by Kahlia Meeuwsen, Relationships Columnist
Published in Relationships on 20th November, 2018
For many of us, relationships are based on shared interests, mutual respect and simply enjoying one another's company. This can apply to just about any type of relationship, whether it's a family member or significant other. However, sometimes that relationship can be or become toxic without you realizing it's happening.
In some cases, one person in the relationship may come to realize that they've begun to dread phone calls or time spent with the other, or simply that they're often left feeling bad after being in contact with the other person. Understanding what a toxic relationship looks and feels like can be key to separating yourself from it.
A toxic relationship can be made up of two mentally or emotionally unhealthy people, a healthy person and an unhealthy one, or two typically healthy people with a troublesome connection. The word toxic often refers to the idea that it results in increased negative feelings on one or both sides.
It's not always obvious when a friend, family member or partner is making you feel badly. Sometimes, it can involve manipulation that leaves you believing you're always at fault for any issues between you. The common denominator is that the relationship makes you feel badly.
There is a wide variety of different kinds of toxic relationships out there. Some can include physical or emotional abuse, making them far more obvious. However, in other cases it can take years to realize that someone in your life has become a toxic presence.
Toxic individuals can be controlling, they can drain your energy or make you feel like you won't ever measure up to their standards. There are really many ways in which someone can behave in a toxic way. Oftentimes, they leave you feeling like you're failing the relationship.
Many signs exist that can point to a toxic relationship, but the most important is how you feel in that relationship. Does the other person lift you up or drag you down? Do they seem to enjoy who you are, or are constantly seeking for you to change?
How do you feel after spending time with that person? A healthy relationship won't typically leave you feeling emotionally drained or brought low. They also won't engage in judgment towards you that can leave you feeling like you're just not good enough, no matter how hard you try.
If you're starting to feel that a relationship in your life is toxic, don't worry! You aren't alone, and the situation isn't an impossible one. Below, we're going to take a look at some good tips to keep in mind as well as strategies you may want to employ.
This can often be the hardest part of handling a toxic relationship. It can be hard to imagine that a relationship may be one that isn't good for you, especially when it involves a significant other or family member. However, there is no relationship that guarantees another person won't hurt you, emotionally or physically.
This process may require that you spend a little time apart from that person, allowing yourself a chance to really think about the relationship without their influence. In some cases, their reaction to the request for this space can be all you need to see in order to understand that they aren't healthy for you to be around.
Seeking out help from friends, family members or a professional therapist can often provide the clarity you need to understand what's going on in the relationship. Once you can see the reality of the situation, you can start to consider separating from it.
If you're living with someone who you've discovered to be toxic, it's important to get away from them as soon as you can. The longer you spend in a toxic relationship, the more it can effect your psyche, self esteem and overall sense of worth.
Getting out of a living situation with a toxic individual can be a tricky thing to do. In some cases, you may simply not be able to leave right away, for example if you're a minor and the toxic relationship is with a parent. In these situations, it's important to gather as many options as you can.
Remember that in most cases, there is at least one person in your life who will be willing to help you get out or at least provide the support you need to move from an unhealthy situation into a healthier one.
Help can come in many forms. It might mean that someone in your life volunteers to be a listening ear, or that someone helps to move you out of a toxic home. You can also receive help from strangers, in the form of social workers, police officers and others who are there to protect you.
The level of help you may need can greatly depend on just how toxic that relationship is. In some cases, you can end the toxic relationship without any abnormal level of trouble. However, in other instances you may want to consider any protection you can receive.
Think about your toxic relationship in regards to this idea. Is it simply a matter of blocking their number, or would you prefer to have others there just in case you need protection? Keep in mind that it's always better to be more cautious than needed, rather than risk a negative fallback.
Depending on your history, this can be a very difficult thing to do. We can sometimes be lead to believe, through the words and actions of others, that we just aren't worthy of healthy relationships, pride or even happiness. However, these lessons simply aren't true.
No one deserves a relationship that makes them feel badly, particularly about themselves. Situations like toxic relationships are exactly why there is a sentiment that you shouldn't continue to make a mistake simply because you may have spent a long time making it.
Essentially, what that means is that no matter how long you've known or been with that person, it's not a reason to force yourself to continue to remain in an unhealthy situation. You deserve far better, and are unlikely to get it by remaining in the same state. Instead, it's best to cut off the toxic relationship and allow yourself the best possible chance to move on.
This is something that many are only just starting to understand. Just because someone is a partner, a sibling, a cousin or even a parent or grandparent, doesn't mean they are immune from the consequences of a toxic relationship.
No matter who that person is, whether they are usually mentally healthy or unhealthy, you don't deserve a relationship that leaves you feeling poorly. If you would be happier or feel safer without that relationship in your life, then it's time to move on from it.
If the problem is that the person is toxic, don't wait around for them to suddenly become someone new. It's highly unlikely that they'll change, especially if you're always there regardless of how they may treat you.
On the other hand, if you move on then you're more likely to feel better and in time they may realize why the relationship had to come to an end. If that doesn't occur due to losing you, it's likely that it will somewhere down the line as more people realize they don't want the toxic person in their lives anymore. The more people they lose, the more likely it is they might take a look at their own behavior.
Whether the relationship was toxic or not, losing a relationship is hard. Regardless of whether it's for the better or an unfortunate circumstance, it's okay to grieve the loss. Don't try to force yourself to move on before you're ready, or act as though you're fine when you're not.
There isn't a timeframe on this grieving. It can take years to get back to normal life without that relationship. What matters most is being gentle with yourself, allowing yourself to feel and in time you'll discover the benefits of life without that toxic relationship.
After you've had time to grieve, you can begin to move on. Remember that you move forward in your own way. You don't have to suddenly be 100% better. Instead, maybe try to get back to doing the things you enjoy little by little, or finding new things to try out.
It can really help to think about the ways in which that toxic relationship may have damaged you, and focus on those damaged areas. Sometimes, these situations can result in anxiety, social anxiety depression or smaller issues. Working on these things can help you to build confidence and self worth as you move forward.