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You Deplete Me: 10 Steps to End a Toxic Relationship

“You complete me.” You know that line, right … from Jerry McGuire? It comes right before “You had me at hello” (another puker). The completing-the-other bit nauseates me a tad because we relationship-analyzers (some with the right initials after their names and some self-declared experts who can type) like to classify that type of dialogue with a term known as “codependency.”

Ideally, you shouldn’t need anyone to complete you. You should be whole going into a relationship, right? My guess is that those who feel like they are getting fixed are actually getting ripped off. That’s why they keep coming back, hoping that THIS time their partner will make the ouches go away, making them feel all sunshiny and warm inside. Instead, the ouch is bigger, the hole is wider, and they are feeling the way I do when I see a Tom Cruise movie: bad.

36 Comments to
You Deplete Me: 10 Steps to End a Toxic Relationship

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  1. This should be sent out to all registered independent voters, like myself, and reminded to read the day before November elections.

    This health care deform legislation, as about to be spewed on this country, is the most obscene exercise in narcissism, antisocial traits, and lack of vision I think most wise and attentive voters will ever see these past 30-40 years of this process falsely called democracy.

    Heal the shame? For me, I have no shame for what is in office. Why waste your time and energy to feel for others who have no feelings for those around them.

    Negotiating with arrogance of power is a waste of time. That is why all imcumbents of more than 10-12 years must be told to leave. And isn’t that a common dynamic to toxic relationships this article was addressing in the first place?

  2. Outstanding article! Ms. Borchard is one of my favorite contributors to this website. Thank you so much!

  3. This article really got to me, it really touched me. I must confess that this is the very first time I read this blog, but I’ll keep coming back for more. So many aspects of my relationship are so much clearer now..

  4. You Deplete Me says it all in three words. I am embarking on the task of ending a toxic relationship of nearly 10 years – lots of those spend breaking up and getting back together – sound familiar?
    I know I need help before I do anything so I’m starting with pre-breakup counseling – this leaving has got to stick.
    Thanks for the article in the nick of time.

  5. Never ever did it occur to me to list all the stuff – in relationships – that make me feel really BAD! It might make me an honest woman if I can do it – kind of a babystep to moving on or really making changes. Thanks

  6. Thanks for the article Ms. Borchard. Very helpful. But please can you tell me – what can one do if the toxic person is an elderly parent? My 84-yr-old mother is quite an emotional drain, always has been. I learned to move around her childish motives in the past. But now I am the only person in the immediate vicinity available to look in on her. I try to let go of past issues, keep my own emotions in check, and view her as a pathetic, needy person who needs help. But it’s not always as easy as that. Any advice?

  7. More so than not, couples I have worked with where one decides to end the relationship, that person has to deal with all the same dynamics and challenges that someone does who decides to “leave” alcohol, pot, too much sex or food or gambling. In other words, what works to break a relationship and keep it broke are the same steps and procedures a person uses to end an addiction or dependency. It isn’t easy but it can be done.

  8. This seems self-help happytalk. Let’s suggest alternatives:
    – Codependence, a “bad” relationship is the symptom not the problem. Dump one, prob jst get another.
    – Hiding from and not feeling, deeply, bad feelings is prob the worst thing to do. May need prof help. No biggee.
    – My friends with such have history of childhood abuse, but it really hurts to admit and process.

    But blaming the “bad guy/gurl” is a lot ezier…..

  9. I’m in the process of leaving a toxic relationship. The toxic person cut off the relationship but I’ve decided not to apologize so the relationship will remain broken. It’s very hard now. I think about the relationship every minute of every day. She tells other family members negative things about me – some of which are true and I get very down about myself. I hate myself when I think about the ones that are true and that I can’t change them. For those I need compassion and forgiveness which I will never get. That makes moving on hard.

    • Don’t feel bad about your toxic partner saying things about you. When you said those things you were most probably pushed beyond endurance. I have just broken off an unhealthy toxic relationship where I left and went back countless times. He brought out the worst in me and I knew I was not the person I was becoming. I feel sure you may have felt the same. Don’t beat yourself up, forgive yourself for the uncharacteristic way you behaved. Be happy, and stay blessed. X

  10. Hi,

    I am in this ‘place’ in my life once again. I have to admit that although I’ve left the relationship because it has been toxic for me, my staying as long as I did probably made it toxic for him as well because as long as I wasn’t happy, he had to hear it. Pray for the both of us and thanx so much for this article…This too shall pass!

