How to End a Toxic Relationship in 5 Steps

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "No More Mr. Nice Guy" by Robert Glover. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you want to know how to end a toxic relationship? What empowering steps do you need to take to prepare yourself?

Deciding that it’s time to end a toxic relationship is hard in itself—but how can you follow through with it? The key is to prepare and empower yourself beforehand by finding a network of supportive people and reminding yourself why the relationship isn’t working.

Here’s how to end a toxic relationship in five steps.

How to End a Toxic Relationship

Many authors discuss the struggle of ending a toxic relationship, and how to go about it. In their book Attached, Amir Levine and Rachel Heller dedicate an entire chapter to ending such relationships. Like Glover, they note that we’re likely to avoid breakups at all costs because our brain anticipates pain and loneliness in the future. And when we do break up, our anxiety may cause us to suddenly forget all the red flags and “rebound” with our ex. 

So how do you mentally prepare yourself to break up for real? Here’s Levine and Heller’s advice about how to end a toxic relationship:

  1. Understand your relationship for what it really is. Reflect and ask questions like: How does your partner treat you? Are you afraid to let your family and friends witness this treatment? How does your partner behave around others compared to you? Does either of you feel compelled to spy on the other? Do you trust each other?
  2. Bolster your network of safe people before you break up. Be honest with those you trust most—let them know you’re thinking of ending things with your partner. That way, they’ll be prepared to support you when you need it most. 
  3. Do what comforts you. Whether you arrange to stay with a friend for a few nights or indulge in some post-breakup ice cream, do what makes you feel good.
  4. Don’t let guilt and shame overtake you. If you do call your ex or even go for the rebound, don’t beat yourself up about it (this will simply bring out more bad habits). In the same vein, don’t be ashamed of any of the emotions you’re feeling. Whether it’s deep pain or a sense of relief, your feelings are valid and should be acknowledged.
  5. Write down the reasons you left. If you notice yourself viewing your relationship through rose-tinted glasses, take out a piece of paper and write down why things ended. Having trouble remembering? Ask your friends and family to remind you why you left in the first place.
How to End a Toxic Relationship in 5 Steps

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Here's what you'll find in our full No More Mr. Nice Guy summary:

  • Why being a "Nice Guy" isn't actually a good thing
  • Why Nice Guys miss out on a life of self-acceptance, empowerment, and satisfaction
  • How to know if you are a Nice Guy and how to become an "Ideal Man" instead

Elizabeth Shaw

Elizabeth graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in English Literature. Growing up, she enjoyed reading fairy tales, Beatrix Potter stories, and The Wind in the Willows. As of today, her all-time favorite book is Wuthering Heights, with Jane Eyre as a close second. Elizabeth has branched out to non-fiction since graduating and particularly enjoys books relating to mindfulness, self-improvement, history, and philosophy.

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