Most people, when they hear the term toxic relationship, the immediately think of a romantic relationship. However most of the time that is not the case, typically it’s friendships and family that cause the most toxicity in someone’s life.
Looking back on my life I have been able to see a pattern of toxic relationships that I have been lucky enough to break free from and some I’m still on that constant merry-go-round with that leave me feeling queasy. I feel like in order to really explain this to you I need to give you a little bit of a backstory.
My biological father had a mom, dad, and 3 sisters. His parents were divorced and his dad remarried his stepmom who had two kids. My dad was very close to his step family and viewed them as his blood. When my mom was pregnant with me he died in a pretty horrific car crash, a few months later I was born. I grew up close to my dad’s father and step family, considering them own, but had no relationship at all with his mother & sisters. I resented them for a lot of my life for that because I felt like they held this magical key to an entire half of me I didn’t know. Now grown and looking back I am thankful for their lack of interest in me because what small interaction I had with one of his sisters was extremely toxic. I am forever thankful that any ties with them were severed.
So began my journey with toxic relationships. I don’t have a PHD but I feel like I have some knowledge in this area. I figured the easiest way for me to help you get off your own merry-go-rounds is to quickly explain to you some identifiers for a toxic relationship (just in case you have any doubt that the person you are thinking of is really causing you grief) and then share 2 ways I have found to help myself when dealing.
I know that the second you clicked on this post you had a person in mind. Someone that leaves you exhausted and questioning yourself worth when you leave them. Yet there still might be a little part of you that wonders if it’s not just you overreacting. Psychology today has a great article really detailing the 8 toxic identifiers I am going to give you, so when you get a chance head over here to read it. Toxic people are: 1) manipulative 2) Judgmental 3) Never take responsibility for their actions 4) Unapologetic 5) Constantly making you prove yourself to them 6) Make you defend yourself 7) Don’t care about what makes you happy 8) Inconsistent personality. Is that person’s name now flashing is big neon letters for you? There is no shame in finding yourself in this situation, every person has been there and chances are you will find yourself here again. This time though I hope you can remember these two things.
1) Stop feeling guilty. A lot of times when we are with a toxic person we leave feeling guilty. Did I say something that would set them off? Why didn’t I change the course of the conversation? Will they think my intentions were bad? Stop that line of thinking right now. You are only in control of one person on this planet and that if you, friend. In a healthy relationship you can slip up and say something you regret but that person if going to understand and love you regardless. When the relationship is unhealthy they will spin it to their own benefit but guess what? You can’t control that so let your guilt go.
2) Distance yourself. This is always tricky because a lot of time people tell me “the most toxic person in my life is family.” Now you might never meet someone who is more fiercely protective of family than me. I think because I grew up not knowing an entire side of my family I clung to the ones I did have for dear life. That’s not to say there has not been toxic situations in my family. I have had to, more than once, back away from someone in my family for my own sanity. This does not make you a bad person or mean you don’t love them but you can’t subject yourself to them. There are people I do not interact with unless we are in a family setting and then I’m kind (always be kind please) and pour love into them. Then when the party ends I go my separate way. I used to leave these interactions mentally drained but now I leave with peace. They might of said something that irritated me but I showed kindness and now I can breathe easy.
3) Stand up for yourself. Like I said in #2 please always be kind the world doesn’t need anymore unkind people. However being kind does not mean you have to be punching bag. When someone says something cruel, tell them. When they make you feel less than, tell them. As long as you do this with grace you have nothing to be ashamed of. When I have stood up for myself it’s always made the situation better. It might be a little awkward at first but then future interactions they know they can’t talk to me or treat me that way.
4) This might be the most important for both people. Pray. I am constantly praying for the toxic people in my life. Praying for the strength to handle them, praying for them, praying for those around us. Through prayer God has greatly changed how I handle these types of interactions because I used to not handle them with grace at all but fiery words. I was recently doing a bible study with my oldest daughter and it talked about how people who are unkind are hurting and gosh that really is a universal truth. Learning that helped me see the toxic people in my life with different eyes.
I hope my tips help you the next time you are around that person who is stealing your joy. I wish life was as easy as a Pinterest quote and if someone was cruel to us we could just walk away. Sorry though, thats not life. Distance is okay but you are never going to escape completely. Tell me in the comments below what tools you use.