How To Find The Courage To Ask For Help With A Toxic Relationship

If you are or have been in a toxic relationship, you've likely blamed yourself for your partner's behavior at some point. Often, mistreated partners tend to stay with their abusers, believing something is wrong with them. Dr. Craig Malkin, author, clinical psychologist, and lecturer for Harvard Medical School, wrote in Psychology Today, "We all inevitably turn to self-doubt when we're afraid we can't control our experience."

It's easy for others to say, "Just leave," when that could be something you struggle to do on a daily basis. You know you want to, but where do you start? It's easier said than done when there are many complex emotions involved.

After building memories together as a couple over time, it takes courage and a lot of convincing to accept that your relationship is toxic. Being part of a couple should empower you as an individual, not put your well-being in danger. Seeking help is never easy, but it's an important step to getting out of a bad situation.

Don't romanticize your relationship

The first step in finding the courage to ask for help is to accept that you're in an unhealthy relationship. Toxic relationships are heavily romanticized in the media today, and it can be easy to assume your partner's bad behavior is normal. Being fixated on finding a soulmate or the perfect romcom-esque love story can blind you to the reality of your situation until it's too late.

All couples fight, and having a few squabbles here and there is normal. Even healthy relationships go through this since it's inevitable that two people won't always see eye to eye. What's not healthy is if there is a loss of respect in a relationship following a disagreement. Of course, there are things you shouldn't do after a fight with your partner, but feeling disrespected is a sign you might be in a toxic relationship — especially if your partner becomes physically aggressive.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Stop defending your partner

It's common for those in a toxic relationship to make excuses for their partner's abusive behavior leading them to stay in the situation longer than they should. You might think they aren't that mean, they're just tired, or maybe they're stressed about work and took it out on you, right? Despite how you rationalize their actions, it's never acceptable for a partner to mistreat you.

It's easy to find yourself in a continuous cycle where the abusive partner does something unacceptable but later apologizes, and the aggrieved party just accepts the apology at face value. This is a common occurrence, as described by University of South Carolina-Beaufort professor of sociology, Dr. Deborah J. Cohan, who said, "Most people want to believe that the person they love loves them back and that when he says he is sorry, he means it."

You may blame yourself for your partner's behavior, perhaps believing you agitated them, didn't do enough for them, or made a mistake. Slip-ups are allowed in relationships; after all, no one is perfect. However, if this pattern constantly repeats, it's time to look closer at the dynamic between you and the reality of your partner's actions.

Reconnect with loved ones if you were isolated by your partner

If you're having trouble leaving a toxic relationship, a great way to start the process is by reconnecting with friends and family you may have lost touch with. Dr. Cohan further explained that a primary tactic of abusers is to isolate their partners, making it difficult or even impossible for them to talk to their loved ones.

Asking for help from others might be difficult if you've been successfully isolated, but it's important to make sure you have a strong support system in place when you decide to leave or seek help. Professor of psychology and human development at California State University, Dr. Kelly Campbell, told Brides, "You may need a place to stay when you end the relationship, and people in your social network could help provide that stepping stone. At the very least, they can over social and emotional support."

There are also other ways to seek help, such as seeing a therapist, getting guidance counseling from your university, or even attending an employee support program at your workplace.

Write about what you're going through

Finding someone to talk to might be difficult if you've become isolated, especially if your partner has dismantled your outside relationships. Having a toxic partner can also make it hard to verbalize your feelings or what you've gone through. If you're having difficulty voicing your concerns to others, you can start by writing about it first. 

Writing about your situation is a great way of letting your emotions out. Putting your thoughts and feelings on paper without censoring yourself can help you realize what you want in a partner or what you deserve in a relationship. A survey conducted by the JMIR Mental Health journal in 2018 suggests that journaling has a massive positive impact on one's mental health. The study shows that journaling reduces anxiety and releases negative thoughts, resulting in a more peaceful mind.

Journal writing can give you an outlet for your hesitations, worries, and fears and can take a great load off your shoulders, helping you gain the courage to reach out for help.

Find a source of empowerment

If you feel stuck and helpless in a toxic relationship, one way to help you find your voice is to search for a source of empowerment. It doesn't have to be something big or grand — even the smallest things can give you the light to help you through your situation. Picking up an old hobby has surprising benefits for your mental health, can help you de-stress, and can give you that confidence boost you're looking for. It just might give you the push you need to finally seek help from others.

Revisiting things you used to do can help trigger happy memories and remind you of who you used to be and that you can still have fun without your partner. As Dr. Campbell says, "Hobbies not only boost self-esteem, but they provide a good place to meet new partners when the time is right." Whether it's something as simple as painting, dancing, collecting, or anything in between, dip your toe back in and see if you can find your lost self.