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Would you like to know the best way to end a toxic relationship for good? It is a healthy thing to do, yet many people have difficulty walking away. Sadly, once you are emotionally and physically hooked, staying is better than leaving.

We even lie to ourselves and say it isn’t that bad. Or that there is no one better out there. Perhaps it is even our fault; we need to try harder.

I have a friend who was caught in a toxic relationship, and it did not end well.

I don’t think she would mind me sharing some of her mistakes with you. Knowing her, she would want people to learn what not to do.

This is the true story of my friend, Shannon. Unfortunately, she didn’t know the best way to end a toxic relationship for good. After you read this, I hope you will not make the same mistake.

RELATED: The #1 Secret to a Happy Marriage Is Not What You Think

What is a Toxic Relationship?

Before we look at the best way to end a toxic relationship for good, let’s define a toxic relationship.

A toxic relationship is draining you more than it is giving you life. Many times you feel like you have been sucked dry with nothing left to give.

Furthermore, your relationship is eroding your self-esteem and your outlook on life. You feel you can never do anything right.

The book Toxic People defines a toxic relationship as “any relationship [between people who] don’t support each other, where there’s conflict, and one seeks to undermine the other, where there’s competition, where there’s disrespect and a lack of cohesiveness.”

In a nutshell, you are not thriving and don’t see a way out because your partner will not listen or consider changing. If you are dating, this is an excellent time to consider walking away.

It is a little more complicated if you are married, especially if you have kids.

Sadly, that is what happened to my friend. She had kids and didn’t know the best way to end a toxic relationship for good without sacrificing their security.

The Beginning of a Toxic Relationship

Shannon was a childhood friend. I met her when I was eight. We went to junior high and high school together and to the same college.

Unfortunately, we weren’t always close as we had different friends. However, in our sophomore year at college, we did Young Life together.

That is when we became close. One night, she opened up and told me about something that had happened to her over the summer.

She had an abortion.

Shannon never told him she was pregnant or about the abortion. She was devastated that it happened but didn’t see any other way out.

She was relieved it was over, and her family didn’t know.

I still feel sad that I never had the chance to talk her out of the abortion, but we didn’t speak at all that summer. My heart broke for her and the baby, but I loved her through it.

Shannon did know the best way to end a toxic relationship for good at the time. Unfortunately, it was only the beginning of a toxic pattern.

RELATED: 15 Biblical Keys To a Successful Marriage That Are Powerful

Staying in a Toxic Relationship

Fast forward ten years later. Shannon married and entangled herself in another toxic relationship. By then, she had a consistent pattern of bad choices in men. Soon after marriage, she started having kids. And that is when the nightmares began. She dreamed about the child she never had.

She kept dreaming she was drowning her baby. It would be the same dream every time. I remember her complaining about not being able to sleep because of the nightmares.

Over the next year, I started noticing small changes. She would talk really fast when we were on the phone, and I could hardly understand a word she said. Other times, she would slur her words.

Looking back, I realize she started abusing prescription drugs. At first, it was for the nightmares. I think she was desperate to sleep. Later, it was for pain. A drug addiction kept her from knowing the best way to end a toxic relationship.

RELATED: How to Resolve Conflict in Marriage: 7 Biblical Ways to Healing

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Signs of a Toxic Relationship

There are many signs of a toxic relationship. Some of them include domination, intimidation, control, threats, and isolation/withdrawal, but one of the biggest is physical abuse. Sadly, this is happening to many women, and no one knows. Shannon was no exception.

She started having all sorts of “accidents. Her foot was broken, her tooth was chipped, her back was hurt, etc. It was then she started becoming addicted to pain medication.

One day, she called me and asked me to keep some pictures for her. She said if something happened to her, I needed to give them to the police. I didn’t understand what she meant until I opened the file.

She was beaten to a pulp. It had been going on for at least a year. I never knew until the pictures.

Her face, her body–everything. She had a black eye. It was swollen halfway shut.  And she had cuts and large bruises on her torso. Her back was all cut up, too. It was horrific.

I cried in disbelief. I couldn’t process what I saw, and the pictures burned a hole in my computer.

I would keep going back to look at them over and over again. It was sickening. Words cannot express how I still feel about what I saw. It is beyond me how a man could do that to a woman.

I begged Shannon not to return to her husband, but she wouldn’t listen. She had three children, and she said she would never leave them.

