Monday, February 7, 2011

Opinion: Ending toxic relationships

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. – M. Kathleen Casey

This is my "Coles Notes" version of a long – but good – article published by "fanny mae" on This post is meant for a friend of mine who I know will never see it (unfortunately), but I'm sure we all can relate to the subject matter. The link to the original article is at the bottom of this post. –Docaitta

Ending toxic relationships

Identifying and ending a toxic relationship is difficult and painful. People are not all bad or all good. The pain of ending a relationship, however, is far less than allowing yourself to continue a relationship with a person who is toxic for you.

Choosing to remain in a toxic relationship is like choosing to continually drink poison over and over again. Eventually emotional pain manifests itself physically in one way or another. The proof of this lies in anxiety attacks, depression, insomnia, and a myriad of other health issues relating to emotional stress. Only a person with a death wish would choose to pick up a bottle of bleach and start chugging. 

So why is it that so many of us choose to spend time and energy on relationships that are toxic to our bodies, not to mention emotionally and spiritually draining? A lot of times, it is simply because we do not know how to end the toxic relationships in our lives.

Ending a relationship may make the other party feel very powerless and hurt, but this is no reason to stay in a relationship. If you are just staying in the relationship out of fear of hurting someone else's feelings, in the end is that relationship based on anything true or real? No, it is not. Sacrificing yourself is not what a healthy relationship entails.

Step 1: Identify if the relationship is toxic
Ask yourself these questions:

Am I truly happy when I am around this person?

Do I have heightened stress when I am around this person?

Do I feel exhausted after spending time with this person?

Am I giving to this relationship much much more than I am getting in return?

Do I feel the relationship is going nowhere?

If the answer is yes to all or most of these questions then the indications are that this relationship is toxic for you. Life is so precious and so short — it is not worth your time to give and give and give to a relationship that is really just DEAD. There are many reasons why people become the toxic party in a relationship. Some were never taught how to be in a loving and caring relationship, while others are very needy because their needs were never met as a child. And the list goes on.

Step 2: Be resolute about ending the relationship
Once you have identified that a person is toxic, you have to be determined to end the relationship. It is important for you to hold your resolve and not let guilt or third party manipulations soften your resolve.

Step 3: Write down how you feel, even if you never show it to anyone
You will find it therapeutic to write down your feelings on paper. It is important to use "I feel" language and not blaming language when getting your feelings out. Maybe you will never share what you have written with the person you are choosing to end the relationship with, but that's not the point of the exercise. 

Step 4: Confront the toxic party
It is necessary to confront the toxic behavior and expose it for what it is. Sharing your feelings and confronting the toxic behavior may be painful and difficult for the other person to hear, but it is important for you to get your feelings out regardless, be it face to face or written.

If it's a family member, you may need to confront the person face to face. If your toxic relationship is with a manipulative, angry, or violent person; you may opt for not confronting them face to face. In the case of an abusive relationship, you may want to seek a restraining order or other professional assistance. You may also need the support of a counselor and definitely the support of trusted friends.

Step 5: Forgive and move on
You will never truly end the toxic relationship if you hold onto your anger, resentment, or bitterness. Forgiveness, however, has nothing to do with reconciliation and everything to do with you allowing yourself to move past the hurt and pain you have felt and find joy in other things. This may take time and a period of grieving. But once you have grieved the relationship. Move on.

This is the most important step to ending a toxic relationship, getting busy with life. Take joy in (and be thankful for) what you have, and don't dwell on what you feel others may have taken from you. Be thankful for the relationships that you do have that are life affirming. Then you will truly be free of the toxic people in your life.


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