How to Heal from a Toxic Marriage! (by: Dr. Anne Brown PhD, RNCS )

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How to Heal from a Toxic Marriage! (by: Dr. Anne Brown PhD, RNCS )

“You will never really see how toxic someone is until you breathe fresh air.”

I received a request the other day from someone who had finally left a really toxic relationship and wanted to know what to do next. First of all, congratulations to anyone who has been able to leave a really toxic relationship. Your new mantra is “Going back is not an option.” There will be times when it seems like an option, IT IS NOT! So what next. Let’s put together a five- point plan for you to start immediately.

Hire experienced help!

This is probably the most important first step. Do your research. You need someone who has experience helping people who have been traumatized by a narcissist, psychopath, sociopath, and or borderline personality for openers. The last thing you need is someone who will make you wrong, tell you, you should have done more, or can’t help you identify the abuse that became your norm. If this relationship to help you starts to feel similar to the relationship you were just in, leave and do more research. You must find someone experienced in helping people say No to abuse. If resources are a challenge or limited find a good 12 step meeting for codependents, adult children of alcoholics, or spouses of chemically dependent people. You will begin to identify enabling behavior which is a necessary step for you to divorce as you reinvent yourself. Once you have a therapist/coach in place the two of you will develop a plan. The goal is to keep you out, understand what you were in, rebuild your self-esteem, help you to recognize early any abusive relationships and leave, and reinvent yourself to really love and be at peace with yourself.

Undo the Brainwashing!

Brainwashing by the perpetrator is designed to tear you down, bond you to the abuser, isolate you, keep you from normal, replace your ideas/thoughts/self with the perpetrator’s beliefs and thoughts, and control you. This process will happen gradually, unbeknownst to you, and unfortunately by masterful design. It is important you understand what happened to you, the beliefs you took on as your own, the beliefs you let go which are really you, where and why your backbone disappeared, the strength of the bond to the perpetrator though toxic and how it can pull you back, the damage done to your self-esteem, and the dependency you felt which helped allow the authoritative control by the perpetrator.

"There comes a time when you have to stop crossing oceans for people who wouldn't even jump puddles for you." ~Author Unknown

Destroy your rationalizing!

In order for you to move on into recovery, it is also important to look at how you rationalized the perpetrator’s psychological/emotional abuse. Rationalization can be a powerful and evil mechanism. Rationalizing is a way to take controversial, at the least, behaviors and give them some “logical” explanation. It is the mind’s way of allowing you to do things you know are wrong by justifying them after the fact. It keeps people from intervening by keeping them in denial when they know things are wrong. Rationalizations are things the mind makes up which if scrutinized by normal and healthy would be thrown out. If you are told a teacher is abusing children and you respond with “but he is such a good teacher” you are rationalizing. Denial keeps you from confronting uncomfortable issues. It is important to find out who was running the show that allowed you to stay in an abusive marriage. Was it the life style, handsome man/woman, money, belief there would never be anyone, “I can change him/her”, and on and on. Rationalization is a fascinating and powerful mechanism that you need to understand to free yourself of it in the future.

Reclaim your self-esteem!

Your perpetrator has subtly stripped you of your self-esteem/worth. You must identify the signs, the way you speak, observe your body (probably beaten down posture of some sort), your unsureness in life, anywhere it is present and totally change things around. Being away from the abuse is the first step because when you get a breath of fresh air you want more fresh air. You have stopped the abuse so now you have a chance at getting your feet back on the ground in your own shoes not someone else’s. You need to dig deep for your ideas/thoughts/beliefs that are yours. You may have to identify at first this is what I thought I believed before I was brainwashed, but this is what I really believe. Surround yourself with people who support your beliefs. Find your voice, live your dreams, get back home in your body, and never let anyone highjack you again for their purposes.

Reinvent Yourself!

When you can say” I never thought I could be so happy and peaceful with me” you have beat the abuser. Take courses, work out physically, have projects with a beginning, middle and an end to build self -esteem, surround yourself with positive people who have your back, take care of your health, sleep well, be part of a community, find a spiritual path and wake up every morning putting one foot in front of the other always going forward. Don’t look back. Forgive yourself and the abuser and Never go down that road again. Get your lessons and move on.

Ask yourself what you want to say about who you are and the difference you made in twenty years and start on that journey now. Love yourself because it requires others to do the same. No self- loathing allowed! Be happy, do fun things, laugh, serve something bigger than you, have interests and walk with the dignity of no toxicity allowed!


This article originally appeared at

Dr. Anne Brown PhD, RN of Sausalito, California, is a psychotherapist, speaker, coach, and the author of Backbone Power: The Science of Saying No. Anne’s approach is especially applicable to people affected by divorce. Backbone Power is a no nonsense self help guide to making decisions while having backbone and integrity in all your choices, short term and long term. In addition to helping the divorce community, Anne has over twenty years experience as the trusted advocate and advisor to influential corporate leaders, trial attorneys, athletes, leaders, physicians and others seeking actionable guidance. Brown is a graduate of the University of Virginia, BS in Nursing; Boston University, MS in Psychiatric-Mental Health in Nursing; and International University, PhD in Addiction Studies. In 1997 Brown also reached a personal goal of obtaining her Black Belt in Soo Bahk Do. You can contact Dr. Anne Brown through her website:

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