Weeding out Toxic Relationships

toxic people

Part of my own journey toward change has involved recognizing that the power to change lies within myself, and I can’t place blame on any other person for what I choose to do with my life or choose not to do with my life. That being said, my own experience has also shown that the people I surround myself with play a major role in supporting me in my desire to change, accepting the person that I am or dragging me back toward the person that I used to be.

I write this to discuss the types of people we may have to weed out of our lives if we want to move forward in a positive direction. Keep in mind that I’m not discussing all difficult relationships; some challenging relationships are well worth keeping. I’m specifically discussing toxic relationships, which are characterized by the following:

  • Toxic relationships take heavily from us without giving anything back.
  • Toxic relationships sap our joy as well as our mental and emotional energy.
  • Toxic relationships represent people who are hateful, hurtful, critical and discouraging the vast majority of the time you are around them.
  • Toxic relationships constantly leave you feeling empty, guilty, incompetent and ashamed
  • Toxic relationships represent people who are verbally and emotionally abusive to you.
  • Toxic relationships bring out the absolute worst in you.

Standing up to the people who are pouring negativity venom into your mind is a difficult thing. After all, many toxic individuals have mastered the art of manipulation and have ways of turning the situation around on you and heaping guilt on you when you confront them about their behavior. Patrick Mathieu said it well in this Using Mind Control With Difficult People when he provided an interesting twist on the old “insanity” line. He wrote: “Insanity is dealing with the same person over and over again and expecting them to act differently this time.” Confronting the person and making ultimatums again and again can only do so much.

Just because you have decided you want a change in your life, doesn’t mean the people represented in toxic relationships do too. You may have to close yourself off to this person to heal yourself from past wounds and proceed with the changes you want to see in your life. This might involve ignoring phone calls, deleting friends off social networks, blocking e-mails, breaking up, going separate ways or even moving out.

On some occasions, toxic relationships also represent people who tempt you back into destructive habits. For instance, if you are a recovering alcoholic and have a pack of friends who completely disregard your need to stay clean and continue to urge you to throw the brews back with them every weekend, these could be toxic relationships. You may have to separate yourself from these people, at least temporarily, until you have a personal breakthrough.

Have you ever had to cut off a toxic relationship so you could make a change in your life? How did you handle it?

41 thoughts on “Weeding out Toxic Relationships”

  1. I Like this

    “Insanity is dealing with the same person over and over again and expecting them to act differently this time.”

    Thanks for the post ☺

  2. Very good points brought up here on how to recognize a toxic person or relationship. It’s tough cutting a toxic person out of your life and sometimes it isn’t even possible. It’s important for people to know they don’t have to engage in the behaviors that make the relationship sick. They can really distance themselves from people who are toxic. Emotional detatchment is a very healthy thing. It can be used in positive ways. Thanks for the great topic!

    1. I agree..about being emotionally disengaged. My husband is toxic. It is an everyday fight to stand up, lead, and right his wrongs. I have aged, had panic attacks, and lost a zeal in my life. I love him dearly, and consider his good qualities compared to the average. I have invested 8 years into him. I stand firm for him, but former in my virtues, values and moral.

  3. I cut off few toxic relationships, but after bullied by them very badly. After some time they again wanted to friendship but I politely refused it. That were really worst experiences for me… :/

  4. This has been a hot topic lately. I’ve been researching emotional intelligence for the last couple of months. We all have triggers that cause us to feel negative emotions which have the power to influence behavior we may come to regret.

    Toxic relationships can be one of the biggest triggers of these emotions in our lives. It’s a hard choice to make, but may end up paying off.

    1. Interesting. I need to learn about Emotional Intelligence too. I have the book. The older I get, it seems to me that more and more people are just plain self-absorbed and not very caring or have that great of manners. I had to get rid of toxic relationship identified by such factors as: power-over maneuvers, put-downs, betrayals of trust,
      taking advantage, taking too much in general, and the constant talker who always brings the conversation back around to them. I’ve been suffering from depression for a long time and I’m now down to just a few close friends I’ve known for years. I realized a lot of my depression and fatigue problems were generated by emotional upset. I think it turned out I was around a lot of really unstable narcissists with control issues and general self-absorbed flakiness and here I was the one who thought I had the problem for so long. But as I started practicing yoga, I was able to see things as they really are and it wasn’t that pretty. Reality can be up for debate sure, but I had to reserve my right to identify finally, a spade as a spade.

