Toxic Relationships: How to Handle Them

Experts Share Secrets to Dealing with Toxic Relationships (Friends, Family, Lovers)

Toxic Relationships: How to Handle Them

I am an attorney/mediator who asked one of my sisters to stop contacting me, after she and her husband could not stop attacking me verbally. Her husband also physically intimidated me while I was visiting my mother at a rehabilitation center during her final days of life.

This sister abused me physically and emotionally until she left home, and when I was 12, she told her boyfriend’s 16-year-old friend he could have sex with me to entertain himself while she had sex with her boyfriend. I forgave her for the past, but when the abuse continued, I told her not to contact me again.

I no longer have to pretend everything is fine so our mother is happy, and I can still love my sister from afar. I want her to have a good life, but I want a good life for myself, too, and that does not currently seem possible with her in it. So, yes, I agree with Dr. Sherrie.

Sometimes, we have to remove people from our day-to-day lives and focus on our own healing without the disruption that prevents it.

However, I don’t necessarily the trend of labeling people toxic. We are all very complex, including my sister. She is not toxic to the core. She has the ability to be kind, when she wants something, such as praise or loyalty.

She can be quite generous when it makes her look good—and especially when she thinks it makes her better than others.

She is a reliable worker, and she was committed enough to finishing her bachelor’s degree that she attained it at age 50 (nearly 30 years after she would have graduated before she became pregnant).

She has a lot of unresolved sadness and trauma, and she might have a diagnosable (and treatable) psychological, psychiatric, or social disorder. As much as she has hurt me and derailed my plans for success and happiness over the years, it is hard for me to consider her a “toxic person”, even if having her in my life is currently toxic for me.

Regardless, thank you for giving us permission to distance ourselves from painful situations. It does seem that most advice focuses on how to tolerate behavior, which taught me how to be in abusive relationships outside of my family.

I spent years with friends and lovers who manipulated, raped, stole from, used, abused, lied to, and otherwise disrespected me because that was familiar to me. I thought I was supposed to accept it and didn’t realize I could choose something better for me.

I have since learned to look for mutuality in my relationships, and when I do not have that, I ask for it. If I am denied it, then I remove myself and love that person from afar. We don’t have to spend time, energy, money, or any other resource on every person we encounter. There are 7.

4 billion people on the planet, and there are plenty who we can build mutually loving and supportive relationships with, whether at home, at work, in our families, or anywhere else we go. We can love everyone else from afar.


You Deplete Me: 10 Steps to End a Toxic Relationship

Toxic Relationships: How to Handle Them

“You complete me.” You know that line, right … from Jerry McGuire? It comes right before “You had me at hello” (another puker). The completing-the-other bit nauseates me a tad because we relationship-analyzers (some with the right initials after their names and some self-declared experts who can type) to classify that type of dialogue with a term known as “codependency.”

Ideally, you shouldn’t need anyone to complete you. You should be whole going into a relationship, right? My guess is that those who feel they are getting fixed are actually getting ripped off.

That’s why they keep coming back, hoping that THIS time their partner will make the ouches go away, making them feel all sunshiny and warm inside.

Instead, the ouch is bigger, the hole is wider, and they are feeling the way I do when I see a Tom Cruise movie: bad.

A relationship doesn’t have to be romantic to fall into the “toxic” category, of course. Many friendships, mother-daughter, boss-employee, and waiter-eater relationships qualify.

If someone is bringing you down consistently, chances are that your relationship with him is toxic.

But if you follow these 10 steps, you can start to complete yourself, maybe even look into the mirror and say, “You had me at hello.”

1. Step denial.

Be prepared to dry off as you step the river of Denial. A few questions will get you there.

Ask yourself these, for starters: Do I feel energized or drained after I spent an hour with X? Do I WANT to spend time with X or do I feel I have to? Do I feel sorry for X? Do I go to X looking for a response that I never get? Do I come away consistently disappointed by X’s comments and behavior? Am I giving way more to the relationship than X? Do I even X? I mean, if X were on a cruise and I didn’t know her, would I walk up to her and want to be her friend/boyfriend her actions and interactions with others? Go check out this questionnaire if you are still confused.

