The effects of toxic relationships can clog our thinking at all hours of the day and night. Opinions and comments from others can become part of us, which can start to affect confidence and add to the inner voice of criticism. Relationships rarely began in this way, they were our lovers and our best friends. They become toxic because at one time, the relationship was positive, useful and really good, but now it doesn’t serve our needs.
Life changes, our circumstances and values change. Instead of realising or communicating that this relationship has run its course, it becomes toxic. The toxicity comes from not realising we need to say goodbye.
Being in a toxic romantic relationship can mean there is nowhere to hide, especially if people live together. The signs can be obvious but subtle at first and can include hostile communication (sarcasm, silence), controlling behaviour, dishonesty and disrespect, which can escalate into abusive behaviour.
Friendships can spiral downwards and intensify feelings of being self conscious and lonely. The signs can include, gossiping, deliberately making someone else feel nervous and unsettled or creating jokes at others expense. So, what steps can be taken to identify and clear out toxic relationships? Sarah Bryer explains how.
Have a Relationship audit
Spend time reviewing relationships. Include family, close friends, acquaintances, colleagues. What purpose does each relationship serve? A social relationship, a ‘parent’ friend, childhood friend or work colleague. Who contacts who? Is it a great relationship or a difficult one?
- Build a picture of this circle and what is missing (no friends with kids the same age/ a similar interest).
- Relationships with no push and pull, ones which are one sided, or bring conflict.
These are the relationships which can start to become toxic.
- With these relationships boundaries have been crossed and they now need to be rebuilt.
- Reviewing the audit, what elements have overstepped the mark?
- Commenting on parenting choices, career or businesses. Personal comments, unsupportive.
- Be protective of yourself by creating new boundaries, don’t open up about family life, business, keep information to a minimum and don’t request an opinion.
Increase your self esteem
Feeling confident will stop feelings of anxiousness about these relationships. Spend time reviewing your relationships and how you will serve each other. Take a step back – Being the first in your friendship group to own a business or have a baby might mean that some people aren’t as present in the way they were before. Be surrounded by people that share common ground, not only will boost confidence, but avoid toxicity.
Be surrounded by healthy relationships
Healthy relationships include elements of push and pull, support rather than discouragement and where each person is allowed an opinion. Making new connections where your audit lacks is a positive way to improve healthy relationships. Make new friends and avoid being bogged down by negativity and guilt.
Avoid toxic relationships in the future by identifying when you should part ways early, or spend less time together. Recognise a life event which may change the other person’s outlook and don’t be afraid to talk more honestly.
Don’t expect change
After identifying a toxic relationship, it needs to go. Removal of people from life completely (unless cohabiting) is not always necessary, especially to avoid conflict. Avoid interacting via social media and keep social interactions to a minimum and brief.
Quieting the effects of that relationship and making them less important will make a significant impact. It can be a long process, but writing a letter, or speaking with them (preferably in a public place) restating your boundaries may be right path for this relationship. Accept the fact that this relationship has run its course and say goodbye.