad or frustrated when they are not. However, this does not mean that everything is a lost cause. There are always things we can do.

 

Some people have toxic behaviors. They recognize them and work to change them. If this is the situation, I can share some strategies to help you in this process, from toxic dynamics to healthier dynamics. At the same time, I want to remind you that not everything is your responsibility. Healthy relationships are teamwork, and because of this, all parties must be willing to make a lasting change.

 

One last observation before continuing, if a toxic relationship impacts your physical safety, emotional stability, or the safety of the people around you, it is not your responsibility to change it. I encourage you to find resources that protect you and help you recover from this experience. Your safety ALWAYS comes first.

 

After sharing all of this context with you, let’s move on to some steps we can take towards creating healthier relationships.  

 

  1. Identify what is not working in the relationship or the toxic behaviors: When we name things, we can work on them. Many resources, including my book “Rompiendo con la Toxicidad,” list multiple harmful behaviors to the relationship. Below, I’ll share some of them with you:

 

  • Control over what you wear or who you talk to
  • Manipulation
  • Insults
  • Walking away from conflict or using the “silent treatment” when arguing.
  • Threatens to leave the relationship or to hurt themselves if you don’t do what they ask.
  • The relationship forces you to isolate yourself from your family and friends.
  • Your partner asks for your passwords or invades your privacy.

 

Make a list of what is impacting you, and this may also include some behaviors you may be having. The list is not meant to compare or blame, but to get an objective view of the relationship and make changes.

 

  1. Understand the motivation: Give yourself the chance to explore why you want to change your relationship. Also, allow yourself to explore some of your behaviors that don’t contribute to your well-being and the relationship’s well-being. Understanding the reason behind our actions allows us to understand and change behaviors. You can start this exploration by asking yourself questions such as: 
  • “What emotions arise when I react in this way?”
  •  “Why do I want this relationship to be different?”
  •  “What thoughts arise within me that lead me to respond in this way?”

 

  1. Set aside some time to talk to your partner about it: Remember that list I mentioned initially? Now is the time to use it! It’s not meant to be presented literally to your partner. Instead, create a safe space to have this conversation. Show them that you have been reflecting on the relationship, express how you feel assertively, communicate the actions or reactions that have been impacting you, and suggest creating healthier alternatives. It sounds easier than it is, especially if you and your partner don’t have a practice of having open communication. To develop healthy relationships, it is essential to make our partner part of the process.

 

It is important to pay attention to how our partner reacts to these conversations.  

 

Resistance in the process of change is normal since change requires time, effort and can be intimidating at first. However, a partner who is willing to change will try to stay open and commit to the process.

toxic-relationship-to-healthy-relationship-how

If our partner shows resistance, is focused on justifying themself, do not hold themselves accountable, and tries to make you feel guilty for these changes you want to make, we face a different situation. If we are in an unhealthy relationship, in which our partner is not open to change, then we might have to reflect on what we want to do based on those facts. 

 

THE DECISION ABOUT WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR RELATIONSHIP WILL ALWAYS BELONG TO YOU. SOMETIMES WE THINK WE MUST WAIT FOR OUR PARTNER TO CHANGE WHEN THE REALITY IS THAT WE 

 

You can try some of the strategies that I mention in this entry, but if your partner is unwilling to change, that is something to pay attention to. It’s not always easy to sit with this awareness and these decisions, which is why this is a process that requires a lot of self-compassion. I also hope that this entry gives you freedom, the freedom to understand who you are, and your value doesn’t depend on whether the other person sees it.

Every person has the right to their happiness. While our relationship may be part of that, we can also find it outside of it.

from toxic to healthy relationships

I hope this entry has brought you some clarity! If this topic is something you want to continue working on, I invite you to check my book “Rompiendo con la Toxicidad” (in Spanish), where I guide you step by step in your process of recovering from a toxic relationship. If you are looking for more personalized work, you can get in contact with me to see how I can support you in breaking patterns of toxicity in your life.

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