Unlike the fairly straightforward process of purging our bodies and homes of unwanted toxins, relationships are an entirely different level of complexity. When relationships are toxic, life can get very difficult, and it’s rarely easy to manoeuvre out of a long-term toxic relationship unscathed. Recognizing that toxic relationships are unhealthy, demoralizing and even dangerous is a very important first step, and making a getaway is the next one.
When relationships go bad
Unhealthy relationships can be found at work, within our immediate or extended family, friendship circles, or within our community. For anyone who’s ever been around a toxic person, it’s not always obvious at first. It may start with gossip, name-calling, angry outbursts, or unwelcome teasing. It could slowly escalate to involve lying, manipulation, blaming, physical abuse, and/or sexual abuse; sometimes it’s blatantly obvious, and sometimes it takes a while for these behaviours or cycles to become apparent. If that little voice inside our heads tells us something is wrong, we need to listen; the inner turmoil we feel should not be ignored. Just like ingesting contaminants or pollutants into our bodies, remaining in a toxic relationship can poison us emotionally, physically and spiritually. Further, depending on our situation, a toxic relationship can also cause harm to our children or others in our life.
When to call it quits
Relationships are supposed to be supportive and mutually enjoyable, but when they harm us and become too stressful or riddled with heartache, it’s OK to call it quits. Although there are certainly examples where the inappropriate behaviour gets acknowledged, apologized for and stopped…and life moves on happily, those situations seem to be few and far between. Waiting on someone to ‘change their ways’ could end up taking a lifetime. In fact, ‘sticking it out’ can make matters much worse. Many people in an abusive or toxic relationship find themselves exhibiting behaviours they know they shouldn’t – largely based on fear, anger or resentment. It’s important, however, not to use other’s bad behaviour as an excuse for our own poor decisions. Although it’s normal to experience anger or hurt feelings because of something someone did, we are always in control of our own actions; no one can make us do something wrong.
The getaway plan
Letting people know how their unwelcome behaviour affects us is important, don’t sweep it under the carpet. If they continue to ignore it, it means they either don’t think it’s a problem, or worse, they don’t care, but either way it definitely helps us move forward with a decision to rid ourselves of this person and their behaviour. Cutting loose from a toxic relationship doesn’t always mean it has to be all or nothing, however. Depending on the situation, we can agree to limit our exposure to the toxic people in our lives in lieu of cutting them out forever – for example, we can see them at certain holidays or work events, or only when others are present. Whatever the situation, it has to be what’s within our comfort zone and on our own terms.
The good news about toxic relationships (yes, there’s even good news!) is that we can move forward from the experience, build our confidence, learn about ourselves and seek to avoid it from happening again. We don’t need to harbour long-term anger and resentment, as that wreaks havoc on our mind and body. Keeping strong, staying optimistic and surrounding ourselves with positive, encouraging relationships is the best antidote to a toxic person.
“Letting go of toxic people in your life is a big step in loving yourself.” – Hussein Nishah