How to Fix a Toxic Relationship post image

How to Fix a Toxic Relationship

Toxic relationships are tricky things because they rarely start out toxic. They usually start out nice and fun and exciting, giving you just enough happy memories to hold onto when the toxicity starts to creep in. It usually starts out slowly, and before you know it, you are stuck in a toxic relationship that you can’t seem to leave even though you feel totally miserable.

In my last Ask a Guy article, I discussed the defining features and signs of a toxic relationship.

Please, before you begin reading this article, make sure that you have read and understood the previous article entirely.  In this article I want to go a little deeper into how to repair a toxic relationship, and how to know if it even can be repaired, or if it’s time to walk away.

So what can you do to fix a toxic relationship?

The truth is, you may or may not be able to fix a toxic relationship, but there are certainly steps you can take to try.

In some cases, clear communication and two willing partners can vastly improve the quality of their relationship… sometimes to the point where you’d never know there was ever a problem.

Sometimes the other person is completely unwilling to change, or change anything about how they treat you… at that point, you’ll need to have clear internal boundaries and decide whether or not you want them to be in your life at all (relationships with family members or the parent to your children might be examples of relationships you don’t sever, but approach with extremely clear boundaries in place).

There are a few things you must put in place in order to improve (or even fix) a toxic relationship.

A few quick disclaimers…

First off, I need to make it clear that if you’ve ever been physically hit in your relationship, I urge you to seek out a professional for guidance and support. There is no scenario in which being hit is part of a healthy relationship. I have seen cases where a woman makes an excuse for why it happened or she felt she deserved it or she downplays it as “no big deal.”

So I have to make this very clear, if you have been physically hit in your current relationship, please seek out a professional for guidance and support. If this is you, I hope you really listen to what I just said and do it now.

Next, I want to make clear that I’m a guy who writes my opinion. I need to protect myself legally, so I want to make this quick disclaimer that this article (or any of my articles) should not be interpreted as professional help and should be read for entertainment purposes only. Anything you do (or don’t do) based on reading this article is your responsibility… not mine and not A New Mode’s.

So while I do want the very best for you and while I do my very best to write the most high quality content out there, I needed to just say that quick disclaimer before we delve into how to resolve a toxic relationship

Also, if you feel like you might be in a toxic relationship, I highly recommend that you take this toxic relationship quiz right now. The link will open the quiz in a new window and you can come back to this article in a bit.)

OK, back to talking about what you can do to flush out the toxicity from your relationship…

Walking Power

First, you need to be willing to walk away.

I’m not telling you to leave the relationship, but rather to find the place in your mind where you could picture leaving the relationship and being completely OK.

I’m not saying you wouldn’t be sad or mourn the end of the relationship… and I’m not saying for you to want to break off your relationship with him…

I’m saying that you can imagine leaving and, on a deeper level than the immediate breakup, you can imagine being 100% OK, whole and accepting that it’s over.

Visualizing this is important because it will help your mind see that you really are OK… even now… and it will quiet the voices in your head that fuel your fear of loss (like we talked about in the previous article about signs you’re in a toxic relationship).

When you’re willing to walk away if the toxic relationship can’t be improved, then you will finally break the cycle of sacrificing your well-being in order to “keep the peace” in the relationship.

Clear Boundaries

Also, you need clarity of your situation and, from there, you need to establish clear boundaries in your mind.

If you’ve been in the habit of avoiding conflict and trying to keep the peace, the idea of forming clear boundaries might sound like I’m going to tell you that you need to rock the boat or “put your foot down” or “put him in this place.”

Don’t worry. Having clear boundaries isn’t about being confrontational or assertive or mean… it is simply about being clear: clear on what you will accept, clear on what you won’t accept, clear in your communication and clear about who is responsible for what.

You can become really clear on your boundaries very quickly. You just need to realize two essential truths:

  1. You cannot be responsible for someone else’s emotions, reactions or actions
  2. You are completely responsible for your own actions and emotions. Nobody else can be.

Now, notice I used the word “can” up above and not “should”.

I’m not saying that you “shouldn’t” be responsible for his emotions or that he “shouldn’t” be responsible for yours…

I’m saying that you and he can’t be responsible for each other’s emotions, reactions and actions. It is not possible.

Nobody has control over your emotions.

