7 Ways to Avoid a Toxic Relationship

7 Ways to Avoid a Toxic Relationship September 12, 2018

Dear Terry,

My husband and I have been married for six years. When we started dating, it was like fireworks going off every time we were together. We could not keep our hands off of each other. In the past three years, things have really soured between us and I am no longer in love with him.  His business went belly up a few years ago and that’s when he just stopped caring about everything, especially me.

Prior to losing his business, we had problems because my husband worked too much and ignored me at home saying he was tired. Things are much worse now. I have to make an appointment to see him but half of those are not kept. He lies about where he is or where he has been. I am so heart broken and he just goes on with his same daily routine. I don’t know if he has a girlfriend but he would probably deny it. I don’t know how to leave but I do think it wouldn’t come as a surprise to our kids because their dad is never home and they either see us arguing or living separate lives.

Please tell me if my marriage is worth saving!



Dear Sabrina,

Hello. I understand your situation and believe a counselor might be able to help you. This is a common, complicated situation and should not be taken lightly or quickly. You can get a referral from friends or your physician. You should take it slow and speak to a professional counselor in person. But I would consider marriage counseling first if you have not tried it and you are both willing to attend.

If your husband is unwilling to participate in couples counseling, you should consider going by yourself to get a better perspective on your life and clarity about your future. That being said, you deserve to be loved and respected and to live a life with some joy and appreciation from a partner.

Letting go of toxic relationships is never easy. Yet with self-awareness and tools, you can begin to value yourself enough to set better boundaries with your husband if you choose to stay married. And it is possible to end a relationship or marriage that is self-defeating, abusive, or self-destructive and to thrive with support from others and improved self-esteem.

Before you can begin to build successful relationships, you must have healthy self-esteem – which means believing in yourself. One of the key things to consider is: how do you treat yourself? No one will treat you with respect if you devalue yourself. You must rid yourself of self-defeating thoughts such as “I’m stupid” or “No one will ever love me” if you want to build relationships based on love, trust, and intimacy.

If your romantic relationship or marriage brings out your insecurities and causes you to mistrust your own judgment this relationship may not be the best one for you. Many people become involved or even obsessed with the wrong partner – someone who is emotionally unavailable, romantically involved with other partners, addicted to substances – or who cannot love them back.

Many people who are in unhealthy relationships ask themselves “Why do I stay with a partner who treats me poorly? Or, “How can I be sure to recognize destructive patterns in relationships and take steps to change them?”

7 ways to avoid a toxic relationship and have a healthy partnership:

  1. Increase self-awareness about the choices you make in relationships. For instance, many people settle for relationships that are wrong for them because they fear being single. Women are especially likely to feel stigma when they are not part of a couple.
  2. Give thought to your deal breakers. According to Huffington Post Divorce editor, Brittany Wong, it’s important to ask yourself “What are your deal breakers – the laundry list of things you simply won’t tolerate in someone you’re thinking of getting serious with?” Try making a list of at least ten characteristics that are essential to you in a partner such as being active or affectionate.
  3. Don’t settle for less than you deserve. When you compromise too many of the values that are important to you, these relationships usually fail. Focus on your deal breakers and pick a partner who is someone who you can share a life with and deepen your love with over time.
  4. Set an expectation of mutual respect. You can accept, admire, and respect each other for who you are. If you don’t have respect for your partner, it will eat away at chemistry until you have nothing left. A partner who truly cares about you is a boost to your self-esteem. He or she values you, gives you compliments, and encourages you to do things that are in your best interest.
  5. Notice if your partner keeps his/her agreements. Are they someone who you can trust because they demonstrate consistency between their words and actions? When someone is interested in you, they’ll keep their agreements.
  6. Seek a partner who you have both chemistry and compatibility with. Even if you meet someone who is not a heart-throb, be patient and see if your attraction grows over time. Look for qualities such as compassion, generosity, and consideration because these are characteristics that describe someone who is a dynamite long-term partner.
  7. Don’t compromise your values. Figure out your core beliefs and stand by them. Ask for what you need and speak up when something bothers you.

The best partner will compliment you and bring out your very best. When you are with him or her, you will begin to see untapped possibilities within yourself and in the world. Author Jill P. Weber writes: “The more you view others’ mistreatment of you as something you have the ability to fix, tweak, or amend, the harder it is to develop a positive sense of yourself. Seeing yourself exclusively from the eyes of others disconnects you from the day-to-day, moment to moment experience of your life.”

Follow Terry on Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website.

I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question here. Thanks! Terry 


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