To one degree or another, we’ve all experienced toxic relationships. You may be stuck in one (or more) now. Toxic relationships are exhausting, or worse! They can take a lot of different forms. The overall indicators are feelings that the energy is being sucked out of you, and sensations of being trapped or stuck. They make you feel heavy. Often there’s a lot of drama. There could be elements of emotional control, or even psychological abuse, maybe from manipulation, or from being drawn into mind games.
All in all, toxic relationships are THE WORST. They have a way of drawing us in to repeat patterns that we really don’t want to be a part of, yet we keep getting sucked back in. This is common in all sorts of relationships including families. Even loving families have their share of cyclical traps. When people we know well behave in certain ways, we get caught reacting and the cycle repeats over and over again.
When you’re stuck in one of these relationships, it can be very hard to change. The first thing is to recognize the problem. The second thing is to want to change. Then, even if you want to change, the other person might not be willing to, or you may both be so trapped in your cycles together that there’s no hope of repair. Sometimes, you really do need to move on.
Really stop and consider: how important is this relationship? So much of the time, we stay in bad relationships because of habit. That’s not a good enough reason! Yes, action and change take decisiveness and determination. You have to put in the work. But isn’t your mental health worth it?
Often, we also stay in relationships because of loyalty. It could be to a partner, family member, or friend.
It’s also common to stay in a toxic relationship because of perceived need. For example, the toxic relationship could be at work and you feel you need the employment. But is the harm that the relationship is causing you actually worth it?
You need to weigh the relationship carefully and objectively. Can it be salvaged? Turned around? Tolerated? Decide if the relationship should be completely broken off, or if you can work to manage it. If you can’t move on, or more likely decide not to, you can at least employ strategic management tactics.
In many cases, avoiding the person may be enough. You might not have to “break up”. You might be able to just put off seeing them by being “too busy”… all the time. You might be able to let the relationship fizzle out. But in romantic relationships or situations where you live together, that won’t be enough.
Work to manage your stress. Learn to breathe deeply, to count to ten, and to hold your tongue. Though the psychological impact can be very difficult to manage, much of the time these toxic people are looking to get a rise out of you. If you can find ways to remain cool and burn off steam, you might be able to break the pattern.
Set a time limit for the amount of time that you will allow the person in your life. Maybe you know from experience that you can only handle 5 minutes speaking with you’re your sister before she’ll set you off. If that’s the case, set that time as a limit. Do an obligatory “hello, how are you” call periodically and leave it at that. Better yet, if possible, move the relationship to Facebook and avoid having to actually speak with them at all. Maybe there’s a family member who you feel obligated to call. Find ways to check in with them and be polite without actually having to engage in real conversation.
At work, you may have to extricate yourself from non-essential meetings with the toxic person. Avoid social interactions with them altogether. Even if it means avoiding any group socializing, your emotional health is worth it. If you don’t have a door and they lurk in your space, you’ll need to be direct and clear that you need the respect your personal space. If it continues to be a problem, take it up with Human Resources.
Check your communication style. Is your language part of the problem? Are you inadvertently saying things that set the person off? Often, we are contributing to the unhealthy dynamic, even if it’s unconscious. Sometimes, if you change the way that you communicate to be more direct, clear, assertive, and down to business, you can clear any room for games and drama out of the relationship.
When it comes to toxic relationships, remember that you are in control. You might not feel in control, but it’s up to you to take control. Get real with yourself. Can the relationship be fixed, or is it better—for both of you—to put an end to it. Change isn’t easy, but it’s your life. You only get one. Don’t waste any more time with toxicity than you have to.
Stephanie is a Holistic Health Coach who specializes in helping busy women honor themselves, their family, and their future by showing them how to streamline their life, eat better, create more energy, and make better decisions thus decreasing stress. Find out more at StephanieKatherine.com
Stephanie is a Holistic Health Coach who specializes in helping busy women honor themselves, their family, and their future by showing them how to streamline their life, eat better, create more energy, and make better decisions in order to decrease stress.