You’d think it’d be easy to recognize toxic relationships – and let go of toxic people – but it’s not. These tips on how to let go of relationships that are poisoning your soul and breaking your spirit will take you one step closer to Blossoming.
If you’re in a relationship with someone who is toxic or unhealthy – and you know you need to break free – read How to Let Go of Someone You Love.
Our theme here on Blossom this week is decision-making in relationships. Have you learned to trust that still small voice? Do you follow your intuition and inner compass when you make decisions about your relationships? If you do – or if you don’t – tell me about it! I’d love to hear what it’s like for you in the comments area below.
Yesterday I wrote How to Make a Decision That Will Change Your Life – with a specific emphasis on relationships and marriage. Today we’re tackling tips for letting go of toxic relationships, and the next two days involve re-finding ourselves after getting lost in a relationship and letting go of relationship problems.
How to Let Go of Toxic Relationships
When I wrote How to Deal With Your Husband’s Toxic Ex-Wife, I was young(er) and naive. I really believed that my tips for letting go of toxic relationships with ex-spouses were effective. Luckily, my readers are smarter than me! They shared their experiences and taught me that letting go of a toxic person is not as easy as it seems.
But it doesn’t have to be more difficult or complicated than it needs to be. These seven tips will at the very least give you something to start with. I don’t have the answers – and I have more questions than advice – but I do have food for thought.
1. Accept that you have power
The biggest obstacle to letting go of toxic relationships – and the biggest reason we don’t Blossom – is because we let our own beliefs and thoughts stop us. We disempower ourselves by believing we have no power.
Say, “I have power to choose.” Go ahead! Say it. “I have the power to choose to do something about this relationship.” You are not lying to yourself! You are telling yourself the truth: you have a choice to make, and nobody can force you to do anything you don’t want to.
Unless you let them.
2. Use the power you have
Now it gets interesting. How will you use the power you have?
Say your husband is dealing with a toxic ex-wife. You might say you have no power because “she is this, she is that, she does this, she does that.”
The truth is that the toxic person in your life DOES do those things…but it’s a lie that you are helpless to make changes in your life.
Letting go of toxic relationships isn’t about changing who they are. It’s about taking control of the things you can change. Dealing with toxic people isn’t about manipulating or controlling them…it’s about accepting and learning how to use the power you have.
3. Get help accepting and using your power
Sometimes (often, all the time, always) it’s not easy to see how much power we have. We listen to the wrong voices! We listen to the voices that tell us we’re stuck, helpless, powerless, feeble, and limp.
If you’re serious about letting go of the toxic relationships in your life, you need to listen to that still, small voice. It will help you find and use your power. And, be open to the idea that the still, small voice may urge you to get help from someone. Maybe you need to talk to a counselor, a trusted friend or family member, or even a coworker or supervisor. Get help, or you will stay stuck in a toxic relationship that doesn’t have to remain in your life.
4. Think about how your boundaries affect your relationships
Before I got married, my boss told me “Start as you mean to go.”
What are your boundaries? If you don’t know, read Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Cloud and Townsend. It’s an amazing book that will teach you how to deal with people who don’t treat you well – and even help you let go of people who aren’t good for you.
When my boss said “start as you mean to go”, she meant that I needed to deal with issues and behaviors as soon as they occurred. She advised me not to let troubling behaviors go or ignore problems in my marriage because they’d grow like weeds and overtake our garden.
Here’s a simple example: I make my dogs sit on the kitchen mat and wait for me to fill their dishes. When I’m ready, I call them over. They eat. That’s a clear boundary, and it’s important to me.
5. Connect boundaries and toxic relationships
If you can get good at setting boundaries, you’ll get better at letting go of toxic relationships. You’ll also get better at fixing what you can in a toxic relationship, and letting go of what you can’t change.
In my example of boundaries with my dogs’ dinner – when I first adopted them, I knew I didn’t want them running roughshod while I was trying to feed them. For me this is an example of a “toxic relationship” with my dogs! It’s a bit of a silly example, I know, but it illustrates my point. Which is…
If you don’t have boundaries in your relationships – especially with toxic people – then they will run all over you.
6. Learn about setting boundaries in toxic relationships
Here’s a slightly more complicated example of a boundary in a marriage:
I don’t allow my husband to make fun of me in front of other people. When we first got married, he’d tease me about “small” stuff in front of family and friends. It wasn’t funny to me. I found it hurtful and offensive – and I was embarrassed! So I asked him to stop. He’s an awesome man, and he did break himself of the habit (he grew up in a family with lots of teasing, so it was normal to him). I had to set my boundary and firmly remind him of it a few times before he really got it.
Learning how to set boundaries in marriage isn’t easy, especially if you’re working with years or decades of problems. It’s not as easy as “set your boundary and everyone will happily comply.” No sir. So…
7. Learn what goes on behind the scenes of toxic relationships
The more information you gather about what toxic relationships are, the better equipped you’ll be to let go and move forward in your life. Books about relationships that are toxic can give you insight and information into why people are toxic, how to recognize toxic behavior, how to respond, and when to move on.
In Emotional Terrorism: Breaking the Chains of a Toxic Relationship, Dr Erin Leonard describes what it means to be emotionally terrorized. Some emotionally toxic relationships make you feel like it’d be easier if you were physically abused, because emotional and psychological abuse can leave wounds that feel even worse that physical pain. Dr. Erin Leonard gives a voice to the victims who suffer silently within the confines of this relationship dynamic.
Questions for you
- How are you contributing to the toxic relationships in your life?
- What is stopping you from letting go of toxic people?
- How can you start making some small plans for letting go of toxic relationships?
If you want to learn more, read 10 Tips for Breaking Free From Toxic Relationships. I can’t give advice on letting go of a relationship that’s toxic, but I do welcome your thoughts. I’ll encourage you to listen to your still, small voice and trust your inner intuition.
On Blossom this week
Every week I write a Four-Day Series on specific topics for women in relationships. This week’s theme is decision-making and changing your life.
Here’s the lineup:
- Mon – How to Make a Decision That Will Change Your Life (Imagine)
- Tues – 7 Tips for Letting Go of Toxic Relationships (Dare)
- Weds – 5 Ways to Find Yourself After Getting Lost in Love (Prepare)
- Thurs – How to Stop Worrying About Relationship Problems (Leap and Flourish!)
If you have an idea for a weekly theme, I’d love to hear from you! Talk below.