2. Keep a log of emotions.

One of my depression busters is to keep a record of things that make me feel bad. Consistently bad. I am not a fast learner. School was hard for me. So I have to perform the same mistake, oh, about 35 times before my brain gets the message that perhaps I am doing something wrong.

The journalist in me then takes the case and begins gathering the facts. So if, after 35 tries, I suspect that having coffee with X makes me feel worse, not better, I will log my feelings immediately following our meeting.

If I get two or more of “I feel crap, I am a weak and pathetic person,” then I know that I’m enmeshed in a toxic relationship that I should consider tossing out.

3. Identify the perks.

As I wrote in “10 Steps to End an Affair,” all relationships, even toxic ones, have hidden benefits. Or why would you stay in them? So identify the perks. Determine what, specifically, you are getting from this relationship.

Does X make you feel attractive and sexy again? Does helping X with her kids even though it exhausts you relieve your guilt in some twisted way because you feel your life is easier than hers? Even though X doesn’t treat you well, does she remind you of your verbally abusive mom, and therefore bring you a comfort level?

4. Fill the hole.

Now that you’ve identified what you were hoping to stuff with this relationship, it’s time to find alternative sources of peace and wholeness.

The other day, when I was attempting this very task, my friend Priscilla Warner listed not 5 or 10, but 18 ways she nourishes her soul, or center, attempts to complete herself so that she doesn’t have to rely on others for that job.

Among her 18: writing and making jewelry, retail therapy ( picking out the juiciest orange she can find), meditation CDs, hugging her dog Mickey, listening to sad songs–to release the tears, calling up friends, and reminding herself that her sadness won’t stay forever.

5. Surround yourself with POSITIVE friends.

Lots of support and friends isn’t going to cut it. You need the right kind of friends–i.e.

those working on their boundaries as hard as you are, who aren’t enmeshed in their fair share of toxic relationships and therefore become somewhat toxic themselves. The stuff is contagious.

I suspect the risk for getting sucked into or stuck in a toxic relationships for people who have friends in toxic relationships is higher than 100 percent. So be smart with whom you choose to hang out.

6. Drop a note to yourself.

I got this idea from Howard Halpern’s How to Break Your Addiction to a Person. One of his patients wrote memos to herself to cover those fragile moments when she knew she’d need reinforcement.

She would compose a note, drop it in the mail, and then be pleasantly surprised to find a letter from her self saying something : “Hey, self! I know you don’t feel it right now, but you really should make some plans for the weekend before it’s here because I know you get down when you are sitting around the house alone. Call Carolyn. She’d love to hear from you.”

7. Bribe yourself.

I know there are parenting experts that don’t approve of this technique, but I say nothing is more effective than bribing to get to a goal. Therefore, on your way to freeing yourself from the harness of a toxic relationship, reward yourself at various stages along the way. First, try not initiating any communication for a week.

If you pull it off, then treat yourself to coffee with a fun, supportive friend, or a half-hour by the bay alone (no computer, phone, or iPod).

If you have been able to utter that delicious word “no” a few times in a row, go celebrate by downloading a CD of your favorite musical artist from iTunes or splurging on the dark chocolate hiding in the freezer.

8. Heal the shame.

For me, breaking free of toxic relationships has led to a lot of inner-child work. You know, when I sit the wounded little girl on my lap and let her tell her story. Because I’m a visual person, I facilitate this process with a pretty doll that Eric almost gave to Goodwill ( she needed any more trauma!).

I ask her why she is scared and lonely and wanting the wrong kind of attention.

“Because that’s all I know,” is usually her response, at which point I play with her hair and reassure her that relationships are supposed to make her feel better, not worse, and that the right kind of love is out there–in fact, she has already found it in so many of her relationships.