  11. I had a toxic boss employee relationship. My boss X was bipolar, narcissistic and very hot and cold. I wasn’t perfect in this situation but I really tried hard to make things work. X ended up being heartless and a user. Things ended for good. I left a voicemail expressing how I felt about a few things in a respectful way and have heard nothing back since- this was almost three weeks ago. While I believe it takes two to tango, I think toxic people like X pick up on people who are vulnerable and use them- like I was. I also think that people like X who are abusive have a lot of insecurities. Happy and healthy minded people don’t treat others badly. It sucks because I cared for X and I have had to face the fact I was nothing to her.

  12. I almost swore the person dealing with the 84 year old mother was my older sister. My mother is also 84 and the most bitter and angry woman I know. I had to cut her out of my life…respectfully but finally. Is it wrong to cut someone who is your parent completely out of your life? She is a gossip and makes up lies to get attention. She has put me in many of her dramas and lies…though I find out after all the damage is done.

  13. My husband of 35 years left me and immediately played out sexual fantasies and then joined together with the prostitute for a relationship…he was discovered by his daughters…this prostitute really really uses the internet….he has been diagnosed love sex addict…..i knew about his problems with porno and him contacting on line for three some sex.. but stayed i surmise co-dependent and kept hoping time would help….what do i need t do to take care of myself….i am losing my eyesight as far as driving and working i have fear of how i will get around but i know i cannot go back …he does not want to now anyway… can an addict actually love someone? I always thought he did love me but last 4 years have been seeing truths that there was no real commitment. I was trying to get him to commit when he left….felt too controlled and i guess i was

  14. I am exhausted actually, I have been married for 6 years , together with him for 8 , we have no intimate relationship , we have no communication and its always been like this , I have heard so many times how its my fault that a part of me believes it. You know the last time I was french kissed was years ago, he stopped it because I enjoyed it. I am such a fool and so addicted I dont know HOW to get away. How to get out – I am so sad and confused , I try to chnage things but to no avail , I know it never will no matter what I do it will never be good enough and as usual it will be all my fault , as it always is. I am just tooo sad and tired to deal with life in any form , I just move from day to day … nothing more nothing less :-(

    • Niqui,

      It sounds like you are with someone who had NPD,
      Narcassistic Personality Disorder. I’m involved in a relationship with one. It’s HORRIBLE. They are manipulative, controlling and just make you feel really bad about yourself. Google it and get as much info as you can. Get the strength to leave or you will be miserable the rest of your life!!!! Take it from someone who has been there….Get out NOW!

  15. Interesting article, and great advice for mostly a particular section in society. However, it is very gender-biased, as this sentence in the opening paragraphs makes it clear: “…chances are that your relationship with him is toxic”. As a male, I identified with a number of observations about toxic relationships made in this article, but the ‘perpetrator’ has at times been just as often a female (at work especially, but also in previous personal relationships). It is sad that the author’s bias has clouded the advice they intended to provide, indeed it has diminished its worth and usefulness, even negated it because it is used as cover to perpetuate the myth that only females are subjected to the types of psychological harms which the article seeks to define, and that only males are capable of inflicting them.

  16. Thank you so much for writing this article. I am also a visual person, definitely need to do inner child work and loved the idea you presented, in fact I am going to do it either today or tomorrow. I identify with you, because like you, I’ve stuck my finger in the fire more times than not, it does take a while for me to learn! I think it’s probably part of the tenacity characteristic that can be channeled in good ways. You are so right when you say that this is a full-time job. Sometimes I feel so alone because besides my ACA group and therapist, everyday people are hard to identify with especially when you are focused on your healing…you are right on the mark when you say that you need solitude and rest. Thanks to people like yourself, you have the courage to do speak about this. I see that, I can benefit in that appreciation because if I can see the gifts in others, I come to realize that I can benefit humanity as well.

  17. What great advice… thank you from a struggling soul

  18. I met a man three years ago after five times trying to live and be together we are now apart!!! He is trying to this date to convince me still that the relationship was my problem. I work five days 12 hours a day. Home by seven and he is already drinking. He drinks half gallon of crown in two nights since I have met him. He depresses me. Puts my family and children who are grown down. Nothing I or anyone do is right and I get lectured on a daily basis but still find myself feeling sorry for him…
    Anyone. Any relationship has always done him wrong I have lost or should I say given up everything for him. He is all alone. Family lives an hour or two away. His children 16 hours away. I feel like I am a good person. I don’t complain but find him lecturing me on everything everything. All the way down to finding a hair in the bathroom sink. I don’t know what is wrong with me I have Always ended relationships in the past and walked away. What is it with this guy?? He has locked me out!!! Ignored me for months!!! Mean…hateful. What the heck??? When I get him out of my system he starts calling and begging for me to come back!!! I feel like the alcohol is killing him and he will have no one when he gets sick over it. But as mean as he is to me why the heck should I care?

