How to let go of someone toxic

When Someone You Love is Toxic - How to Let Go, Without Guilt

If toxic people were an ingestible substance, they would come with a high-powered warning and secure packaging to prevent any chance of accidental contact. Sadly, families are not immune to the poisonous lashings of a toxic relationship.

Though families and relationships can feel impossibly tough at times, they were never meant to ruin. All relationships have their flaws and none of them come packaged with the permanent glow of sunlight and goodness and beautiful things. In any normal relationship there will be fights from time to time. Things will be said and done and forgiven, and occasionally rehashed at strategic moments. For the most part though, they will feel nurturing and life-giving to be in. At the very least, they won’t hurt.

Why do toxic people do toxic things?

Toxic people thrive on control. Not the loving, healthy control that tries to keep everyone safe and happy – buckle your seatbelt, be kind, wear sunscreen – but the type that keeps people small and diminished.  

Everything they do is to keep people small and manageable. This will play out through criticism, judgement, oppression – whatever it takes to keep someone in their place. The more you try to step out of ‘your place’, the more a toxic person will call on toxic behaviour to bring you back and squash you into the tiny box they believe you belong in.

It is likely that toxic people learned their behaviour during their own childhood, either by being exposed to the toxic behaviour of others or by being overpraised without being taught the key quality of empathy. In any toxic relationship there will be other qualities missing too, such as respect, kindness and compassion, but at the heart of a toxic person’s behaviour is the lack of concern around their impact on others. They come with a critical failure to see past their own needs and wants.

Toxic people have a way of choosing open, kind people with beautiful, lavish hearts because these are the ones who will be more likely to fight for the relationship and less likely to abandon.

Even the strongest people can find themselves in a toxic relationship but the longer they stay, the more they are likely to evolve into someone who is a smaller, less confident, more wounded version of the person they used to be.

Non-toxic people who stay in a toxic relationship will never stop trying to make the relationship better, and toxic people know this. They count on it. Non-toxic people will strive to make the relationship work and when they do, the toxic person has exactly what he or she wants – control. 

Toxic Families – A Special Kind of Toxic

Families are a witness to our lives – our best, our worst, our catastrophes, our frailties and flaws. All families come with lessons that we need to learn along the way to being a decent, thriving human. The lessons begin early and they don’t stop, but not everything a family teaches will come with an afterglow. Sometimes the lessons they teach are deeply painful ones that shudder against our core.

Rather than being lessons on how to love and safely open up to the world, the lessons some families teach are about closing down, staying small and burying needs – but for every disempowering lesson, there is one of empowerment, strength and growth that exists with it. In toxic families, these are around how to walk away from the ones we love, how to let go with strength and love, and how to let go of guilt and any fantasy that things could ever be different. And here’s the rub – the pain of a toxic relationship won’t soften until the lesson has been learned.

Love and loyalty don’t always exist together.

Love has a fierce way of keeping us tied to people who wound us. The problem with family is that we grow up in the fold, believing that the way they do things is the way the world works. We trust them, listen to them and absorb what they say. There would have been a time for all of us that regardless of how mind-blowingly destructive the messages from our family were, we would have received them all with a beautiful, wide-eyed innocence, grabbing every detail and letting them shape who we were growing up to be.

Our survival would have once depended on believing in everything they said and did, and resisting the need to challenge or question that we might deserve better. The things we believe when we are young are powerful. They fix themselves upon us and they stay, at least until we realise one day how wrong and small-hearted those messages have been.

At some point, the environment changes – we grow up – but our beliefs don’t always change with it. We stop depending on our family for survival but we hang on to the belief that we have to stay connected and loyal, even though being with them hurts.

The obligation to love and stay loyal to a family member can be immense, but love and loyalty are two separate things and they don’t always belong together.

Loyalty can be a confusing, loaded term and is often the reason that people stay stuck in toxic relationships. What you need to know is this: When loyalty comes with a diminishing of the self, it’s not loyalty, it’s submission.

We stop having to answer to family when we become adults and capable of our own minds.

Why are toxic relationships so destructive?

In any healthy relationship, love is circular – when you give love, it comes back. When what comes back is scrappy, stingy intent under the guise of love, it will eventually leave you small and depleted, which falls wildly, terrifyingly short of where anyone is meant to be.

Healthy people welcome the support and growth of the people they love, even if it means having to change a little to accommodate. When one person in a system changes, whether it’s a relationship of two or a family of many, it can be challenging. Even the strongest and most loving relationships can be touched by feelings of jealousy, inadequacy and insecurity at times in response to somebody’s growth or happiness. We are all vulnerable to feeling the very normal, messy emotions that come with being human.