They can’t create them, they can’t feel them, they can’t address them, they can’t resolve them, they can’t choose to let them go and they can’t choose to be in touch with your inner sense of OK-ness.

They can’t do these things for you, and therefore, it is impossible to expect anyone to be truly responsible for your emotions, reactions and actions.

You are the only one with the experience of your emotions and you are the only one who can have control over your emotions.

Emotional Responsibility

So to build on this idea into something you can use to hopefully improve your relationship, I want to introduce a concept I call emotional responsibility.

Emotional responsibility is essentially what people are pointing to when they talk about things like “healthy boundaries” or “emotional maturity” or “healthy attachment strategies.” The core of all those positive relationship attributes requires that you have emotional responsibility, which simply acknowledges that you cannot take responsibility for another person’s emotions, actions, and reactions and you can’t hold them responsible for your emotions, actions, and reactions.

Again, to hammer the point home, I’m not saying you shouldn’t. I’m saying you can’t. To believe otherwise is a very destructive error (a very common error to the point of almost being considered “normal” to believe, but an error nonetheless).

You are not a victim

You might be in a situation that you don’t want, but you still have control.

I want to make it clear that I’m not saying the situation is your fault or that you deserve what he’s doing or that the situation is somehow “fair” or “not a big deal.”

What I’m saying is that you are not helpless… you have control and with that control you have the power to massively improve the relationship (or, in a worst case scenario, see that no improvement is possible and walk away with the full knowledge that there’s nothing else you could have done).

You always have control because you are the only one who can control your emotions, actions, and reactions. No matter what, nobody can take that away from you.

It’s very important that you acknowledge this side of the relationship dynamic because looking at things from a perspective where another person is responsible for your emotions, reactions, or actions is a key ingredient in the toxic relationship. In order to dissolve the toxic dynamic in a relationship, you must fully realize this truth.

In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Her quote points to the immense power that comes with taking complete responsibility for your emotions, reactions and actions and not blaming anything or anyone else for them.

Similarly, they are not the authority on your emotions. You know what you are thinking, feeling and saying. You know what your intentions are and why you are doing or saying what you choose to do or say. They cannot know this, they are not responsible for this and any accusation they might make about your intentions has no basis in reality (and therefore, requires no reaction on your part).

In the same way, you can’t be responsible for their emotions, reactions, and actions.

You are not their savior or caregiver.

You might love them and want the best for them, but they are the only one who can control their emotions, reactions and actions. You cannot control these things for them, and therefore, it is impossible to live as if you are at all responsible for their emotions, actions and reactions.

Letting go of the illusion that you are somehow responsible for their emotions, reactions, and actions might at first feel like you are cutting them off, being emotionally cold, giving up on them, not caring or being cruel.

It might feel like that, but the fact remains that you cannot be responsible for their emotions, reactions, or actions.

No matter how much you care about them. No matter how much you stress over them. No matter how deeply you love them. No matter how much you want them to be happy.

It doesn’t matter how strongly you feel about them or your relationship… nothing will change the absolute fact that you cannot and will never have control over their emotions, reactions, or actions. You need to let go of that idea entirely because it is a huge piece of what keeps a toxic relationship in place.

We’ll talk about what a healthy and effective form of caring looks like in a moment.

Drama entrenches conflict, non-reaction dissolves conflict…

It’s essential that you understand that you are responsible for your own emotions, reactions, and actions (and you are not responsible for his at all) because it sets the stage to dissolve your conflict with him.

Just because you’re not responsible for his reactions doesn’t mean that entitles you to intentionally provoke negative emotions in your partner, nor is it a smart idea.

The wisest and most effective strategy to communicate with your partner is to always have the best intentions for you, for him, and for your relationship.

This is the healthy form of caring for another person… that is, to always intend to do what’s best for you, him and your relationship.

When you know your intentions are for the good of everyone involved, you can take action clearly and confidently and if they have a negative reaction towards you, you can let them own it themselves without taking on any of the negativity yourself since you know that your intentions are always coming from a good, pure, positive place.

Taking responsibility for his negative emotions, reactions, or actions is not good for the relationship (same goes for trying to resolve his negative emotions for him, as if you’re somehow responsible for them or could ultimately resolve his emotions for him.)

Not taking responsibility for your own emotions (or putting your negative emotions on him and expecting him to somehow resolve them) is also not good for the relationship.