  5. What scares me the most about the idea of toxic relationships, is why I tend to gravitate to “toxic” men. It kinda freaks me out, because I then am challenged to ask and examine myself as to “what is wrong with me that I keep attracting the same personality into my life?”

    At least for me, it seems there is always such a strong hold on these type of people (ntense attraction, passion, etc.). Sucks for me.

    Great post though – really got me thinking.

    1. Don’t feel bad. I’m distancing myself right now from a toxic man, only I didn’t know why I was acting nuts with him, I don’t act nuts with anyone else in my life. I decided to poke around to see what was wrong with ME and found these articles online. I can tell you, he’s been horrible to me, but he is charming even when he treats me like nothing. That charm is what gets us sucked in. They make the wonderful side of themselves so obvious and the horrible sneaks in quietly. It’s tough to close the door on a man that funny and ‘sweet’.

      This is the first dealings I’ve had with a person such as this and it will be my last.

    2. You just need to remember that you’ll continue to attract toxic types as long as you remain willing to engage in their behaviour or trying to change them. When you learn to recognise the patterns and walk away, you’ll know you’ve broken the pattern – and changed your own behaviour (stopped yourself from becoming toxic). It’s far too easy to become toxic yourself when you’re continuously engaging with toxic people. You know them by how much they stress you out. Learn to let go and be free :)

      1. You make a good point. Toxic people a one time made me feel so horrible, that i
        would actually stoop to there level to boast myself up. It wasn’t intentional, i didn’t even realize i was doing it but never the less i was. Toxic behavior is for sure contagious.

    3. I completely agree with you. I tend to gravitate toward these types as well and I almost thing it is because they see me as an easy target as someone they can push around because I don’t have a strong personality.

    4. What I figured out is that I’m too nice and have a generous spirit and the wrong people can take advantage of that. I tend to give people more than a few chances and I just don’t anymore. I don’t let closeness happen all that easily anymore or open up as much as I used to.

    5. More than likely that means you had a close, toxic relationship with someone as a child. At least, that’s what has happened in my life. I tend to be attracted to men who remind me of my mother, who is bipolar and been controlling me most of my life.

      Not exactly a healthy model to emulate!

      I think it’s my training that my mother gave me that makes me such a target for users and creeps. I’ve been trained by a controlling person in how to be open to control and being used. I’ve also been told repeatedly that the actions I take to make other people happy, to the detriment of my self, mean I’m a “nice” person. Of course other users and controlling personalities come along and see my actions as an opportunity! When I realized it was my own behavior, taught to me by my mother, that caused the attraction, I realized that my attracting those kinds of people was in MY power all along.

      Because if an action can be learned, it can be unlearned. Not without a lot of work, maybe. But wouldn’t it be worth it, if the outcome is a healthy, stable relationship with a non-user?

      That doesn’t mean you have to be mean, impolite, or become as controlling as the ones that made you. But it DOES mean you have to stop trying to please others to the point of harming yourself. Good people help other people. But unhealthy people help other people without regard to their own needs. That doesn’t make you nice; that makes you an easy target.

      This is something I’ve been working on for a year now, and I can’t say it’s been easy. But the progress I’ve made has made me a stronger, more confident person. And while I haven’t found the healthy romantic relationship I want, I have made many healthy friendships. I count that as amazing progress, because that isn’t something I’ve ever had before.

      I wish you luck in your own search for a healthy relationship! And have a great day!