The difference is that healthy families and relationships will work through the tough stuff. Unhealthy ones will blame, manipulate and lie – whatever they have to do to return things to the way they’ve always been, with the toxic person in control.

Why a Toxic Relationship Will never change.

Reasonable people, however strong and independently minded they are, can easily be drawn into thinking that if they could find the switch, do less, do more, manage it, tweak it, that the relationship will be okay. The cold truth is that if anything was going to be different it would have happened by now. 

Toxic people can change, but it’s highly unlikely. What is certain is that nothing anyone else does can change them. It is likely there will be broken people, broken hearts and broken relationships around them – but the carnage will always be explained away as someone else’s fault. There will be no remorse, regret or insight. What is more likely is that any broken relationship will amplify their toxic behaviour.

Why are toxic people so hard to leave?

If you try to leave a toxic person, things might get worse before they get better – but they will always get better. Always.

Few things will ramp up feelings of insecurity or a need for control more than when someone questions familiar, old behaviour, or tries to break away from old, established patterns in a relationship. For a person whose signature moves involve manipulation, lies, criticism or any other toxic behaviour, when something feels as though it’s changing, they will use even more of their typical toxic behaviour to bring the relationship (or the person) back to a state that feels acceptable.

When things don’t seem to be working, people will always do more of what used to work, even if that behaviour is at the heart of the problem. It’s what we all do. If you are someone who is naturally open and giving, when things don’t feel right in a relationship you will likely give more of yourself, offer more support, be more loving, to get things back on track. 

Breaking away from a toxic relationship can feel like tearing at barbed wire with bare hands. The more you do it, the more it hurts, so for a while, you stop tearing, until you realise that it’s not the tearing that hurts, it’s the barbed wire – the relationship – and whether you tear at it or not, it won’t stop cutting into you.

Think of it like this. Imagine that all relationships and families occupy a space. In healthy ones, the shape of that space will be fluid and open to change, with a lot of space for people to grow. People will move to accommodate the growth and flight of each other. 

For a toxic family or a toxic relationship, that shape is rigid and unyielding. There is no flexibility, no bending, and no room for growth. Everyone has a clearly defined space and for some, that space will be small and heavily boxed. When one person starts to break out of the shape, the whole family feels their own individual sections change. The shape might wobble and things might feel vulnerable, weakened or scary. This is normal, but toxic people will do whatever it takes to restore the space to the way it was. Often, that will mean crumpling the ones who are changing so they fit their space again.

Sometimes out of a sense of love and terribly misplaced loyalty, people caught in a toxic relationship might sacrifice growth and change and step back into the rigid tiny space a toxic person manipulates them towards. It will be clear when this has happened because of the soul-sucking grief at being back there in the mess with people (or person) who feel so bad to be with.

But they do it because they love me. They said so.

Sometimes toxic people will hide behind the defence that they are doing what they do because they love you, or that what they do is ‘no big deal’ and that you’re the one causing the trouble because you’re just too sensitive, too serious, too – weak, stupid, useless, needy, insecure, jealous – too ‘whatever’ to get it. You will have heard the word plenty of times before. 

The only truth you need to know is this: If it hurts, it’s hurtful. Fullstop.

Love never holds people back from growing. It doesn’t diminish, and it doesn’t contaminate. If someone loves you, it feels like love. It feels supportive and nurturing and life-giving. If it doesn’t do this, it’s not love. It’s self-serving crap designed to keep you tethered and bound to someone else’s idea of how you should be.

There is no such thing as a perfect relationship, but a healthy one is a tolerant, loving, accepting, responsive one.

The one truth that matters.

If it feels like growth or something that will nourish you, follow that. It might mean walking away from people you care about – parents, sisters, brothers, friends – but this can be done with love and the door left open for when they are able to meet you closer to your terms – ones that don’t break you.

Set the boundaries with grace and love and leave it to the toxic person to decide which side of that boundary they want to stand on. Boundaries aren’t about spite or manipulation and they don’t have to be about ending the relationship. They are something drawn in strength and courage to let people see with great clarity where the doorway is to you. If the relationship ends, it’s not because of your lack of love or loyalty, but because the toxic person chose not to treat you in the way you deserve. Their choice. 

Though it is up to you to decide the conditions on which you will let someone close to you, whether or not somebody wants to be close to you enough to respect those conditions is up to them. The choice to trample over what you need means they are choosing not to be with you. It doesn’t mean you are excluding them from your life.

Toxic people also have their conditions of relationship and though they might not be explicit, they are likely to include an expectation that you will tolerate ridicule, judgement, criticism, oppression, lying, manipulation – whatever they do. No relationship is worth that and it is always okay to say ‘no’ to anything that diminishes you.

The world and those who genuinely love you want you to be as whole as you can be. Sometimes choosing health and wholeness means stepping bravely away from that which would see your spirit broken and malnourished.

