by Kelvin Belfon
All failed relationships hurt, but letting go of a toxic relationship is actually a gain, not a loss. ~ Marc and Angel Chernoff
A few weeks ago one of my readers commented on a post I’d written, “I’m pretty good with de-cluttering the physical stuff from my home. What weighs me down are my relationships. How can I deal with them?” And another reader confessed, “Ending toxic relationships is the hardest thing to do.”
We all can identify with these observations.
Saying no to toxic relationships can be challenging for several reasons. First, when a person is raised in an abusive environment, he/she easily accept such harmful behavior as normal. And if you don’t know a problem exist, you are least likely to desire change.
Second, a needy or low self-esteem can create an unhealthy dependency on others. And this dependency has the potential of eroding our better judgment in dealing with abusive people.
Third, toxic people can come off nice, warm and charming. Or, at least, they appear to be so in the beginning. They are people we’ve come to trust such as parents, siblings, friends, dating partners, mentors, spiritual authorities, co-workers and such. So the thought of separation seems impossible. Moreover, most of us tend to be pretty hopeful that people will change despite their controlling inclinations.
One of the most difficult things I’ve had to do is to dissolve longstanding relationships that had become counterproductive. Over the years, I knew things had gone wrong and others saw it too. But I couldn’t let go. The truth is, I didn’t want to because I craved acceptance. I also feared exclusion and conflict.
Then one day a friend said, “What you are experiencing is not normal.” I felt offended at first; but it was truth that I just couldn’t contradict. So I started reading and researching these kinds of negative relationships. It was as though blinders had been taken off my eyes. I felt liberated.
It was hard to put into words what I was experiencing. But several months after I had ended the relationship, another friend helped me verbalize what I had been feeling all along. Sometimes we do need that outside person to help identify these complicated association.
Ending the relationship was a long painful process. But it was one of the most important steps I have taken in regaining control of my own life. Freedom is a beautiful thing!
The following are some of the steps I’ve learned in ending toxic relationships.
How to End a Toxic Relationship
Be honest with yourself. Acknowledge that you are in an unhealthy relationship. Admit that you can’t change the toxic person.
Become aware. Learn the signs of toxic relationships. Read, observe and ask lots of questions.
Avoid damning yourself. It is important to examine yourself, to acknowledge your shortcomings. But it is not helpful to be excessively self-deprecating at this point. Toxic people specialize in making their victims feel horrible about themselves. Don’t cave into their attempts to make you feel as if you are any less than you are.
Establish healthy boundaries. Boundaries exist for our protection. Take baby steps in clearly articulating your feelings. For example, “When you _____, you make me feel _________. I would like you to stop it.”
Keep the conversation short. Plan what you’ll say. Toxic people are manipulative and persistent. A simple, “This relationship is not working out” might be all you need to say to avoid opening up Pandora’s Box.
Learn to say “No” Without Blowing Up, Wimping Out or Running Away.
Seek help. Invite family members, trusted friends or a professional to give their honest assessment of this relationship. Never be afraid to ask for help. Others can see things overlooked by our emotions.
Consider physical separation. If necessary, a temporary separation can provide a time of reflection and healing. In other cases, permanent physical separation might be the only viable alternative.
Decide how you want the relationship to end. You can confront the person directly and gradually reduce the communication until the relationship dies on it’s own. You may also choose to go cold turkey and terminate the relationship abruptly with no further contact.
In some cases, writing a letter and sending it may be the way to go. If the letter you choose to write gets really deep into reciting histories of abusive events within the relationship, you may want to reconsider whether you need to mail it after all. Recounting the past to an abusive person often does little to help if that person is in denial.
Seek inward wholeness and healing. Why are we attracted to toxic individuals? One professional counsellor has said that it is because unhealthy people attract other unhealthy people. I have found that the best antidote for dealing with the habit of attracting unhealthy soul ties is to become active in building up one’s own self-esteem. The more wholeness we possess, the less dependent we are on controlling people.
Ending a toxic relationship is tough. The process is like going through the death cycle — denial, anger, grief and recovery. This is why repairing a broken relationship early on is always a good alternative when possible. But if reconciliation is not possible, it is in your best interest to end this relationship decisively. Draw a clear line and don’t’ turn back in weakness or fear.
Remember, you deserve to be treated with dignity. You are a person of worth. No other person should be allowed to control your life.