Compassionate Psychological Care

Toxic Relationships

Toxic relationships can be really hard to spot when you're in one; so what are the signs that you're in a toxic relationship and once your recognize that you're in one - how do you handle them? I'm a big believer in doing things that make you happy (as long as they're healthy and don't hurt others) and spending time with people who make you happy. The flip side of that is not doing things that make you unhappy if you don't have to, and spending less time with people who make you unhappy, if you're able to. I know I put some caveats in here because sometimes as adults we have to do things we don't want to do (take out the trash, change diapers, etc.) but we have to do them. Likewise sometimes we have to be around people who don't make us happy (bosses, co-workers, in-laws, etc.) but we have to be around them as well. So this blog is about recognizing toxic relationships and then talking about different things you can do about them.

Recognizing toxic relationships - ask yourself these questions:

    1.     Do you feel happy or excited at the thought of spending time with this person?

    2.     Does this person make you feel good about yourself?

    3.     Does this person support you?

    4.     Does this person make jokes at your expense that are often hurtful?

    5.     Do you feel anxious, angry, or upset when you are around this person?

    6.     When you see a text/voice mail from this person, how do you feel?

    7.     Do you feel like this person respects your values and boundaries?

    8.     Can you be honest with this individual without fearing repercussions?

    9.     Do you find yourself doing things you don't want to do out of guilt / fear of what this person will do?

    10.     Do you feel like this person controls you or your emotions?

Depending on your answers to some of these questions, you might already be able to tell if the person you're thinking of is a positive part of your life or a negative part of your life. For me, here are the things that I really consider when thinking about the relationships in my life: How does that person make me feel? If I dread having to see them, if my stomach drops when I see a message from them, if I feel belittled or smaller after being in their presence, or if I find myself acting and reacting in ways that aren't in line with who I know I am - I may reconsider whether I want to keep this person in my life. Perhaps you have a different litmus test, but my feels about me and living life according to my values is important to me.

How do you handle toxic relationships? So, here is the big determining factor - can you leave the toxic relationship? If it's a friend or a romantic partner you don't have any ties with, then yes, perhaps leaving the relationship is the best option. But what if it's not? What if it's your parents, a partner you have kids with, a boss, a co-worker, or family? These relationships are not so easy to walk away from and you may need to figure out how to stick with these relationships.

    1.     Set boundaries with yourself and the other person about what you will and will not allow in your relationship. For example - how they can speak to you or letting them know that you are not working when you are not scheduled to work.

    2.     Reinforce these boundaries when they are tested. Inevitably your boundaries will be tested by this person - keep reinforcing them and soon they will stop testing them.

    3.     Focus on the things that you like to do and build yourself up through self-care and following your own values. The healthier you are and the more you take care of yourself, the better you can withstand required toxic people.

    4.     Find small ways to make the situation positive and improve the way you communicate and interact with your environment.

    5.     Know when to walk away. There may come a time when regardless of the necessity of the relationship you need to walk away. Whether this is for a few minutes, a few hours, days, or permanently you may come to this conclusion.