9. Repeat affirmations.

The other day I used the bathroom at a friend’s home and on the bathroom door were posted all kinds of affirmations : “My Life is full of loveliness, passion, tenderness, surrender and flowing with DIVINE LOVE”; “My Life is full of play and humor and overflowing with RADIANT HEALTH”; “My Life is COURAGEOUS and FREE”; and “My Life is FULL OF MIRACLES.” I came the bathroom and said, “Wow, I feel much better.”

In her book, Women, Sex, and Addiction, Charlotte Davis Kasl writes, “Once the negative core beliefs have been exposed and challenged as false, you need to adopt positive, life-affirming beliefs.

‘I am unlovable’ becomes ‘I can love and be loved, I am a sacred child of the Universe.’ Feelings of hopelessness are counteracted by the new belief ‘I have the power to change my life.

’ ‘I am defective’ slowly changes to ‘I get to make mistakes and be loved.’

My affirmations these days are “I have a good heart” and “I mean well,” especially when I get guilt trips about not giving more to a relationship.

10. Allow some rest.

In Ready to Heal: Women Facing Love, Sex, and Relationship Addiction, Kelly McDaniel advises persons who have just broken off a toxic relationship to lay low, and avoid packing their day with too many activities. She writes:

The energy it takes to endure withdrawal [to an addictive or toxic relationship] is equivalent to working a full-time job. Truthfully, this may be the hardest work you’ve ever done. In addition to support from people who understand your undertaking, you must keep the rest of your life simple. You need rest and solitude.

You Deplete Me: 10 Steps to End a Toxic Relationship


Dealing With Toxic People You Can’t Just Cut Out Forever

Toxic Relationships: How to Handle Them
GretaMarie / Getty Images

To be honest, coping with toxic people has never been my specialty. I have dealt with enough toxicity in my life to know when it’s best to cut ties.

(Snip, snip, suckas!) But we all have toxic people in our lives who can’t be avoided, whether it be a parent or parent-in-law, a sibling or a sibling’s spouse, a friend of a friend, or a co-worker whom you just can’t stand.

A quote about toxic people from the Dalai Lama comes to mind, “Let go of negative people. They only show up to share complaints, problems, disastrous stories, fear, and judgment on others.

If somebody is looking for a bin to throw all their trash into, make sure it’s not in your mind.

” If the Dalai Lama is dusting toxicity off his shoulders, shouldn’t you? Cutting out negativity from your life — even if you can’t cut out the person — doesn’t make you a bad person, it means you’re valuing your mental and emotional well-being and practicing true self care.

All this is, of course, easier said than done. So, how do you deal with people you’d rather avoid at all costs?

1. Set limits with toxic people

Take it from me, toxic people don’t do well with boundaries. They have a tendency to want to control others as well as situations. Trying to set limits or boundaries for them will get you nowhere; they see it as a personal challenge.

But you can set limits on the things you can control. Don’t invest too much time or effort with toxic people. Keep interactions brief and the topics light. Keep in mind that toxic people will be listening for anything you say that they can spin to make themselves look better.

So talk about the weather or say nice things about someone else. Then run away as fast as you can. Set a timer on your phone if you have to. Arrange for a friend to give you the old SOS call. Do whatever you have to do to get the hell dodge.

2. Pick your battles wisely

It’s tricky to balance being cordial with not wanting to normalize someone’s emotionally abusive behavior. But toxic people don’t respond well to criticism. It’s important to acknowledge that battles can escalate quickly into full-fledged declarations of war.

Keep this in mind when interacting with toxic people. Try this: Rate your grievances on a scale of 1 to 10. For example, if your mother-in-law says something about your weight gain, that might be a “6.

” If she says something to your daughter about her weight gain? That’s probably an “11.” My rule is if it’s an 8 or above, it’s worth arguing about.

Otherwise, it’s best to keep the waters calm as best you can.

