13 Ways to Fix a Toxic Relationship and Make It Stronger

Relationships can get messy sometimes. 

Even the strongest couples hit rough patches where toxicity bubbles up, and things feel broken. 

But don't panic–with some work, even the rockiest relationships can become tranquil again. 

The key is being willing to put in real effort. 

We’re highlighting some powerful steps you can take to repair the damage and get your relationship back on track. 

Whether you're fighting nonstop, feeling disconnected, or dealing with a major trust breach, these strategies will help you transform toxicity into trust and rekindle the love.

Understanding a Toxic Relationship

What makes a relationship toxic, really? 

It's when things turn ugly – like constant fighting, drama, and just bad vibes all around. 

  • One or both people feel super unhappy but stay stuck in the mess. 
  • Trust and open communication take a nosedive. 
  • Someone's always criticizing or controlling. 
  • Boundaries get trampled. 
  • Resentment builds up. 

It becomes a cycle of fighting and temporary make-ups, but nothing actually changes. 

The relationship gets poisoned by behaviors that leave you feeling bad about yourself and walking on eggshells. 

That imbalance of power and lack of mutual care breeds unhappiness.

Basically, it's toxic when it feels unhealthy and makes you miserable.

Can You Fix a Toxic Relationship?

It's a reasonable question if you're stuck in an unhealthy dynamic. The comforting truth is, yes, it is possible to fix and turn around a toxic relationship in many cases.

With consistent effort from both people, trust and care can be rebuilt, communication improved, and positivity restored. 

woman yelling at man sitting down Fix a Toxic Relationship

The essential factors are a willingness to take an honest look at the issues and do the work, along with a commitment to genuine change from both parties. 

It won't happen overnight, but real repair is within reach if you dismantle negativity piece by piece and actively rebuild affection.

With targeted strategies, a toxic relationship can transform into a healthy, loving one.

How to Fix a Toxic Relationship: 13 Repair Strategies for a Healthy Dynamic

Now, let's dive into the nuts and bolts – how can you actively fix a toxic relationship? The key is being strategic and consistent. With concerted effort over time, you can dismantle toxicity and create a healthier dynamic.

Here are 13 powerful tips to help you repair the relationship and get it back on track.

1. Identify the Toxic Behaviors

The first step is taking an honest look at what's causing the toxicity. Make a list of the specific problems – is it constant criticism, lying, betrayals of trust, controlling behavior, or emotional abuse

Identifying the tangible issues allows you both to see what needs to change and set clear goals. Have an open discussion where you each share your perspective on how behaviors are damaging the relationship. Be specific and name the issues directly and without blaming your partner. 

2. Communicate and Listen Without Judgment

Once you've identified the destructive patterns, you need real communication to fix them. Set regular times to talk so that you both can share your feelings openly without criticism or contempt. Listen without judgment or defensiveness. The goal is to understand each other's experience. 

Reflect back to your partner what you hear them say. If emotions start running high, take a break and come back to the conversation when calm. Keep talking it through until both people feel heard. Healthy communication won't happen overnight, but consistency helps rebuild trust.

3. Set Boundaries and Stick to Them

Strong boundaries are crucial when harmful behavior invades a relationship. Sit down together and determine what behaviors will no longer be tolerated, like dishonesty, passive-aggression, controlling actions, disrespect, and verbal abuse. 

couple sitting on sofa smiling with counselor Fix a Toxic Relationship

State clearly what the boundaries are for both people. Then, stick to them. If someone crosses a line, there must be consequences, or the boundaries are meaningless. 

Reinforce positive changes but call out broken boundaries immediately. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but boundaries create the security to rebuild trust.

4. Address Imbalances of Power 

Harmful relationships often involve an imbalance of power that allows damaging behaviors to persist. Look honestly at how power plays out between you. 

  • Are decisions dominated by one person's needs? 
  • Is one person's voice stifled? 

Restore the balance by amplifying the less dominant voice – solicit their opinions, encourage them to share openly, and validate their perspective. Make decisions together. The goal is equality. 

This may involve the dominant person relinquishing control, which is never easy but necessary for real change. With effort, you can get to a mutual understanding.

5. Seek Outside Perspective and Support 

It's hard to fix relationship problems when you're deep inside them. An outside perspective from a trusted friend or mental health professional can help identify unhealthy patterns you may be too close to see. 

Confide in someone who will give you honest feedback without judgment. A counselor can equip you with healthy communication and conflict-resolution tools. Don't rely on outside input alone, but let it guide you. Lean on friends for emotional support when things get hard. Knowing people have your back bolsters strength. 

6. Take Responsibility for Your Part

Toxic relationships involve hurtful actions by both people, even if one seems more at fault. Self-reflection is tough but powerful. Look inward at your own damaging behaviors.

  • Do you lash out in anger? 
  • Withhold affection?
  • Fail to listen? 
  • Make unfair accusations? 

Take responsibility and apologize for the pain you've caused without excuses. Then, take steps to change hurtful behaviors. Holding yourself accountable reduces defensiveness and helps others do the same. Meet true change with forgiveness.

