How to identify & release toxic relationships

294 Comments
Hi Sweet Friends,

As wellness seekers, we’re constantly looking for ways to find harmony on our plates, in our bodies and throughout our lives. Yet sometimes that harmony comes from making tough decisions about our relationships. Some folks boost our energy reserves. Others drain us dry. In reality, we each have choices. We get to decide who we allow into our inner sanctum (the space where our spirits replenish, our hearts lower their walls, and our being renews). Not everyone deserves an all-access pass. That’s why today’s post is a meditation on moving on. Gracefully ending a challenging situation might just be what the doctor ordered.

Life has a much bigger plan for you. Happiness is part of that plan. Health is part of that plan. Stability is part of that plan. Constant struggle is not.

While I’m not a breakup expert, I’ve done it many times, and it’s been done to me. Friends, boyfriends, fiances (yes, I’ve had a few), work relationships, family members — you name it, it’s fallen apart. It’s often more comfortable to stay in the broken places rather than risk the glorious (and terrifying) unknown. There are countless rational excuses that keep us stuck. One of my favorites: Timing. “This is the worst time to make a change. I’m too busy, too tired, too broke, too needy, too not-enough.”

But there’s another side to this story, the one that takes your well-being into account. Is it ever a good time to stuff your feelings and soldier on? To exhaust yourself mentally and physically? Is it ever a good time to operate from a place of shame or guilt? Or continually repeat the same behavior that created the problems in the first place? Habitually attempting to fix the unfixable is crazy-making.

Let’s get brave and tell the truth.

Start by observing the thoughts running through your head. How do you honestly feel about the person in question? When I find myself in a pain cave, I crack open my journal for some good old scribble therapy. I write, uncover, release, write, cry, write, rage, write, sigh, write, nap … write. Try it. Ask yourself the following sample questions and then write freely. Do your best to stay open and receive. After you’ve gotten it all out, sit back and reflect on your words. Guess what? Your soul said that. Loud and clear. Really take it in. You may need to do this exercise for weeks or months before you’re ready to say sayonara.

Questions to ponder:

  • Is the pain too great to stay the same?
  • Do I constantly picture an alternate reality?
  • Do I need a translator to be heard?
  • Is it impossible to make boundaries?
  • Am I the only one that is willing to meet in the middle?
  • Is getting an apology (when it’s truly deserved) like pulling teeth?
  • Does this relationship take more energy than it gives?
  • Is blaming and complaining getting really old?
  • Am I completely fatigued when I’m with the person and energetic when they’re gone?
  • If it’s a romantic relationship, are the sparks dead, end of story?
  • Do I smile when I want to yell, and then yell at the wrong people?
  • Is the only thing holding me back my fear of newness?
  • Am I afraid of what people will think of me if this relationship fails?
  • Does this person make me feel like I’m lost without them?
  • Do I find myself missing the old me?
  • And so on …

How to say good-bye to toxic relationships

Deciding to end a relationship might not be the same as actually leaving. The more entangled you are, the more logistics might have to be worked out. It’s OK to take your time and plan the exit and the next phase. I’ve found that the hardest relationships to get out of are the ones that are the most dysfunctional. The stress definitely takes it’s toll. That’s why you might need some help. Seek guidance from a coach, therapist or a really grounded friend — the kind that loves you unconditionally and isn’t afraid to (metaphorically) slap you back to reality. If you fear for your safety in any way, definitely build a strong team to support you in the transition.

Whether I’ve had a breakup Pit Crew or gone solo, the best outcomes have always started from a place of honesty and humility. Zero BS. Zero finger pointing. Zero manipulation. And no last digs. I apologize when needed and try to recall what was once wonderful. There’s no need to force the other side to see my point. If they were going to see it, that would have happened long ago. It’s over. Finito.

Is it always this clean? Nope. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a red hot temper! In my 42 years there’s been a fist fight, busted stain glass (sorry, church window!), broken dishes, a lawsuit bluff, shattered hearts and some serious soul searching. In some cases I wish I had more compassion and better communication skills; in others, I wish I got out sooner. Clearly, it’s not always simple. But these days when my bones tell me to pack my bags, I listen.

Grief is good. Feel it. Heal it.

Will your life really fall apart when you move on? Maybe. Mine has several times. And maybe that’s exactly what it takes to build the life you were meant to live. For the most part, it’s rarely that dramatic.

Remember the real you beneath your fear. If you’ve forgotten, let me remind you. You are … Resilient. Awesome. Inspiring. Worth it. Spectacular. Creative. Funny. Kind. Resilient.

If this post resonates with you, but you’re not ready to change, just let these words swim around and wake up your consciousness. That’s more than enough.

What’s on the other side of change?

Relief, freedom, authenticity, true love, nourishing relationships (with yourself and others), fresh starts and smarter beginnings. Follow your true north. The coordinates on your internal compass read like this: Honor your uniqueness, listen to your heart, appreciate your rhythm, know and be loyal to yourself. When we follow those directions, it’s easy to understand if it’s time to take a turn in a new direction.

Your turn: How have you ended a difficult relationship?

Sometimes hearing about someone else’s courage helps us overcome our own fears. Let’s get rich in the comments below.

Peace & bag packing,

Kris Carr