I think she knew she would never get custody if she left.

She was dealing with a prescription drug addiction, and she had no real way to support her kids financially on her own. I think she knew she was trapped. She said she was going back even if it killed her. She would not listen to the best way to end a toxic relationship.

The End of a Toxic Relationship

That is precisely what happened to Shannon.

At the age of 42, my friend Shannon died. She was caught in a toxic relationship, and it killed her.

I was overwhelmed with guilt and shame. I felt I had not done enough. For the last year, I had been ignoring her calls some of the time because they were becoming more and more bizarre.

I had little kids and my family problems. I couldn’t deal with her.

Thankfully, Shannon also left the pictures with a cop friend.

He contacted me, and we worked together to get her justice. The authorities did hold her body over for several extra days so they could do a complete autopsy.

The official report said she died of a heart attack. There were no visible bruises or wounds at the time of death. I don’t know what really happened, but it still haunts me.

Ending the toxic relationship for good would have saved her life, but she wouldn’t walk away.

RELATED: How to Move On From Family Estrangement: 5 Ways to Heal Your Heart

Why Are You In a Toxic Relationship?

Why are you in a toxic relationship?

Shannon never thought she deserved anything good. She didn’t know her worth as a person or that she could really accomplish something with her life.

She would still be alive today if she had the skills to support her kids. The problem was that Shannon got trapped. One day, she woke up and couldn’t leave. It was an accumulation of her choices over a long period.

If I could go back in time, I would do things differently. I would tell her the best way to end a toxic relationship for good was the best choice unless he was willing to get help.

RELATED: How to Stop Negative Self-Talk: 6 Tips to Break the Habit Today

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How to End a Toxic Relationship For Good

Here is the best way to end a toxic relationship for good. This seems so simplistic, but it would have helped my friend if she had done these tips before it was too late.

1. Change Your Thinking

Start looking at your choices today. What you do today affects tomorrow and the day after that.

Furthermore, what do you believe about yourself? Does it align with what scripture says about you? Do you know how much God loves you and wants you to be treated with love by others?

If you live life for today and do not think about tomorrow, you will wake up one day trapped. Get out now if that special someone doesn’t think you are precious and valuable.

That means untangling yourself in every way. And don’t stalk the person on social media. Detox completely.

You are opening the doors to hell if you stay in the relationship. If you want to break away, it is time to learn how to end a toxic relationship before it is too late.

RELATED: How to Stop Negative Self-Talk: 6 Tips to Break the Bad Habit

2. Get Help

If you are already married and trapped in a toxic relationship, get help. Most of all, remove yourself and your kids if you are in danger.

If there is a pattern of abuse, it will not stop until you and your spouse get help. Your spouse may apologize and be very sorry, but the cycle will continue if it has happened before.

You will never jump through enough hoops, say the perfect thing, or act exactly how he wants all the time. You are an individual, uniquely beautiful and different. Not to be controlled, threatened, or manipulated.

By staying in a toxic relationship, you are enabling your spouse to continue in his behavior. Letting him treat you this way is not real love. Love cherishes. Read I Corinthians 13 and compare it to what you are experiencing.

If you conclude you are in a toxic relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Furthermore, counselors, local shelters, and church ministries also deal with this kind of situation. Find a way out. Don’t be like Shannon.

If you want to know how to end a toxic relationship for good, then have the courage to do what you know is right, even if it is scary.

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3. Pray For Your Spouse

It is never too late to start praying for your spouse or partner. I have a prayer written out that you can use if you don’t know how to begin. Click on the link below.

RELATED: How to Change Your Husband: 30-Day Marriage Challenge

I hope that Shannon’s story will inspire you to live your life in a way that will make you think twice about your friends and your choice of spouse.

Shannon isn’t just another statistic out there. She was my friend. I saw her slowly dwindle right before my eyes. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.

Did you learn the best way to end a toxic relationship? Comment below.

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Included is biblical advice to help couples develop new behaviors and strengthen their marriage with healthy boundaries. With over 30 years of marriage experience, there are practical tips to overcome old behavior patterns and rekindle a marriage relationship rooted in God’s love.

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Are you struggling with family issues that have resulted in a family rift or a family estrangement? Are you feeling a sense of shame, anger, or rejection?  Check out my book Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart on Amazon or at your favorite digital store.

