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Why You Need to Let Go of Toxic Relationships

2013 January 21

I am currently making some changes in my life. If you don’t hear from me again, you’re one of them. ~Author Unknown

Toxic RelationshipsDo you find yourself keeping good news from a friend because they always manage to make you feel unworthy of whatever good fortune comes your way? Worse yet, they actually make you feel guilty for your achievements by repeatedly harping on about how “lucky” you are, while life has been so unfair to them.

Maybe you’ve begun to realize how drained you feel after spending time with a friend, but continue to put up with the negativity for no other reason than you’ve been friends for so long …

Toxic relationships can lead to stress, depression, anxiety and even medical problems.

Did you know that negative relationships can be just as toxic to your health as fast food or a toxic environment? In a long term study that followed more than 10,000 subjects for an average of 12.2 years, researchers discovered that subjects in negative relationships were at a greater risk for developing heart problems, including a fatal cardiac event, than their counterparts whose close relationships were not negative.

Of course few relationships are harmonious 24/7, so how do you really know you’re in a toxic relationship? The term toxic relationship refers to interactions with others that are consistently negative and draining. The nature of these relationships is defined by patterns, not by one-time or occasional lapses in the give and take that is the essence of a healthy friendship.

The first step in confronting toxic relationships is to identify them. See if any of these examples sound familiar to you.

  • They often criticize or make fun of those people closest to you.
  • They complain about everything, are never at fault for anything, and repeatedly dump their problems on you.
  • You’re made to feel guilty for anything and everything you have that they don’t, even if their bad situation is of their own making.
  • You can never trust them to keep a secret, and if they do spill one, and you confront them, they’ll claim they had no idea it was such a “big deal.”
  • You find yourself rationalizing keeping the friendship for no other reason than longevity.
  • They constantly remind you of all of the ‘favors’ they’ve done for you. You’re now convinced that the only reason you got a ‘favor’ in the first place was so that it could be held over your head.
  • They find fault with everything you say, and you’re often made to feel dumb for expressing a viewpoint that differs from theirs.
  • They discourage you from trying new things, learning new skills or growing in any way.
  • Just spending time with this person leaves you feeling drained.
  • They constantly cut you off, put you down, reprimand you, or make fun of your ideas in front of others. They may even try to convince you that their criticism is for you own good.

Okay, so I don’t know about you – but just going through that list made me squirm. Why would you want people like this in your life?!

Well, the truth is sometimes we’re related to these people, in fact it could be good old mom and dad, along with Brother Bob, Sister Sue, and Uncle Elmo, not to mention a few close, personal friends. I am not suggesting that you to disown every negative or pessimistic person in your life; I am just asking you to be aware of the toxic effect they have on you, and to learn to protect yourself from the fallout.

Redefining Toxic Relationships

First of all, give some thought to whether or not you really need to end the friendship. Can you downgrade the relationship so you see each other less often or dilute it by seeing each other within the context of a group? Can you simply take a break (time off) to give each other a breather?

Here are a few more suggestions:

  • Keep your expectations realistic. Never make your self-worth dependent on them or confide your deepest feelings to someone who won’t cherish them. Though it’s better not to have to contend with this tedious ego stroking at all, if the relationship is unavoidable the best way to communicate with them is to focus on how something will benefit them.
  • Set firm limits. There are times when each of us has taken a turn feeling like a “victim” of life’s cruel jokes, but again here we’re talking about chronic behavior. Trying to get someone in perpetual victim mode to see the good things in life is a no win game and will exhaust you. If you can’t remove them from your life all together, then do whatever you have to do to minimize time with them and remain positive.
  • If you have a chronic criticizer in your life and they launch into a rant, first address any misplaced criticism directly without becoming defensive. If it continues then simply leave the room if you can. The negative person is simply seeking to get a reaction from you.
  • If the relationship isn’t very close to start with, you may decide the best thing to do will be to merely drift apart. Make yourself less accessible.
  • If you’ve reached the point where you feel there is nothing really to be gained by continuing the relationship, simply find the courage to cut them loose.

Get rid of the guilt.