When you were young and vulnerable and dependent for survival on the adults in your life, you had no say in the conditions on which you let people close to you. But your life isn’t like that now. You get to say. You get to choose the terms of your relationships and the people you get close to.

There is absolutely no obligation to choose people who are toxic just because they are family. If they are toxic, the simple truth is that they have not chosen you. The version of you that they have chosen is the one that is less than the person you would be without them.

The growth.

Walking away from a toxic relationship isn’t easy, but it is always brave and always strong. It is always okay. And it is always – always – worth it. This is the learning and the growth that is hidden in the toxic mess.

Letting go will likely come with guilt, anger and grief for the family or person you thought you had. They might fight harder for you to stay. They will probably be crueller, more manipulative and more toxic than ever. They will do what they’ve always done because it has always worked. Keep moving forward and let every hurtful, small-hearted thing they say or do fuel your step.

You can’t pretend toxic behaviour away or love it away or eat it, drink it, smoke it, depress it or gamble it away. You can’t avoid the impact by being smaller, by crouching or bending or flexing around it. But you can walk away from it – so far away that the most guided toxic fuelled missile that’s thrown at you won’t find you.

One day they might catch up to you – not catch you, catch up to you – with their growth and their healing but until then, choose your own health and happiness over their need to control you. 

You can love people, let go of them and keep the door open on your terms, for whenever they are ready to treat you with love, respect and kindness. This is one of the hardest lessons but one of the most life-giving and courageous ones.

Sometimes there are not two sides. There is only one. Toxic people will have you believing that the one truthful side is theirs. It’s not. It never was. Don’t believe their highly diseased, stingy version of love. It’s been drawing your breath, suffocating you and it will slowly kill you if you let it, and the way you ‘let it’ is by standing still while it spirals around you, takes aim and shoots.  

If you want to stay, that’s completely okay, but see their toxic behaviour for what it is – a desperate attempt to keep you little and controlled. Be bigger, stronger, braver than anything that would lessen you. Be authentic and real and give yourself whatever you need to let that be. Be her. Be him. Be whoever you can be if the small minds and tiny hearts of others couldn’t stop you.

[irp posts=”1602″ name=”When It’s Not You, It’s Them: The Toxic People That Ruin Friendships, Families, Relationships”]

Toxic Relationships: How to Let Go When It's Unhappily Ever After

by Karen Young



If life ran like a storybook, the person we fall in love would not be the person who broke us. Sadly, we humans tend to be a bit more human than that. We fall in love, we commit, we get hurt – over and over – and we stay.  People need people, but sometimes the cost is a heavy one. When it’s a toxic relationship, the breakage can be far-reaching.

Love is addictive. So is the hope of love. All relationships can be likened to an addiction, but sometimes the power of this can be self-destructive. When relationships become loveless, hostile, stingy or dangerous, you would think they would be easy to leave, but they can be the hardest ones to walk away from.

A bad relationship isn’t about being on the downward slide of the usual relationship ups and downs. It is one that consistently steals your joy and follows you around with that undeniable clamour that this isn’t how it’s meant to be.

Knowing when to let go.

Sometimes the signs are clear – emotional and physical abuse, constant criticism, lying, cheating, emotional starvation. Sometimes there is nothing outstandingly obvious – it just doesn’t feel right. Perhaps it did once but that ended long ago. The signs might lie in the loneliness, a gentle but constant heartache, a lack of security, connection or intimacy or the distance between you both.  

Whatever it involves, there are important needs that stay hungry, for one of both people in the relationship. The relationship exists but that’s all it does, and sometimes barely even that. It doesn’t thrive and it doesn’t nurture. It is maintained, not through love and connection, but through habit. 

Sometimes there are circumstances that make leaving difficult. Sometimes though, there’s nothing in your way except you. Some of the signs that you might be addicted to the relationship are:

  • You know it’s bad, but you stay.
  • You want more for yourself, but you stay.
  • There are important needs in you that are so hungry (intimacy, connection, friendship, love, security, respect), and you know in this relationship they’ll stay that way. But you stay. 
  • You have tried ending the relationship before, but the pain of being on your own always brings you back.

What to do when leaving feels as bad as staying.

Leaving any relationship is difficult. Leaving a bad one isn’t necessarily any easier. The shift from powerless to empowered is a gentle one, but lies in the way you experience the relationship. It often takes as much resourcefulness, energy and strength to stay in a bad relationship as it does to leave. With a shift in mindset, experience and expectation, the resources you use to stay and to blind out the seething hopelessness of it all can be used to propel you forward.

