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20 Steps to Fix a Toxic Relationship & Change Before It’s Too Late

A lot of relationships are quite dysfunctional. And if you are in one yourself, then you need to know how to fix a toxic relationship. Here’s how to do it.

How to Fix a Toxic Relationship

Toxic relationships suck. Sometimes you don’t even know how toxic the relationship is. Let alone even knowing it is worth figuring out how to fix a toxic relationship. That is the issue with toxic relationships, they are so dysfunctional you don’t even realize it until it is beyond help.

But, are toxic relationships a lost cause? Can a toxic relationship be salvaged? Can you turn a toxic relationship into a thriving one?

Is your toxic relationship beyond help?

Sadly, not all toxic relationships can be mended nor should they be. Sometimes toxic relationships are just that, toxic. But, how do you know if your relationship can be saved?

Well, look at the last year of your relationship. Have there been more bad moments than good? Are you angry, sad, or fighting more than you’re happy? Do your friends and family worry for you? Is there trust between you and your partner?

[Read: The signs a toxic relationship will go from bad to worse]

Answering these questions is vital to figuring out how to fix a toxic relationship or if it is even worth it to try.

If the trust is gone or you’re regularly being manipulated by your partner, it can be nearly impossible to fix. Trust is the backbone of any functioning relationship. It can be built back up over time, but only if you are both willing to put the effort in.

Once a relationship has become toxic and is used to that state, breaking out of it is hard work. If both you and your partner discuss making changes in your relationship and you are not on the same page, it may be time to call it quits. [Read: 20 signs to recognize the end of your relationship and move on]

But please do not feel like a failure. Relationships take two willing people to work out. If your relationship cannot be saved, it is not due to anything you are lacking. It does not reflect on your willingness to work hard. Some relationships are simply not meant to be.

You might be in a toxic relationship for far too long and you won’t let yourself end things. If you had broken away from that dysfunction sooner, you may have had a lot fewer trust issues in other relationships.

Here’s something you should never forget, toxic relationships are not just toxic in the moment, but can affect you forever. And sometimes, they need to end in order for you to heal. [Read: 13 ways toxic love can harm you permanently]

How to fix a toxic relationship before it’s too late

If your toxic relationship was brought on by a traumatic event or cheating, there are ways to fix it. You and your partner can come back from the bad parts and renew your relationship in a healthy way.

But learning how to fix a toxic relationship can bear fruition only if you are both willing to put in the time and effort to make it work.

A toxic relationship is not one bad fight or a disagreement. Toxic relationships are manipulative, they lack respect and equality, and they can take over your life, so escaping one with your partner is not easy.

1. Self-reflect

Before you can even consider learning how to fix a toxic relationship, you need to do some self-reflection. It’s so easy to have the perception that everything is your partner’s fault. But it’s not. Both people in any relationship have contributed to where it is and whether it’s healthy or not. [Read: 25 self-reflective questions to help stay true to yourself]

So, be honest with yourself. What have you done wrong? What have you done right? Why do you think the relationship has come to this point?

Be able to admit this to yourself so that you can also share it with your partner. You also need to encourage your partner to do the same thing.

2. Consider where the toxicity began

Whether in therapy or not, analyzing when your relationship turned toxic is vital. Most relationships are not toxic from the first date. They turn bad after a fight, an event, or even due to jealousy or manipulation.

By reflecting on yourselves and the timeline of your relationship, you can work backward to when things went wrong in order to remedy that and move forward. [Read: 15 signs of a toxic relationship that’ll go from bad to worse]

3. Talk about your feelings

Focus on how you feel, not what they did. Share how they made you feel.

Talking about your feelings is always the first step of any conflict, whether small or large. In order to fix a toxic relationship, you both should be willing to open up and communicate honestly.

Before anything can actually get fixed, you need to both share how you’re feeling. Talk about how you’ve been feeling, your concerns, how you want things to be. [Read: 16 steps to better love and communication in a relationship]

4. Define your problems

You can’t change what you don’t recognize. So, if you don’t define what your problems are, then you can’t fix them.

Your problems probably come in a wide variety of ways. Communication – or more importantly how you communicate – is essential. Define the toxic ways you talk to each other. Talk about how you can improve that.

Also, what is each of you doing that is contributing to the toxicity in the relationship? How can each of you change your behavior so that you can get along better?

5. Listen to each other

You might want to do all the talking – in the form of yelling and blaming. But you can’t do that. Both of you need to listen to the other person’s concerns. 

You might think they are to blame, but you need to hear how your behavior has affected them too. [Read: 14 ways on how to be a better listener in a relationship]

6. Have empathy

While you are listening, you also need to have empathy for their point of view. This won’t be easy, because you have your own pain. But they do too, so you have to try to feel what they feel. 

But they also have to try to feel what you feel too. Without empathy, you will never be able to fix a toxic relationship, mostly because the lack of empathy is what made it toxic in the first place. [Read: How to be more empathetic and 16 ways to make anyone feel heard]

7. Let go of blame

Toxic relationships tend to lean on the blame game. We blame the other person for their toxic behavior but forget to look at ourselves. Or we let our relationship dictate how we feel about ourselves.