Making each other into an enemy is definitely not good for the relationship…

He may not immediately adopt that way of communicating with you if he’s been heavily in the habit of making you into an enemy, blaming you, criticizing you, putting you down, etc. In fact, he may never adopt that way of communicating with you, at which point you may decide to limit your exposure to him or break off the relationship completely.

Regardless of what he does, you do not and cannot have any control of him. You, however, will do best to always communicate with him with your, his and your relationship’s best interests in mind since you want to be effective at dissolving the conflict in your relationship and you can only control your actions, not his.

You want to improve things and only you can control you, so in order to start improving things, you’ll need to be the one to take new, bold, decisive action to improve things. You’ve already tried everything else and it hasn’t improved on its own. If you want things to improve now, then it’s up to you to get the ball rolling.

The reason you want to make sure your actions are in your, his, and your relationship’s best interest is because approaching communication from that angle will bring in your sense of clarity and compassion.

Instead of reacting to things he’s saying and doing with emotions and drama, you can look at things from a higher level.

You can ask yourself: is reacting negatively to what he’s saying or doing right now good for me, him or the relationship? No? Then I will choose not to react.

His negative actions are the spark of conflict, but your emotionally negative reactions are the fuel which catches fire and propels the toxic relationship into full swing.

If you take away the fuel (your negative emotional reactions), you stop the momentum of the toxic relationship dead in its tracks.

Now at this point I will be the first to admit that this is not easy.  Speaking personally, it took me years of meditation to improve in this area and, while I’m much better in this area now than I ever was, I still have plenty of room for improvement.

So I acknowledge that this takes inner work to not react (especially when someone is hitting your triggers and, moreover, when it might feel like that doing everything they can to draw you into conflict…)

So yes, I recognize that this is not easy (and not common in our society either, unfortunately).

And no, I am not expecting you to be some kind of emotionless robot… there is a practical and realistic way that you can have this important communication skill in the real world.

Understanding the logic of this is one thing, putting it into practice is another. You might ask…

How can I stop my negative emotional reactions to him and his behavior?

In our society, women get some really bad social identities projected onto them, which simply aren’t true.

Society subtly spreads a poisonous message to women that they are victims who have no control over their emotions.

This simply isn’t the case. Moreover, it’s not about needing to “control” your emotions (as if your emotions are exploding inside of you and you’re trying with all your might to push them down). It’s about having clarity so that instead of interpreting things in a scary, negative way (which results in feeling an overwhelming surge of negative emotions), you interpret things in a clear and empowering way, so that no negative emotions come up in the first place and you’re OK, calm and at peace.

This is not possible if you hold a viewpoint that you are somehow a victim in any way (by victim I am talking about someone who makes someone or something else responsible for their emotions, reactions and actions).

The key point is this:  it is your interpretation of the event and not the event itself that causes the majority of your suffering.  

Change the way you see things and you’ll change the way you interpret things.  Change the way you interpret things and you’ll be able to massively reduce or even remove the suffering in your relationships.

Clarity and non-reaction is your approach…

At this point, you’re clear on your boundaries (he’s entirely responsible for his feelings, you’re entirely responsible for yours) and we’ve discussed how feeding into conflict with him only strengthens the toxicity of the relationship.

Now we’re going to talk about action steps to resolve a toxic relationship… or see clearly that it is not able to be saved.

Action steps to resolve a toxic relationship

I’m going to give you a clear way to approach resolving this through communication and you will either be able to set the stage for resolving the toxicity in your relationship and improve your relationship over time… or, in the worst case, you’ll walk away and you’ll be able to do so with clarity and wholeness (versus having a bunch of unresolved feelings).

As discussed before, you need to be OK with walking away before you can have this conversation with him. If you have not found that place in your mind where you can imagine breaking up with this person and still being able to be completely OK, whole and at peace with it… then get there internally first.

Next, you need to stop engaging in the drama. You aren’t going to resolve this through conflict, so there is no value in continuing to feed into any drama or conflict (whether it’s indulging in sulking through your own negative emotions about your relationship with them or through directly fighting with them).

You’re ready to proceed once that foundation is in place.

