What is a toxic relationship?
A toxic relationship is one that makes you feel low and insecure about yourself. How a person makes you feel bad about yourself will manifest itself differently from relationship to relationship. However, if you repeatedly come away from meeting someone feeling inadequate, you can be assured that the relationship is far from a positive one in your life.
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Types of toxic relationships
There are several types of toxic relationships that materialize due to the different dynamics between two people.
Toxic familial relationships
Toxic familial relationships are ones between two family members that seem to bring out the worst in each other, or with one person consistently making another relative feel inadequate. These are quite tough to deal with as you cannot just walk away from family. They are in your life, and so you need to find a way to turn this relationship around into a more positive one.
Toxic romantic relationships
Sadly, it is the case that some couples do not have an equal balance in their dynamic, and as a result, their relationship sours into a toxic one. Social stereotypes may have us believe that in a toxic romantic relationship, it is always the man ridiculing or belittling his female partner. However, female to male emotional abuse is far more common than we believe as is a toxic dynamic between same-sex couples. In 2018, according to the ONS, 2 million people suffered from domestic abuse. 1.3 million of them were women, the remainder being men - showing toxic relationships can form in any setting.
Toxic friendships are a relationship between two friends that has deteriorated into an unhealthy dynamic. One friend will often feel put down by the other and yet is powerless to stick up for themselves.
Toxic work relationships
It is not uncommon for professional or working relationships to go sour, with a colleague repeatedly taken advantage of another. This dynamic can have several different combinations, for example, a toxic manager-employee relationship or even a peer-to-peer relationship.
How to let go of toxic friendships
Letting go of a toxic relationship can be tricky, because, for relationships to reach a stage of toxicity, bad habits will have formed between two people over a long period. However, it is possible to break the toxic cycle as long as you take a proactive stance on the matter.
Also bear in mind, different types of toxic relationships need to be addressed with different approaches. Here, we specifically address how to let go of a friendship that has become toxic.
We also spoke to Zoey and Kelly from Our Transitional Life, who told Age Times: "Letting go of toxic relationships can be difficult because you often feel guilt for cutting the person off. However, it's important to remember that their behaviour and treatment towards you has never been in your best interest, and it's always been to fuel whatever need they require. Having the strength to walk away is hard, but essential."
Perhaps the most important step to take in removing yourself from a toxic relationship is simply to be aware that you are in one. Accepting that a relationship you have with a person makes you unhappy is imperative to being able to move on from it. Be brutally honest with yourself whether you gain anything positive from a relationship that you suspect to have soured and become toxic. If you cannot think of anything good that transpires from it, you need to accept that this friendship is one that may be best to move on from.
Speak to the person involved
It will be tough, but one of the best ways that you can let go of a toxic relationship is to speak to the person involved. Many people are vastly more unaware of the implications of their actions on people than they should be. Alerting them to as and when they upset you is an excellent way of tackling the problem between you head-on. It also allows that person the opportunity to change their ways. If they do, then you could well be able to save the relationship and return it to a much more positive one. If they don’t change their ways, however, you will need to accept that they won’t amend their behaviour. It is best for you to move on.
One of the biggest ideas that you need to be aware of when letting go of a toxic relationship is that you need to take ownership of the situation. This ownership needs to manifest itself in two ways. Firstly, you need to own up to the fact that nothing will change if you don’t approach the subject with your friend, partner or colleague. Secondly, you need to take ownership of the fact that the relationship descended into toxicity because of a part you played in it. However good your intentions were, you need to be aware that you could have spoken to the person in question much earlier on in the relationship about their actions.
Don’t blame yourself
There is a difference between taking ownership of the situation and blaming yourself. You need to ensure when you are moving on from a toxic relationship you don’t blame yourself for anything that transpired. You did your best with the circumstances at the time, which is why you reacted how you did at that point. It is important now, however, to learn from the experience. Try to identify how or why this toxic relationship started so a relationship like that does not form in your life again.
Letting go of toxic relationships
Toxic relationships materialize for many reasons between several types of people. They’re quite common and it is not unusual for many people to have a person in their life that makes them feel bad about themselves. Toxic relationships deteriorate into such a state over a certain length of time as two people slip into bad habits and unhealthy interactions. However, it is always possible to take control of the situation and your relationships.