  1. Be present.

    The pull to live in the past (the way it was/ the way I was) or in the future (it will get better – I just need to find the switch) can be spectacular, but the energy to move forward exists fully in the present. It’s always there, but you have to be in the present to access it. To do this, fully experience the relationship as it is, without needing to change it or control it. 

    This might be scary, particularly if the environment you are in is hostile or lonely, but the only way to be okay with leaving what you have, is to fully experience how broken it is.

    No relationship is perfect. All couples fight and hurt each other and say and do things they shouldn’t. That’s a normal part of living and loving together. The problem comes with having to repeatedly live in the past or the future to tolerate the present – the abuse, the harm, the insecurity, the jealousy, the loneliness and the grief of the relationship as it stands – just so that it’s easier to stay.

  2. Keep track.

    Keep a record of how you feel in the relationship, the good and bad. If writing isn’t your thing, take a photo of your face at the same time every day. You’ll see it in your eyes. Photos and journalling will capture the intimate, day to day detail of you in this relationship. Set a time period – weeks or months – and at the end take a look over your photos or your writing. Can you see patterns? What do you notice about the things that hurt you and the things that feel good? The frequency? The intensity? What do you see in the photos? Can you see the life in you? Or has it been drained away. Is this the person you want to be? Or is it a faded, sadder version? This can help to see your experience in the relationship for what it is – stripped of the filters and the softening that comes with time. 

  3. Be aware of what’s happening in your body. It’s trying to tell you something.

    The connection between the mind and the body is a powerful one. If you shut down the messages that are coming from your mind, your body will take over. There will be signs in the way you hold yourself, the sensations in your body (heaviness, heartache, tension) and the way it works. Has your body slowed down? Is there physical pain? Does it ache? Does it feel heavy? Restless? Tired? Drained? Do you feel your body withering, scrunched or as though it’s holding back? If your body could speak, what would it want you to know?

    Try this exercise:

    Finish this sentence: 

    ‘My body is …’ (tired/crumpled/hurting – whatever fits for you)’.

    Now, keep your ending but replace the words, ‘My body is’ with ‘I am’ or ‘My life is’.

    Notice what happens when you do that.

  4. How do you avoid the truth?

    Notice what you do to shift away from your reality. Are there unhealthy behaviours you do to stop from feeling bad? Or maybe there are healthy beahviours that you do in unhealthy ways?

    Try staying with the discomfort rather than avoiding it. Contained in the pain is the wisdom, courage and strength you need to find the happier version of yourself and your life. 

  5. Give it a deadline.

    It’s easy to forget how long you’ve been living with what you don’t want, hoping that one day it will be better. Pick your ‘one day’. Let it be six weeks, six months – whatever feels right for you. In that time, give the relationship everything you’ve got. When that ‘one day’ comes, be honest and act from a place of strength, self-respect and self-love. The answer will be in front of you.

  6. Become selfish.

    The way we think about selfishness is broken. Selfishness is about recognising what you need and doing what you can to meet those needs. Sometimes there will be fallout, but there will also be fallout by ignoring what you need and letting the noise shout you down. You matter. What you need matters. It always has. Sometimes that will mean putting yourself first on your list. This is even more important if it is the only list that has you anywhere near the top.

  7. Be honest about your part.

    Is there anything you can do to put the relationship back on track? It takes guts to open up to what you might need to do differently, but it’s important. If you’re not sure, ask your partner. Of course, just because your partner names things he or she would like you to do differently, it for you to decide whether this is a direction you want to move in. If the response is ‘Yeah actually. You can stop asking me where I go at night. K?’ then you can either respond with, ‘Sure baby – it’s totally fine with me if you leave the house smelling like man musk and secrets. Just come home when you feel like it hey. Do you want me to keep dinner for you?’ Or, you can Google, ‘Somewhere I can live without idiots.’

  8. What’s your role in the relationship?

    It’s likely that there will be a rhythm in the relationship that keeps it breathing the way it does. You and your partner will each have a role that keeps each other’s behaviour possible. This in no way means either of you are to blame or that either of you deserve to be treated the way you are. What it means is that over time you would have fallen into a way of being together that makes the dysfunction easier and more tolerable – a healthy adjustment to an unhealthy situation.

    It’s common in relationships for one person to be the ‘reacher’ and one to be the ‘retreater’. In healthy relationships, this is balanced or the roles shift around. There’s an easy flexibility. In unhealthy relationships, these roles become polarised. The more someone retreats, the more the other reaches, and this is where the roles become fixed.

    Explore your roles. Which one of you is ‘the commitment phobe’, ‘the non-communicator,’ ‘the abuser,’  ‘the critic’, ‘the disinterested one’? And who is ‘the ‘enabler’, ‘the victim,’ ‘the helpless one,’ ‘the reacher’, ‘the rescuer’, ‘the justifier’, ‘the fantasiser’. Try shifting out of your role. This will shift the dynamic and either force change or make the dysfunction all the more glaring – and easier to walk away from.

