Dear Dr. Romance:

I wonder if you have an article that you've written that you can point me too on how to let go of a toxic relationship. I've been involved for 7 months with a man who is continually evasive, avoidant-attachment, manipulative and I need to figure out how to let this go.

Dear Reader:

Yes, I do.  It's a problem many people, especially women, have.

Once you're bonded with someone, it's very painful to let go. Since most of us like to avoid our feelings, we don't want to do the grieving that's necessary to let go. But, when you've had a loss, there are a certain number of tears you must cry to let go -- getting on with the crying is the fastest way. Even if the dissolution of the relationship was your idea, you may be clinging to a dream -- in denial. A bad relationship can become like an addiction – a difficult habit to break, because you are emotionally attached, and the attached part of you wants to keep trying, while the rational part knows you need to let go.

We also have a lot of cultural mythology about "I'll never stop loving you" and that clinging and martyring to a toxic love means you are truly in love. Clinging to a toxic love is immature, to begin with. A relationship is a partnership, and requires work on both lovers' parts in order to succeed. The initial romance stage isn't supposed to last, the relationship is supposed to grow into a real life partnership, and that requires paying attention, learning and growth. It's not a fairy tale-- it's a real life love story, and well worth the work required. If you give nothing, you get nothing; but you can't be the only one giving. Your partner must be acting in ways that make the relationship better, not worse, also. Sometimes, a toxic partner doesn't really want to be with you, but who either doesn't want to 'hurt you' or is still getting benefits (sex without commitment, you do the laundry, you're willing to take the kids more than your share) that he doesn't want to jeopardize.

Block your ex on the phone, on Facebook, and other social media sites. If you keep looking at his Facebook page, or letting him contact you, you are not grieving and letting yourself heal and move on.

If you gave it your best shot, and you know it's over, or if it never really got started, don't waste time in resentment and anger. Learn to let go. If you're dumping a badly behaved cheater/jerk, be careful. Jerks often throw temper tantrums when they don't get what they want, so break up from a distance. I often advise clients who need to break up with an abusive or violent partner or a stalker to break up via e-mail, to be safer.

If you find you have real reason to doubt this person, and there are real problems, such as lying, severe money problems, a history of alcohol abuse, violence, many past relationship problems, a criminal record, reports of illegal activities, or drug use, do not make excuses, and do not accept promises of change. Change is difficult, and will take a lot of time. Mere promises, no matter how well intended, are not sufficient. Get out of this relationship before you are any more attached, or any more degraded, than you are now. If your partner decides to get help, let him do it because he or she knows they need it, not to get you back. That's not a strong enough motive to keep him committed to change.

To dump a jerk, don't be kind. He won't get it. Be clear, say "It's over" in no uncertain terms, ask him not to contact you, and then cut him off. Don't answer phone calls, e-mails, etc. If you do, you'll give him cause to think he can badger you into coming back. If he shows up, don't let him in. If you have to call the police to get rid of him, do it. He's a spoiled brat, and he needs to know you mean what you say.

Know the signs of emotional blackmail:
1. A demand. Your date won't take "no" for an answer, and requests are really demands.
2. Resistance. When every discussion turns into an argument.
3. Pressure. Your date pressures you to go along.
4. Threats. Your date uses threatening or coercing tactics: threatening to end the relationship,
tears, rage, badgering.
5. Compliance. If you give in, you're setting a dangerous precedent. Your date now knows you
can be pressured into giving in to him or her, and this will increase the intensity of what your
date is willing to do to pressure you.
6. Repetition. An obsessive person will go through these previous five steps over and over,
wearing you down each time. The easiest thing is to be sure when you say "no", it means no.

I hope this is helpful. You can also read: "How to Keep Yourself Out of a Violent Relationship", 
"Setting Boundaries and Saying No" Romance is Not Necessarily Love,  "How to Avoid Loving a Jerk"  and "Avoiding The Drama Triangle" are all articles which will help you restructure your relationship and leave if you find you need to. 

Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today will give you a healthier model for a relationship.


For low-cost phone counseling, email me at

Author's Bio: 

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, The Commuter Marriage, and her newest, Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.