You will do this as many times as necessary… or you will determine at some point that you are at an impasse with them…

How to talk to your partner to dissolve the toxic relationship:

When things are calm, talk about the relationship and make it very short and to the point. You can start the conversation by saying:

“You’re important to me and I want you in my life. There are some things in this relationship that are deal-breakers for me. My hope is that we can work them out and the only way that could happen is if I tell you clearly what they are.”

Then explain instances where he is making you responsible for his actions or emotions (by guilting, by blaming, by accusing, etc.)… or taking away your responsibility for your own emotions/actions (by labeling what you’re doing/feeling, by making decisions for you, etc.)

Dealing with his reactions

After you initiate this conversation, he may launch even harder into his guilting, blaming or accusing (or his labeling of what you’re actually feeling or doing).

If this happens, you can just point it out that you can’t be responsible for his emotions (it’s not possible), he can’t know what you’re feeling or your intentions (nobody is a mind reader) and while you want the best for him, for yourself, and for your relationship, you can’t be responsible to make them see and feel that.

Also, he may point out where you are doing these things… in these cases where you really are making him responsible for your emotions (or reactions or actions), you will calmly listen and take responsibility. You can say, “You’re right. I need to take responsibility for my emotions and my actions if this relationship is going to work. I take responsibility for that.”

Again, you need to approach the conversation having already resolved that you can walk away and you’ll be OK. This way, if he threatens that he’ll end the relationship because you’re “making” him feel upset, you won’t be upset by the threat, but instead see it for what it is (him not taking responsibility for his emotions and reactions).

As a result, you won’t react negatively to his negative behavior and you’ll stop feeding the toxic dynamic… and there’s nothing more shocking to a person than when their partner stops feeding into a toxic dynamic.

It might be a calm conversation or it might get ugly. What determines if there can be improvement is if, at the end of the conversation, you have an agreement that you are both willing to each take responsibility for your own actions and emotions and not put that on the other person.

There will be no more “shoulding” in the relationship (that is, holding an expectation over the other person’s head that they “should” be doing something… and if they don’t, they deserve to be punished and are entitled to punish you for it).

This applies to both of you… in order for this to work, the relationship cannot be approached from a victim/victimizer perspective. Instead, it must be approached from the perspective of what’s best for everyone involved, with clear and complete personal emotional responsibility in both people.

Where to go from here…

The most important piece of the puzzle in resolving a toxic relationship is getting really clear internally: clear on what you are and aren’t responsible for, clear on what behavior is healthy and acceptable from him and clear on what is healthy behavior from you.

Getting this clarity is not about what one person should be doing or what you deserve. Getting this clarity is about seeing clearly whether or not this relationship will work for you and be a healthy part of your life (or, on the other side, if it will not be able to work for you and not be a healthy part of your life).

This isn’t about anyone being right or wrong, nor is it about someone being a “good” or “bad” person. This is simply about the relationship dynamic: can it work or not?

By being clear on your boundaries (seeing that you are 100% responsible for your actions, reactions and emotions… and he for his), you can easily see whether or not the relationship dynamic is healthy or not.

And if it’s not, you can clearly see what needs to be brought on track. It’s as simple as recognizing when one of you is making the other one responsible for your (or his) emotions, reactions and actions… which creates an impossible and relationship-destroying dynamic when left unaddressed.

By reaching a place where you can be OK even if the relationship ends, you are prepared to address the unhealthy dynamic in your relationship without your fear of loss betraying what’s best for you, for him and for the relationship.

And finally, by clearly speaking to him about addressing the toxic dynamic directly, you have clearly given him the opportunity to choose how he’d like to proceed.

He might choose not to change, in which case you might choose to end the relationship (or drastically limit your exposure to him if completely leaving is not possible).

He might fight you hard at first, but without your negative reaction to his habitual communication to you, he might begin to change when he realizes you really will leave if things don’t change.

Or… he might be surprisingly understanding and receptive to what you tell him and be willing to work with you on improving the relationship together. That’s the best case scenario, and remember, you really are in this together.

If you do decide to stay in the relationship and he is willing to consciously work on how he communicates with you, make sure you remember that you’re on the same side and you’re right there with him (not standing back waiting, judging, and watching with your arms crossed).

I mention this because too often I see articles about toxic relationships putting the blame 100% on the other person, which doesn’t serve you since it’s always important to be conscious of your what you’re putting out there as well. It serves you to always have this awareness.