  19. LOL, I misread one of your quotes…

    “not 5 or 10, but 18 ways she nourishes her soul, or center”

    I thought of all the Borderline Personality Disordered women I have run into lately, maybe hitting 65..75 percent of the bleeding herd. I thought it said:

    “18 ways she nourishes her sour center”

    Far more descriptive of the current self-entitled feminist bunch running around these days. Best advice is to avoid them entirely.

  20. wow. Thankyou. I really appreciate the clear order of ‘steps’ and realise I have been trying to enact all of these things. There is such empowerment in naming what it is. Keep blogging. What you are writing is clear, concise and truly good. Thankyou also to the Kimbey comment. I will look up NPD. It may well be what I’ve been up against.

  21. Hey there! Great advice, and it’s amazing, even if you are in a toxic relationship, sometimes, it feels like the only thing you deserve. I left my boyfriend five times and that is not usual for me; I am usually strong, decided, and done when it is not working after successful attempts. I don’t know what I keep latching onto, and every time I leave, he comes back, but really, it’s just holding me back, I feel like a terrible person for leaving (the initial time was infidelity on his part that I never truly recovered from) and he never encourages me, and I never have a chance to encourage him because he has no hobbies. I can’t focus on work, and have made a startup business and know how crucial it is to focus now, but it’s amazing how enough gas lighting, subtle remarks, and lack of emotional depth can deplete you and make you just plain feel like crap. Perhaps it’s time to end it so we BOTH have a chance to be happy, but can’t seem to trust myself to do it and end it this time.

    FML. Great article, now it’s time to carry out the exercises! <3 good luck to everyone struggling with toxicity too!

  22. Amazing advice! After a six month roller coaster ride I told myself this last time would be the last plummet but it’s been so hard to not yearn for the “good times”. It helped to write out a letter explaining my feelings but I would still return to entertaining thoughts of a hopeless love. I started reminding myself of the hurtful memories yet feared that focussing on negativity might not be healthy for my spirit. I especially like the idea of talking to my inner child and explaining that she deserves so much better. The rewards system is also appealing. :)

  23. I have been off/ on with my ex for 3 yrs…he never takes responsibility for his behavior or take control of his life, and he told a relative he believes I can “fix” whats broken in me- the fact he actually believes that makes me sad for him. I am just an ordinary girl, not God, and I am okay with that. I wouldn’t even want the responsibility of “fixing” someone- any little thing sets him off, he is habitually angry- at life. I don’t believe he has the stress management and coping skills normal adults learn- its like he never learned that. He talks incessantly about how horrible his family is and how much his life sucks. I am a pretty positive person, but he is really bringing me down and that’s not who I am or who I want to be. I don’t want to catch his disease and I feel like I have those moments where I feel like him, that scares me. I recently blocked him (again) from FB. He threatened suicide (again) if I didn’t “work out a plan” for us- I don’t have a plan other than to be happy, at peace and be safe and I don’t feel safe with him. I just feel like he will always be “stuck” in this emotional valley for whatever reason. I never thought it was my job to pull him out of it, but he believes that is the case- where that logic comes from I have no idea. He is emotionally volatile and unstable. Caring for him only causes me more pain, my logical mind knows I am settling and deserve way better than this, but my heart is slow to catch up…its getting there though and I’m not mad about it, actually kind of relieved…lately I haven’t been feeling anything, just numb.

  24. Thank you for your insights. Greatly appreciated! Soo important to love yourself n know you are WORTH something no matter how ppl may treat or speak to you. You only get one chance at life – let’s make it great. Peace.

  25. How do you end a toxic relationship if the toxic person is you?

    • That is an amazing first step to even admit you are the “toxic” person. People who truly are toxic cannot even see into themselves to admit that, nor can they accept responsibility. There is hope and healing when you bring it into the light. There are two great resources available to help you truly change. These are God and a good therapist. Cry out to God, through Jesus who died for your sins, and ask Him to forgive, cleanse you, and heal you. He will answer this humble prayer in amazing and miraculous ways! Watch how he brings life-giving people into your life to help you.

      God Bless.

  26. Excellent article. My mom is a drinker as were many relatives. The inner child dialogue is something I am going to do regularly. My husband yells like my mom did. I hate it and dont know why I live this way. I want to be happy again and not fearful of what I am doing wrong and is he mad again. Asking those questions to myself was really eye opening. I know deep down what I need to do. This article has given me strength today. Keep writing!!!

  27. Thank you

  28. Thank you for this blog, wow I feel like I’ve been losing my mind. I’m so exhausted of the mind games, I’ve turned into someone I don’t even recognize. I used to be witty, extrovert, happy, bubbly, have faith, always putting myself out there to help someone, involved in life and my community, peaceful, nothing but love amd admiration for others to this depressed, disgusted, irritated, negative, angry and negative being. I try to walk away and say enough is enough then I fall for the lies and manipulation allll over again. I can’t take it anymore, not sure how but this life is absolutely killing me.
    Thank you for writing this is puts things into perspective as well as all of the feedback.

