Why You Need to Let Go of Toxic Relationships
I am currently making some changes in my life. If you don’t hear from me again, you’re one of them. ~Author Unknown
Do 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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