How To Identify And Handle Toxic Relationships

Abigail Hurst
Passionate about the loves of my life, and seeking adventure.

Mar 08,2017

Try and picture this, it probably won’t be too hard… You go to lunch with a friend and leave feeling drained because you’ve spent the whole hour practically talking them off of a ledge.. for the millionth time. Or, you may leave feeling angry because of passive aggressive insults they threw your way when you tried to open up about a difficult situation. You could also possibly have spent the whole lunch hour listening to them gossip and demean one- or many- of your mutual friends, without an inkling of empathy, without listening to the possibility that they may not know the whole story, and without any redemption in their words for the other individual. You might have even had plans to go out to lunch with a different friend before they called, but then had to cancel because they felt insulted, forgotten, unappreciated or the like, and you didn’t want to deal with the jealousy- or were simply made to feel too guilty for not meeting their demands. 

These are just a few examples of what a toxic relationship may look like. Recently, I’ve had several conversations with my friends and family, all who were struggling with similar issues, they all had a relationship in their life that was becoming toxic. I myself have had plenty of those relationships, and had to learn how to recognize and break out of them- most of the time much later than I should have. Many of us are taught to invest into our relationships, to stick it out when the going gets tough, to always believe the best in people- and while these notions are true, there comes a point when you begin to see that these principles can’t be applied to every relationship and still expect to remain a healthy individual yourself. What most of us are not taught as we develop relationships in life, is how to identify the toxic ones, and then how to extract ourselves from them. 

Here are a few signs that a toxic relationship may have developed in your life. 

– When you’re around them, you feel like you’re walking on eggshells- or better yet, a minefield. You feel that at any moment you could say something that could set off an explosion, which could come in the form of them spewing hateful words, demeaning others, falsely accusing you of things, being argumentative, acting passive aggressively, or giving you the silent treatment. As a result, when you’re around them you’re always on edge, always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and having to choose your words very carefully- trying to avoid topics of conversation which might upset them. 

– You often leave the interaction feeling emotionally exhausted. You usually the only one contributing positivity to the relationship. Most of the time the relationship is not at all reciprocal- meaning that you pour into them while receiving a minimal amount of gratitude at best, and constant negativity and abusive behavior at worst. 

– You may find yourself becoming isolated from almost all other relationships. This person demands your time, your energy, your love, your patience, your input, and sometimes even your finances! And often the more that you put into them, the more they demand, never being satisfied by what you have to offer, and then becoming jealous when you give any of your time to other relationships. Their neediness and demands become something of a hostage situation as your time is taken up and you begin to lose touch with the other meaningful relationships in your life. 

– They’re never willing to own up to their mistakes. If you’re the only one willing to apologize when you’ve offended them, or when you’ve made a mistake, you can bet there’s a problem. A person who is unwilling to own their bad behavior and repent for it is someone you can’t trust, because if they can’t apologize for what they did wrong then there is no reason for you to believe that they will not hurt you in the same way again- using their willful ignorance concerning their own behavior as a tool against you. The act of repentance is a willingness to change- and people who are unwilling to change and repent are often left stagnant, never growing. A relationship is a like a living organism, to be healthy it has to grow, change, and expand. In my opinion, most of the time you cannot have a healthy, fulfilling relationship with someone without growth. 

All of us should take time to evaluate the relationships in our lives testing them for health, growth, and vitality; as well as taking a good long look at ourselves and being honest if we are the one in the relationship who may be unhealthy. We can then make the necessary changes to move toward a new level of maturity and selfless love for others- because, let’s face it, at some point in time we’ve all been the more unhealthy person in some relationship! 

Once you’ve identified a toxic relationship in your life, begin setting good boundaries and stick to them! If you feel led to confront the other person about the behavior, then do so. If, on the other hand, you don’t feel it will help to confront them then begin to distance yourself, while making the boundaries you set very clear as the situation calls for it. Setting good boundaries in relationships is an act of love, not only for the other person, but for yourself. 

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