A toxic relationship can set you back years if you let it.
Your self-esteem will be blown to bits, your mind will be in a perpetual state of confusion, and you’ll begin to doubt whether you have the strength or capacity to ever love again.
You’ll feel hopeless–marooned on an island of despair with no reason to believe you’ll ever leave.
What’s wrong with me? You’ll ask yourself. Where did everything go so wrong? Is my judgment really so bad that the one person I specifically chose to love has left me more broken than ever before?
If you feel this way now, be reassured, you are not alone. During my ten-plus years as a men’s coach, I’ve seen millions of men go through the same terrible experiences and emerge stronger than before.
Finding love after a toxic relationship can be a trying process, but if you know how to go about it, it can be an extremely successful venture.
Oftentimes the most valuable lessons come from the most painful teachers.
As long as you keep this in mind, you can turn even the most unhealthy relationship into nothing more than a collection of painful memories and invaluable life lessons.
How to Start Dating After a Toxic Relationship
So your toxic relationship has finally come to an end and you’re wondering what to do now.
In a fantasy world, an end to this relationship would mean an end to your misery as well. But, unfortunately, we don’t live in this world and toxic relationships leave in their wake deep and long-lasting wounds whose only cure is time.
But how much time? When do you start dating after a toxic relationship? How do you know you won’t make the same mistake again?
You’ve emerged from this pool of toxic chemicals and you’re in desperate need of something pure and refreshing to clean yourself. What a pity it would be to, in your desperation, plunge eagerly into yet another pool of toxic chemicals.
Many men look for one answer to the host of questions that follow the conclusion of a toxic relationship. The truth is, there really is no one answer to any of these questions.
There is no one way to go about healing from an abusive relationship–no magic number of days post break-up to date, dates per month to go on, or specific morning affirmations to heal your heart and guarantee flawless future relationships.
Everything depends on your specific relationship, your personality, and if you know how to handle a controlling partner and the resultant emotional turmoil.
In this guide, we will delve into the art of healing from toxic relationships, discuss the mending of your low self-esteem, and help you find a way back into normal life following such a traumatic experience.
Be warned, the process will not be easy. As in anything concerning relationships, things are complicated.
Wounds need time to heal and smacking a bandaid on top and acting like it’s all better is not the answer. You’ll have to wade through a ton of heartbreak, a healthy load of self-reflection, and more regret than you would like.
Healing from a toxic relationship is an art: it takes time, dedication, and oftentimes a healthy sprinkling of creativity.
The healing process usually has three steps: reflection, acceptance, and moving on. To do these three things successfully, you need three more things: time, a decently functioning brain, and a good base of support. Your being here is indicative that you have at least two of these three, so it’s a good start.
Here are five keys to healing from a toxic relationship of any sort.
1. Give Yourself Time and Let Yourself Hurt
Pain is life’s greatest teacher, but like any teacher, it needs time to teach its lessons.
Allowing yourself time to heal and process what you have just gone through is the most important step in getting over past relationships.
So many men, in a desperate attempt to flee the excruciating pain and fill the hole left in their chest, proceed immediately into a rebound relationship. This second relationship usually just sinks them deeper into their pit of misery.
Don’t let this be you. Take time to yourself to get a solid sense of your situation and who you are as a person. Let your self-esteem heal, do things to increase your self-confidence, and do everything you can to prepare yourself for your next relationship.
The dating world will always be waiting with open arms. Wisdom is knowing when to run eagerly to this embrace and when to tend to your own feelings.
The healing process doesn’t need to be complex, but it will always be painful. Having the balls to look in the mirror and acknowledge the existence of your wounds is the part that many men miss.
Giving yourself time and letting yourself hurt is the best thing you can do to guarantee a deeper connection and a healthy relationship with a future partner.
2. See Where Things Went Wrong
Entering into a new relationship without having fully understood where the other went wrong is one of the most stupid things you can do.
If your car catches on fire one day while you’re driving it down the road, what do you do? One thing you don’t do is put out the fire and hop back in and start driving it down the road again.
Part of healing is figuring out where things got screwed up to begin with. What is it you’re going to avoid in the future? What personality types or characteristics of other people don’t fit well with you?
You don’t want to waste your time skipping around the dating pool from abusive relationship to abusive relationship (trust me, I’ve done it).
3. Rebuild Yourself
If your toxic relationship was like most, there’s a good chance your insides are a mess.
Before even thinking about seeking out a new person, you need to tend to your own feelings and emotions.
Here are four great ways to rebuild yourself:
- Start living a structured life again: oftentimes toxic relationships will sap all of our emotional energy and destroy any structure of our lives. To rebuild yourself, you need to give your life structure again. Start going to bed early and waking up early, schedule exercise intentionally and non-negotiably into your day, and set aside time for leisure activity. It’s all a part of healing.
- Reconnect with friends and family: a toxic partner will often separate you from your family (intentionally or not). When the relationship has finally ended, one of the best ways to “re-find” yourself is to get back in touch with your friends and family. This will help you reconnect with old feelings of security and contentment with life and help you assure yourself that you are okay and the world isn’t ending.
- Rediscover old hobbies: do things that once made you happy because the likelihood is you haven’t changed much and they’ll make you happy again. When we are put in environments of stress and discomfort, we often begin to doubt the existence of joy. We stop doing things that we once enjoyed because we doubt their ability to bring us joy. Give old hobbies a go and you’ll find that you like them just as much as you remember.
- Take intentional time for yourself: this is one of the most important ones. After so much mental turmoil and likely a load of brainwashing and emotional abuse, men don’t know who they are anymore. You MUST take intentional time to yourself to think about your life, your goals for the future, and who you know you are.