  9. Let go of the fantasy.

    The fantasy of what could be will keep you stuck. Every time. It could be better – so much better – but just not with this person. How do you know? Because you’ve been trying. And you’re tired. And there’s nothing more to give.

    The fantasy stands between you and reality and throws flowers at your feet so you never look up and see things as they are.

    The more you fantasise about what could be, the more the reality is embellished and changed into something reasonable. The fantasy will persuade you to hold on for a little longer, and always at the cost of moving forward. Lose the fantasy that things will be different. They won’t be. If you could have lived the fantasy with this relationship, you would have done that by now. Let your fantasy instead be one of all the losers who have ever crossed your path sprawled on the couch, wearing saggy Star Wars underwear as they gaze at your photo, listen to Adele and regret like mad ever losing you, while you eat tacos, listen to Beyonce and not miss them at all. There you go.

  10. Accept what is.

    It’s paradoxical, but the more you can accept where you are, the greater the capacity for change. This will let your decisions be driven by information that’s real and accurate, not a glossed up fairy tale image of what could be. Accept your reality as it is – your relationship, your partner and what it means for you. When you accept the truth, you live the truth. This will expand your courage, strength and capacity to decide whether this relationship is the best option for you – or not. You will have a clarity that will propel you forward, whatever that might mean for you.

  11. Fight for you.

    You have to fight for the things you love and the things you believe in, but one of those things has to be you. What would you say to someone you love who was feeling the pain or the deadness that you are feeling? Inside you is more courage and strength than you will ever need. You are a queen, a king, a fighter, a warrior, you are powerful and beautiful and everything good in the world – and you deserve to be happy. But first, you might have to fight for it. Fight for you the way you would fight for anyone you love – fiercely, boldly, bravely.

  12. Stop making excuses.

    Be honest.What do you want from this relationship? Have you ever had it? How different is what you want from what you have? And how long has it been this way? If you are loved, it feels like love. Even in the midst of a storm, a loving relationship still feels loving. Despite the stress, the exhaustion, the things you do or say – a loving relationship has an undercurrent of safety, security and respect, even when times are tough. If it doesn’t feel good for you, it’s not.

  13. Replace ‘can’t leave’ with ‘won’t leave’.

    Claim back your power by replacing ‘can’t leave‘ with ‘won’t leave‘. Sometimes circumstances mean that it’s difficult to leave. Whatever you choose to do, do it from a place of strength, not from a place of helplessness. If you stay, let it be because you have made the decision that this is the best option for you at this moment in time, not because somebody has claimed ownership of your life. Keep your power and your independence of mind, whatever is going on around you. There’s only one of you and you’re too important to let yourself fade into circumstance or the manipulation.

  14. Not making a decision is making a decision.

    You might decide to put off making a decision, to give it some time. Make no mistake, this is making a decision – to stay. Own your decision and experience fully what that decision means for you. Don’t live on the outskirts of your reality by claiming to be somewhere in between committing to the relationship and leaving it. You’re one or the other. In it or out of it. Claiming indecision might feel okay in the short term, but in the long term it will just keep you stuck, without the energy you need to move closer to what will be healthier for you.

And finally …

If the relationship feels bad, then it’s bad for you. That’s the only truth that matters. Fight hard to keep your relationship intact, but when there is no fight left, the truth will be staring you down like a hunted thing.

All relationships will go through make it or break it times, but healthy relationships recover. They grow closer and become stronger and more resilient. Relationships have a limited amount of resources available – emotional, physical, financial. Sometimes the relationship will be barreled around by a storm and this might use up a vast chunk of the resources that have been banked over time. If the relationship is healthy, it will only be a matter of time before this is topped up. If it isn’t, it will shrivel up from lack of nourishment and eventually die.  

Only you can decide whether to stay or go, but be mindful of your reasons. Sometimes the bravest, most difficult, and most life-changing things lie not in what we do, but in what we stop doing. 

How to learn to let go of toxic relationships and live with loss

My wife and I walked past the place where we had one of our first dates. For the next few minutes, we smiled, reminisced about a few happy moments of that time. This period was truly magical. It's like one of those nights you dream about as a teenager. And one day it happens. But, that feeling can only be once, it will never happen again in your life. nine0003

Realizing this, I, to my surprise, felt a little sad. I felt sad for the tiny loss of myself of that confident and cocky 27 year old who walked into this restaurant and there was a huge field of opportunity in front of them.

The two people we were that night are no more. And it will never return. I will not be able to meet my wife for the first time in the same way as then.