Relationships happen in real time, moment to moment. They are not “things”, like a rock or a car or a bed. They are an ongoing, living, breathing dance with another person and you choose to dance with them every single day you have this relationship with them.

Always remember that you choose them every day… and you have the power to stop choosing your current relationship dynamic if it no longer works in your life.

Good luck in your relationship, I wish you the very best.

Hope it helps,
eric charles

Written by Eric Charles

I'm Eric Charles, the co-founder and co-editor of A New Mode. I love writing articles to help people free themselves from suffering and have clarity in their love life. I have a degree in Psychology and I've dedicated the last 20 years of my life to learning everything I can about human psychology and sharing what gets people out of struggling with life and into having the life they really want. If you want to contact me, feel free to reach out on Facebook or Twitter.

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I liked the graph that shows how high you feel when things are not toxic. The roller coaster effect. This is how I feel. A false sense of high, only because the baseline emotions of the relationship are so very very bad, destructive, anxiety and dread producing and so very low. This has dispelled the false notion that I ‘can’t let go as things are so amazing and powerful when it’s good’ I believe this is helping me understand my toxic relationship, so I can move on. I appreciate this article.

Reply May 12, 2022, 3:30 am

Mary H. Joyce

I’m in a relationship, but I don’t fix my relationship. Is it healthy or toxic? After reading your article now, I can easily fix my toxic relationship. Your tips are really helping me to solve my problem. Thank you so much.

Reply January 7, 2021, 10:02 pm


This is very helpful thank you. As I am trying to understand it I am wondering what do you do if you did something that hurt someones feelings. I know I am not responsible, and it was not my intention to be hurtful. Should I just apologize and explain I may have influenced them but their feelings are their own responsibility? I am trying to out how to not feel like a mean person while also not taking on the responsibility of others emotions.

Reply August 13, 2019, 4:24 am


Thankyou so much you have explored and considered and written so eloquently on all areas of this most difficult subject. Thankyou for sharing your thoughts and knowledge in such depth. After being involved in an off and on toxic relationship for 8 or 9 years I now feel empowered to move on and leave it behind. I know it takes two to tango I have tried to improve the situation. I’m now walking away with clarity , we can only be responsible for own thoughts, feelings and emotions so right. Tired of feeling rubbish and chasing a relationship that will never be , onwards and upwards to healthy relationships . I feel indebted to you having read this article . Thankyou, wish you peace and happiness. Dee

Reply March 23, 2017, 7:54 am


Well said! Thank u for taking the time to help Women cope with toxic relationships.

Reply February 27, 2017, 10:44 am


Darn! I had a wonderful comment here singing your praises, then got “recover webpage” and poof . . . So I will keep it brief. Spectacular! This is the most empowering and honest article I have ever read on this topic. It teaches real life tools to take back one’s own power, regardless of what any other person is doing, feeling, saying. So refreshingly different from the usual “he’s a lout; you’re a victim” that does absolutely nothing to help the situation. Bravo, bravo, a million thanks!

Reply October 21, 2016, 10:42 pm

Eric Charles

I’m really glad you liked it, Yama. Thanks for the compliment.

Reply October 23, 2016, 5:29 pm


Brilliant! This is one of the most empowering and truly helpful relationship and (let’s face it) life skills articles I have ever read. After reading this and the original article, I did not feel the usual sense of dread and doom that always rises after reading word after word of how I have been victimized and that other person is a hopeless lout. No, instead this encourages and teaches the reader to take back their rightful power and be their true self, regardless of what anyone else is doing. Bravo, bravo – a million thanks!

Reply October 21, 2016, 10:34 pm


Hi Charles, thank you very much, you are Godsend. I’ve just come out of a toxic relationship. Both my ex and I were responsible for the toxicity. I’m trying to improve MYSELF for the next relationship in the future, whether with him or a different person. Once again, thank you, your content/ advice is what i “live by” daily. It makes a whole lot of sense, it’s specific and real. Most of what you right seems like it was designed just for my situation. Once again, I truly thank you.

Reply September 18, 2016, 3:08 am


This is so bias towards women it’s not even legible, men can be emotional connected and experience the same things women can. I’m a man seeking advice from the Internet due to the fact that I care enough to reach out to sources that are unorthodox. So I don’t agree with this article being swayed into the emphasis of women only experiencing this. Great help

Reply July 10, 2016, 6:12 am

Eric Charles

Hey Derek, thanks for the message.