3. Recognize and distance yourself from their behavior

It’s not easy to rise above it when some people are determined to drag you down into the fray. But recognizing that people are toxic should be the first step toward desensitizing yourself from their words and actions.

Ask yourself, “Do I value this person’s opinion?” and “Do they have my best interest at heart?” If the answer to both of those questions isn’t a resounding yes, then don’t worry so much about what they say or do.

Toxic people only have the power to upset you if you let them upset you. Even if you can’t distance yourself physically, you always have the power to distance yourself emotionally.

4. Focus on the positive

I know how cliché this sounds. But I also know that if you dwell on how infuriating toxic people can be, or the problems they create, it will stress you the fuck out.

Do your best to catch yourself when you start to fixate on the negative, and try to consciously switch your thoughts to solutions or more positive situations. Toxic people don’t deserve your mental energy.

5. Utilize your support system

If you’re lucky, you have a support network of people who aren’t toxic. Rally your support troops as needed.

It can feel really cathartic to vent to someone you value (and who values you!), if only to keep things in perspective that you’re not the problem. Your real friends will be there to remind you that you’re amazing — so keep them close.

Dealing with toxic people isn’t easy, and these coping mechanisms aren’t developed overnight. But with any luck, they will help you tune out the toxicity that can’t be avoided.

Related: How To Spot And Leave Toxic Relationships, According To Experts


12 Warning Signs of a Toxic Relationship with Your S.O

Toxic Relationships: How to Handle Them

It's important to be able to recognize the warning signs of a toxic relationship. While relationships can be full of playful dates, positive emotional growth, and a stream of sunsets and heart emojis, that isn't always the case.

Unfortunately for many women, romantic relationships can also be major sources of negativity, stress, and a never-ending stream of drama. Even worse, a lot of the signs of a toxic relationships are tricky to spot, so people in one might not even be aware of it.

“It's easy to identify physical abuse but very difficult for a person in a toxic relationship to ‘hear’ abuse, especially if the victim was raised around negativity or criticism,” says Dr. Gloria Brame, award-winning sex therapist and best-selling author. “For them, toxic relationships are a norm.

Learning the verbal/behavioral signs of an abusive/narcissistic personality is a critical learning skill for everyone who dates. It's an issue I work on in therapy with depressing regularity.”

We asked experts to break down everyday relationship scenarios and tell us how they’re handled in a healthy relationship versus a toxic one. After all, identifying the problem is the first step toward doing something about it.

12 Warning Signs of a Toxic Relationship

1. Dread When You Mention You Want Them to Meet Your Family

It may surprise you, but one of the best warning signs that you’re with a toxic partner is how they act the second you tell him or her you want everyone to meet—long before the IRL moment occurs. “A toxic partner is not worried about building a foundation with you and your kin.

Instead of treating it an opportunity or a symbol of trust, they will treat it an unnecessary obligation,” says Emily Morse, doctor of human sexuality and host of the Sex With Emily podcast.

“From the moment you utter the words ‘My family would love to meet you,’ a toxic partner acts you’ve just cordially invited him to a 24-hour shopping fest…on Black Friday…in a blizzard.

They will take every chance they get to remind you what they’re giving up (‘I guess I’ll tell the gang that they’ll be one short for poker night, but whatever!’), not to mention how much you owe them for their act of generosity.

“A toxic lover takes zero interest in your family, choosing instead to spend the time on their phone, dozing off or complaining. They’ll answer your family’s questions with the enthusiasm of a fast food drive-thru worker, and ask no questions of their own.

When the time comes to talk about you, they’ll do the opposite of building you up. Because nothing says ‘healthy relationship’ telling your parents the story of when you got too drunk at an office party and he had to carry you up two whole flights of stairs.

” In short, they’ll make a time as exciting as meeting the fam (or the peeps you consider your family) as treacherous as possible.

“A partner in a healthy relationship will see this as the glorious opportunity it is: A chance to get in good with the (possibly) future in-laws.

