Is it possible to fix a toxic relationship? Is it possible to repair months — or even years — of behavior that has shaken a relationship down to its very core?
I know that it seems like it would be impossible, but I believe that, yes, it is possible to fix a toxic relationship. It will, however, involve concentrated effort on both sides of the partnership.
Toxic relationships are typically defined as relationships wherein one or both people are bad or “toxic” for one another because of the behaviors they display, or where there may be abuse — either mentally, physically, or emotionally.
Recognizing what type of toxic relationship you’re in is key to understanding whether or not it can be fixed. If you and your spouse yell at one another, then you can both learn how to speak respectfully.
If there’s abuse, however, you need to get help immediately.
So if you suspect that your relationship is toxic but it can be salvaged, then it’s important to know what you need to do to heal the relationship and get the connection you’ve dreamed of.
Here are 5 steps you can take to heal a toxic relationship.
1. Acknowledge that it’s toxic.
In order to fix a toxic relationship, it is essential that both people are willing to acknowledge that it’s toxic.
In many instances, one person sees that the relationship is toxic, but the other person can’t — or won’t — see it, as well. If only one side sees how bad things are, fixing a toxic relationship will be impossible.
For instance, this might be the case if someone is in a relationship with an alcoholic narcissist.
For many years, a man treated his partner horribly. He goes off on drunken binges, disappears for weeks at a time, gaslights her when they talk, and blames her for many issues in their relationship.
His partner loves him very much, but his unwillingness to see that their relationship is toxic and that his issues are impacting the relationship in a big way, makes it so that there is no hope that things can change.
She’ll end up holding on, hoping that it does, but until he truly acknowledges that the relationship is toxic, things will just go on the way they always have.
2. Take ownership of your part of the toxicity.
An essential piece of fixing a toxic relationship is the willingness to take ownership of your piece of the toxicity.
In the case of the woman with an alcoholic narcissist for a partner, she absolutely recognizes that her behaviors contribute to the toxic relationship.
She doesn’t trust her partner, so she may get very anxious and clingy, which enables the narcissist’s behavior, since she continues to be with him and definitely gets heated during their confrontations.
Unfortunately, her partner refuses to take any ownership of their issues. He acknowledges that he drinks too much, but blames her for not being more supportive.
He says if she would stop harping and accept him as he is, everything would be fine. When he goes on a bender, he blames her clinginess for driving him away.
Because he isn’t willing to take ownership of his end of the relationship, every time they try to make change, things just stay the same. Because he not only doesn’t accept his part in the toxicity — and even blames her for most of it — fixing their relationship is just not possible.
3. Be willing to change.
For many of us, making change is really hard. You are who you are. That being said, people who are in toxic relationships need to be actively willing to make changes.
The woman above is eager to make changes. She loves her man so much and still holds on to the dream of their life together. She goes out of her way to try to do things differently.
She accepts his drinking and recognizes that he means well but can’t follow through with his intentions. She supports him when he is in a really bad place and makes sure that his children are taken care of when he’s gone.
She’s willing to change core pieces of herself, hoping to mend their relationship.
Unfortunately, her man won’t change. On good days, he recognizes that he needs to, and he may even take baby steps.
Unfortunately, those baby steps never get him anywhere. And before long, he’ll be back to his old habits — and she’ll be left holding the bag again.
If both people aren’t willing to change, it will be impossible to fix a toxic relationship.
4. Recognize that it will take time.
For many people, when they make a move to start repairing a toxic relationship, they’re at the end of their rope. They realize how bad things are and that hoping to fix things is a last-ditch effort to save the relationship.
Unfortunately, a toxic relationship cannot be changed overnight. Change takes a long time.
Furthermore, behaviors and habits that are ingrained in people and relationships are hard to break. Oftentimes, repairing a relationship involves two steps forward and one step back.
That one step back can be disheartening and lead a couple to give up fighting to fix things. Recognizing that what’s important is the two steps forward and not the one step back is key to fixing a toxic relationship.
5. Be willing to get professional help.
For many people, the prospect of getting professional help is a scary thing.
Sharing issues with a stranger, putting things out into the world that are embarrassing, worrying about being judged, all tend to steer people away from getting real help. Instead, they decide to make things work on their own.
Unfortunately, professional help is essential to help people fix a toxic relationship. There are so many elements involved in the relationship that getting an unbiased source — or someone to referee — is a key part of repairing the damage.
I do believe it’s truly possible to fix a toxic relationship.
With some concerted effort and patience from both people, change can be made and a relationship can be improved.
Couples can come back from some pretty dark places after making a decision to commit to change and working to achieve it.
So, take the step today and learn how to repair your toxic relationship to make it a truly loving one!
Mitzi Bockmann is an NYC-based certified life coach and mental health advocate. She works exclusively with women to help them to be all that they want to be in this crazy world in which we live. Contact her for help or send her an email.