Dating after a toxic relationship

Dealing with the aftermath of a toxic relationship can be tough. How can you move on in the best, most healthy way? Here's The Mix's guide to dating after a toxic relationship.

You deserve to be treated like stardust.

Firstly, you are awesome. You’re out of that horrible relationship. Whether that was your choice or theirs, it’s over and you’re so damn brave for being here wanting to move on. That’s huge. You’re great.

A toxic relationship can mean many things, from physical abuse to subtle unhealthy behaviours, but the outcome is often the same. You can feel demoralised, low, taken advantage of, not good enough, and scared of future relationships – romantic or otherwise.

If you’re in this boat, don’t feel like you have to get out of it any time soon. Your recovery from this must be done at your own pace.

If you want to try and move forward, but are worried about how to do so, you can follow these tips to make sure you’re safe, well, and in control.

Love yourself first

Do you feel rubbish? Clothes feel wrong, the way you walk doesn’t feel right, and you’re beating yourself up for your choices? Yeah, toxic relationships can do that.

So before you get back on the dating bandwagon, date yourself first. Relearn (or just learn) how to appreciate your wonderful self. You don’t have to buy new clothes or get a fancy haircut. Just spend time by yourself, enjoying your own company.

It’s a lot easier to love and be loved when you know what it’s like to love yourself first.

Build non-sexual and non-romantic relationships

A toxic relationship may not just affect new romantic relationships – it could affect friendships and relationships with your family too. It might be easier to build on these before re-entering the dating world, so spend quality time with friends and family to really know what a good relationship is.

Have a think. Do they value you? How do you feel around them? Can you work through issues together? What’s the best way someone can show you affection? Being comfortable with these relationships will ensure you’re more confident when you start a more intimate relationship.

Take things slow, at your own pace

Common abusive behaviour includes making you think you’re worthless and useless. This can make you feel like you need validation constantly and aren’t strong enough to be on your own.

It’s all rubbish, but this manipulative, emotionally abusive behaviour can’t be underestimated. Despite wanting out of your toxic relationship, being on your own can seem scary, making you immediately want to get with someone else.

But slow down. You don’t need a relationship to prove your self-worth. You are enough. You deserve only the best from someone who will enhance your whole self rather than make up for it.

Be as open as you feel you can be

It’s great to be open and honest about your thoughts and feelings. Talking to friends, family, or a new partner about your past could help you to feel more in control, and them to know how they can best support you.

But, sometimes, talking about your experiences and innermost feelings can leave you feeling vulnerable and exposed so don’t discuss anything because you feel you should. Only share what you feel comfortable sharing, when you feel comfortable sharing it.

Your friends and family, and any new partners should listen and support you rather than judge and question you. There is no right time to share, so don’t rush anything and have it all tumbling out when you’re not in the best space to share that information.

Keep the conversation going

When, or if, you do feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and feelings, whether they’re about the past or not, that’s great. That’s a big step. And it’s something to try to keep doing.

A healthy relationship is based on healthy communication. If you’re not happy about something, say so. If a behaviour is troubling you, mention it. Nip it in the bud. If you’re having a bad day then let your friends, family, or new partner know. You don’t have to talk about it but they can still support and comfort you.

When it comes to communication, you don’t have to delve into your past, but you can be open about what you want and need in the present.

Believe you are worth the best 

It’s as simple as that, but also not. It can take a while to build your self-worth back up, but doing so is essential to move on and create new, better, healthier relationships. Don’t just settle. You did not deserve to be treated badly and should have all the love in the world.

Remember that there is no one right way to move forward after a bad experience, and it’s much better to focus on your wants and feelings rather than trying to find the perfect advice. The only real advice is to do what’s most comfortable for you. Don’t try to meet any expectation.

If you need more support, you can speak to:

  • Our support team here at The Mix
  • Relate, the charity for all things relationships
  • Childline, if you’re under 18

Next Steps

  • Relate is an affordable relationship and sex counselling service. 0300 100 1234
  • Rape Crisis offers support and advice to victims of rape and sexual assault, no matter how long ago the attack was. 0808 802 99 99
  • You can talk to Childline about anything. Call them for free on 0800 1111 or visit their website.
  • Do you want to understand your relationship better? Love Smart helps you work it all out.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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Updated on 20-Apr-2017