  6. After yet another series of horrible interactions with my siblings almost two years ago, in meditation I was given the words “I have sent you nothing but Angels” and the understanding that forgiving someone doesn’t require keeping them in my life but may require a separation.
    I made the choice to remove myself from the lives of the majority of my birth family. It took 52 years to do so, but I’m at peace with my choice and now have the grace to begin healing childhood abuse and traumas.
    The incredible thing is that, in the two years since I made that choice, I have managed my fibromyalgia without medication and with far fewer symptoms than previously. Could being exposed to lifelong toxic relationships have contributed to my becoming ill in the first place? I believe so!
    If “Insanity is dealing with the same person over and over again and expecting them to act differently this time” then I’m sane for the first time in my life. Hooray!!

    1. I have recently done the same thing and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I’am more at peace and my health has improved without their negativity and hate.I feel like the sad part is they hold on to the past soo much and want me to stay with them there and some of us move on to healthier relationships.Soo great I’am not the only one who decided that and made improvements in my life.

    2. That is very interesting. That must have been a challenging transition to make after that many years! I also have Fibro and CFS and the CFS especially got worse after dating someone who I figured out in the end most likely had narcissistic personality disorder. But he was good at fooling me. I regret that he wasted the years of my early 40’s and that I did too when could have met someone nice. Now I’m 46 and don’t have a whole lot of a sense of family or community in my life. After I figured him out, I figured out the others also and let about six people go out of my life who were damaging to me in various ways. I got tired of being there for everyone but no one being there for me. All they wanted to do was talk about themselves. That is great that you are meditating. I think many wonderful things come out of that practice. I am practicing yoga and that is helping me with some emotional intelligence issues as our natural intelligence arises when we practice consistently whatever it is we practice that is mindfulness based.

    3. Cynthia- I admire your ability to part away from troubling factors including family. I constantly feel like my parents push me over the edge and bring out the worst in me. Im 30 years old, and thought it was a little weird to feel this way.

      Same time, I also find it hard not to speak them at all. So now, I restrict my conversation to asking about their well being and health only, never sharing anything else. Yes, I do believe that illness is caused from toxic relations. I would generally get a mild headache after speaking to them, now these headaches have developed into chronic migraine. I want to be sane again!!

  7. Hi Mariana. This is a very important topic & the post is so well written. It’s hard to let go of certain people, even if the relationship is toxic, yet our lives change for the better when we have the courage to do it anyway.

  8. Finding the right people to help one move forward with it truly important and at times letting go of the ones that don’t work too. The “Season, Reason and Lifetime” showes the necessity of that. Some people just enter your life to walk with you for a certain time. You learn from them and they from you and then you have outgrown them and it is time to find new aliance partners to walk the next path with.
    However when you are right in the situation it is harder to see this objectively. Ask yourself if the person supports you more than they hinder your progress; if they make you feel good more than make you feel bad/ happy or unhappy. If the result is more negative than positive, it is time to move on and surround yourself with more supportive people.
    One step at a time!!!

  9. I dated this girl who was a bright light when she was on…but when she was off it was too much. Ending that dependency allowed me to learn from that experience and take my life to the next level. Sometimes we need those experiences for education.

  10. I could not have put that better myself. I have been battling with a toxic relationship with a female friend of mine. She is an absolute master manipulator and has left me feeling terrible on so many occasions. Yet I am the one who ends up feeling guilty.

    I’m printing this page out and sticking it where I can read it everyday so I never let her back into my life.

    Thank You.

  11. So glad I came across this. I was questioning whether I acted to quickly to end a 2 year relationship and I now feel that it was absolutely the correct thing to do. My relationship was toxic in every way possible and this has helped me realise and let go for good.
    Thank you

  12. I have let go of one of my sibling because it was a toxic relationship and it has been one of the best things I did. Now I am letting go of another sibling who is a master manipulator and somehow leaves you feeling all the blame and she carries none. It is too draining. So it is time to move on without this sibling. Thank you for going into this important topic.

  13. What has been the worst for me is the covert and manipulative ways some of these people have operated, making me look somewhat like the bad guy (at least in their twisted view of things) when I finally have called a spade a space and have exited stage left. But when I look back at their behaviors – lying to me, putting me down subtly in front of others, using me emotionally or financially, or playing other mind games related to what they can get out of me, the most compassionate thing I could do was to call a spade and spade finally and eject them.