In it, I share my own experience of a seven-year estrangement from my Christian family and how we eventually reconciled. Furthermore, I provide practical advice to help you navigate your family issues.

Don’t let the pain of estrangement hold you back. Allow God to assist you in healing, no matter what has happened within your family. Remember, there is always hope to be found, even when things seem to be falling apart.

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Author

Julie is a wife, mom, teacher, author, and blogger. She writes about Christian family living, marriage, parenting with a touch of humor.

123 Comments

  1. I’m in a toxic relationship, and I try to leave, but I can’t. But after reading your article now, I can leave my relationship. You discuss everything about a toxic relationship. Your tips are really helping me to solve my problem. Thank you so much.

    • Yes, it is such a heartbreaking story. I am reminded often of how bad things can get when I reread this post. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Jalisa Harris Reply

    Sometimes life can be so cruel. I’m so sorry about this. Hopefully this will help teach others.

  3. Oh, what a sad story! It always breaks my heart to hear things like this. Thank you for sharing it — I hope it brings awareness to those who need the light shined on the darker aspects of life that we seem to become numb to the longer we’re exposed.

    • Colleen, it does seem like we do get numb to these stories. They do happen all the time. I pray I don’t have this happen again. If I do, I think I will do some things differently.

  4. Oh, this breaks my heart for your friend! I feel so fortunate in my marriage that our worst problems are because we think so differently (mars vs. venus-type stuff).

    • Amy, I think that is pretty normal. We are wired differently. It is about praying for your spouse. It will change your heart when you do this.

  5. I have a great marriage very thankful. Nobody deserves to be in any kind of abusive situation.

  6. Hi Julie. I’m not sure if you already saw my blogsite (ByeFeliciaHelloLife), but it is so refreshing…or maybe, comforting to finally see another mom with almost the same theme as mine. I wish I could blog about cupcakes, smoothies, mommy hacks, travel and Disney, but my recent experience was the one that drove me to writing. You’re an inspiration!

    • Thanks for your encouraging comment. It is hard to put yourself out there not knowing how people are going to react. It is therapy in some ways to release it into the web. My purpose is to help others learn from either my mistakes or others’ mistakes. Good luck to you! And yes, I have read some of your writing. It is very compelling.

  7. Thank you for sharing Shannon’s story. So hard to believe a person can go though so much bad stuff in a lifetime.

  8. Julie, thank you for sharing Shannon’s story. It broke my heart that she was hurt so early in life and that her injuries were external and internal. You were a beacon of light in her life and I am sure that she could never express to you how much your care and concern for her meant. I am sure her story will help others. You are an awesome friend for helping her speak even now.

    • Thanks for saying that. I think the only way I can feel less guilty is to try and speak out. Maybe I can get others to not go there. It is so hard to stop people when they are bound and determined to go their own way. I appreciate you reading and commenting.

    • Well, it was a hard choice. I was frightened of her husband. He was pretty scary. I didn’t want him coming to my house looking for my friend when I had young children at home. Thanks for your comment.

  9. This is so awful.. I dont know why i feel as if i know Shannon. I really cant say why her life turned out the way it turned out. Its true a lot of people will learn from her mistake but i feel like there are things that she bottled up in her mind that she couldn’t share with anybody. May her soul continue to rest in peace.

  10. I’m currently in the most honest and loving relationship of my life, but it takes those bad ones to see what a good one actually looks like

  11. I am so sorry for your loss. The consequences of a toxic relationship can be vast and even cost that person their life. I’m sure that must have been difficult to witness but you were a supportive and loving friend. I truly believe in praying about one’s spouse beforehand and seeking discernment before entering marriage. Thanks for sharing

    • Yes, I have found prayer to be the best guidance ever. I wish more people knew what a great weapon it is. Thanks for reading.

  12. It truly is scary to be caught in a toxic relationship. You start to do things you would never have considered doing beforehand. And all of a sudden, there you are doing them to try to feel better. Anyone who is suffering should know that they are never alone. I am sorry to hear what happened to your friend. That is truly awful.

  13. I’m sorry for your loss. I think its easy to get complacent in a relationship – once your in it, you feel like its harder to escpape. I think recognising you have a problem is the first step. Ive been lucky to have pretty steady calm relationships so far, but I think this is sound advice for the future, just in case!

    • I am glad you have made good choices. It’s usually a pattern. If you have this far, I bet you will continue to do so. Thanks for reading.