In many cases, these are people whose needs can never be satisfied. No matter what you give, what you do, how much, or how often, will never be enough. So don’t ever feel guilty about removing toxic people from your life. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve known them, or what their relationship is to you – you don’t have to make room for people who cause you pain or make you feel small. It’s one thing if a person owns up to their behavior and makes an effort to change. But if someone disregards your feelings, ignores your boundaries, and continues to treat you in a harmful way, they do not deserve to be a part of your life.

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27 Responses
  1. February 4, 2013

    It is great that you posted this message for all of us to gain some perspective on the relationships that could be having tremendously negative effects on our health. I squirmed too after looking at the list because I realize I know several people who have and share a lot of the negative qualities you so aptly described. The trouble is I don’t know how many of those qualities one can have before you can define the relationship as toxic—for instance, I know some people that have maybe two or three of those qualities, this doesn’t seem bad but perhaps I am just trying to rationalize their behavior and give them a pass because of the length of time we have been friends. Friendships can be very complicated and the dynamics can change tremendously over time, so it is good to reevaluate our relationships every few years or so, especially if we begin to notice some toxic traits.

  2. February 4, 2013

    Why would you want to dwell in a toxic relationship? You’d only get bored or depressed in the end. Much worse, the stressful relationship may take a toll on yur health. Thank you for this article, it’s like therapy for the heart and soul.
    Veronica recently posted..New Years Eve Cruise in Sydney 2012 Harbour Fireworks Cruise!My Profile

  3. Calra permalink
    February 3, 2013

    Because it will only lead to more stress, more antigens in your system, you’ll be more at risk for infection, and most of all, more wrinkles. Who would want wrinkles and crows’ feet from worrying because they dwell on a not so impressive relationship? Great article you have there.

  4. January 30, 2013

    Being in a toxic relationship–be it with a friend, family member, or loved one– is very unhealthy.Dealing with our own problems is already enough and stress and anxiety are highly contagious. We all should learn how to let go or if not, at least learn to find solutions.

  5. January 30, 2013

    I agree! Also, not only that they’ are not healthy for us, but also because we cannot guarantee a lifetime of happiness with a toxic relationship, which is why there is no reason to keep it going anymore. Thanks for sharing! :)

  6. January 28, 2013

    Great post – it’s wonderful to see toxic relationships brought to life with such simnple examples.

    I absolutely agree that so many people put up with these relationships and the consequences on their own personal well being for the sake of longevity. I personally try to encourage people to be honest, at the risk of losing the friend/tarnishing the relationship indefinitely – if the person is worth it that is. If they’re not then boundaries and limits are the way forward. Ultimately I think the best question to ask yourself is, ‘Why is this person in my life?’.

  7. Arianne permalink
    January 27, 2013

    Very interesting post and I can so relate to this. We have our own problems or toxicity to deal with, and I think it would be too much for us to deal with something that are not even ours. It’s not easy to let go of toxic relationships especially if the people involved have been around me for already a long time, so I try to think of ways to minimize its effects. I have already tried some of the strategies you have, and might as well try other tips you have here. Thanks for sharing!

  8. January 27, 2013

    I’ve been to one toxic relationship before I married my husband and it was pretty devastating. It isn’t healthy for both parties and there is no room or any of you to grow. Thanks for sharing this! Women all over the world should read this!

  9. January 26, 2013

    Any way we can minimize the drama and negativity in our lives will help us. I remember NOT telling my in-laws that we were expecting Baby #5, till I was six months along and they came to visit. This was done with my husband’s full support, because he knew how critical they were when we did things they did not agree with. It sounds cruel, but it was for my own well being, and consequently my family’s.

    Willena Flewelling recently posted..Make a Decision and Act on itMy Profile

  10. January 25, 2013

    Hi Marquita,

    I can certainly relate to this post. I’m not going to go into a full blown description of a toxic relationship I’ve had in the past. It happened and I stayed in because of longevity. Your first list of identifying what is considered to be toxic also made me cringe because when I look back, I cannot believe I put up with many of the scenarios you listed. I severed the relationship and the only reason I was able to do it is because I had taken the time I needed to learn about myself, my needs, my behaviors, and what caused me to tolerate it in the first place. It may sound selfish, but in the long run, when I took care of myself first, I’ve become a much better person to be with for all of my relationships, including family and friends.

