“Like arsenic, toxic people will slowly kill you. They kill your positive spirit and play with your mind and emotions. The only cure is to let them go.” ~Dennisse Lisseth
Healing from a toxic relationship seems like an impossible goal for many survivors of narcissistic abuse, and this is true for a number of reasons. This healing guide offers not only solutions but also resources to help you learn not only how to heal from a toxic relationship, but why you were there in the first place. Plus, you’ll learn how you can level up your life after a toxic relationship and begin to evolve into the person you’ve always wanted to be.
Before we begin to cover how to heal from a toxic relationship, please let me remind you that you are not alone. As a survivor of narcissistic abuse and a certified life coach myself, I have helped literally thousands of survivors of toxic relationships to discover, understand and overcome them. You can do this too.
Do I need to leave a toxic relationship in order to heal?
This won’t be a popular answer, but it’s the truth. Ideally, to heal, you need to separate yourself from the toxic person. I know it’s scary and emotionally draining to even think about it, so start with practical planning – especially if going no contact with this person means you are changing your living situation (as in, if it’s your partner or spouse or someone else you live with). Think about how you’ll manage financially, where you’ll go and who might help to support you in some way. Keep your emotions at bay during planning, and don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you. Getting out of the relationship is one of the most important things you can do to begin to heal. You can download my free PLAN (Preparing to Leave a Narcissist) resources right here. If you haven’t left yet, please read this article to get some encouragement and to get your head in the right place.
Why is it so hard to leave a toxic relationship?
I know it’s not easy, trust me. There are a number of reasons you’re struggling, the most obvious of which is trauma bonding with your abuser. Plus, after the months or years of abuse you’ve suffered, your self-esteem has really taken a beating. Read this to find out how to deal when a toxic relationship has ruined your self-esteem. And this article will help you understand in more depth why it’s so hard to leave and how you can get past that feeling of helplessness.
Will the narcissist come back to me after the toxic relationship?
You might also wonder if the narcissist misses you. Sadly, in most cases, the narcissist does attempt to reconcile at least once. We call this “hoovering” because it’s what they do when they want to suck you back into the toxic relationship. It can be hard to resist, but you have to do it if you’re going to get and stay happy and safe. In a few cases, the narcissist won’t come back, but it’s rare. They may come back anywhere from a few hours to decades later.
What are the first steps to healing from the toxic relationship once it has ended?
Start with a little self-care. You need time to just breathe at first – you don’t need to rush it. Then, figure out what stage of recovery you’re currently in – start with the DUO Stages of Recovery Test. Don’t forget to work on beefing up your inner strength once the relationship ends. Don’t forget to take care of your inner child, too. That’s going to be really important if you’re going to resist the hoovering that will inevitably follow the end of a toxic relationship.
How do I deal with the narcissist spreading rumors and lies about me?
We call that a smear campaign, and you might be surprised when I tell you how to deal. Read this to learn all about the psychology of a smear campaign – why the narcissist does this and how you can deal with it from your end.
Why me? I am smart and capable but for some reason, I still fell for the narcissist. What did I do to deserve a toxic relationship?
You didn’t deserve it. Know that. And you’re not alone – some of the most intelligent, successful and attractive people I’ve met have fallen victim to narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships. It happens to the best of us. However, there are certain things a toxic person looks for in a partner – check out this page. And there are things you can do to change your future and keep it free of toxic people. It all starts within yourself – you’ve got to accept, love and respect yourself enough to set boundaries and to stop tolerating toxic behavior.
Now that I’ve left the toxic relationship, I cannot seem to function like a normal person. How do I get through this?
One breath at a time. This is one of the hardest parts of this process. Healing seems so far away right now that you can barely even imagine what that might look like. This is a really tender and emotional time, so the first thing a lot of survivors do is to self-isolate. Take some time to mourn the relationship, if you need it. Remember that this is a process and that healing won’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself and if you need to take a little time for yourself, go ahead and do it. If you need time with friends, arrange that too. You might be dealing with depression – visit this page to get help with depression. Get free support from one of our online narcissistic abuse recovery support groups.
I feel like I want to die. How do I deal with feeling suicidal after a toxic relationship?
Self-isolation and mourning the relationship can be okay for a short time unless you’re in such a state that you might be a danger to yourself. Please note: I am not a doctor and I do not personally know your story. I cannot offer any medical or health advice, so if you have any doubt at all that you will be safe, you MUST contact your doctor or go immediately to the nearest emergency room. Even if you aren’t sure, please go see your doctor or other medical professional and get checked out, just to be safe. Be honest with your healthcare provider and let them know that you’re worried you might be a danger to yourself. See this page for suicide prevention resources and ways you can get help right now.
How do I stop hurting and start healing after a toxic relationship?
I know your heart hurts. And you feel lost, confused, angry and even rejected (and this is true even when YOU are the one to end the relationship). First, you need to put things in perspective. Start by reading this article that offers 10 ways to start healing faster. If you were the one who was discarded, read this.
My ex has already moved on to a new relationship. It’s killing me! How do I deal with this?