  14. Such a heartbreaking story… I’m so sorry this happened to your friend.. My mom had similar issues and bounced between three very toxic relationships, I tried to save her so many times but at 15yrs old I just couldn’t take it any more and left home. Although my mother survived her toxic relationships, she is now a 60yr old widow who has know idea how to take of herself and relies heavily on me and my amazing husband of 23yrs to take care of her. I am now trying to help her rebuild her life and help her to figure out who SHE is.

    • Oh, goodness. That is more than any 15 year old should ever have to deal with. I am so thrilled you have become a responsible person. So sad your mom hasn’t really gotten it. Thanks for reading.

  15. Oh my god…shannon’s story is so sad. I shed a tear or two when I read the part she was beaten so brutally. domestic violence, no work, pills- I just wish her soul rests in peace now. she has had enough here.

  16. My heart aches after reading what happened to your friend. I hope that this will encourage young women not to be quiet about any kind of abuse and to seek help.

    • I think this #metoo movement is changing things. I am so glad to see women empowered. We have had enough. Thanks for reading.

  17. This is such a moving story. I think sometimes we are stuck in a bad/toxic relationship, no matter how much we want to get out of it but something or the other pulls us back. It is better to get out of it before it’s too late.

    • That is true. One day you wake up and realize you are caught. Leaving becomes less of an option when you have kids. But a lot of brave women do it. Thanks for your comment.

  18. What a heart melting sad story. Thanks for sharing this, I know it’s been a lot. You are so strong to be able to share this to your readers. I hope we could also learn from this.

  19. Blair Villanueva Reply

    Thank you for sharing us your private life. And glad you are learning to cope up. I haven’t been to toxic relationship (well, if that includes work yeah sometimes!).

  20. Wow. I’m so glad you’re sharing this and getting her message out there. I’ve known people in toxic relationships and it’s so sad.

  21. CourtneyLynne Reply

    My first marriage was definitely a bad one! I got married young and boy was it not wise. Thankfuly I found real love later on and I’m happily married 🙂

  22. I lived (and still living) a tragic story myself and I think I may understand what Shannon has gone through. She tried to be strong but as you said, everything just caught up to her. Bless her soul.

  23. Chelsea Elizabeth Reply

    This is so sad, it’s no consolation but I’m ever so sorry. Your friend was lucky to have someone like you. I’m sure she appreciated you more than you know.

  24. Throughout the years, I’ve learned that it’s best to let the person go through it than to try and convince them it’s a bad situation. No matter what you say, the person will always do whatever their heart desires. Even if it hurts you to see them go through something, you have to let them learn on their own.

    • I know what you mean. She wasn’t going to change. It’s hard to watch when you know the outcome is going to be horrible.

  25. I was so much in pain reading Shannon’s story, she seemed to be such a beautiful soul, true so, trapped in bad relationships which took her far away. The conclusion and message you gave is really very strong.

  26. Bad relationships are really hard to get out of, and they can have devastating effects on the people we love, as you explored in your post. It’s really sad, and I think we need to educate our kids early on to avoid relationships like that so hopefully they can be avoided.

  27. This story was touching and sad. Unfortunately, what happened to Shannon is not uncommon. This has such a powerful message, I hope more people get the chance to read this. Thanks for sharing!

  28. This is truly a very sad story. I know in the end you felt as if you didn’t do enough, but you did more than most would have done in a lifetime. I think she would be proud to be represented the way you just did, so hopefully her story can help others going through her exact experience. Thank you for sharing.

  29. I can’t even imagine what your poor friend had been through. Such a sad story and yet unfortunately, probably quite common. Thank you for encouraging us to think and communicate about such topics.

  30. This was very hard to read. I have been fortunate to not be in this situation because I learned from a relative long ago that it’s not worth your pain. This is such a sad situation, but far too common.

  31. Wow this is incredibly sad and an eye opene. A lot of people are in toxic relationships and ignore the warning signs. This whole story makes me sad and sick.

  32. Wow! Poor thing had such a hard life. I’m sure she appreciated you. And ya know, I totally get your side of it too. I have a friend who absolutely drains the life out of me, is unwilling to listen to wisdom, and who thinks that if anyone corrects her, they aren’t her real friends. At this point in life, she is very privileged, and overall, I think she is okay, but I can see where these patterns might lead and it’s so hard to give help to someone who is unwilling to see into their own life.