They will prep for it, they would if they were going in for an interview at their dream job,” says Morse.

“They will pepper you with questions beforehand, hoping to gather as much intel as possible: What is your sister’s husband ? What kind of gift should they bring for your parents? Do your folks chocolate or are they more wine people?”

And when the day actually rolls around? “A healthy partner will be genuine, enthusiastic, and as interested in getting to know your loved ones as they were to get to know you. They will ask engaging questions, offer to help with the dishes, and treat you the gem you are, reassuring your parents that you are in great hands,” says Morse.

2. Inconsistent or Hurtful Texting

Erratic texting patterns and negative, hurtful text content can be signs of a toxic relationship that isn't on the right track. “In these kinds of relationships, you partner will] text when they feel it, at random times, and more often than not, when they are bored or horny,” says Brame.

“They don't feel obligated to answer you until they ‘feel’ it, which can be hours or days.

” And regarding sexting? “They're all hot and intense in text and when you hook up later, they're more interested in gaming, drinking, or suddenly announce they're going out with their friends.”


How to Navigate a Relationship With a Toxic Person

Toxic Relationships: How to Handle Them

Relationships are never easy. They take hard work, collaboration, and sometimes even sacrifice—all of which can cause stress, anxiety, and turmoil. But how do you know if your relationship is just going through a rough patch, or if it's truly toxic?

Knowing the difference requires that you understand not only what constitutes a toxic relationship, but that you also understand the true character of the person you are dealing with. Only then, can you determine whether or not you're dealing with a toxic situation.

It's also important to note that toxic relationships are not limited to romantic relationships.

They exist in families, in the workplace, and among friend groups; and they can be extremely stressful—especially if the toxicity isn't effectively managed.

While not every toxic relationship can be avoided, especially among co-workers or a family member, they can be managed with healthy boundaries, self-care, and awareness.

Here's what you need to know about toxic relationships, including what makes a relationship toxic and how to determine if you're in one. You'll also find tips for effective ways to manage these types of relationships.

Toxic relationships can exist in just about any context, from the playground to the boardroom to the bedroom. You may even deal with toxic relationships among your family members.

A relationship is toxic when your well-being is threatened in some way—either emotionally, psychologically, or even physically.

Relationships that involve physical abuse are definitely classified as toxic. But relationships in which people are consistently giving more than they're getting may be toxic as well, especially if the person who is giving more feels devalued and depleted because of it.

If you're in a relationship where you feel you're consistently disrespected or that your needs aren't being met, you may feel a toll on your self-esteem over time. Consequently, you could be dealing with a toxic situation.

Relationships where you feel unsupported, misunderstood, demeaned, or attacked are toxic. On a basic level, any relationship that makes you feel worse rather than better can be toxic over time.

Only you can tell if the bad outweighs the good in a relationship. But if someone consistently threatens your well-being by what they're saying, doing, or not doing, it's time to focus on solutions.

After all, research indicates that prolonged stress can increase your psychological distress. It also can lead to an increased heart rate and high blood pressure. In the long-term, all of these factors damage your health and may even lead you to develop unhealthy coping behaviors drinking or emotional eating.

Not all relationships are toxic because of the other person. Sometimes it's the way the two of you interact that brings out the worst in both of you. For example, you may have a competitive friend who pushes you to be your best, and you do the same for them. If you're both getting enjoyment the dynamic, this relationship may be fine.

However, if you're seeking someone who can validate your hard work with some emotional support and your friend is constantly putting you down, this may not be a healthy dynamic for you.

Regardless of whether your friend's intention is to criticize you or not, this relationship can be especially dangerous if you develop a spite-based competitive streak that is not enjoyable for you.

Similarly, if you find that you're not your best self around someone—they bring out the gossipy side of you, or they seem to draw out a mean streak you don't normally have—it could be that the two of you create toxicity together. These relationships are unhealthy simply because of the toxicity they create.