  14. I sometimes wonder if my relationships with my mother and sisters are toxic. They bring out the worst in me: Often times I will end up very opposite of whom I normally am whenever I talk to them–angry, desperate…when I usually am a very shy and gentle person with most people. I have decided to stop “sharing my sentiments” to my sisters at least and just not send them emails. With my mother, it is more difficult because although I live away from her, I am still “under her rule.” I am a college student who transferred to a college in Texas from Maryland, where she lives, because she wants to move here. She bought a house “as an investment” with the money she got for selling her half of the house back to her ex-husband, and bought this house down here. I am to find tenants to fill the two empty rooms (because she didn’t put any lease or 30 day notice, I have had to find four so far in the past five months while going to school), and becuase they are all lazy as hell, I am the one who cleans and fixes anything that breaks in the house. Doorknob falls off? Oh, that’s my responsibility of course. Dish soap is out? I buy it. She’s greedy: my boyfriend pays her (reduced, as she so emphatically states) rent, and she gets a freaking thousand from the other two a month, and yet she can’t pay for that shit that they use too?

    I sometimes question whether I am all they accuse me to be: Spoiled, unappreciative, ungrateful, whatever…but then I realize that the fact that I always am questioning this shows that they (especially my mother) have caused me to constantly feel doubt in myself. She says I should be appreciative of everything she does for me. When the other tenant was smoking weed in the house, I asked her what I should do. She asked “is she hurting anyone?” Interesting, because when I once smoked a cigarette in my car she freaked out, saying I was lowering the value of the car (which she co-signed but never helped me pay off until she couldn’t her loan for the house, of course. I paid off half of the car, and now I know she’ll hold that over my head and when I graduate, she’ll most likely make me pay back on top of all my school loans).

    My mother has put many burdens on me and acts like I am being unappreciative whenever I try to express that. She also often will deny things, making it seem as though I am crazy or imagining things. I have said thank you to her and I’m sorry, but she has never said I’m sorry (once) to my in my life. She expects me to thank her constantly for things that are not even a big deal, but she does not realize how much I’ve done for her: Found her multiple tenants for her house, maintained it, cleaned it, everything. She acts like I’m lowly and not deserved of anything unless I work my butt off for it, which I’ve always done in my life (and which she repeatedly denies because for the first time ever since I bought the car, she’s actually helping me with car insurance).

    I guess my problem is expecting: I expect stupid things from her, like a congratulations for getting straight A’s. But that will never happen, and then I look selfish. I guess my own fear is that she’ll take away the few bills she pays for me. Which is silly, really, to only keep in contact with someone because otherwise you’d be living on the street or whatever. I feel so powerless and stuck: I wish I could be free from her, but I can’t. I want to apply for public housing, but they’ll probably be like why do you need public housing when you have a place you could stay. I need to know whether I’m crazy or not! Maybe I’m just stressed, which is why I’m ranting.

  15. I have recently ended a 7 year entanglement with a very to if person. The truth is that although I always ended up empty handed I would keep going back and initializing the relationship thinking that if I showed him I was nicer that thi gs would be different. . The truth is that every interaction started and ended the same. I have finally gotten to the stage of maturity where I now understand what it was and what kept driving me back . Freedom is a beautiful thing .

  16. I think everyone goes through this in life, if they haven’t, then it means they haven’t made many connections with other humans in life. Having a fear of abandonment problem, it has been particularly hard for me to cut toxic people out as I am quite sensitive towards people’s feelings. As you get older though, you realize that you must do this in order to live your life in a fulfilling way. There are emotional leeches out there that we must be weary of because no matter how much you can care for someone, sometimes you just have to let them continue in their own toxic lifestyles on their own. For some, it’s the only way they know how to live, it’s how they have been wired.

    There will always be people who complain, cynical, whine, only able to think about themselves etc. It’s up to us, the optimistic people, to identify these things and avoid them. It’s a skill you only gain through experience.

  17. I have a question. I’ve been struggling with a toxic relationship for a long time, but I can’t break it.

    Is there a way to move a toxic relationship toward a more healthy one?