  29. Thanks for the article, well-thought and well-written.
    But, there is still big but. First-hand experience from a person with a lotta ins and outs of toxic relationship (TR).
    Starts well at the beginning, but at the fill-the-hole part I felt the urge to chime in.
    For me all these resourceful, re-energizing and replenishing activities suggested, just cover the hole but not fill it. Ditto notes to oneself.
    However pathetic and preposterous the sufferer in TR is, the guy or gal (usually a gal) that spends time hugging a dog and writing letters to herself like “Hi there, I love you!” is pathetic too.
    I realize it sounds like a no-win or, even more awful, it sounds like stay where you are (in TR), don’t move as you’ll end up a crazy cat lady painting meaningless pictures that only sympathetic family and friends praise out of duty. No, I don’t mean to say that.
    But let’s face it, lucky escapees from TR and still suffering there, – it’s a hole in us that was there before it all began, it’s the hole that brought us there and made us crumble. And this hole can’t be truly filled with ornaments like composing haiku or repeating affirmations. Sorry to disappoint.
    I’ve been there and I felt the falsehood of this all and I couldn’t get the line from R.E.M. “Imitation of life” off my head. These post-TR activities hyped by wholeness and wellness gurus felt like imitation of life and fulfillment instead of real.

    • It seems pretty obvious that you have low self esteem. Why do you think that doing something for yourself that is enjoyable and creative is sad and fake? People with low self-esteem (like yourself) time after time get into doomed relationships precisely because they don’t do anything for themselves (or feel worthy enough), they just hope that each new partner will fill the gap and bring them gratification. They cannot accept responsibility for their own feelings and happiness themselves and project their expectations onto new partner. You choose your emotions and how you want to feel. Yes, sadness is an emotion but you don’t need to succumb to it to feel alive. You only live one life so if knitting tea cosies makes you happy so be it! You seem quite proud of your lengthy tr experience and angry that other people dare to try to live happy and fulfilling lives instead of dwelling on negative stuff. Intill you learn to love and appreciate yourself then you’ll be a magnet for toxic sadsacks.

  30. I have read most of the comments, and I feel like i’m not alone. This is so hard and draining. I’m in so deep I don’t know where to begin. It’s been over 10 years. I don’t know who I am anymore. I’m almost giving up. I feel wothless. This man is so manipulate, he blames everything on me. He’s always angry and he puts me down all the time. I know it’a my fault for letting someone take control of my life like this. I just need the strength to get out!!!!!….

  31. Hi,

    I have been living a toxic relationship for almost 3 years now. I feel the urge to break free, but at the same time i feel desperate and ansious with the thought of not having that person in my life.

    It has been 3 though years… I met this guy while living in London and i changed my whole life with the perspective and hope that one day he would find in me the the “you complete me” feeling… I honestly thought he had me at hello!
    I guess it was only in my mind that things were so simple… As i was building a toxic relationship towards him… He already had a toxic relationship with his ex girlfriend. She ended up pregnant and their son is now 1 year old.

    During this last 3 years we have not been apart more than two months… It has always been an on and off situation… For me and his ex girlfriend… I have always excused him and his “i” not ready” or “i don’t want labels” because of the confusion it must be to be in love with 2 girls at the same time… But now as his ex has break free from him we keep the on and off type of relationship, e says he’s been through a rough time…

    I am disgusted, unhappy and not proud of myself… It has taken me to places i have never been… And as i stand here writing this, my mind has gone back and forth about setting me free… One minute i know i am able to do it the other o just feel like calling him and run to his not so “safe harbor”

    I am aware that i have a long way to go…

    It just felt good to let all this come out… I hope i find the courage within me to say NO!

    And as you mentioned look in the mirror and say “you had me at hello”.

  32. I´m not alone… thank you for the wonderful article. I broke free from a very toxic relationship with my boyfriend, it has been only three months and it has been very difficult to stay away from him, but I must be able to conquer my feelings. I dream about him often, and I think of him all the fime, but I promised myself never, ever to contact him, and I shall keep my word, no matter what.

    I still miss him, but I am enjoying my freedom. When I was in that relationship, I felt like I HAD to spend time with him. He took precedence over anything else, I had to be “on call” for him 24/7. NOT ANYMORE!

    Good luck to everyone trying to break free from a toxic relationship. It is difficult but not impossible!

  33. What a wonderful helpful humorous and practical down to earth article, makes so much sense.



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