The following short poem symbolizes the effects a toxic relationship can have on our growth. Even if growth isn’t our goal, toxicity in relations can either help our happiness fly or paralyze it.
Because we are humans, it’s inevitable we are in relationships. Even if we consider ourselves a recluse, we have work relationships, doctor patient relationship, transactional relationship, and many more. With that fact, it’s important to understand the signs of a potentially toxic relationship, when to distance ourselves from it, and when to end it completely.
Signs of a Toxic Relationship
Before we dive into some key indicators of a toxic bond, it’s important to understand the definition. According to the author of Toxic People, Dr. Lillian Glass, a toxic relationship is “any relationship between people who don’t support each other, where there’s conflict and one seeks to undermine the other, where there’s competition, where there’s disrespect and a lack of cohesiveness.” Here are a few signs we may be engaged in one.
- After being around said person we feel drained
- A lack of support or desire to see the other one succeed
- Grudges or an underlying resentment is present
- Dishonesty and lack of trust are present
- There is a lack of respect expressed
- Being around them feels like we are walking on eggshells
These examples are just a few of the many symptoms, a simple internet search will reveal more.
How to End or Distance Ourselves from These Relationships
So we found out we are in a toxic relationship, now what? Do we cut the person out entirely? What happens if they are a family member? The answers to these questions depends on our personal experience and the level of toxicity the relationship exhibits.
For the most part, people who we do not share obligations with and whose presence in our lives is strictly by choice, are the relationships we get to consider cutting completely. Those are the relationships that if they continue, will rob us of happiness in the end.
In many cases, the best way is to simply let the person know that this relationship isn’t healthy and because we care deeply for ourselves and the other we are walking away. This can work even in business partnerships but will need to be handled accordingly. The hard conversation of “ending contact” can be done in person, on the phone, through a letter, or any other means of communication and that is something we must determine ourselves. The main points are these:
- Be firm and set clear boundaries
- Do not engage in the “on again, off again” cycle of behaviors
Then we must forgive and cease contact with said person. In the extreme cases changing our number, getting a restraining order, or moving may be the best way to do this. The number one tip to share is for us to seek professional help to see why we allowed the toxicity in our lives in the first place, to heal, and then to cultivate self-love. The toleration of toxicity speaks volumes about ourselves and deserves to be interpreted.
In some cases, the toxic person might be our family member, the other parent to our children, or our roommate we are bond to contractually. In these kinds of cases, cutting the person out of our lives completely may not be possible or something we are not willing to move forward with. What we must do is protect our peace and happiness. The best way to do this is to:
- Set firm boundaries and never waver
- Spend less time with this person and be honest about the reasons why
- Reduce conversations to small talk and avoid triggers
- Remember it is not our job to save or try to change anyone
- Remember we can love someone from a distance
Another two key tips for ending a toxic relationship are to seek professional help and commit to our own growth and healing. Remember… it’s surely time to grow in an upward direction. So, we must take inventory of the people who help us soar versus the people that keep us stagnant.
By Mona Nyree Stephens, contributing author
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