    My experience is through hard work, an open mind, and applying what I learned led me to be able to get out and live a happy, content, confident life. My personal development journey took a lot of desire and focus for over two years and I continue to work on it daily. My efforts have paid off big time.

    I think people know they are in a “bad relationship” whether it is family, friends, or partners. The truth is, for me, there was something inside that needed to be addressed to break stupid self-doubt beliefs. Beliefs that allowed me to accept “being a doormat” or “feeling guilty.” I was able to do it. What I have learned is we attract what we think we deserve. We have to do the internal work to change it. It is possible! No one has to put up with living in any negative setting that destroys your self-image and confidence…or should I say…attempts to destroy….

    You’ve given great suggestions. Sometimes severing won’t work because it may be a family situation, but dilution sounds great. Thanks Marquita!

    Raena Lynn
    Raena Lynn recently posted..What Does Hell’s Kitchen and Internet Marketing Have in Common?My Profile

  11. January 24, 2013

    I run with the pack on this one. The less Drama I have in my life, the happier I am. I find it rather easy to demote the relationship with those who seem to strive on adding drama to the mix which I have a very short wick for.
    Neil recently posted..How to Build a DIY Content Marketing SystemMy Profile

  12. January 24, 2013

    I appreciate that you gave steps to dealing with toxic people before just cutting them loose. I’ve seen advice elsewhere that says to just drop them from one’s life.
    How will anyone ever learn that they’re being obnoxious without others showing them by setting boundaries, etc.? And how can they learn a better way of life if every positive person dumps them?
    Thanks for showing steps that can be done when dealing with a toxic person.
    I agree that if such steps fail, it is time to let them go.
    Susan Ekins recently posted..Better Than a New YearMy Profile

  13. January 24, 2013

    Thanks for writing about this, Marty. It’s hard enough to get your own toxicity out, let alone having to deal with other people’s. I try to remove all toxic people out of my life. I stop calling and spending time with them. I want to surround myself with good, positive people because this is the kind of thing I do for the people in my life: I encourage them, help them, and hopefully bring joy and light to their lives. I won’t like to be bogged down with someone who won’t return the favour.

    Great post and inspiring too.
    Anne recently posted..Life Lessons From LivingMy Profile

  14. January 23, 2013

    What a great topic!

    I want to copy and paste this to some of my clients lol!

    I can honestly say there is no toxic people in my life. There used to be, but I have learned the above steps and walked away with no guilt.

    There are some family members I must see from time to time that are toxic, but I have a little trick I do. I surround myself with white light and won’t let their energy in. I limit my time, and I’m gone. I’m pleasant, but not close. And most importantly have set boundaries.

    I was born into a toxic family so you can imagine how many toxic people I allowed into my life until the day I said NO MORE! I went out and learned different techniques and now live a healthy life.

    Toxic people can be around at any time, but I learned how to dance around them at social events, weddings funerals lol

    Donna Merrill recently posted..Things Go WrongMy Profile

    • January 24, 2013

      Yep I hear you Donna. I actually had an image in my mind of my own family while writing this article – sounds like we had similar experiences growing up. But I think we’re both living proof that you may not have much control when your a child, but you do have the power to create a far better life as an adult. Thanks for sharing your thoughts – always appreciated! :-)

  15. January 23, 2013

    I am 100% behind letting go of toxic relationships, and it’s not always easy to do so. I am so glad that you wrote this article, because so many of us don’t recognize the way that we should that toxic relationships are much of the reason for our downfall.

    I am in the process of letting go of a lot of the issues and challenging people in my life…and believe me…it’s not fu or simple, but I need to do it for my own health and sanity.
    Christi Johnson recently posted..EN LiveStream – January 23, 2013!My Profile

    • January 24, 2013

      Welcome Christi! Glad you enjoyed the article, and good for you for being proactive about creating your best life. You are correct of course, it’s rarely an easy process, but clearly well worth the effort!

  16. January 23, 2013

    It can be a real challenge letting go of these people when they have been around so long. I found that when I started working on myself initially these people resisted it alot but the more I stuck to it the more they either come around or just didn’t hang around me anymore.

    A few people that has happened with I thought i’d be devastated but in the end I realized how negative and destructive an influence they were.

    The bigger challenge is when it’s your parents. In that case I don’t share alot of stuff with them because I get reactions that don’t really help me.