Positively moving forward means you’re both willing to let go of blame, victimhood, and anger. You cannot have constructive conversations if you aren’t willing to open your mind and view this situation from all perspectives. [Read: The right way to fight fair in a relationship and grow closer]

8. Get on the same page

If you and your partner cannot agree on what you must do in order to fix your toxic relationship, it won’t work. If you are not willing to put in equal effort, the relationship will not be salvageable.

You both should want the same things for your future. If you want independence and trust, but your partner wants you to depend on them and check up on you, it will never work. You have to both be willing to compromise and meet in the middle.

9. Learn how to work through conflict

Most people don’t have a clue how to work through conflict effectively. All they know is how to yell, scream, name-call, and throw things. [Read: How to stop fighting in a relationship and 16 steps to really talk]

This is not how you work through your problems in a healthy manner! You have to be calm, rational, and as we said, listen to each other and have empathy.

10. Be aware of your body language

Believe it or not, 90% of the meaning of a message lies in the nonverbal part of it – not the words. 

So, while you should choose your words carefully, you should also try to be aware of what you are saying with your body. You want to have body language that is open and welcoming, not off-putting.

11. Use “I” language

Instead of saying things like, “You are a loser! You never do anything right!” you need to use “I” language.

When you say things like “I feel very sad when you call me names,” this is better than “You are a jerk because you call me names!” The same point comes across, but you take ownership of your feelings and don’t spew blame at the other person. [Read: 25 ways to emotionally connect with someone and instantly feel closer

12. Apologies and compensation

Both of you need to apologize to the other one for your bad behavior. A relationship doesn’t become toxic unless the people in it are doing something wrong. 

So, if you want to learn to fix a toxic relationship, take responsibility for your negative actions and apologize. Then, offer them “compensation” in the form of changing your behavior in the future. But you really have to follow through and continue doing it. [Read: How to apologize and say sorry to a lover]

13. Don’t go on the offensive or be defensive

It’s going to be difficult to not attack and blame the other person for your problems. But you can’t do that. 

Also, you shouldn’t be defensive and attack when the other person tells you what you did wrong. Keep calm and have an open mind. Be rational and logical at all times. Remember, there is no enemy here, and finger-pointing is not going to help anyone. Both of you are a team, and you can either win together or lose together – there is literally no other solution to learning to fix a toxic relationship.

14. Talk about positives and appreciation

During your discussions, take time to tell each other what you love about them. Are they funny, smart, or a good cook? There’s a reason why you fell in love in the first place, so take time to remember that. [Read: How to show your appreciation to someone and express gratitude]

Also, express appreciation to your partner for the things that they do right. The more you focus on the positives and appreciation, the less toxic your relationship will become.

15. Review expectations

Everyone has expectations for other people’s behavior. And sometimes that’s reasonable, but other times it’s not. So, think about whether or not your expectations of your partner are reasonable and realistic or not. 

They should do the same for you too. Then, negotiate how you can make these expectations more doable for the both of you. [Read: 20 healthy expectations in a relationship that define a good love life]

16. Hold each other accountable

As you move forward, you both must be able to hold each other accountable for your actions. You cannot appreciate them going to therapy and overlooking their continuous toxic behavior.

When you notice a pattern returning or continuing, calmly point it out so you can learn from those mistakes. It can feel odd at first, but by communicating when something feels wrong, you will both be able to rectify your behaviors. [Read: 15 rules to be a good partner in a relationship and wow your lover]

17. Take time apart

Yes, some couples need time apart to come to terms with their relationship. Whether you need to stay with a friend for a few days or not speak at all for weeks, that time away from the toxicity can let you look at the relationship from a new perspective.

Some couples may not even need this much distance. But, you do need to make sure you are both living separate lives. You need to take time for yourself, your family and friends, and your job and hobbies.

Toxic relationships can be caused by codependence, but appreciating yourself as an individual away from your partner can help you to come together in a healthier way. [Read: Relationship break – 24 rules to taking a break and how to plan for it]

18. Go to couples therapy

The best way to fix a toxic relationship is to bring in outside counsel. Going to couples therapy can sound intense or overwhelming. It can be hard to admit that you can’t fix things yourself, but there is no shame in therapy.

Going to a professional for guidance proves your willingness to work on your relationship.

A therapist can help you identify your core problems and give you exercises and methods to overcome your issues and truly come out stronger. [Read: Relationship therapy – 25 clue to help to know if it will help your romance]

19. Be patient

Always remember that a toxic relationship will not get better overnight. Once you bring it up to your partner and start a conversation, it can feel as if a weight has been lifted because you have a stepping stone, but be patient.

Fixing your toxic relationships will not happen overnight or even within weeks. You will both need to make compromises and dig deep to turn your relationship around.

20. Re-evaluate

After some time working on things with a therapist or together, reevaluate how you are both feeling. Are things progressing and both communicating more solidly? Are you happier? This is the time to consider continuing fixing the relationship or parting ways.

[Read: Why something feels off in your relationship and what to do about it]

You can learn how to fix a toxic relationship, but it requires a lot of hard work and a desire to self-reflect and communicate with your partner.

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Preeti Tewari Serai
Preeti Serai
Preeti, the founder of LovePanky, is an eternal optimist and believer in the beauty of love and life. With an exhaustive experience in love, relationships, and ...