Toxic relationships are those human interactions that make us feel constantly put down, worthless, never good enough, unheard and anything that is emotionally draining us. Toxic relationships are also the ones where a physical abuse happens. While these are obvious and visible, the emotionally toxic ones are harder to see and understand, and therefore they’re harder to end, avoid or change as well.
Toxic relationships are not just the ones with a life partner, they can be between mother and son/daughter, boss and employee, best friends, waiter and client and so on. Toxic relationships are, for me, those relationships that give me the feeling that I’m not taking care of myself the way I’d love to – mentally, spiritually, and physically. Those relationships that make me forget or sacrifice my goals for a better good, usually something acceptable by society that is not necessarily a better good for myself.
These relationships are toxic because they drain the energy out of you, directing it towards things and purposes and compromises that are not fulfilling you as an individual – that’s why the suffocating feeling. The impression you cannot do much, or are stuck in someone else’s approval. Love, friendship or business relationships – they can all lead to this.
Most of the relationships where our intuition keeps telling us that it’s better to let go instead of staying around are toxic ones. And we should learn to trust that inner voice rather than follow our logical mind that tells us we should stick around, keep those persons in our life and fight so that we can’t be accused of giving up too soon.
Toxic relationships signs
While the signs of a toxic relationship are a lot and very diverse, I have tried to sum them up in some common, definite ones that you could relate to in case you do question whether a relationship in your life in toxic or not. Therefore, you definitely are in a toxic relationship if:
- It always seems like you don’t do anything right: yes, you are always mistaken, or not doing things properly, or you have so much more to improve, always.
- It is always about them and almost never about you. That is, it’s always the other’s person opinion, feelings, thoughts that need to be acknowledged and understood, while you almost never feel heard or really taken into account.
- You don’t feel free to speak your mind with that person, you’re just uncomfortable being yourself around him/her.
- You feel like the direction of your growth needs approval from the other person, and you don’t feel free to just decide what you want without being criticized.
Insecurity, not doing things right, feeling invisible or restricted – these are the basic signs common in all toxic relationships. Of course, these signs matter less in a waiter-client relationship in a restaurant where you can never return again, but when it comes to the relationship with you best friend, mother or spouse, things get more complicated and much harder to deal with.
Toxic relationships: how to let them go
Taking action is a must when dealing with a toxic relationship. Be it by speaking up, in an attempt to be heard, or putting some space between you. But you need the freedom to grow, you need to trust your intuition and allow yourself to just be. No amount of constant compromise will do you any good long term.
Get out of denial
The first step is to ask yourself if this relationship is really toxic – and get out of denial. Be honest with yourself and really think about it. Think about how you feel after spending an hour with this person – do you feel energized or drained? Do you feel like you have to spend time together or is it something you look forward to? Do you constantly tell that person something and each and every time feels like it’s in vain? Are you always disappointed by that person’s comments or behaviors? Do you feel you are giving more to the relationship than the other person? Do you always feel bad, not good enough and overall unhappy with the way things go?
And think about one last thing – if you are to imagine that you don’t know that person, would you like to be her friend/life partner by only taking into account how she behaves and interacts with the others?
Identify the good and the bad
Staying in a toxic relationship happens usually because of the perks it brings – social status, looking good, feeling comfortable or somehow sexy, appreciated, feeling like you’re doing something good as you might be in a mission to change the other and so on. Identify these benefits or positive things you are getting out of the relationship.
As well though, identify how you feel, especially when and why you feel bad. Log these emotions, keep track of how often you feel the way you’re feeling. If it happens most or all the times you meet a certain friend, let them go or meet them less frequently.
Replace the toxic with the good
If one or more honest conversations about the relationship is not changing anything, if the patters in that person repeat towards yourself and others all over again – don’t stay in the relationship to save that person. Trust your intuition and leave, before you damage yourself even more.
As you’ve identified the good and the bad, letting go of that toxic relationship means you’ll get rid of all that bad list of feelings. What you need though is to find other relationships that can give you the good list and benefits that the relationship you just ended used to give you. Support friends, family, a lover – they can all help you as long as they are the right one. It’s useless to replace one toxic relationship with another.
If letting go is about a romantic relationship, trust the right one is on its way. But question yourself first if you are the right one for a potential partner? Giving yourself time to pursue your passions, feel whole again, happy with your life and heading towards the life you want to have – this will give you the right energy to really find the right person.
If you need to let go of a parent or a son – it’s obvious you can’t just let go. But you need to put some distance – move in another place in a different neighborhood, maybe even some other city or country. Whatever is needed to give the relationship a different dynamic. Of course you’ll keep in touch, but you need to be on your own in order to have the space you need to grow. And the conversations and attitudes that were drowning you are going to change, freeing you up.
A quote I love from Oprah says that “we can’t become what we need to be by remaining what we are”. A toxic relationship keep you who you are – and you need to become more. Hope these lines gave you some inspiration on how to do that. Now go and allow yourself to become who you need to become!
Learn more about how to change these toxic relationships in order to achieve a balanced lifestyle and overcome the “blues”, anxiety feelings or depression by taking the course on “How to overcome anxiety and depression and go on with your life!”