Toxic Relationships and the Toll They TakeNov 09, 2022
In your personal relationships -- who leaves you feeling depleted physically, mentally, and emotionally?
From time to time, it's wise to take a personal inventory of your life and the people you are in a relationship with. Sometimes your garden requires weeding to make room for new growth.
Who among your friends, family, coworkers, and loved ones uplifts you, supports you, and makes you feel loved and appreciated? Those are the keepers! Be grateful for the wonderful people in your life.
Now, consider, if you will, those toxic relationships that deplete you, aggravate you, and leave you feeling unsettled. These are the folks we'll focus on from this point on.
“Don’t light yourself on fire trying to brighten someone else’s existence.”
~ Charlotte Erikson
What is a Toxic Relationship?
It's important to point out that toxicity can exist in any relationship; it's not limited to romantic relationships. This means toxic relationships may negatively impact you at home, school, work, committees, community, gatherings, carpooling, etc.
But what makes a relationship toxic?
As the term implies, there is something 'poisonous' about the relationship. A toxic relationship arises when your overall health and well-being are somehow threatened emotionally, psychologically, and/or physically. You are not safe in such an unhealthy relationship, and your peace of mind and wellness are disrupted.
You may be in a toxic relationship if you feel unseen, unheard, unsupported, misunderstood, demeaned, devalued, or under attack.
Identifying Toxic Traits in a Relationship
Wondering if there are toxic relationship red flags? Absolutely, a multitude of toxic traits can help you identify a toxic relationship. A toxic relationship will likely have some of the traits/issues noted below:
- Relationship out of balance – one gives too much, and the other takes too much
- Chaos and unpredictability
- Soap opera-worthy DRAMA
- Silent treatment
- Compulsive lying
- Manipulation – covert or overt
- Marked by confusion -- one moment, you're devalued; the next, you're idealized
- Harsh judgment and criticism abound
- Negative vibes prevail
- LIES, lies, and more lies
- You are walking on eggshells or glass shards
- No autonomy
- You have lost your sense of self-worth, confidence
- Your wants, needs, hopes, and dreams DO NOT matter
- Addictions: Alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc
- Your world revolves around their needs, and you lose touch with yourself
- You have become their emotional doormat
- Too much too soon, love-bombing or making BIG asks when you barely know them
- You feel that you are being taken advantage of
- You are acting as caretaker, firefighter, perpetual soother, and fixer
- A negative pattern of behavior that wreaks havoc
- You are the dumping ground for their emotional garbage and toxic behaviors
- And more…
Now that you can identify toxic traits in a relationship, be alert and cautious of people exhibiting any of these traits. Toxic relationship red flags can be your best friend and a saving grace; heed the warning.
You are and have always been worthy of respect, kindness, and reciprocal love in relationships.
What's Your Body Barometer Telling You?
Are you in tune with your body and the secret language it speaks?
When you are with people who are healthy and good for your soul, you'll feel at ease and comfortable in your body. You associate this person with joy, peace, laughter, and reliability; time with them is a positive experience.
The opposite is true when you are with a toxic individual. You may feel ill at ease, on high alert, and on edge. Your feelings are your body's internal warning system, letting you know you are not safe and the offending individual is taking a toll on your wellness. They essentially steal your peace (if you let them).
The mere thought of seeing or speaking to the toxic person may trigger physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms. That, dear one, is a major red flag! Pay attention.
As a physical therapist with 25 years of experience, I see many patients with physical symptoms and manifestations that can be directly related to unhealthy relationships. Stress, especially long-term stress, takes a heavy toll.
For a deep dive into the body and its extraordinary ways of communicating with you, read "The Body Keeps the Score" by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. The book details the impact of stress and trauma on the body, and since toxic relationships are both (stressful and traumatic), it's an important topic to explore further.
Respect your body; it's the only one you have. Check in with your body barometer regularly; you'll be glad you did. It can lead you out of a potentially unsafe situation.
Setting Healthy Boundaries to Bring Peace to Relationships
With compassion and effort, you can make a healthy effort to heal an otherwise unhealthy relationship by honestly communicating your needs and expectations to others. You need to set healthy boundaries and express what you will and will not tolerate and stick to the boundaries you set. They are your non-negotiables. People can only acknowledge your limits when they know what they are, which means you need to speak up.
Only YOU have the power to establish boundaries. If not, you will get more of what is intolerable.
Remember what you allow will continue.
What are your limits?
What are your dealbreakers?
What won't you tolerate any longer?
Practice setting boundaries with a friend or therapist. The more you practice, the easier it becomes.
The goal is peaceful, thriving, healthy relationships.
When you stay in peace, you reclaim your power. Do not take the bait and be affected by someone's negative energy. The choice is yours; it always has been.
How to Let Go of a Toxic Relationship by Practicing Radical Self-Compassion
The truth is some individuals simply will not accept boundaries. In a way, that is a gift to you and is for your highest and best.
When someone pushes back on your boundaries or refuses to honor them, that is your cue to move on.
Do not waste time on someone with zero consideration for your needs.
Now is a time for radical self-compassion. You have the right to protect your peace and emotional and physical health. No explanation is required.
With these particularly difficult individuals, the wisest thing to do is let go and detach with love and compassion. Wish them well but no longer engage in the shenanigans. They cannot deplete your energy if you don't take the bait. You have a higher purpose and need to be surrounded by like-minded people who treasure you.
YOU. ARE. WORTHY!
Toxic people have no power over you if you do not allow it.
Leverage the power of boundaries to foster the quality relationships you deserve!
Setting boundaries can improve your life and health dramatically. Choose to develop more meaningful relationships full of love, mutual respect, and caring.
Not sure how to begin?
Set boundaries, stand your ground, and discover how to let go of a toxic relationship without guilt when boundaries are bulldozed.
Here's to peace of mind and your health and wellness!
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