4. Define the Kind of Relationship you are Looking for
What is the difference between healthy relationships and unhealthy relationships? What does a healthy relationship look like to you? What are you looking for in a woman?
You probably have some decent ideas as to the answer to these questions now that you’ve been to hell and back.
Having these answers in the vague extremities of your mind, however, is different than having them at the forefront of conscious thought.
To prepare yourself for a successful next relationship, you need to come up with some clear goals and expectations for yourself and your future partner.
They need to be stated and apparent to you in some form or fashion: this could mean you write them down, tell them to a friend, or describe them to a men’s coach.
While you won’t be doomed without this list, many men are surprised by how easily they stumble into the same traps they have just climbed out of. Having this list of intentional goals and expectations helps you avoid this.
5. Get Outside Help
Men can’t do it alone. No matter how independent you think you are or how sure you are that you’ve learned your lesson from your past relationship, getting outside help is a must.
While close friends and family are going to be extremely helpful during this time, their advice can only go so far. As well-meaning as they may be, they’ll often give you one-sided, experience-based advice.
Things like, “Well, when grandma broke up with me that first time…”, or “my ex did the same thing, bro. What you need to do is…”
You get the picture.
The advice and research-based instructions of an experienced men’s dating coach or therapist are what you need during this time.
Have the foresight and self-love to make this investment for your future relationships.
After you’ve allowed your wounds the necessary time to heal, it’s time to get back into the dating pool.
As far as when the right time is or how you know when you’re ready, there really is no one answer as said above. While you should never rush it, one important thing to note is that it is possible to go too slow.
Many men, afraid of breaking their already weakened hearts, will wait years to start dating again (or never date at all). This will do more damage than it will good.
It’s going to take a bit of a leap of faith, but when you do take it, here are a few things to keep in mind:
6. Go Slow
For some reason, men are more likely to disregard their feelings than women.
When reentering the dating world, you must keep in mind that you are extremely sensitive during this time. You need to treat your own heart as well as you would treat the heart of someone you love.
Moving slowly in everything you do during this time is the best way to keep your heart safe from unnecessary pain.
What exactly does it mean to go slow in the dating world:
- don’t proceed into the dating world too quickly
- don’t get serious with someone without enough time
- don’t take a relationship sexual too quickly
- don’t get ahead of yourself with too many dates (in desperate attempts to find someone better)
- be okay with not finding “the right person” right away (sometimes it takes years)
Following these five points will help you avoid diving into that toxic pool for a painful second time.
7. Choose Differently
Part of the healing process we discussed above was creating a list of goals for yourself and attributes you’d like to find in a potential woman. Now, it’s time to use that list.
Humans are strange beings and our minds and instincts work in ways that we cannot understand. An abused child is likely to abuse their own children when they get older. The child of an alcoholic, despite their acute awareness of the horrors of alcoholism, is one of the most likely people to become an alcoholic.
You’d think it’d be the easiest thing in the world to avoid the abusive traits of your ex, but research shows that a man who leaves an abusive partner is likely to turn around and start a relationship with another with the same characteristics.
To end up with a new partner who is different, you must act intentionally.
8. Talk about Your Past
Once a new relationship is picking up speed and you are starting to be more vulnerable, be open about your past with your toxic partner.
Besides being a good way for the two of you to begin to trust each other, this is a necessary step in preparing for your next relationship. Your new partner will know more about your personality and what to avoid to get along with you.
This also provides an open floor for them to talk about their past relationships and for the two of you to discuss potential future difficulties.
Have they been in a toxic relationship as well? How did it pan out? These are just some of the key questions to ask a new partner in a relationship.
9. Don’t Lose Sight of Your Feelings (Don’t Give up on Love)
In their knee-knocking fear of screwing up again, many men approach their next journey into the dating world with cold sterility.
They have been hardened by the storms of life and they know they won’t make the same mistakes again. But, in their desperation to avoid repeating the pain, they forget about love entirely.
They forget about how important a role feelings and emotions play in the selection of a partner. They patrol the ranks of potential candidates with a hard hat and a clipboard, crossing names off the list based on barely perceptible red flags and possible weaknesses.
While having a list and maintaining strict standards is a must, don’t forget that your feelings will always play a part in who you’re with.
If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you feel pretty awful right now. While this pain will never have a chance to heal without time, you can do a number of things to prepare yourself for a brighter future.
The first thing you should do is reassure yourself that everything is going to be alright. Millions of men have gone through what you just went through or are going through–felt the same feelings, had the same anger at themselves, dealt with the same fear of the future–and have found a way into thriving, healthy relationships.
Next, give yourself time. Let yourself feel the pain. Embrace a time of self-reflection. Figure out where everything went wrong and how you’re going to avoid it in the future. Find a mentor or some form of outside support, give yourself a chance to rebuild, and find what sort of person you are looking for in the future.
When it’s time, and you’re ready to take that step into the dating world once again, take it. Move slowly, but take that step.
If you are suffering after a hard breakup, are on the brink of breaking up, or are just looking to find love, we have what you need. Here at knowledge for men, we have a team of relationship experts ready to face your problem with you.
We have at our disposal a dozen of the best men’s coaches on the planet. These men are experts at taking broken situations like your own and making them whole. They have taken shattered men from the darkest pits of insecurity and self-incrimination and helped them find that first foothold to begin their ascent to a full life once again.
Our programs are trying and painful and you shouldn’t want it any other way–any journey of such great magnitude will have its share of trials and tribulations.