Since this site started in 2009, I noticed that people have been increasingly sensitive to the idea that an article might be bias towards one side or another.

Hopefully you’ll stick around long enough for me to give you my point of view on this… if you do, I think you’ll see that I’m not bias towards men or women with my write-ups – I just want to help. I would agree that most of the content I’ve seen on the internet is bias and often panders to a gender (either men or women, depending on the site).

So first off, this site is for a woman’s audience. So while I do make an effort to point out that certain points aren’t specific to men or women, I do assume it’s probably a woman reading it since 99% of the time it is…

In case it wasn’t clear in the article (or other times I’ve written about toxic relationships), yes men can have toxic relationships and be abused too. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a 50/50 split…

Honestly though, if you read the site there’s a lot of women that will comment that I have a bias *against* women, not for… because “women can experience XYZ, too, you know”.

I’m still trying to figure out to navigate the waters of being accthe used of being biased when I write something…

It’s like being called any kind of -ist… chauvanist, racist, sexist, etc. — even if you know in your heart that you are not, how do you prove that to people in a comment response?

I have my whole body of work on this site, so I guess one option would be for me to say, “Read my articles on the site and see if you still think that after you read more.” I don’t know that it would work, but unlike people who accuse me in comments, my entire writing history is available for your perusal.

I’m responding to your comment mainly because I want to find the path that takes the discussion to a constructive place… I realize that when people are writing that they think something is sexist, they are hurting about something on some level… I already know that I’m not sexist… I would much rather have a discussion about what’s really bothering the person and hopefully help them get out of pain in their situation.

If you want to share what you’re looking for, write back and tell me what’s going on.

Reply July 10, 2016, 1:22 pm


I thought it was particularly unbiased honestly.

Reply August 13, 2019, 4:26 am


Three months into the best relationship of my life! We both feel the other is the One. I have been introduce up his entire circle and am part of his world. I have a you g child from a previous relationship. He has just told me we need to have a serious talk – he goes on to tell me he’s struggling with problems in our relationship …because of my daughter :( he thought he would be ok with it but he’s not. Hunks she’s great the best you could wish for. But he doesn’t know if he can be the person he should be in the relationship because she’s not his. We are both in our 40’s. he wants a child of his own.
Further to this bomb shell out of the blue (I literally just met his dad) he was concerned as he hadn’t met any if my family and friends. He asked was there something he should know. I just wanted things to flow naturally and the opportunity had arisen.
Things are tense now. He still wants me around but is not close.
Is this just a wobble he’s having? Have I made him feel like I’m hiding things? I love him and want this to resolve itself…

Reply April 24, 2016, 1:27 pm


I recently decided to take action and break up my 3.5 year relationship. we have had our problems but there a few I could not get passes and have come to resent him for it. My heart tells me I miss him and hate him at the same time. I keep feeling as if I did the right thing for myself, but he says I’m selfish. My reason for leaving was mainly the toxic parts of our relationship he would be angry half the time and if he wasn’t something I said, did, or didn’t do would make him angry. He wanted me to open up more but over time every time I did he would get mad. I basically shut down all emotions and began resenting him for things he said when he was angry, for smoking weed, for having an addiction to cocaine, putting me down. He cheated on me and closer to this end I began cheating too. When times were good they were great. Many times aside from our problems we were great friends, loved each other very much, and had amazing times. I am having trouble deciding if breaking up is the right thing to do he wants to work on it, but I feel like I gave it all I had.