For a few moments I mourned my past, as one mourns for a distant relative. And then he went on. nine0003

I am not new to loss. I think each of us is the same way. I have seen family members and my friends die. I've had romantic relationships and I've watched them die in long, tedious silence. I was losing friendships, jobs, and even self-confidence. Just like almost every one of us.

Every loss is a form of death. In any case, once upon a time there was an experience - an idea, a thing, a person who brought meaning to our life or something else good. Now this is no more. nine0003

The struggle with loss is always the same. In any case - be it the loss of a friendship, a career, a part of the body, anything else, we have to reckon with the fact that now we will not experience the feelings associated with the lost thing. We will have to feel the inner emptiness and accept the pain. We are forced to resist this terrible word "never".

"Never" hurts because it means you can't change it. And we always like to think that we can change something, it helps us feel better. nine0003

You can never bring the deceased back to life. You can never reset a broken relationship. You can never take back the words that broke the friendship.

When it's not there, it's not there. And it won't change no matter what you do. In a real psychological sense, knowing this destroys some part of you. And this part, in the end, will need to be restored somehow.

Every loss is part loss of who you really are

The most common question in emails from readers is how do I get my ex back? No matter how beautifully it is described, no matter what actions are planned for this, it all comes down to one thing: he / she left me and it hurts. What should I do to get him/her back?

This question never made sense to me. On the one hand, if there was a tried and true way to win back exes, we would: a) know about it a long time ago; b) partings and divorce would not exist; c) The world would be full of happy married couples and I would be out of a job. nine0003

But more importantly. Even if past relationships can be returned, they will no longer be the same. It will be something fragile, contrived, consisting of two skeptical faces who constantly reproduce the same problem, relive the old drama and remind each other why nothing worked out last time.

Do you think many of the happy couples I know tell me things like, "He was an idiot, but then he apologized, bought a cake and flowers, and we've been happily married ever since."? nine0003

None of them.

Relationships end because two people have done something wrong with each other. Relationships also end because two people mean something to each other.

We've all been through breakups before. And we've all had moments when we missed our exes, wrote embarrassing letters or text messages to them, when we drank too much. They cried silently when some song reminded them of them.

But why do we experience breakups so painfully? And why in these moments we feel so lost and helpless. In this article, we will talk about how to deal with any loss, but especially the loss of intimate relationships, because this is the most painful form of loss. So all examples will build on this. nine0003

But first we need to understand why loss makes us feel so bad. So in this list, I will directly point out the reasons why this happens:

  • To be a healthy and active person, we must feel good. And in order to feel good, we must understand that our time and energy are spent rationally. Meaning is the fuel for our mind. When at least one link in this scheme falls out, everything else stops working.
  • The main way to create meaning is through relationships. Relationships are not only with people, although this is more important for us, but also with careers, communities, groups and ideas. All of these relationships have the potential to give our lives meaning and therefore help us feel good about ourselves. nine0044
  • Our relationships not only give meaning to life, but also determine the understanding of ourselves. I am a writer because of my relationship with writing. I am a son, because of my relationship with my parents. I am an American because of my relationship with my country. If any of these things cease to exist, for example, I go to live in North Korea and cannot write anymore, it will lead to a mini-crisis of my identity.
  • When one relationship breaks down, part of our identity breaks down with it. Therefore, the more meaning the relationship has added to my life, the more significant its role will be. And the more crippling will be the consequences of the fact that these relationships no longer exist. nine0044
  • When we lose some kind of relationship, it puts us in a dead end. Suddenly, what was for our meaning disappears, no longer exists in our life. As a result, where we used to feel meaning, now we feel empty. We begin to ask if our lives are really meaningful to others or if we are wasting oxygen.
  • The feeling of emptiness, or rather lack of meaning, is better known to us under the name of depression. Most people think depression is just sadness. This is wrong. Depression and sadness are often linked. Sadness occurs when we feel bad, and depression occurs when we feel meaningless. And the deeper the depression, the deeper the lack of meaning, the deeper the meaninglessness of any action. We do not want to get up in the morning, take a shower, communicate with other people and eat. nine0044

A healthy reaction to loss is to slowly but surely build new relationships, and thus acquire new meaning. We often refer to these periods as "new beginnings" or "new me." You are building your new self to forget the old one.

The unhealthy response to loss is to refuse to accept that some part has not died. This is clinging to the past, desperate attempts to restore the lost. People do this because their entire identity and self-respect has been wrapped up in that relationship. They think they are incapable or unworthy of a loving, meaningful relationship with someone in the future. nine0003

Ironically, it is precisely the fact that people do not know how to value and love themselves that causes their relationship to fall apart.

