One part of a successful recovery—and for that matter, a rewarding life—is knowing what is good for you and what isn’t. As challenging as it might be to admit, sometimes particular individuals simply aren’t good for your wellbeing. If that’s the case, it’s up to you to make a change.
Making a Change
First, you have to believe that making a change is within your power–you have both the responsibility and the agency to direct your own life outcomes. Compare this to the attitude or perception that things just happen to you and that you have no ability to control them.
If you have a firm grasp on your ability to take charge of your wellbeing, you gain a better awareness of which individuals are obviously toxic to your health and can take steps to reframe or terminate those relationships.
How might someone be toxic? The experts at PsychAlive indicate that toxic characteristics usually feature “repeated, mutually destructive modes of relating…these patterns can involve jealousy, possessiveness, dominance, manipulation, desperation, selfishness, or rejection.” This creates an imbalance in the relationship. Here are some behaviors and beliefs that indicate a person simply isn’t good for you:
- Denying individuality (if you are a couple), believing instead you must have a “merged identity”
- Refusing to act kindly with thoughtful or loving intentions
- Using emotional manipulation or lies to fulfill needs
- Being demanding or selfish to wield power over you
- Never apologizing to or supporting you
- Expecting submission or allowing dominance
- Confusing authentic love with emotional desperation
Most examples of toxic relationships involve love partners, but many people experience the above interactions with parents, siblings, friends, and even supervisors or co-workers.
Steps to End Toxic Relationships
First, recognize any patterns of behavior you display with these people.
For example, do you:
- Frequently change your actions or opinions just to appease another person?
- Believe this type of relationship is all you deserve for “all you’ve done”?
- Force cheer or goodwill and avoid conflict just to keep the peace?
- Think you’re responsible for the attitudes and moods of other people?
- Accept circumstances that are less than your realistic expectations?
- Feel as though you’re always on edge or quietly seething?
- Find you’re making too many concessions and not being heard?
If even one of these characteristics applies to you, it might be time to explore through therapy how your belief system might be impacting your ability to seek out or maintain quality relationships. There could be any number of reasons for this, including a history of trauma. It could also be a circumstance of looking to another’s personality to fulfill perceived gaps of your own, such as someone who’s indecisive and passive aligning with a partner who’s stubborn and domineering.
Also open up to your therapist if you feel your self-worth is a little low. Self-esteem is often compromised by many things, including:
- A troubled past
- Stressful life events
- Lack of support and encouragement from parents or guardians
- Career and financial difficulties
- Chronic medical conditions
- Substance use disorder
- Co-occurring disorders such as anxiety or depression
So ask yourself: why do I maintain this connection? A toxic relationship can also erode your self-worth, so you have another vital reason to consider making changes.
Next, consider the type of relationship and how difficult it will be to alter its definition.
Obviously, deciding to end a casual dating relationship is less challenging than making changes in your family dynamic.
In many situations, intense feelings of love, obligation, loyalty, guilt, and even fear complicate the ability to end a toxic relationship with a family member. This is natural, and only you can determine if completely severing ties is the right choice, or if firm boundaries should be established.
Finally, take action.
While it’s possible that you can have a heart-to-heart with someone and the relationship might change for the better, that usually doesn’t happen without both people working on their individual issues first. If there’s a chance of this happening, especially in a love partnership or with a family member, it’s always worth a try.
However, more often than not, it’s best to terminate the connection, especially when aspects of safety or security are involved. You can do this kindly, but be resolute.
The Power of Positivity suggests these steps:
- Accept responsibility for your part in the relationship.
- Be as objective about the relationship as you can to reduce the emotion.
- When having a conversation with the individual, identify your emotions with “I” statements rather than accusatory “you” statements.
- Afterward, get positive support from people you trust.
- Learn to forgive.
There will be confusion, and maybe even some sorrow, when the relationship ends. But you’ll learn from the experience, and it will influence how you form more healthful connections in the future.
Gain Additional Support through Twin Lakes
It’s easy to consider yourself a victim due to other people’s manipulations. In many circumstances, especially those involving abuse or trauma, this may be true. But it’s essential to move beyond a victim mentality and establish a positive sense of self. In our aftercare programs and continuing care groups, you may find additional resources and support to help.