First, remember that narcissistic abuse is cyclical. That means that your ex is likely just starting the cycle again with a new person – so if the relationship is new, they are still in the idealization or love bombing phase. The new source of narcissistic supply won’t get a better deal than you – not for long anyway. Try to keep this in mind. And despite the urge to do it, avoid reaching out to the new supply to explain what they’re getting themselves into. You aren’t ethically obligated, and they won’t be able to hear you anyway, most likely. Because they’re in the love-bombing phase, they won’t believe you and will likely believe that you’re just as crazy as the narcissist probably already told them. Learn the truth about the narcissist’s new relationship.
How do I deal with feeling so much anger after the toxic relationship ends?
Anger in some cases can be helpful in propelling you forward – especially when you still haven’t left the relationship yet. But at some point, it can begin to become toxic for you – and that’s when you need to let it go. Read this article to determine whether your anger is helpful or harmful and learn how to let go of it when it’s time.
Being single feels weird to me, but I am not ready for a new relationship yet. What should I do?
I say you start here by learning to embrace the single life. There are SO many good reasons to love being single. Whatever you do, avoid jumping into a new relationship too quickly. That will set you up for a painful failure and increases the risk of getting into another toxic relationship. Take your time and heal first – there is no reason to get yourself stuck with another narcissist. And honestly, you are less likely to be an ideal partner if you get into a new relationship too soon – you may end up sabotaging it without even realizing it.
I feel like I’m walking around in some kind of fog. What is this and how can I deal with it?
This is common for people who have dealt with codependency in toxic relationships. You might be dealing with brain fog or dissociation, a common side-effect of C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder). Use mindfulness exercises and practices such as the ones shared in this article to find your way out of the fog.
Why do I feel so confused all the time?
Like brain fog, feeling confused or unable to think straight can be a normal thing for survivors of toxic relationships. Here are some reasons you might feel so confused all the time as you’re trying to heal from a toxic relationship.
I can’t leave the house anymore. I don’t want to get out of bed. How do I stop being lazy and start wanting to live again?
You’re not alone. Many survivors of narcissistic abuse find themselves feeling just like this when they leave a toxic relationship (and often, while they’re still in it!). Social anxiety disorder (SAD) can be a side effect of C-PTSD. These issues along with a number of other factors will cause you to not want to leave the house – and there are lots of things you can do to get unstuck. In the short term, try things like pattern interrupts and baby steps to get you moving in the right direction.
My whole life seems to be a cluttered mess! Is this related to my toxic relationship?
Actually, yes, it’s possible that a cluttered home (and mind) could be a direct result of your mental state during and after a toxic relationship. Even Oprah Winfrey has talked about this before, as have many therapists and researchers. We know that a cluttered environment can increase anxiety and stress as well. Start changing that by decluttering your physical space and this can often sort of lead you to a more organized, less scattered mind in the process.
I feel like I’ve lost myself. How do I figure out who I am after a toxic relationship?
You might be surprised to know that nearly every survivor has some sort of existential crisis during recovery from a toxic relationship. Start by doing some soul-searching. Think about who you were before and who you’d like to be. Read this to start finding yourself again and figure out who you want to be after the toxic relationship. Reexamine your personal beliefs and redefine them based on who you are today and who you wnat to be. While you’re at it, learn some new ways to level up your life. And start thinking about how you want your life to look – what you want to change, and what you don’t. Think about what makes you passionate and consider starting a project to keep your head in the game (and your mind off the narcissist). And let go of limiting beliefs that are holding you back.
How do I let go of the shame I feel after this toxic relationship?
Feeling shame is perfectly normal for survivors of toxic relationships, but it shouldn’t be acceptable. YOU aren’t the one who should feel shameful here. The narcissist may have berated, belittled and humiliated you on a regular basis, and you can bet that they feel NO remorse for it. Even though you’re not perfect and even though you likely recognize and take credit for your part in the relationship, you were not the abuser and you don’t need to feel any shame for what you’ve experienced. Take the time you need to recognize this completely so that you can release the shame and be proud of yourself for doing the hard work of healing. This resource will help you start to let go of the shame, fear and misery so you can reclaim your power and start living again.
How do I start living again, once I get past the initial shock after the relationship ends?
First, you’ve got to understand that big secret of narcissistic abuse recovery. Realize that you might begin to feel lonely around now, and this can be a dangerous time for you if the narcissist is trying to get you back. It’s especially important that you get involved with healthy people – at least on some level – and that you also understand that it’s okay to want to be alone sometimes. Try using my life reset button to start feeling alive again. Sometimes, if you sort of “un**** yourself, you can just start living again!
How will I know when I’ve started to heal after a toxic relationship?
I understand that it can be confusing, and you should probably know that it won’t be an overnight shift. Healing after a toxic relationship involves a slow evolution from victim to survivor to thriver. Check out this page to find out if you’re showing signs of healing.
How can I get help with how to heal after a toxic relationship?
We always suggest that you begin with a visit to your doctor or another medical professional that you trust. Assuming you’re otherwise healthy, QueenBeeing.com offers everything you need for self-help on how to heal from toxic relationships and narcissistic abuse on your own. You can also read a number of books that will help you to recover – here’s a list of our favorites. Remember too that it will take time to heal from a toxic relationship. We also offer other resources such as coaching, small group coaching and support, free online support groups, courses and more. Check out our services page right here, visit our freebies center or take the quiz below.
Video playlist on healing after narcissistic abuse.
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.