Unfortunately, most people have been in an unhealthy, toxic relationship at least one time in their lives, if not more. A toxic relationship can tear your emotions in two completely different directions – wanting to break-up because the pain isn’t worth it, yet desperately wanting to hold onto the relationship because you’re scared.

Often, people don’t realize they’re in a toxic relationship. They feel exhausted, scared, and unsupported, but think it’s normal because relationships take work.

Having a loving relationship is important because we crave having a person who is there for us on the path to living happily ever after. When we find that person, we slowly accept behaviors that are below our standards and leave us feeling frustrated and worthless. Before we know it, we’re lost in a toxic relationship.No matter how long, brief, or insignificant a relationship is, it is forever. A part of it is always with you, leaving a mark, or scar, that will never be undone. However, this can be a good thing as each relationship is a path to self-discovery that provides not only relationship lessons, but life lessons as well.

Through my own experience, and those of my clients, I’ve noticed commonalities with people who couldn’t find and maintain a healthy relationship. It all boils down to one thing: your relationships are a reflection of the relationship you have with yourself.

If you find yourself in toxic relationship after toxic relationship, end the one you are in and don’t start a new one, yet. First, try these five ways to stop attracting toxic relationships before you begin searching for your next relationship.

Be Comfortable Being Alone

Although the story changes, the problem is always the same: I didn’t realize what I was worth, so I found myself accepting and tolerating relationships that turned toxic. It never started out that way. Things started out fine and we were happy. But then it started getting bad, and I thought it would go back to the way it was. It’s easier to be with someone than to be alone.

Believing it’s easier or better than being alone is a dangerous thought that leads people into one toxic relationship after another. It creates a false sense of accomplishment and too much heartache.

Spend some time by yourself and get comfortable being with yourself with no one else around. Watch your favorite shows on Netflix, read a book or two, or spend time doing your favorite hobby. Whatever it is, use the time to get to know you, and learn to be content with your own company.

Be Happy and Love Yourself

People constantly seek love and approval from others to feel happy about themselves. They feel that if the outside world can give the them happiness, then they are happy. With my clients, I’ve found that 99.9% of the time, this is wrong. Happiness starts, and comes, from within. Think of it this way: it’s hard to try to control what people think of me. It’s so much easier to control how I receive myself.

When you’re spending quality time with yourself, look in and find out what makes you happy. People who are constantly looking for someone else for comfort and happiness because they cannot find it within themselves are not attractive. Desperation is a turn off—trust me on this one. Don’t continuously seek your happiness in others. You’ll end up disappointed and alone.

Fall in love with your life and yourself. It’s an old cliche, but it’s true: you can’t love anyone else until you love yourself first. Find yourself and then find someone you want to be with, not who you need to be with. Don’t attach your happiness to anyone other than yourself.

Don’t be Someone’s Option

This can apply to any relationship in your life, not just romantic relationships. For your romantic relationships, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you seeing someone who won’t commit to a relationship, but always calls to “check on you” when they’re on the way home from the bar?
  • Does your significant other make you feel like your needs and desires make you a bad person?
  • How about if your significant other always seems too busy to spend time with you and makes you feel bad for wanting to spend time together?

If you answered yes to any of these, your significant other is seeing you as an option. It is time reevaluate and create something better.

I believe the number one way to boost your self-esteem is to ditch the people who are bringing you down so you can work on strengthening the most important relationship of all: the one you have with yourself.

Seek an Equal Partner

Women have tendencies to be attracted to projects instead of partners. If this is you, ask yourself why. Could it be because you need to improve yourself?

Fixer-uppers are great for Hollywood and HGTV, but not so much for relationships. The likelihood that you’re going to meet and be attracted to an addict and/or emotionally unavailable bad boy or girl, rescue them, and then get married and live happily ever after is highly unlikely.

In healthy relationships, there isn’t rescuer and rescuee. There are equals. If you’re seeking out someone to rescue, a.k.a. a project, there’s a good chance that you’re avoiding something in your life that needs to be addressed. It could be your self-esteem, or it could be control issues.

People don’t want to be rescued and indebted to others. Everyone wants to feel valued and accepted for who they are, not who they were changed into by someone else. Expect that whomever you have a relationship with will put at least as much effort into the relationship as you will. See yourselves as equals.

Know Your Worth

If you are someone with expectations and standards but keep accepting less in your relationship because you feel that you don’t deserve more, please stop dating. Take the time for some self-work to find self-love.

It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a summer fling or your happily ever after, you have to have standards. If you’re constantly connecting with people who don’t meet your standards, you’re wasting your time, and theirs. You’re making the decision to allow people in your life that don’t, and won’t, work. Stop allowing this to happen and realize you deserve better.

Through their actions, and sometimes their words, your significant other is showing you they can’t and won’t give you what you want and what you deserve. You deserve to feel valued, loved, and respected.

Some examples of behavior that should not be accepted include never introducing you to family and friends, reluctance to define the relationship because they just want to have a “good time,” and guarding their phone like it’s as valuable as Bill Gates net worth. Know your worth and accept nothing less than what you want and deserve.

When you finally leave a toxic relationship, it will likely take time to bounce back from the trauma and damage. Take that time to learn how to be happy with yourself, know your worth, and be alone. If you jump right into a relationship after a break up, chances are you’re going to be suspicious of your new partner and will begin questioning everyone and everything. By taking time to heal, you’re creating space in your life for something healthy.

I know this is easier said than done and might involve days or weeks on the couch with your favorite ice cream. There is no timeline or secret recipe for healing, but the healing will create space in your life to connect with the partner you want and deserve. What do you do to feel better after a breakup? How do you spend time alone to heal? Share your experiences below in the comments.

Laura Richer, CHt, is a Certified Hypnotherapist and Master Life Coach. Through her Richer Love program, she combines coaching with hypnotherapy to help single women release their baggage and open up to finding love with the right person.  Laura’s love of learning has taken her to Western Washington University, The Southwest Institute of Healing Arts, Basytr University, and Seattle Life Coach Master Training as well as many self-help seminars, transformational workshops, yoga classes, spiritual retreats, and much more. Laura is a graduate student at Antioch University and in her final year of finishing her degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

Image courtesy of Pablo Merchán Montes.