How to Break Free From a Toxic Relationship Without Feeling Guilty

Jennifer McDougall
6 min readSep 16, 2022

Yes, toxic relationships are a thing. They’re not fun and not easy, but they happen. And if you’ve found yourself in one, it’s essential to know that there are ways out of them without feeling guilty about doing what’s best for yourself.

Photo by Courtney Clayton on Unsplash

Pay attention to the story you tell yourself about why you’re with this person.

One of the most challenging things about breaking free from a toxic relationship is how it can leave you feeling selfish and guilty. “But they’re the one who keeps me up at night,” you might think. “They make me feel like my life isn’t worth living without them.” These thoughts are part of what psychologists call “storytelling.”

Your story about why you’re with this person or maintaining the connection to them may be positive or negative: You might tell yourself that this person makes you happy; or that if you don’t stay with them, no one else will ever love or accept you; or that no one else could ever understand your pain as they do — the list goes on. But whatever form these stories take, they’re more often than not just stories we’ve told ourselves: They aren’t necessarily true! And even if they are confirmed in some sense, why should we let ourselves suffer when there’s another option?

Define what self-respect means to you, and then follow through with it.

Self-respect is the ability to know and honor your own truth. It’s the ability to say no to things you know in your heart are wrong, even when everyone else says yes. And it’s the ability to say yes to something you know in your heart is right, even when everyone else says no. When you have self-respect, you can break free from a toxic relationship without feeling guilty because it’s not just about honoring yourself — it’s about doing what is best for both of you.

Make a plan for how you will exit your toxic relationship and follow through with it.

If you have a toxic relationship, it’s time to get out. Suppose you feel trapped in your relationship and unable or unwilling to leave on your own; set up a meeting with a therapist. A…

Jennifer McDougall

Passionate Lifestyle and Wellness Advocate | Dedicated to Sharing Self-Improvement Insights | Creator and Host of 'Life Refined'