He’s the dirty-dog Ronnie to your perpetually-doormatty Sammi, and no matter how awful he is to you, you just can’t walk away. Almost every woman has or had one: the toxic ex. What is it about certain guys that sends otherwise smart, self-assured women careening headfirst into a bad relationship? While there’s no telling how women fall under the spell of these guys, there are some tried and true ways to extricate yourself from a poisonous relationship and, eventually, into one where you’re happy and respected.

  • In sad moments, find someone else to contact.
    I was really good at staying away from my ex-boyfriend B. – until something bad happened. When I was having a bad day or feeling lonely, I dialed him out of habit. As silly as it seemed, replacing his number with a close friend’s helped me to realize that other people were there for me, and that B. wasn’t the only one I could go to with problems. In fact, once I stayed away long enough, I realized that he was often the one causing the problems.
  • Make a list of reasons why he’s bad for you, and post it somewhere obvious.
    When someone isn’t around, it’s easy to think about how great they were and how happy you were together. So make a list of all the reasons why he was toxic, whether it’s general things like “he’s really negative” or specific things like “he cheated on me,” and put it somewhere where you can see it often, like the fridge or the bathroom mirror.
  • Remove him from social networking applications.
    You know how much it sucks to run into your ex on the street? Well, with social networking, that likelihood of ‘running into each other’ keeps increasing. If you’re truly a believer in ‘out of sight, out of mind’ this might be the time to defriend him (or at least remove him from your feed) on Facebook and unfollow him on Twitter.
  • Count the days.
    In AA, members get chips commemorating the number of days they’ve gone without a drink. Getting a toxic ex out of your life is not entirely unlike breaking an addiction, and you should also mark the time in a way. Every day that you’re away from a person who hurts you, it gets a little bit easier to stop thinking about him and move on. Whether you want to buy yourself a little something or go out with your friends to mark the occasions, it’s healthy to acknowledge the passing of time.
  • Find a project.
    It’s important to stay busy and to find other things that are meaningful to you. Have you been meaning to take a French class, but never had the time? Do you keep saying you need to work out more, but find excuses not to? The self-reflection process of a breakup is a great time to reevaluate your life and make some positive changes. After B. left I decided to throw myself into my writing, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.