It’s time to stick up for yourself and end the toxic relationships in your life for good.

The definition of the word ‘toxic’ is:

“Poisonous. Very bad, unpleasant or harmful. Denoting or relating to debt that has a high risk of default.”

If anyone you know comes to mind when you read that definition, you may be engaged in some toxic relationships that are worth reconsideration.

The idea of purging your life of toxic relationships can be overwhelming for good reason, experts say. Toxic relationships are those which have evolved into situations that could potentially be extremely harmful and damaging to our well being. Changing them into something healthy or removing them entirely requires a tremendous amount of work. Additionally, it takes two people (at least) to form a toxic relationship, so there is often high emotional charge on both sides, making them especially fragile relationships to manage.

How to identify toxic relationships

The first step to removing toxic relationships from your life is to identify who in your life can best be described by the definition above. When you consider the latter financial definition, “Denoting or relating to debt that has a high risk of default,” does it describe anyone in your life who is draining you without any promise of return on your investment?

Consider if any of this sounds familiar:

  • You feel drained by the person or people around you.
  • There is a lack of trust between you and your partner or friends.
  • You don’t feel you can count on someone and are frustrated with their persistent unreliability.
  • The relationship you are in is full of drama and high-maintenance, with more negative experiences than positive.
  • You often feel uncomfortable, disrespected or criticised by this person.
  • Your friend or friends bring out the worst in you. You don’t feel you can be yourself around them, and you’re giving them more than you’re getting in return.

Types of toxic relationships

How do you feel when the phone rings and they are on the other end? If they belittle you, control you or constantly bring you down, it’s time to surround yourself with other people who lift you up.

How do you feel when the phone rings and they are on the other end? If they belittle you, control you or constantly bring you down, it’s time to surround yourself with other people who lift you up.

The sarcastic belittler

This type of person will constantly belittle you, especially after you express any idea, belief or thought you feel strongly. They will try to make you feel small, often making sarcastic remarks in order to disguise their behavior.

Why it’s damaging: After a while, you may start to believe them and stop believing in yourself.

The controller

This person tries to control your every move. They have something to say about everything you do, from what you wear to where you live and how you handle day-to-day challenges. They will do everything they can to curtail good things that are happening in your life.

Why it’s damaging: These people can be very manipulative. They can hinder your growth and negatively influence your decisions.

The insecure guilt-inducer

These people may be jealous, intimidated or just unhappy in their own lives and relationships. They may give a lot, but also expect a lot in return. If you make a decision that they don’t like, they will let you know by trying to prompt guilt. You often never feel good enough, because no matter what you do, they aren’t happy.

Why it’s damaging: These relationships can be extremely high maintenance. It can be hard to remember that you are not responsible for their happiness, and they can become over dependant.

The downer

People in your life should lift you up, not down. If you know someone who constantly looks at the negative side of things and makes you find sadness even in the happiest moments, it may be time to reconsider your relationship with them.

Why it’s damaging: Always being around someone who is negative is draining and harmful to your own happiness and self-esteem.

How to remove toxic relationships from your life

Ending relationships is hard. Find your tribe. If they are far away, book a trip to go see them or set up a Facetime date. They’ll be there to support you.

Ending relationships is hard. Find your tribe. If they are far away, book a trip to go see them or set up a Facetime date. They’ll be there to support you.

Removing toxic relationships from your life may require some special considerations:

  • Even positive relationships can sometimes have brief periods in which one of both people in it are exhibiting toxic behaviors. Consider whether the relationship is worth working on, or if the issues are perpetual.
  • Sometimes you may not be in a position to rid your life of the toxic person. A Georgetown University study found that 98 percent of people report experiencing toxic behavior at work. If the person causing you harm is a colleague or manager you need to work with, learning some tools that can help you deal with them can go a long way.
  • It could take time to unravel a toxic relationship. Don’t move quicker than you feel comfortable, and remember that you can distance yourself gradually.

Follow these 5 steps, and you will be well on your way to living a lighter, happier life without being weighed down by toxic relationships:

Step 1: Identify who in your life may be toxic

Consider the characteristics above and jot down the names of people who you think are poisonous to your life and your success.

Step 2: Consider whether you should rework or remove the relationship

If the behavior is persistent and has been ongoing for several months, it may be best to end it. However, if the relationship is 80 percent positive with difficult moments, or the person is someone who you can’t remove from your life, you may need to rework the relationship.

Step 3: Establish boundaries

Now that you understand and can likely predict their behavior, set some limits. The severity of your limits should depend upon the severity of the circumstances. If this toxic relationship has taken over your life and preventing you from functioning, you may want to cut all ties completely and immediately. However, if you are reworking the relationship or want to end it gradually, set some clear rules and stick to them. This will put the power back in your hands, and enable you to engage with them when you want to.

Step 4: Be strong

Toxic people will often try to push back. Feel good about who you are and remember your value. Stick strictly to the limits you set. Don’t respond to their text messages or calls if you don’t want to.

Step 5: Find your tribe

Finally, removing toxic people from your life can be hard. Surround yourself with friends and family who lift you up. Rely on those who love and support you fully – after all, that is what they are there for.

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Have you ended a toxic relationship?

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