    Ben recently posted..What is your path?My Profile

  17. January 22, 2013

    Yes and yes! Some of my friends are such downers and a lot of family members too. Really takes a lot out of you. Always negative about everything. Then they wonder why nothing ever works out for them. It’s almost like well if you would be a bit more positive maybe everything wouldn’t happen badly to you.

    I will just minimize contact with people like that. I choose who I want to be around, but usually just kind of think it’s there problem not mine. I have said stuff in a sarcastic way and it seems to keep them from being such a downer. I honestly just tell people when they are getting on my nerves, love it or hate
    Garen recently posted..Giveaways – Part 1 Interview With Justin GerminoMy Profile

    • January 23, 2013

      Thanks for sharing Garen! I really think you have the right approach – friends or family, it really all applies. Hey, my sister lives on the mainland, and as much as I love and would do anything for her, when I visit I have a 4-days-is-the-most-I-can-tolerate-rule. :-)

  18. January 22, 2013

    Ah, toxic relationships. I don’t have any of those in my life any longer Marty!

    Been there and done that, that’s for sure. Now I use to have a 27 year friendship and we were best friends. I loved her to death but she started to change after her husband passed away unexpectedly. Although I knew not everyone liked her and why, she never treated me the way she treated others. But once she did it didn’t take long before I had to do something about it.

    I confronted her because I’m a communicator but she refused to even discuss it. So one day I just made the decision to walk away and I’ve never looked back. That was almost seven years ago now.

    Sometimes that’s the best way to resolve things. I knew she’s never change and to this day she hasn’t.

    Adrienne recently posted..How To Beat The Blogging Cliché BluesMy Profile

    • January 23, 2013

      Hey Adrienne, thanks so much for taking the time to contribute to the conversation. Sounds like we’re definitely on the same page. I also let go of a long-time friend a few years ago. The toughest part is when you allow yourself to focus on the history you have together – but we all change and sometimes we grow in different directions. Sounds like I’m talking about marriage, huh? Well, I suppose close friendships are similar in many ways. Thanks again for stopping by!

  19. January 22, 2013

    Powerful read here, Marquita! I absolutely loved the beginning quote. It was an awesome share!

    Many times, we fail to recognize how damaging these types of toxic relationships can really be for us. It’s easy to remain faithful to those who we know and who we believe know us. Rarely, is the familiarity ever thought to be used against us. In truth, if a person has never taken pause to reexamine or observe their inner circle, by the time they finally do, they could end up with a few faithful remaining relationships that have stood the test of times; or worse, having to start over from scratch. It can be an alarming eye-opener.

    You did a wonderful job illustrating the importance of clearing out the negativity out of our lives here. You’ve even provided me with additional behaviors to be on the lookout for. Well done, my friend! Sharing this all over the place. :)
    Deone Higgs recently posted..An Awakening Experience and Yet Another Lesson LearnedMy Profile

    • January 22, 2013

      Welcome back Deone, and thanks for your high praise – that really means something coming from you! You are so right that we rarely give serious consideration to the damage those closest to us can cause if we allow them to trounce all over our boundaries. Fortunately, these people are normally in the minority, but sometimes it just takes one to throw us off. Thanks for taking the time to share – always appreciated :-)

  20. January 21, 2013

    This is a wonderfully helpful article!! Many thanks for posting it!!
    Jo VonBargen recently posted..THROUGH IT ALL, by @jvonbargenMy Profile

  21. January 21, 2013

    Thank you for posting a very good topic. This is very useful for me. Sometimes we don’t pay to much attention to our helthy because of our business.
    Heru Prasetyono recently posted..30 Days to Thin – Celebrity Thinspiration and Pro Ana Secrets Leaked and RevealedMy Profile

  22. January 21, 2013

    This is an excellent post! Everything you write about, been there done that. Though it can be challenging at first to eliminate toxic relationships. It gets easier with time. This includes family members. I had to go there and this was extremely difficult for me. But I didn’t like feeling drained, unhappy and upset all of the time. I remain vigilant because I know that I am the creator of my own happiness. It’s quite empowering.
    Andrea Lewis recently posted..If We Lived in a Perfect World, Difficult People Wouldn’t ExistMy Profile

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