Know that there are no accidents – everyone comes into your life for a reason. We are all energy fields and relationships that are or have been toxic are indicators that there is something in our energy field we need to address and heal. Our wounded self understandably wants to focus on blaming and feeling victimised, but at some point we need to move out of the old movie, and keep moving forward into our best life.
So what is a toxic relationship? Dr Lilian Glass, a California-based communication and psychology expert, defines a toxic relationship as “any relationship [between people who] don’t support each other, where there’s conflict and one seeks to undermine the other, where there’s competition, where there’s disrespect and a lack of cohesiveness. While every relationship goes through ups and downs, a toxic relationship is consistently unpleasant and draining for the people in it, to the point that negative moments outweigh and outnumber the positive ones. Toxic relationships are mentally, emotionally and possibly even physically damaging to one or both participants.
And these relationships don’t have to be romantic: They can be friendly, familial or professional relationships. People who consistently undermine or cause harm to another person — whether intentionally or not — often have a reason for their behavior, even if it’s subconscious, but the most common reasons are:
- Narcissism – where one person is extremely self-centred and bases all their decisions on their own desires. Narcissistic people are manipulative, abusive (even if it’s subtle) and don’t know how to love.
- Psychopathy – psychopaths operate on a whole other level of manipulation and, dare I say, evil intent. Psychopaths aren’t just serial killers – they can be CEOS, doctors, lawyers, husbands and wives. Psychopaths have no conscience and delight in seeing the downfall of others.
- Unresolved childhood wounds such as abuse or bullying – sometimes the bullied becomes the bully, the abused becomes the abuser, unless these early traumas are addressed and healed.
- Mental illness such as bipolar disorder, anxiety or depression. People who are mentally ill very often take out their frustrations on their nearest and dearest.
And people who stay in toxic relationships and endure abuse and harm, do so for a reason too, even if it is subconscious. The most common reasons are:
- Low self worth and a lack of self love
- Family or societal conditioning that says it’s not ok to leave
- A belief that they can change or fix the other person
- A fear of being on one’s own
- Dependence – whether it’s financial or emotional
- Holding a strong identity as a rescuer
Every relationship is 50/50. Every persecutor needs a victim, and every victim needs a persecutor. Some relationships become toxic simply because two people are quite different, and don’t understand each other, and may never understand each other in this lifetime. They may be fine with other people, but not with each other.
Toxic relationships in families often have their origins in the ancestral line – whatever doesn’t get acknowledged and resolved in families gets inherited by the next generation to resolve. If you’re in a toxic relationship, ask yourself:
- Is it possible for us to work through the issues?
- Would it be beneficial to go to therapy?
Sometimes the other person refuses to go to therapy – that’s an indication they don’t want to take responsibility for their actions and they don’t want to change. I’m a big believer in trying to work things out and understand why a person is toxic, and why another person stays in the toxicity. Sometimes therapy works and sometimes the answer, even after therapy, may be to walk away. But at least you know you gave it every possibility, and so you walk away with peace and clarity of mind. And if you do walk away, you’ve then got to forgive yourself and the other.
If you feel stuck in a toxic relationship and just cannot bring yourself to leave, ask yourself this: If I stay in this relationship, what is my life likely to look like in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years? Toxic relationships are low vibrational relationships that keep you stuck at that vibration.
You’ve got to ask yourself what would your best life look like? Most people stuck in toxic relationships have lost themselves, their hopes and their dreams. They may not be ready to leave, but they can begin the journey of loving themselves. Start reconnecting back to yourself. Go within. Connect back to your hopes and dreams. It’s your responsibility to find yourself and to love yourself. Living your best life is your responsibility. Nobody is going to do it for you. If we’re waiting for someone to love us so that we can love ourselves, or so that we can live our best lives, that’s incorrect thinking. We’ve got to love ourselves first. If you’ve had a toxic relationship or relationships in the past that you haven’t healed from, start with:
- Forgiving yourself – and you do this by taking responsibility for your part in the relationship and for your choice to be in that relationship. Be willing to take in all the lessons from that relationship, as in “What would I do differently next time?”
- Owning the patterns within you that kept the relationship going such as rescuing or guilt.I recommend you read my blog about the Impostors to Love to gain more clarity.
- Forgiving the other – and you do this by understanding that the other person is who they are, and they’d probably still be the same with anyone else. We can take everything so personally, but at the end of the day, the other person was acting out of deep programming and wounding of their own. You and that person were the perfect match. Your wounding attracted their wounding and vice versa. You were both holding up a mirror to each other. If you really want to embrace personal growth, you could go so far as to thank this person for showing you what you need to heal in yourself, so that you can now be your best self. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean condoning their behaviour. It’s about letting go of anger and resentment so that you are free to live your best life.
If you are experiencing a toxic relationship within your family, such as with a parent or other family member and they hurt you more than affirm you, sometimes it is best to cut contact. You’ve got to love yourself enough not to expose yourself to being constantly hurt. You can still work on forgiving them, but at a distance. Even if you do cut contact, it doesn’t mean that one day things can’t get resolved. For now, it’s about listening to your own heart, your own truth and healing yourself.
If you’ve experienced a toxic parent when you were growing up, you may have a fear of vulnerability and hold at some level the belief “it’s not safe to love”. We’ve been hurt in the past and we fear being hurt again. A toxic parent may lead to a toxic partner or even a number of toxic partners, further imprinting the belief “it’s not safe to love.” But vulnerability is required for us to love again. So how do we open our hearts again when we’ve been deeply hurt and feel vulnerable? In my book 5 Steps to Finding Love, I suggest:
- Learn to love yourself and hold yourself in your vulnerability.
- Look back over past relationships and ask yourself what the early red flags were. Take note and be willing to notice them in any new relationship.
- Take your time in a new relationship – let it go at your pace. If the other person doesn’t like that, then let them go. They won’t be the one for you.
- Don’t commit too fast – really take your time in getting to know that person.
- Remember, the NEED for love, can be your undoing. When you truly deepen into self love, the neediness goes. That’s when you’re in your true power.