Therefore, it's important to recognize the signs of toxicity—whether it's in you or in the other person. Here are some signs of both toxic behaviors and healthy behaviors.

  • Insecure
  • Jealous
  • Negative
  • Self-Centered
  • Selfish
  • Critical
  • Demeaning
  • Distrusting
  • Abusive
  • Disrespectful
  • Secure
  • Loving
  • Positive
  • Giving
  • Selfless
  • Encouraging
  • Uplifting
  • Trustworthy
  • Compassionate
  • Respectful

When determining if a relationship is creating toxicity, it's important to look at which behaviors are being displayed most frequently in the relationship.

In other words, if one or both of you are consistently selfish, negative, and disrespectful, you could be creating toxicity in the relationship.

But if you're mostly encouraging, compassionate, and respectful, then there might just be certain issues that create toxicity that need to be addressed.

If you find yourself in a toxic relationship where you bring out the worst in one another (or simply fail to bring out the best), you may want to work on the relationship and change the dynamic—particularly if there are other benefits to the relationship. Start by talking to the other person about what you're witnessing.

Be assertive about your needs and feelings while also taking responsibility for your part in the situation.

In these situations, discuss what you see as a problem and decide together if you want to change the dynamic. Changing the way you interact might ensure that both of you get your needs met. Assertive communication and healthier boundaries are often the key to bringing out the best in one another—especially if you're both willing to make changes.

If your friend, co-worker, or family member is unwilling to make changes—even after you address your issues—then you may have to re-evaluate your approach and determine whether or not you need to limit contact with this person.

Not all toxic relationships are caused by both parties. Some people are simply toxic to be around—they sap your energy with negative behaviors constant complaining, critical remarks, and overall negativity. Or, they may argue with others constantly, explain why they know better, or point out the flaws of others—all of which may weigh on you over time.

Sometimes people act this way toward everyone and are unaware of their effect on others. They also may not know healthier ways to communicate. It's ly that they don't know how to read social cues well enough to know when they're frustrating people or making them feel they are being criticized or ignored.

But other times, people are deliberately rude and hurtful. In these situations, you may feel singled out and targeted through their mean words and actions. And, no matter what you do, you feel you're never measuring up or good enough. You might even feel you have to walk on eggshells around this person to keep from becoming a target of their venom.

If these scenarios are true of your situation, you may want to re-evaluate your relationship with this person. They may be causing real damage to your self-esteem and your overall mental health.

Sometimes the best decision is to limit the time you spend with people who bring frustration or unhappiness into your life. Of course, you can talk to them about your concerns and see what happens.

Use “I feel” statements when describing your feelings and emotions. Doing so helps keep them from feeling defensive.

But, realize that some toxic people simply are unwilling to change—especially those who lack self-awareness or social skills.

In fact, talking to them can be an exercise in futility because they have no intention of changing. In these situations, limiting the amount of time you spend with them is the only option. After all, in smaller doses they may go from being a toxic force in your life to a mere annoyance.

If this person is someone you need to interact with, a family member or co-worker, you may need to limit interactions and try to non-confrontationally stand up for yourself when the situation warrants it.

Some people, particularly narcissists and sociopaths, tend to feed off of other people's attention and admiration. Narcissists feel a need to one-up people and make them feel “less-than” in a quest for superiority.

They may intentionally put you down in subtle ways or throw little insults at you if you share an accomplishment you are proud of. They also may keep you guessing as to whether or not they will be nice to you from one day to the next. Or, they may engage in gaslighting on a consistent basis.

When dealing with toxic, narcissistic people, it's not always obvious whether they're aware of what they are doing. But if their behavior is consistently making you feel bad about yourself, the result is the same—you're unhappy.

With a true narcissist or sociopath, or with anyone draining you of your well-being, put distance between yourself and them. You're not going to change them, and confronting them will only bring out more wrath without resolving anything.

Narcissists, for instance, are notoriously bad at admitting fault because they truly believe that they never make mistakes. In fact, they find it personally threatening to see themselves as less than perfect. Even if you're able to express yourself without being interrupted, it can feel as though your words fall on deaf ears.

