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Safety First: Ten tips on How Best to Leave an Unhealthy Relationship

On Monday, we learned some tips to help ease the pain of breaking up. But, what if you’re not involved in the typical relationship? What if have tried walking away, only to come back; or you’ve broken up in a public place, only to end up back at your place. What if the break-up to make-up cycle seems to be a natural part of your relationship? What if you are involved in an unhealthy relationship and you need more than the standard break-tips to help you move on?

First, breathe. Many of us have found ourselves in relationships that were less than perfect. Dating isn’t an exact science and sometimes going with your gut will lead you down a path to an unhealthy relationship. The first thing you have to do in order to get the strength to get out is to identify that you are in an unhealthy relationship. It’s likely that you are in an unhealthy relationship if you notice the following traits:

Control: The classic, “do this, say this or act like this or else I’ll leave,” is a telling sign that your relationship is unhealthy. A healthy relationship doesn’t consist of demands for change, threats and intimidation in order for couples to make it work.

Trust Issues: If you cannot, or will not, trust your significant other then the relationship is doomed. Trust can be tarnished…but it can be rebuilt as well. If one or both partners isn’t willing to try to rebuild trust and instead engage in controlling tactics (i.e. spying, deceitful acts, etc) to keep their partner in line, the relationship is unhealthy.

Cycle of abuse: Abuse doesn’t have to be strictly physical in nature. If living with your significant other is akin to walking on eggshells, then you are living the cycle of abuse. Sweet gestures are often followed by tense periods of waiting for the next argument, emotional outburst or episode of cheating to occur. Once the act has occurred, the offender usually follows with apologies and bargaining for another chance. If you or your significant other engage in such acts, you are in an unhealthy relationship.

Unhealthy relationships come in many forms, but once you have identified that you are in one and want to leave there are some steps to make sure you leave for good. In addition to the three ways to identify if you are in an unhealthy relationship, here are seven steps to help you break free from it.

1) Keep a diary–This may sound juvenile, but what better way to keep your resolve once you do leave than to open up a log of events that took place during your relationship? After a break-up, we tend to romanticize the relationship, put our ex on a pedestal and wonder why we ever left. A person has the greatest risk for going back their chaotic relationship during this time. Reading over some factual things that happened during your relationship may prevent that from happening.

2) Talk with someone–Outside of family and friends, it is sometimes helpful to talk to a trained professional who can help you process the loss of your relationship. While you may know that it’s for the best, you may waver after the decision has been made. Sometimes it feels good to talk to someone without judgement about the things you struggle with since breaking off your relationship.

3) Find support–If you don’t have insurance to cover the cost of a therapist, use the Internet to help you find free, local groups with members who have experience in leaving an unhealthy relationship. There are numerous sites designed to put you in touch with others who will be more than happy to meet you where you are and help you move forward.

4) Find your weak spots–There are times when we need to do real self analysis to figure out what lead us to engage in abuse toward others or allowed others to abuse us. Identify if insecurity, family background or other issues contributed to you finding comfort in the chaos of your former relationship. Then refer to tip number three to begin to heal.

5) Cut all ties–Change everything that can give your ex leverage to draw you back in. Delete and block your ex lover from your Facebook and other social media profiles. Be sure to ask any family and friends to do the same so your ex cannot have access to your page. There are numerous ways to disconnect including blocking cell phone numbers, changing passwords to accounts your former lover had access to and so on. Gauge the intensity for such measures based on the nature of your relationship, but by all mean, cut all ties that need to be severed in order for you to move on.

6) Get help–If you are in a dangerous relationship, then professional help is a good resource to help you get out and stay out. There are victims advocacy groups with trained staff to help you navigate through such a difficult time. Don’t be afraid to use these resources. Also, if you are the abuser, there are several organizations to help you disengage in such behavior as well.

7) Live life–In the midst of breaking away from a chaotic and unhealthy relationship, the best way not to lose yourself is to continue to live your life. Only one aspect of your life, involved with another person, is over. Nurturing or rekindling friendships, taking classes or brushing up on a long overdue vacation by yourself are all ways you can live your life to fullest while moving on from an unhealthy relationship.

On Friday, we’ll discuss how to remain open to finding love after a painful or recent break-up.

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