Toxic Relationships vs. Healthy Relationships

To understand why it is so difficult for some people to let go of others, you need to recognize one simple dichotomy:

  1. A toxic relationship is when two people are emotionally dependent on each other. That is, they use each other to assert themselves and force the second person to refuse respect for themselves altogether. nine0044
  2. A healthy relationship is when two people are emotionally dependent on each other, that is, they approve of each other, respect both the partner and themselves.

Toxic relationships need drama to survive. Toxic people do not love and respect themselves, they cannot accept the idea, they cannot understand that someone can love and respect them. And if somebody comes and gives them love, respect, they don't trust it and they don't accept it. As a result, they begin to be insecure about everything around them. What if he leaves me? What if he realizes that I'm a loser? What if he doesn't approve of what I ordered to take home? nine0003

Drama creates an unnecessary conflict, which also generates a false sensation for some time. When a toxic person abuses their relationship, their partner sees it and forgives for a while. And that feeling makes relationships meaningful.

Drama doesn't last long because it doesn't give a sense of security. Pretty soon, the toxic couple will need more drama, like an injection to maintain the relationship, and so on, until one of the partners gets tired of it. nine0003

Healthy relationships, on the contrary, avoid drama, because they believe that this is an unnecessary conflict, it worsens life. Healthy people simply do not tolerate drama, they are responsible for each other and care.

Healthy relationships, instead of inventing conflict from scratch, reaffirm their love, respect and care, minimize conflict so that there is more room for love and support, which is already there.

Let's go back, for example, my nostalgia - when I met my wife. If our relationship was toxic and I was selfish in my relationship, I would start blaming my wife for the loss that the relationship is no longer the same. And this is only her fault. nine0003

As a result, such a drama will do two things: it will give me some sense that here I am, I am fighting for a more passionate relationship, and she must agree with this. And after she admits her guilt, within 2-3 hours she will have to calm me down, prove to me that she loves me until I feel good.

Another toxic option is this: if my wife can't give me a new sensation, then I'll go and find it outside of marriage. I will be able to get what I want for a while and I will consider that I deserve it, I have a right to it. And in general, in the end, it will be my wife's fault that I went for treason. nine0003

But instead of all that, I said something like, "I miss those nights we had back then." And then he silently reminded himself that the relationship is developing, that the joy and benefits of love three times a week is not the same as the joy of love and healthy relationships for three years or several decades. And that's okay.

Love grows, changes and becomes bigger. And some fleeting excitement in past relationships does not mean that it was better there.

For those who doubt that relationships can be toxic at all, here's a little gray box that holds the truth. nine0003

  1. You cannot imagine that a happy life is possible without your relationship. A toxic relationship is a deal with the devil. You put up with the fact that your identity and self-worth mean nothing to another person. But what you don't realize is that by lowering your self-esteem and giving up your identity, relationships create even more insecurities. Such relationships, as it were, envelop your life and nothing else makes sense except them. If you think that once your current relationship ends, the meaning of life will end, then they are toxic. And it's not just humans that can be toxic. The same can be said about work. nine0044
  2. Relationships harm other relationships in your life. A toxic relationship is like a flame that consumes all the oxygen, suffocates everything else in our lives. You think about your relationship even when it's not rational - at a basketball game, in the middle of a job interview, calling your mom, or listening to a shitty violin concerto. Everything else doesn't matter to you anymore. When you are in such a relationship, your friends start to think you are selfish and try to explain that this relationship does not bring anything good. And gradually they distance themselves, because you don’t want to listen to anything. All attempts to interfere will only fuel the toxic flames. nine0044
  3. The more love you give, the sicker and angrier you become. And all because constant scandals and claims take away your healthy strength and positive energy. A toxic relationship is like a black hole, it sucks you deeper and deeper. Any attempt to break away kindles the flame even more, and then again tightens to the starting point and there is no strength to escape. Being in such a relationship, you want to leave, but when you are away, you have no idea what you will do next and how to live without this relationship. nine0044

Why is a toxic relationship harder to end than a healthy one?

Toxic relationships are addictive because scandals are also addictive. Like drugs, gambling, scandals are unpredictable: they distract, amaze with unexpected twists.

What's even worse is that in such an environment we become desensitized to the drama. We need to find more and more conflicts so that we can prove to ourselves that we are loved. The previous conflicts will be few and far between. The scandal was started because of who should take out the garbage. Now he takes out the garbage himself, without swearing. But, this is not enough, you need to find a new reason for a larger scandal. Now another claim is in line - he calls his mother too often. Therefore, he stops calling his mother, at least in front of you. But, and this is not enough, self-doubt persists. And we need a new reason for the scandal. Time to ruin his favorite pair of shoes and see what he has to say. nine0003

In the end, the drama reaches a boiling point and the relationship begins to evaporate painfully, bringing pain to all participants in this conflict.

