How To Break Up With A Toxic Loved One: a handy guide to being civilized instead of honest

I’m growing as a person, learning a lot about myself and how my past experiences have impacted me. I’m reevaluating what’s worked for me and what hasn’t.

How To Break Up With A Toxic Loved One: a handy guide to being civilized instead of honest
Photo by Anna Dovgan / Unsplash

by Tinamarie Cox

  • Make sure to use “I” statements to avoid blaming or accusing
  • Use an assertive communication style to clearly communicate your needs
  • Be firm but also polite and respectful with your tone
  • No swearing, criticizing, or mocking to avoid making them feel attacked
  • Explain what you are feeling and why you feel that way
  • Stay on topic and away from anything that might distract them from the message
  • Focus on the emotions, and make it obvious how you feel in the situation
  • Don’t make it too long or repeat language that might make them lose interest 

I’ve felt very disconnected from you as of late, and feel that it’s become necessary to address the distance between us. It’s not you, it’s me. Things around here are different and I’m changing.

[Actually, it is you. But I know I’m not blameless either. We’ve let our toxic patterns of behavior run our lives. And let’s face it, if you weren’t such a stubborn asshole, I probably wouldn’t be writing something like this at all.]

I’ve been focusing on myself a lot more over the past year, figuring out what sort of life I want to be living, and deciding who and what I want in that life going forward.

[A.k.a. I’ve been in therapy trying to recover from all the trauma your shitty behaviors have caused me. I’m learning how to feel everything and understand my emotions. I’m prioritizing my development into a healthy and whole person, something I hadn’t been able to do in an environment with you.]

I’m growing as a person, learning a lot about myself and how my past experiences have impacted me. I’m reevaluating what’s worked for me and what hasn’t.

[I’m healing slowly, but I’m putting in the work to get closer to where I want to be. I’m sorting through all the pain, grief, and disappointment that’s been surfacing as I analyze my past. I’m doing my best after all the emotional baggage you’ve dumped onto me and the lies you told me about what love is.]

I’m not the same person I once was, and I like the new person I’m becoming. She’s someone who I want to wake up and be every day. And I want to encourage her to bloom. I realize she might seem odd or unusual compared to who you’re used to me being.

[Because I was dead inside! I felt like I was going through the motions of being alive but not truly living. I was in pain for so long. For years I denied myself true love and happiness as I tried in vain to please you; to make myself smaller so you could feel better about yourself.]

I understand if you’re not ready to accept who I want to be or to encourage the things I want to see happening in my life right now. Change can feel alarming. But I am continuing on this path for my benefit. It is not meant to be a reflection of any loss of love.

[Actually, I couldn’t give a shit anymore whether or not you love me! You don’t have to accept me. I don’t need your validation or approval anymore.]

I think caring about one another from a distance will be better for our relationship at this moment. It will allow me the time and space that I need to continue to grow. And you will also have time to acclimate to my changes.

[Honestly, I’d like to tell you to straight up eff-off, but that wouldn’t be nice. The new me doesn’t want to fall back into our old patterns. Maintaining my new traits is important to me. And it’s hard to be the new me around you.]

Maybe, as time progresses, we’ll be able to build a stronger, healthier, and more ideal relationship that we both feel comfortable with.

[And maybe not. I don’t care if you are ever able to see my side of things. I no longer need you to apologize. I don’t need your forgiveness either. I’ve outgrown you. I’m done with your immaturity. Don’t expect me to let you back into my life unless you’ve made positive changes, too.]

I just wanted to communicate my feelings clearly and make you aware of where I’m at during this point in my life, and with us. It was important to me to put this in writing for you. I hope you can appreciate my honesty and respect my decision to have time apart. 

[There are so many more things I could say, but why start an argument? What would be the point? Why play the blame game and keep score anymore? I want to feel better, and I have seen that I can’t do that with your toxicity invading my thoughts. I don’t owe you any further explanations, so don’t ask for any. Your feelings are no longer my responsibility. I’m setting myself free. I’m deciding to love me more than you, even if that makes me the villain of your story.]

Tinamarie Cox lives in Arizona with her husband, two children, and their one-eyed Pirate Kitty. Her written and visual work has appeared in numerous publications under a variety of genres. She is also the author of a poetry chapbook, Self-Destruction in Small Doses (Bottlecap Press, 2023). You can find more of her work at