Reply February 22, 2016, 8:27 am


I was my ex for 12 years. I loved him more than anything and we definitely had our ups and downs and went back and forth where we did some awful things to one another and dated other people for small amounts of time but I truly did love him. When we finally put everything in our past behind us and decided to move forward with each other I was extremely. We had been together for 5 years with no break ups, no drama filled ups and downs. I was ready to settle down and start out lives together, I thought he was too when he proposed but as soon as he proposed it was like something changed in him. He stopped wanting to spend time together, he would only call me at night when he was done spending time with his friends after work (which then I would always go over there and spend the night). He didn’t really want to talk about the wedding plans or house hunting and every time I set up an appointment he didn’t show up at the last minute. I kept trying to talk to him about how I was feeling and just asked him to be more present in our lives together but it seemed the more I said something to him the more he pushed away. At one point he would block my phone number for days at time because I would tell him I was upset about his actions and he would wait for me to cool off before talking to me again, and when he did he would just act like nothing happened. I started to really think about our lives together and if we would be happy if we got married. I told him that things really needed to change before we could commit to marriage and instead of him making more of an effort things took a turn for the worst.
He left me downtown when we were out with friends and blocked my number because I wouldn’t sleep with him. Then he left me at my sisters wedding because he got so drunk before dinner and I asked him to lay off for just an hour or so. Then he wouldn’t stay with me or even talk to me really when I was watching my sisters dog for two weeks (he said it was too far him to drive for work but we worked at the same place). I started to pull away from him just like he was doing with me. I told him that I couldn’t believe the way he was acting and if he didn’t love me or didn’t want to marry me he shouldn’t have proposed and if he was having second thoughts he could and should have said something to me. He didn’t seem to think he was in the wrong and that because I was annoying him it was okay for him to treat me that way. I started to get involved with sports and met new people who made me feel special again. I started to flirt with one man and at first it was harmless. He made me feel important again when my fiance was not. I still loved my fiance and wanted to make it work but it felt like no matter what I did it wasn’t enough. I made a terrible mistake by flirting with someone outside of my relationship and I regret it everyday but I still loved my fiance and wanted it to work. I asked him to go to couples counseling and he said no, that if we needed that than we shouldn’t be together even though he told his friends that he didn’t want to break up but he didn’t want to get married. I stayed going back and forth thinking we were going to work it out even though we called off the wedding but then he told me he met someone else and that he doesn’t feel the same about me and that since I cheated on him he could never imagine marrying me. I am still crushed but even more than being crushed by hearing those words was him telling everyone that I cheated on him multiple times while we were engaged (which flirting is considered cheating but nothing physical happened and it was with one person and I stopped to try and work it out with him). That he would have married me if I didn’t do that and not taking any responsibilities for his actions prior to mine. He re-proposed to me just so he could get the ring back (I paid half for it) and then told me three days later he met someone and I needed to stop stalking him. He then sued me and hasn’t spoken to me since.

It is devastating to have tried so hard for so long to be with someone who never really seemed to care. I miss him everyday but I have to wonder that if I didn’t make a mistake that if we could have worked it out and been happy with one another.. if eventually he would have came around and treated me right or if it was the right thing.

Reply November 17, 2015, 12:54 pm

Eric Charles

Hey Laura – as luck would have it, I just finished a guest article for another website that very clearly answers your question here (at the deepest level). Message me on Facebook and I’ll send it to you (even though it hasn’t been published yet).

Reply November 3, 2015, 4:55 pm

gabriela filoušová

Hi Eric,
please send me the article as promised to Laura…I have been through something very similar…thanks gabi

Reply January 15, 2016, 3:29 pm


I am a female (37 years old).i am currently in a relationship with a 37 male who works m-f lives with his parents .we live 10 minutes away from each  (no obligations other than himself) The longest relationship he has been in has only been 6 months.   He never calls but he suggests we have a night were we talk on the phone and I always call cause if it was our night to call and he did not hear from me he still would not call and it is late at night and he is always sleepy because he suggests it be at 9pm,  I always ask if it can be early but always says he has something to do, I do all the texting if I did not text we would not talk to each other until we see each other the next scheduled night.  He has our nights scheduled Thursday night, Saturday night and all day Sunday, as time has gone by I have wanted to see him more but he gets mad when I want to see him more,  he claims that he feels like I don’t think he does enough for me, and I never say anything like that because he gets defensive.  But he does get upset if you ask him to stay over on a night that we normally don’t see each other.  One incident I was going away for the weekend with my mom and sister and I asked my him if I could see him on when I got back, I wanted to see him on Tuesday night and he wanted to wait until the following Thursday night and he finally agreed to seeing me on Wednesday night but it was like pulling teeth to get him to agree to it.  I just thought he would have missed me but he definitely did not mind waiting until our scheduled night.  He did finally say he would try to stay an extra night once a month but it’s is when he can do it,  it’s all when it’s good for him,  on his terms.   When it comes to affection he lacks it big time!  I love to be affectionate, but he does not hold my hand if I want to hold his hand I have to grab it and one time we were out walking I held his arm and he said that I was wrinkling his shirt.   And in private I have iniate cuddles,  he will only on his terms but basically it is me who always wants to cuddle he is very very closed off emotionally. I ask all the questions about feelings and if we go to the movies we don’t hold hand or even watching TV, I get sometimes you don’t have to cuddle buy I love to cuddle or hold hands or have some kind of contact, it’s a must! I will admit I am not perfect at all I give him his space but I mean I thought a boyfriend would want to see there girlfriend a little more than he does, he has never said “I miss you or I love you”.  I think he has commitment issues, I have asked him twice if he would like to move in with me he always says relax,  breathe we are young but we are young but not like we are 30yrs old.   All these issues have been brought up in conversation more than once in the time we have been together currently we are together. If you could give me insight on him and I know you can’t anylaze him.   Thank you for your help.