7. Commit to Healthier Conflict Resolution

Blowout fights that leave both parties bloodied define a toxic relationship. Learn and commit to healthier conflict resolution. Take a break if emotions escalate, and revisit when you’re both calm. Establish rules like no name-calling, blaming, or bringing up past issues. Speak using “I” statements rather than accusations. 

Express anger, but don't seek to punish. Stay solution-focused by asking, how can we prevent this in the future? Consider counseling to learn tools like active listening and validating emotions. The goal is resolving conflict in a way that brings you closer.

8. Practice Small Acts of Positivity

When bitterness takes over, warm feelings seem impossible, but don't underestimate small, loving acts. Hold hands while watching TV. Leave a sweet note on their car. Send a funny meme that reminds you of them. 

Small gestures, when genuine and consistent, plant seeds of positivity that blossom into mutual affection. Don't expect instant results, but over time, these emotional deposits add up and nourish love. Positivity needs practice to outshine negativity. Keep going.

9. Dig Into the Past That Haunts You 

Sometimes noxious relationships have roots in a painful history, such as childhood wounds, past traumas, and exes who caused harm. When old hurt goes unresolved, it pollutes the present. Have candid conversations about how past pain may impact current behaviors. 

Open up about triggers that still carry charged emotions. How can you support each other in healing? Consider counseling to work through old wounds together to foster intimacy and compassion. Freeing the past removes weights dragging down the future.

10. Make Your Relationship a Priority 

It's impossible to fix a relationship you're not actively invested in. Toxicity festers when a relationship becomes an afterthought. Combat this by making your partner a priority again. Set aside distractions and really focus when you're together. 

Leave work at work and the phone in your pocket. Recreate meaningful rituals like a weekly date night, a bedtime chat, and a daily check-in call. Reaffirm your commitment to the relationship. Reinforce that your partner and the relationship are worth your best effort. Be sure to follow through consistently, not just when problems erupt. 

11. Seek Professional Help When Needed

Don't hesitate to seek outside help from a professional if your own efforts aren't improving the destructive patterns. A counselor provides tools tailored to your situation with communication strategies and ways to rebuild trust and intimacy, teaching you both to express emotions in a healthy way. 

If there are deeper traumas or mental health issues, therapy helps address these core problems. Having an impartial third party mediate disagreements can break your negative patterns. It takes vulnerability, but counseling maximizes your chances of turning things around.

12. Consider Trial Separation if Needed

In poisonous relationships, a breather may be needed. Consider a trial separation where you live apart for a set period while working on the relationship. This gives space to gain clarity and process emotions. 

Use the time to focus on self-care and personal growth. Establish rules and expectations – will you date others? How often will you communicate? When will you reevaluate reconciliation? The goal is to decide if you want to salvage the relationship. Just don't use separation to avoid issues. Real change is still necessary.

13. Make Self-Care a Priority

You can't pour from an empty cup, so take care of yourself first. Carve out “me-time” to pursue hobbies, see friends, and exercise. Don't neglect self-care while waiting for problems to disappear – that only breeds more toxicity. 

couple hugging standing by window Fix a Toxic Relationship

Prioritize eating well, getting good sleep, and moving your body. Reflect on what makes you feel nurtured. If one partner is neglecting self-care, the other can gently encourage them. Remind each other to stay fueled and recharged as you work through challenges. With cups full, you have the energy to give.

Can a Toxic Person Change for Someone They Love?

People wonder if a partner can change harmful behaviors that are deeply ingrained. It's a fair question. The truth is – change is always possible, but these poisonous patterns will not vanish overnight. Old habits die hard. 

For real transformation to happen, the harmful partner has to want to change for their own growth, not just to please their partner. It takes brutal self-honesty, consistency, and time to unravel old patterns. 

Relapses will happen. But with patient support from someone they love, personalized counseling, and sticking to the work, even entrenched toxicity can soften. So, there is hope as long as both people stay committed.

What Is the Difference Between a Toxic Relationship and an Abusive Relationship?

It's common to hear the terms “toxic relationship” and “abusive relationship” used interchangeably. But while they share some traits, there are key differences:

  • Toxic relationships involve unhealthy patterns and power imbalances that harm both people and the relationship. There are codependent behaviors, poor communication, mistrust, criticism, and frequent conflict. However, neither partner is purposefully trying to control or harm the other.
  • Abusive relationships have serious power imbalances with one partner exerting coercive control over the other through physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse. The abuser systematically uses tactics like isolation, humiliation, threats, and violence to dominate their partner.
  • While toxicity may reflect poor conflict resolution skills, abuse is calculated and intentional harm done to maintain power. Toxicity stems from unmet needs; abuse aims to meet the needs of the abuser at the victim's expense.
  • A destructive relationship has the potential for change if both people commit to the work. An abusive relationship is unsafe and requires leaving or intervention. The abuser believes they have the right to abuse.

So in summary, all abusive relationships are toxic but not all toxic relationships are abusive. Recognizing the distinctions is important when assessing relationship health.

Final Thoughts

Bottom line? It takes two committed people to do the hard work of transforming a toxic relationship into a healthy one. With concerted effort and willingness to get outside help when needed, you can break negative patterns, rebuild trust slowly but surely, and cultivate an unshakeable bond. It won't be easy, but it will be worth it.