    Allow me to explain: my mother is bipolar and I love her more than I can ever describe. I can’t leave her, she has a terminal illness at the moment and needs me, but I need to put our relationship on a more healthy ground now that I’m an adult and have some power of my own. And the problem really lies in the fact that my mom can honestly be described as the greatest hero of my life, saving me from the most horrible things a person can imagine, but also one of the worst villains of my life, causing me more mental damage than almost anyone else.

    I’m grateful beyond words for all my mom has done for me, and I can’t leave her now that she needs me. But I can’t allow the toxicity of our relationship to continue, either. She has verbally and emotionally abused and manipulated me my whole life and I can’t let that continue now that I am no longer a helpless child.

    But I can’t scrap her from my life. I love and owe her far too much for that.

    You can see that I go back and forth in my thinking about her. She did a lot right in raising me, and then she did a lot very wrong. Which all parents do, but bipolars have a special way of doing it. Like everything else in their lives, they go to extremes.

    I’ve been trying to make a healthier relationship with her now. But this post made me feel a little bad because I’m not willing to cut her from my life completely. So, I’d like your honest opinion. Is it possible to take a toxic relationship and make it healthy?

    Thank you so much for your time and have a wonderful day!

  18. Day 3 of trying to cut ties of a 2 year toxic relationship. Thank goodness for a wonderful counselor. Thank goodness for these comments–so many of whch I could have written myself.

    As my counselor said, “Sometimes the most compassionate thing to do is say no.”

    Wish me strength.

    1. I am in a toxic relationship that is a rollercoaster. This person is my bf. This is also a two year relationship. It has changed who I am. I want to end this relationship for the best of both of us as I feel I am toxic to him as well. When I try
      to go he says just the right thing to make me believe he will change. The ability of these people to.be charming and sweet makes it so hard to let go completely. I hope for all those who wish to be strong and leave their toxic relationships behind the strength to do it.

  19. i love my husband but his family brings out the worst in me.
    after the worst has come out, i then examine the event and dislike myself and my reactions.
    then i see some of the same traits i dislike in his family, are also present in my husband.
    and i wonder why i stay in this relationship.
    i’ve been riding this merry-go-round for 25 years.

  20. I have been and still am in a toxic relationship now for 8yrs i have two children with this guy and he is physically and verbally abusive , i have tried to leave but it only gets worst i have been depressed and ill for about 2yrs now since our relationship stated to the point where i have started to get physically sick seriously i have no way of getting out or even know how to i have tried killing myself but that would not be fare to my children i really need someone to talk to someone who actually understands and looking to judge me i want and need out so bad but i don’t know how.

  21. I have been in a relationship with a toxic person for 11yrs. He didn’t start out toxic but as age grew on the relationship he begin to show his toxic ways. I know I must let go but it is hard. I cant move because we r having SERIOUS financial problems. Please help me to deal with his selfish toxic ways.

  22. It’s easy to say “WALK AWAY”. There are tons of issues involved in these kind of relationships. It takes away all of the good in you, including the ability to stand up for yourself and do something. I’m currently dealing with a toxic relationship and it’s in the stage where I feel like I don’t know myself anymore. The only thing I want to do is to cry because I feel so powerless.

  23. Just had one of these. This one was more subtle than your typical toxic relationship in that this person managed to make me feel low without being directly abusive. Instead, she worked her magic by use of techniques such as the “almost-apology”, as well as the “irrational raising of hopes”.

    Basically, this was a girl who I had met once or twice, but not really gotten to know before I finally started chatting to her at a party. Flirtation ensued, and we kissed that night. We began chatting the next day, and within two days, we were already hanging out again, where we shared another long passionate kiss. We spent our days texting and grew very close, but she was afraid to start dating, so we decided we’d start as friends and grow into lovers.

    This continued for three weeks, and had the eerie sense of perfection to both of us, to where we were wondering how long that artificial haze would last. And it always seemed to me that she was trying to toss me warnings about her not being what she seemed, but never gave me enough specifics to latch onto. Plus, I was smitten. We made each other feel good.