Instead, distance yourself from this person, or at least accept that you need to be on your guard if the person has to be in your life. This change in your behavior won't change them, but it can help minimize the stress of dealing with them. The important thing is that you protect yourself from the emotional abuse you receive when interacting with them.

When dealing with any type of toxic relationship, it's important to focus on your health and well-being.

Consequently, if you're dealing with someone who drains you of your energy and happiness, consider removing them from your life, or at least limiting your time spent with them.

And, if you're experiencing emotional or physical abuse, get help right away. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential assistance from trained advocates.


4 Ways to Overcome a Toxic Relationship

Toxic Relationships: How to Handle Them

Source: F8 studio/Shutterstock

1. Admit that the relationship is toxic.

If you are experiencing a toxic relationship, then you ly move in and a state of denial about how unhealthy it truly is. At one moment, you feel revulsion; at another, you are making excuses and justifying a partner’s intolerable behavior.

Most people will let certain issues go from time to time in long-term romantic relationships, and it is important to be willing to accept your partner as they are. They wise need to do the same for you. But there are certain things that a person should never dismiss in a relationship.

You are sowing bad seeds in infertile ground if your partner lies, cheats, humiliates you, exploits you for money or other resources, or emotionally or physically abuses you. If your partner causes you chronic pain and does not hold themselves accountable, end it.

2. Stop believing this relationship is the best you can do.

If you are in a toxic relationship, as described above, then you probably have stopped confiding in friends and family. You keep your relationship separate from others, because you are afraid that loved ones will see how unhealthy it is. Or, you feel that your toxic partner is the only person who will ever understand and love you.

Withdrawing from others and avoiding face-to-face intimate interactions with others reinforces the idea that you will never be known or cared for by anyone other than your toxic partner. It keeps you in a panic- state of thinking you will find yourself alone.

This desperation will prevent you from drawing boundaries and wholeheartedly holding your partner accountable. Before doing anything, work to build up your support system: Join a gym, participate in a hiking or book club, start a new hobby, meet friends to exercise, eat with different acquaintances.

You need to start letting others get close to you, so that you no longer feel as if your orbit will collapse without this toxic partner at the center of your life.

3. Detox.

You are deluding yourself and wasting precious time if you believe that you can somehow still be friends or have a phone relationship with a toxic ex-partner. These people have a way of manipulating and getting others to feel sorry for them.

If you keep contact going, then you enable this individual to continue to work to draw you back toward them. As I describe in my workbook, Toxic Love: 5 Steps,The only realistic way out is to stop all contact, so that you can start anew.

And, too, time away helps positively enhance perspective.

4. Pursue self-growth.

Change will not be instant, and you won’t meet Mr. or Mrs. Right immediately. Take all of that time you spent trying to better understand your toxic partner, or to fix the flawed relationship, and invest it in yourself. Use your energy to pursue self-growth.

Start meditating or journaling, read self-help books, or take up weekly psychotherapy. When you do date, thoughtfully consider those you have gone for before, and work to engage new and different types of personalities. A strong, immediate attraction can sometimes mean trouble ahead for a relationship.

Hold back and wait a few beats. This tactic will help you avoid another disappointing relationship.

Even if a pattern of toxic love describes your relationship, there is a way out of the spiral. In my workbook, Toxic Love: 5 Steps, I describe specific strategies for how to overcome this pattern, and to start attaching with healthy romantic partners.

Jill Weber, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice in Washington, D.C.

, and the author of The Relationship Formula Workbook Series, including Toxic Love — 5 Steps: How to Identify Toxic Love Patterns and Find Fulfilling Attachments, Breaking Up and Divorce — 5 Steps: How to Heal and be Comfortable Alone and Building Self-Esteem — 5 Steps: How to Feel 'Good Enough.' Follow her on  @DrJillWeber and on , or visit


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