As the intensity of passions increases, we become more emotionally dependent on the provocateur. As a result, we come to the conclusion that the scandal arranged by the partner is really our fault and his feelings are much more important.

By the way, people don't know how to let go of a toxic relationship. This is because even parting, by and large, does not change anything. When they were together, energy was spent on winning over their partner. After a couple breaks up, they spend their time and energy trying to get each other back. It turns out, a vicious circle. nine0003

Such intimate relationships poison other relationships as well. People start creating conflict at work to overcome their insecurities and show their worth. People create drama even with themselves, although why is unclear.

How to become better

Our minds tend to remember only the best qualities of our past. Someday, when we meet our ex, we will think in horror: “God, me and this?! How is that even possible?" And this is all because our brain remembers only the best. nine0003

Step 1: Surround yourself with people who love and appreciate you for who you are

Reconnect with people who care about you. These are the people who will be your emotional stronghold as you begin the difficult recovery process.

This sounds easier than it is. Because when you've been humiliated, suffered some loss in your life, the last thing you want to do is call your friends or go get a beer. Or call your mom and admit that she was right. nine0003

This is especially difficult for people who have already left a toxic relationship. Because of this, they do not have people who appreciate them just like that. My recommendation: if you got rid of one type of toxic relationship, why don't you stop there and move on in the same direction? Use your personal mini-crisis as a litmus test to see what really cares about you and who only uses it for their own purposes.

Step 3: Invest in a relationship with yourself

As a rule, people who have been addicted to toxic relationships have not previously had a well-functioning relationship with themselves. What do I mean by this?

It's personal time to go to the gym, eat a ton of ice cream or go out and have a beer with an old friend. This is the time to sign up for my course or read the book that has been sitting on the nightstand for six months. It's time to just give yourself the opportunity to be sad, angry or just sit and not think about anything. nine0003

Step 4: If your intimate relationship is over, allow yourself some time alone

After your personal relationship is over, most people's natural need is to immediately fill the void with another relationship. We start looking for attention, affection and sex in the other person.

This is a bad idea. It detracts from the healthy activities that are listed above. Stay alone for a while. Learn to take time for yourself. And only then, when you really want to, and not because someone needs it, you should start getting to know each other. nine0003

Our whole life is a long series of losses. This is perhaps the only thing that we are guaranteed.

If you remember the most difficult time in your life, you will see that you were able to survive the loss, which at that time seemed something terrible and it was no longer possible to live on.

We sometimes need to lose relationships, some things and even some people in order to gain a new, common sense.

Original article: MM.NET
Article author: Mark Manson

Translated by: Yulia Gurkina
Edited by: Yulia Gurkina

Psychologist told how to protect yourself from toxic people after communicating with him, a feeling of devastation remains, then here he is - a toxic person. The first thought is that it is worth limiting communication with such people, but what if they are close people, colleagues or relatives? nine0003

It is important to keep an emotional distance, says Ludmila Tkachenko, a psychologist at the Kutuzovsky family center. "It's important to keep your emotions under control, and sometimes it's better to choose a neutral line of behavior, like nodding and agreeing," she says. "For example, if you comfort your upset friend, don't let her make it a daily tradition, otherwise you experiences that affect your emotional state." It is necessary to keep a distance, building a constructive dialogue, not absorbing negative information, only in this way it is possible to develop an internal filter from other people's bad emotions and problems. nine0003

"A good way to neutralize a toxic interlocutor is to ask him the question: "How and when are you going to solve your problem?" He will either change the topic or shut up, because he is going to complain, not solve the problem. Remember that only finding a solution is constructive , not experiences," adds Tkachenko.

It is equally important to reduce contact with toxic people. For example, if there is a negative colleague at work, then communication with him can be reduced to solving work issues. If we are not talking about workmates, you can put calls and notifications from toxic subscribers to silent mode. “Toxic people need a response, and if they don’t get it, they switch to the next “victim.” Alternatively, for some people, you can become a very boring, unmotivated interlocutor who cannot be pissed off,” Tkachenko notes. nine0003

Also, when communicating with toxic people, you can openly say what exactly does not suit you, in this case, either the person will begin to change his behavior for the better, or he will stop communicating with you. The psychologist advises to develop the ability to stand up for yourself and your boundaries. “All toxic people are manipulators. They need to be made clear that you can stand up for yourself and are not going to be manipulated by him. A good way is to set time limits in communication. For example, if your girlfriend is a toxic person, set a time limit for communication, explaining his affairs that cannot be postponed.If communication with her cannot be completely limited, suggest that she turn to a psychologist with her problem.If a colleague violates boundaries, provokes conflicts and "puts spokes in the wheels", it is worth talking with the manager about the delimitation of duties between you ", - the expert emphasizes.

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