Dating after a toxic relationship

If Sex and the City taught us anything, surely it is that we all have an ex.

I only have two. One I am friends with, the other one not so much. 

Have you ever felt something is wrong but can’t put your finger on it? Been in a relationship with extremely high highs and awfully low lows? That’s a toxic relationship. If you’re nodding, presumably that is because you have been in one. The question is though, what happens after? When you’ve dried the tears, are no longer feeling depleted and your Zumba class has kicked you right back into gear—all the way into the arms of a new partner?

Coming out of a toxic relationship is hard. However, it can be even tougher to navigate a new relationship when your previous was so poisonous. Toxicity can come in all forms: physical abuse, lying, gossip and internal turmoil. Worse than that, a toxic relationship can lead to severe mental health issues and low self-esteem. Traits that aren’t healthy or beneficial for a new relationship. “A toxic relationship is one that adversely impacts a person’s health and well-being,” says Kelly Campbell, PhD, associate professor of psychology at California State University, San Bernardino.

Quite rightly, even when you have met a wonderful new someone, your heart is still going to be vulnerable. The experience of being with someone who is actually good might feel completely foreign to you, which is why I am sharing my best tips for you to fully indulge in a new relationship after such a yucky one.

Take your heart back

I once believed that after every breakup, you leave a piece of you with that other person. Don’t let your previous partner own even a crumb of your heart. Over time the emptiness with heal and will be full of joy again. Give yourself the permission to take your heart back in its entirety. Don’t let it serve as an anchor, know that your heart is yours and will forever be yours.

Never be afraid of what you deserve

Being ignored and name-called? Those days are over. Just because you have been treated badly in the past, doesn’t mean that you deserved it or that it should happen again. Learn to value yourself and know what you deserve. Avoid negative self-talk and take care of yourself, you deserve someone fantastic so when a special person comes along, don’t ever think it’s too good to be true.

Don’t read too much into things

Dating after a toxic relationship can leave you feeling disorientated and confused. Don’t overanalyse your new partner’s habits or traits– spending time with friends might mean exactly that, it doesn’t mean they are cheating. Learn to build trust again, slowly but surely. It can be easy to think all people are like your ex, but that’s simply not true.

Establish a code of conduct

If you were yelled at in your toxic relationship, open up to your new partner about it and establish a code of conduct. Explain that you won’t tolerate shouting and instead will allow three voices- quiet, normal and frustration. Shouting in itself can have a huge impact on people mentally and if your new partner is so great, they will totally understand. It might take time to fully let go of your former partner’s behaviour but the more you talk about it, the more at ease you will feel. For me personally, a code of conduct has worked. I know my new partner understands where I am coming from and wants to help.

Be open

Be honest with your new significant other about your toxic relationship. Not only will they try and understand but will try to help you move on. Honesty is the best policy so don’t be afraid of speaking up. Toxic relationships can be hard to endure. Rather than repeat the pattern, be open about your former partner about what kind of relationship you are looking for going forward. For those struggling, love, kindness and respect are the three qualities you should strive for post-toxic relationship.

Breathe between the new whirlwind of emotions

Going from a toxic relationship to a great one, you are going to experience a roller-coater of emotions. You will be constantly waiting for them to drop the good guy/girl act, or leave without notice because that’s what your heart is used to. One minute you might feel fine about the new relationship, the next you may be sobbing. Both journalling and meditation can help you recognise this and so can breathing. If you start to feel anxious but know you don’t have a reason to- count to 5 and shift your brain. Think about your groceries or something entirely different.

Start to identify your past bad experience for what it really was, fake love. A good person won’t torment or hurt you. They will say what they mean, stay true and you won’t need to read between the lines. Let me know in the comments if you have been in a toxic relationship and how you moved on.

To Read Next:

5 things you should know about dating at university

How to stop being a people-pleaser

8 frugal date nights for this season

Author: Scarlett Victoria Clark

Scarlett Victoria Clark is Founder and Editor of SMART GIRL TRIBE and a multi-lingual journalist. She has also written for Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Women’s Health. When not writing she enjoys travelling and shopping for (more) heels.

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