How to Break Free From a Toxic Ex Relationship

These practical, effective tips for finding freedom after a breakup will help you get over an ex-boyfriend or ex-husband. Breaking free – especially from a toxic ex relationship that is destroying your self-identity – doesn’t have to take months or years.

I love reading old issues of magazines, and recently stumbled across an article called “Break the Chains: How to finally get rid of those pesky old habits that no longer serve you” in a 2017 issue of Mindful. All I could think about while reading the article was you! One of the hardest things after a breakup or divorce is learning how to fill the emptiness when you miss your ex. Even toxic ex relationships leave a hole in our homes, hearts, and lives.

The Mindful article isn’t specifically about breaking free from a toxic ex-boyfriend or ex-husband, but the advice is excellent. Kelle Walsh gathered five tips on how to change habits and start fresh. Apply her ideas to breaking free from a toxic relationship, and you have practical, effective breakup advice that actually works.

“Over time habits can become so ingrained that we start to believe them,” says Hugh Byrne, author of The Here-and-Now Habit. If you often lose your temper, for example, you might tell yourself “I’m an angry person.” 

Similarly, if you’re having trouble breaking free from a toxic ex-boyfriend or ex-husband, you may be telling yourself, “I’ll never get over him,” or “I’m destined to be unloved and alone for the rest of my life.”

Those habitual thoughts are preventing you from getting over your ex. These five tips will help you break free and start fresh!

3 Tips for Breaking Free From a Toxic Ex

One of my most popular “She Blossoms” articles is How to Emotionally Detach From Someone You Care About. Letting go of a man you love — and perhaps even lived with for decades — is really, really hard. It can be traumatizing for many women.

In this article we’ll see that your toxic ex relationship is a habit you need to break. This will help you find emotional and spiritual freedom, and move forward into a fresh new stage of life!

1. Rewire your brain

“Habit-making is simply what our brains are wired to do,” writes Walsh in Break the Chains. “They’re designed to created neural pathways that provide the best results.” Obsessing about your ex-boyfriend or ex-husband is a habit. Your brain has created neural pathways that make it easy to keep thinking about him — and hard to break free, no matter how toxic the relationship or breakup was. Your thoughts about your ex create a surge of dopamine in your brain, feeding the hormones and keeping you stuck in the same old thought patterns.

Breaking Free From a Toxic Ex

What to do: Notice when thoughts of your ex-boyfriend or ex-husband arise. Instead of allowing your brain to run along the same old grooves (“I’m worthless without him, nobody will ever love me again”), choose new thoughts. “I’m in a season of grieving and letting go of a toxic ex,” is a good thought. Give yourself time to heal and move forward. Breaking free from a toxic relationship requires you to use your brain, exercise self-control, and choose what thoughts you will dwell on.

2. Learn how willpower works

“Willpower is the ability to align yourself with the brain system that is thinking about long-term goals, big values rather than short-term needs or desires” says Kelly McGonigal, author of The Willpower Instinct. “So, I can feel the emotion, I can feel the craving, and at the very same time, I just make my awareness big enough to hold my commitment to make a different choice. Your ability to hold those opposites is what gives you willpower over time.”

What to do: Decide what your top two or three long-term goals are. Yes, you want to break your addiction to a toxic ex relationship. But what else do you want in your life, for yourself and your loved ones? Who do you want to become, where do you want to go, how will you get there? If you’re not growing spiritually or emotionally, then your first goal (after breaking free from this toxic ex-boyfriend or ex-husband) is to rebuild your relationship with God. You’ll never muster enough willpower to recreate your life and renew your self-identity until you base your self-worth and self-image on Jesus.

3. Remember to HALT when you’re overcome by pain

I often encourage my She Blossoms readers to take care of themselves, but I haven’t shared the HALT idea yet. This is a practical tip on how to break free from a toxic ex relationship because it helps you refocus. Instead of falling into a sodden heap on the floor, you need to consider what your body physically needs and how your heart feels. Tuning in to what you need and how you feel will help you get over the breakup. It’ll refocus your mind, spirit, heart and soul.

How to HALT: 

  • H is for Hungry: Do you need something nutritious to give you energy and strength? Maybe a coffee, hot chocolate, or iced drink. Feed your body good, healthy food — don’t feed your emotions unhealthy food. Rather, pay attention to how food makes you feel and act. 
  • A is for Angry/Anxious: Are you overwhelmed with grief and pain because you’re mad at your ex? How is your toxic relationship — and breakup — affecting you, your life, friends, loved ones, job? If you’re furious at him, deal with your feelings. If you’re scared of the future, deal with your fears and insecurities. Don’t let your anger or anxiety push you into the darkness.
  • L is for Lonely: Of course you’re lonely — you’re getting over a breakup! You’re entering a new season of life, and you don’t know how to break free from a toxic ex relationship. Even if you have lots of friends and family, you’re still struggling with loneliness. This is normal. Your job is to figure out how to overcome your loneliness in healthy, productive ways. Jesus is my number one solution for everything, from loneliness to fear, anger to anxiety. There is no peace without His light, joy, life and freedom.
  • T is for Tired: The more exhausted you allow yourself to get, the harder it’ll be to feel good, much less break free from a toxic ex-boyfriend or ex-husband. Fatigue makes everything in life worse. Exhaustion makes little problems huge, small irritations devastating, minor upsets major. Take care of your body. Get rest. See a doctor if you need help. Take responsibility for your body, and she will reward you.

How are you doing? Do you think these three habit-altering ideas will help you break free from a toxic ex relationship?

For more tips on changing your thought patterns and breaking free, read 7 Easy Ways to Stop Negative Thinking After a Breakup.

Your thoughts – big and little – are welcome below! Writing is one of the best ways to gain clarity and insight, and to discover what you really think and feel. Take time to stop and think. Turn your attention to God. He is calling you, all the time, wanting you heal and fill you with life, joy, peace and freedom.

With His love,



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1 thought on “How to Break Free From a Toxic Ex Relationship”

  1. How to HALT and what it means is great! Loved, loved it. Doubting reconciliation with my ex husband is possible after 25 years. I want it to work. I will read this over and over in case our dating and trying doesn’t work out. If it doesn’t, I will need it more!
    Thanks Laurie.
    Darlene Linda