Reply October 20, 2015, 7:55 am


I wasn’t sure where to post this question but read your series on “The Inner World of Men” and enjoyed it but you never answered the question as to why you feel you are “ultimately unlovable and unworthy of love and commitment.”

Reply October 13, 2015, 1:22 pm


Hi Not expecting you to have an answer as this has confused many people.  Here goes:-

I was in a relationship with an amazing man for two and a half years.  We became best friends before crossing over the friendship barrier. We are both of different religions and we chatted often about our differences in respect of this.   We knew that if ever we got closer and of we wanted to make things official he would need to convert.  He was happy to do so…. when we were dating things were  amazing.  We counted the days until we saw each other…which were only on the weekends.  We travelled lots and experienced a whole lot together until our last trip. We went to the US and it was on this trip i became extremely insecure…and I also suspected thathe was unhappy….there were moments when he began texting people from home…and he did that often which I couldnt understand as I was here with him…why did he have to text other girls from home.  Soon after our trip home he sent me a text message to say that he couldnt be with me any longer.  I agreed that he should go…but a day after that I called him to say that we could find a way to make it work if he was willing. .of which I didnt get an answer.  I asked a psychologist to chat to him as I couldnt and all she said was that he said that we were too different.  After that I have had to live with the no knowledge of what had happened as we never fought…disagreed… or had argurments…ever.  During and at the end of the relationship.    With the lack of information I have had to rebuild my self esteem, repair my shattered heart, and make peace with the unknown.  I have read your emails for the past two weeks and I finally realise my errors.   I circled my life and availability around him.  He was my be all and end all to all males. He was rarely at fault and I complimented him and built up his self esteem plenty…to a degree where he left me..  So having said all of this please tell me what did I do wrong that ended this relationship as I am finding it impossible to move on and its been two and a halt years since the break up.  Please note the last time we spoke was when we were still in a relationship. I have blocked him and mutual friends off facebook.  I do know that he is in another relationship presently.   Im just lost and need to find my feet again…and my heart.

Reply October 1, 2015, 9:36 am


Thank you so much. I’ve been reading this kind of article for so long, and I finally found something clear enough to make sense to my messy insecure mind. After months of a magical relationship, me and my SO started being more and more frustrated with each other over things we used to tolerate at the beginning and arguing too much and so he asked to take a break so both of us could figure out how to work things out by breathing and focusing on ourselves. I’ve read another 2 articles here too, and together they gave me the real perspective of how to really go through all of this and stop suffering like someone has died. I’m really going to consider all that you said so that I can be more confident when we meet again and I can really show him what’s important to me and what I want and don’t let myself be dominated by him or anyone else. It’s not gonna be easy, and I still have a lot of thinking to do before I’m ready to face this and face him the way it should be done so it works, but reading this was very very helpful already. Thanks, once again.

Reply August 27, 2015, 12:06 am


Thank you! For a coincidence that article was terribly helpful right now

Reply August 23, 2015, 2:57 pm

Eric Charles

Awesome, I’m really glad to hear that. Hope you read both part #1 and this part (which is part #2). Good luck with everything.

Reply August 24, 2015, 2:08 pm


Not sure how to submit a question to you on here, but it’s worth a shot. Do you think you guys can write an article about how to get a relationship back into swing after taking space. Not a break up or break, just after some heated time pulling back. But now I’m ready to pull back together? PS there are young kids from other relationships involved so spontaneous or overnight things… Not so much.

Reply September 26, 2015, 5:15 am

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