4 Steps to Leave a Dead End Relationship

Freeing yourself by working smarter instead of harder.

Posted Jan 13, 2019

Are you in a dead-end relationship that suffers from issues such as apathy, criticism, passive-aggressiveness, gaslighting, avoidance, and negative energy? This is a follow-up to my recent post, "Four Signs You Are in a Dead-End Relationship."

My relationship coaching clients tell me stories of being treated poorly, ignored, or abandoned. I hear about them being emotionally mistreated or even abused.  I coach many as well on how to handle those cruel, "hot and cold," "into you then not into you," soul-wrenching, nonsensical head games.

No one should accept being denigrated, ignored, subjected to lack of appreciation, deprived of a sex life, or repeatedly have to contend problematic, immature behavior from a so-called "intimate partner." I am all for trying to save relationships, but in the face of repeated hurts and insensitivity, it may be best to move on.

If you really want out of your toxic relationship, follow these four steps:

1. Step Up and Be Willing to Take Some Pain

That's right. It's going to hurt. You will get over it (and if you follow the next three steps then the hurt will end sooner than later) but it will hurt. Why will it hurt? Because you will likely have thoughts and feelings such as:

  • "I love him!" But does he really love you—in a healthy way? Does he understand (this is just as important as love) who you are? 
  • "But, I'll miss her." But does missing her mean she is a healthy choice for you? Even if at times it felt good to be with her, is she good to you and for you?
  • "What if he gets it together after we are done and then he meets someone else? Then I'll really miss out." But based on his past behavior and the unhealthy pattern you've had together, how likely is it that he will change in ways that are healthy for you? Most of us are fundamentally who we are, at least for the most part. Maybe someone else will put up with his narcissism but do you really want to subject yourself to it?

Once you commit internally, don’t question yourself. Don’t re-evaluate your decision. If you do doubt yourself, then you will go on numbing your pain by going back to him for unsustainable "feel good" make-up sessions. You know that is a crazy rollercoaster ride as he will shift back to his problematic behaviors. 

2. Disconnect and Be Done

Stop all possible contact. Do it face to face, if you can. If you really want out and to be done, then no contact with your about-to-be ex needs to be very tightly managed with these do's and don'ts:

  • Do not write "Good night, I miss you too" texts after she texts you telling you she misses you.  
  • Do not accept phone calls or FaceTime requests. 
  • Do remove all social media connections possible.
  • Don't break stride if you live or work close and see each other. Be cordial but don't reconnect. This means don't stop and talk and don't reengage in any way. 
  • Don't respond to any manufactured, manipulative crises she sends your way to lure you back.
  • Do remind yourself that it takes self-awareness and guts to leave a dead-end relationship and give yourself credit for doing so.

3. Have a Stay-Strong Mantra

Julie, a 34-year-old client of mine, tried to leave a relationship with a man who was highly manipulative and emotionally abusive. Each time she attempted to leave, he showed her remorse and coaxed her back with his charming, fleetingly generous, and seductive displays. This was maddening for Julie who felt demoralized each time after not being able to extricate herself from this coercive, destructive cycle. 

To help Julie begin to break free, she came up with a phrase, a mantra of sorts, that she repeatedly told herself: "He may be good for someone else, but he is a wrecking ball for me." Julie paired this mantra with a visualization of a big crane swinging a wrecking ball every time she thought of him or saw him. 

4. Keep Knowing Your Value

Feel good about who you are, how you have grown, and what you offer in your personal and professional relationships. Julie realized that knowing her value meant putting her emotional health first.

Have compassion for yourself if you want to go back into your toxic relationship. It's normal to miss your ex, Stay mindful, however, that missing times that felt good does not mean that he was, or is, good for you. If you have trouble remembering your own value, then think about what you would say to a family member or close friend who wanted to return to a toxic relationship. Thinking about how you may value or advise someone else can help you treasure yourself and to move on. 

Many people don't handle breakups well. But by using the above strategies that work very well for my relationship coaching clients, you now can be someone who leaves a dead-end relationship with strength, clarity, and dignity.

For more, visit drjeffonline.com.