  33. My heart hurts from such a sad story but because you shared it, I truly hope that it will others will get help they need. May God comfort your heart as you remember Shannon and your friendship.

  34. This is such a heartbreaking and powerful story. I think all of us are grown ups and should know the decisions we make.

    • Unfortunately, that just doesn’t happen. I think people get trapped in their mess and don’t realize it until it’s too late.

  35. Wow this was a heavy post. I am so sorry to hear about your friend Shannon she seemed like she was so lost at such a young age. Dont blame yourself, and its horrible that some women are afraid to leave because their spouse is their provider. She was mentally abused and she lacked self-love this is a lesson of self-loving and surrounding yourself with others who truly love you.

  36. Lord knows I have been in some toxic relationships. Luckily I found someone who i can trust 100 percent and love even more.

  37. i’ve been in serious bad relationships and it can be hard to get out-and although i suffered enough, i cant imagine having kids and an addiction on top of it. I hope this story helps others get out while they can, its very heartbreaking.

  38. It’s so sad to know what she’s been through. I know someone who also got married at a young age, their relationship was good at first but the husband had a habit of cheating on her after a few years. They’re still together up to now because of their kids.

  39. Hannah Marie Reply

    Shannon’s fate left me in tears. How I wish she had another chance in life being happy with her kids. Just like Shannon, I got married at an early age of 21. In spite of our differences and challenges, we are still together. This story made me realized how blessed I am for having such an understanding and caring husband. It’s important that women know their worth and not let anyone beat them emotional or physically. Thank’s for sharing Shannon’s story.

  40. This is such a heartbreaking and powerful story. Thank you for sharing this and reminding us that we don’t have to stay in a bad relationship.

  41. When you said bad relationship my mind went straight to abuse (mental n physical) from partner. Honestly this is sad but I’ve never been in a bad rship so this is a good advice for alot of persons who are going through pain and struggle

  42. Oh wow. This story is so heartbreaking. I have been caught up in a toxic relationship and there was only one way out

  43. This is such a heart breaking story. Sharing it though, is important for those who are in similar situations. It can be so hard to get out of a bad situation, but there are always options

  44. This made me cry. Such a sad story, and such a waste. I understand this, and you are such a good friend. You need to look after yourself and your needs now, and moving forward.

    • I am still sad after all these years, but I have to move on. I don’t even talk to her kids. I feel like I have been away too long now. Lots of guilt.

  45. I cannot believe what she had to go through in life. I wish she had known her worth and how much she could have accomplished in life. It’s really important that we evaluate our decisions. I also love that you mentioned praying for your spouse.

  46. Oh my goodness this is such a sad story :(. I’ve been in bad relationships, I’m lucky now I have a wonderful partner but in the past things could have easily gone such a different route if I hadn’t of got out.

  47. Oh gosh, that is so sad. I feel that my daughter was caught up in one bad friendship after another. Thankfully, her boyfriend relationships were great. I encouraged her to join the Navy to get out of this town, and away from those friendships. She is excited, and leaves for boot camp in April.

  48. what a sad story and it is almost unbelievable that this things still happen, i think all of us are grown ups and should know the decisions we make.

    • Yes, I wish it would have ended differently. I know there are many others trapped like my friend. It’s sad. Thanks for reading.

  49. Marjie Mare Reply

    This is a sad story but so common, unfortunately. Sometimes, it’s hard, the abused always blames themselves and think they deserve whatever happens to them.

  50. Oh wow, this is quite a story. I am so sorry about Shannon. Not everyone is religious, so I hope to the people who aren’t, they are also able to find help. I know there are organizations out there who are there for people like Shannon.

  51. I swear I was about to cry while reading this. Personally, I make bad choices in relationship too. I get attached easily to people who manipulates me. 2 months ago, I was supposed to be in another one but I reassessed myself if this relationship will bend me or kill me. I think it will kill me, so I left. We are back in communicating, I still like him just the same but I am seeing my worth as a person now so I don’t just easily give in to what he says. Because of my experiences my relationship with the lord got strong. Rest in peace, Shannon!

    • Oh, I am so glad you are learning to lean on God. The stronger you are, the more you will see how precious you are and you won’t put up with bad behaviour. I’ll pray for you.

  52. Shame this is so sad ! But yes hopefully people will learn from it and not make the same choices x

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