Do you really need to cut toxic relationships out of your life?

I’m a fixer, and I don’t give up easily. It can be a great strength of mine, but it can also be one of my greatest weaknesses.

I like to approach difficult situations head-on, so I can try to find the best solution possible, especially when it involves people who I care about. I want to solve any and all problems that arise in a relationship, so everyone can move along with their lives and be civil with one another.

I think it ties into my empathetic nature, because I put myself in the other person’s shoes. I really try to not only understand where someone else is coming from, but also to feel what they might be feeling. Sometimes, this benefits me (like when I get in petty arguments with my family members), but other times it can drive me absolutely insane.

Like when I try to do this with someone who is completely and wholly toxic to my well being.

Identifying a toxic relationship

I feel like people throw the term “toxic relationship” around a lot. Some of you might be thinking, “What does that really even mean?”

First of all, let’s think about it in terms of friends or family members, not romantic relationships, because toxic relationships with your significant others is a whole ‘nother ball park. (If you think you may be in an abusive relationship—either physically or mentally—turn here for some guidance. And please, get help.)

When you have a toxic relationship—whether that be with an old friend, a brother or sister, a mom or dad, or any other family member—life can be hell.

Whether it be rude comments here and there, a lack of appreciation for what you’ve put into the relationship, flat out insults, or manipulation, the negative impact that this type of relationship can put on your mental well being is huge.

This person can make you feel unimportant or worthless and have you questioning what you did to deserve this kind of treatment. Know that this is not your fault and there are things you can do to improve the situation.

Once you realize you’re in the clutches of a toxic relationship, people will tell you that you need to get out. And, while I agree with that, I also understand that you may want to do whatever you can to save this relationship, especially if it’s family. (It’s the fixer mentality.)

Trying to save the relationship

Maybe the person making you feel this way has been your best friend since you were 2 or maybe it’s a close family member that you just don’t want to let go. Whatever the reason may be, it’s understandable that you want to try to fix things before completely cutting off all contact.

But, it also is important to know that you need to protect yourself first—your mind and your heart. Know that this method of “fixing things” isn’t truly fixing it. Instead, it’s a way for you to emotionally cut yourself off, but continue to be civil with the person creating this toxicity.

Before I get into how to do that, you need to address a few of these red flag questions (courtesy of MBGRelationships):

  • Does this person ever admit they were wrong?
  • Does this person ever genuinely apologize AND change his or her behavior?
  • Does this person show remorse for what he or she has done?
  • Has this person ever validated your point of view as being right?
  • Does this person respect the limits or boundaries that you’ve set?
  • Is this person willing to do anything and everything to make a relationship with you work? (This cannot be one-sided)

If you answered “no” to these questions, save yourself the time and mental drainage of trying to fix things and skip to the “Ending the relationship” section of this post. No matter how hard you try to make things tolerable, it will not work.

If you see some hope in this relationship, you have a couple options in keeping that person in your life, but remaining on guard. (Again, courtesy of MBGRelationships.)

The Fake It ‘Till You Make It Approach

You know when you were little and your mom used to drag you to those parties you really didn’t want to be at, but you didn’t want to be a little brat, so you put the biggest smile on your face and pretended to be happy even though deep down every part of your being didn’t want to be there? Do that.

But seriously, put on your best fake smile and be as positive and pleasant as you possibly can whenever you see this person. Worst case scenario, they see right through you and try to get under your skin. If that’s the case, kindly refer to the next option.

The Happy Holidays Approach

This is about as close to completely cutting off ties as it gets. In this scenario, you’re avoiding almost all contact with the toxic individual and only seeing them at major events that you absolutely cannot avoid.

And even when those events arise, the only contact you have with that toxic person is a simple “Hi, how are you?”, a nice little side hug, and maybe a wave goodbye. You want to interact as little as possible, so they don’t have the opportunity to make you feel like (for lack of a better word) crap.

If this toxic individual begins to catch on to what you’re doing, the manipulations, rudeness, and insults will ramp up, ten-fold, and when that happens, there is only one option left.

The Fall Off the Face of the Earth Approach

It’s time to let that person go.

Ending the relationship

Letting go of a relationship can be hard, but sometimes it’s needed, especially when any of the following indicators apply to your situation:

  • When the relationship is based in any type of abuse: mentally, physically, sexually, verbally, or emotionally.
  • When the only contact you have with them is negative.
  • When the relationship creates so much stress that it affects the important areas of your life at work or home.
  • When you’re constantly being ostracized, and you find yourself obsessed with the gossip about you and trying to right wrong information to the point of losing sleep over it.
  • When the relationship is all about the other person, and there is no real reason why the other person can’t make any effort toward the health and maintenance of the relationship with you.
  • When crazy-making, no-win games dominate the relationship—such as the silent treatment, blame games, and arguments that spin around on you.

That’s when you know its time to let go. For this to work, you have to be strategic—it’s not as simple as deleting a phone number and never talking to that person again.

The first thing you need to do is create a support system. Reach out to your family members or friends involved in the relationship and tell them what’s going on, what you tried to do to make it better, and why you’re resorting to this drastic measure.

When you cut off contact with the toxic person, they will try to do all they can to isolate you by targeting other people close to you and doing whatever they can to turn them against you, so it’s important for you to have this support system in place beforehand.

Another thing to keep in mind is that this will be difficult, and it will not always turn out the way you planned. Sometimes, you’ll end up losing others you love, too. Especially if you’re cutting off a toxic family member. You have to accept this and know that it will be better for you in the end.

And lastly, but most importantly, keep reminding yourself that this is not your fault. There is absolutely no reason to keep someone in your life that makes you feel like crap, and you have every right to decide who does and does not get to be part of your life.

Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for the (incredibly difficult) decision you’ve made. You know what’s right for yourself, and if others care about you, then they’ll support your decision.

If you surround yourself with people that uplift you, you’ll fly higher than you could ever imagine. So, cut the toxicity out and fly high.

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