    It didn’t last. Despite her insinuating that perfect people were ‘boring’, and that all humans were flawed beings that should be cherished, she jumped ship at the first sign of friction. We had a near-sexual encounter one night, based on signs that I thought I read, and she got scared, so I immediately stopped, apologized, and held her close so we could talk about it. She seemed ok that evening, but never acted the same to me again after that day. I saw her one more time, and that was it, but the texting never ceased.

    I was crushed. She was starry-eyed one moment, and then in a flash, it was gone. I blamed myself. I had asked her if I had done something wrong, why she was ignoring me, and wouldn’t reply directly to my requests to hang out, and that text upset her. In fairness, it was worded somewhat harshly and I apologized prior to her even reading it for its content. Nonetheless, she told me she forgave me, and we kept talking.

    But the relationship was different. All she would talk about is how stressed out she was. How she was an ‘introvert’ and needed to retreat into herself. Basically, we went from texting enthusiastically about our lives, our desires and dreams, to basically me listening and trying to offer sympathy as she texted me about how miserable she was, day in, day out. On a rare occasion ,she’d ask me about my day, but not often. I was experiencing stress of my own, with some recent parental issues, and panic attacks. When she found out about the latter, she briefly feigned concern, but within a day, was back to hyperbolic moaning about how she wanted a different life, and wanted to “move away”.

    After two weeks of not seeing her, I finally asked if she ever thought we’d see each other again, and she never really gave a definitive yes/no, other than saying she was “freaked out”, and that she could tell I had grown attached, but she felt ‘pushed’ to get into a relationship by me. I again blamed myself, but those around me were starting to tell me that she sounded like bad news, and that it wasn’t my fault, but I wouldn’t listen. I left her alone, tried to stop texting or thinking about her, but every time I did, she would text me again, sound like she’d turned a corner, and I’d get my hopes up, only to have them dashed again. She had apparently gotten over her introversion ,as she was hanging out with male friends again, but would make no time for me.

    Eventually, I stopped texting her for a week and told myself to move on. I was close, and she texted me one night. I was weak and fell for it. I thought maybe this was her saying she was ready to resume, and we texted non-stop for two days. I was excited. We even introduced the possibility of hanging out again.

    But I felt miserable, despite this. I was scared, and I didn’t know why. And the next day I figured it out – I felt bad because I was disrespecting myself. I didn’t want her back because I had feelings for her. I wanted her back because I was weak and thought she was my only option, that I had to play her game the way she wanted.

    And I realized, she had beaten me up throughout these proceedings. She blamed the stoppage on me making her feel pushed, that it was me who was attached, but she had actually set the pace of the relationship early on. She asked me to hang out three times that first week. She frequently called me pet names and told me how much she adored me, and when I was out of town, how much she missed me and wished I was there by her side. She had wanted to know everything about me, laid on the affection real quick. I had matched her level of passion, only for her to use it against me weeks later in an act of revisionism, as if it had been a one-sided relationship.

    Her apologies to me for her distance were never sincere – they were merely “I’m sorry, BUT…” messages, where she shifted the blame onto me. I was too attached. I moved too fast by initiating sexual contact (even though she started the conversation on that too) – and yet she didn’t even tell me this until I asked her two weeks later, why she was distant. She jumped down my throat one night because I misread her tone in a text message and offered her sympathy when she was upset, when she really wanted me to get angry. Nothing I did was right. I was miserable. She was making me miserable. She was taking from me, and giving very little.

    Nonetheless, I realized this later that night, when she again overreacted to something I did via text. I stopped talking to her immediately. I made an excuse to remove myself from a prior commitment I had with her, simply because it pained me to even think of her, much less be in the same room. I felt guilty about it at first, only to feel the first happiness I’d felt in a month.

    If someone makes you feel like this, it means they are trying to guide your behavior through manipulation. See the signs early. Avoid these people.

  24. I am trying to be strong and leave a toxic relationship. He is verbally and physically abusive and breaks up with me constantly but I plead and plead with him until he comes back. I just can’t stop myself. I feel absolutely messed up. I hate myself for wanting him back but I hate myself because he doesn’t want me… Does this make sense? I am a mess right now

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