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  • Writer's pictureDr. Marni

'Social Ditching': How To Use Social Distancing To End A Toxic Relationship

Updated: May 10, 2020

Use the quarantine to end your unhealthy or unfulfilling relationship for good!

When you learned about the COVID-19 coronavirus quarantine, was one of the first feelings you experienced relief that you wouldn't have to spend time around your partner? If so, then you may very well be trapped in a bad relationship, and it's taken the idea of isolation due to the pandemic to bring it to your mind. And if you've found yourself in this unpredictable situation, then the good news is that you can use social distancing to "ditch" your unhealthy relationship and start over.

Has this relationship simply run its course?

Has it been unsatisfying or unhealthy and toxic?

Have you been thinking about breaking up for a long time but haven’t been able to bring yourself to do it?

Do you both know it's not right, but you keep the on-again-off-again thing going and going?

Have you been trying really hard to change him because he is an addict, a narcissist or emotionally unavailable?

Are you someone’s affair partner, and now you find yourself painfully alone while he or she is holing up with their spouse?

Regardless of the reason, quarantining in your respective places may help you make good and thoughtful use of this social distancing to decide if you should stay in your unhappy relationship.

And if you determine it’s over, allow the supreme words of the WHO and CDC to kick-start the process with forced separation called “social distancing.”

It’s hard to stay away from an ex and end a relationship for good. There are many reasons why you might have gotten stuck in this poor relationship, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you can now eliminate those.

Chemistry & Attraction

Distance dampens chemistry. It’s hard to leave when the sex and chemistry are good (even when the relationship itself is bad). Love is often compared to addiction and with good reason. You often have a feeling similar to withdrawal that makes it hard to stay away from your partner, even if they're emotionally unavailable or even abusive. But now you can view this mandatory isolation as being in a detox facility.

The inability to have sex will decrease the hormones that keep you feeling addicted and feeling that you need that person. Sex releases dopamine, the neurotransmitter that activates the reward center of the brain. Oxytocin, the bonding hormone, is also released both during sex and general physical affection. This time of no contact will dampen the chemicals that help keep you stuck to someone who's not good for you.

Comfort & Familiarity

Thanks to this quarantine, you're also out of your familiar routine. You know each other’s likes, dislikes, and what makes each other tick. If you’ve been together a while, there’s a comfort and a typical schedule for getting together. Going to your favorite restaurants, binging on Netflix, hanging out, and so on. Now, all of that’s gone! You’re both alone, doing your own thing, figuring out a new normal.


Chances are you kept thinking that things would get better with your partner. And, if it’s better now that your apart, well, there’s no need to interpret what that means. But if it really hasn’t gotten better and you’ve been hoping for a while that it will, now there’s no opportunity to really work on it.

Communication via phone, text, or FaceTime will likely not improve things. In fact, there’s more opportunity for miscommunication, misinterpretations, and misunderstandings. A virus will go away, and life will be better one day. I know because the bubonic plague, smallpox, and cholera did. But will this relationship actually get any better? Probably not.

Unpleasant Feelings

There’s no real reason to feel loneliness (sort of). Fear of loneliness and avoiding it at all costs is one of the worst justifications not to leave a bad relationship. So, remember, you’re alone, but most everyone else is too or wishes they were. Being days on end at home with your family is misery for many. So now you can bask in the joy of being alone and not feeling rejected. Being alone is forced upon you now. You’re not alone because you are unlovable. You are alone so you won’t catch COVID-19.

The Corona Kiss Off

It’s time to be creative and use social distancing as the perfect time to end an unsatisfying relationship. Even if your ex reaches out again to resume the relationship, like they often do, you won't be able to see them anyway!

Bravely have one last conversation to assert your desire to quarantine without them. Ditch the person making you unhappy and who you don’t see a future with. Seize this improbable opportunity to curtail the challenges that come along with a break-up!

Try 'social ditching,' and give them the coronavirus kiss off!

Dr. Marni Feuerman* is a licensed psychotherapist and author of Ghosted and Breadcrumbed: Stop Falling for Unavailable Men and Get Smart about Healthy Relationships available on Amazon and everywhere else books are sold. Sign up for her newsletter to keep in touch and get the latest content on love, dating and relationships.

A version of this article can also be found on

Want more? This blog was turned into a mini-podcast within the series Love Under Quarantine.

You may also want to check out my contribution to Why Breaking Up During Coronavirus is a 'Double Dose of Grief' for a series called The New Normal on Washington Post.


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