As I recently shared, I hate losing friends more than anything else in the world.
However, there are times when it isn’t just necessary but downright essential to your emotional well-being to remove toxic people in your life.
Simply put, it’s someone who drains rather than adds to your life. You consider them a friend but it seems they only have you in their life so they can put you down. Sometimes, you may not even know this person is toxic.
I speak from experience when it comes to these sort of people. For over a decade, I had such a person in my life.
Without going into too much history, this person started out as my friend. We then dated for a couple of years and then again decided to remain friends after we stopped dating. For many years, he was one of my closest confidants and vice versa.
However, some years in, something changed without me realizing: nearly every time we talked or saw each other, we would end up in an argument that most of the time he instigated, and I would be left reeling—sometimes for several days—by something he said.
As more time lapsed, the arguments and nasty comments became more and more biting.
For example, shortly after I gave my birth to my daughter, he went on a tirade about how I supposedly lacked any and all maternal instincts and would end up failing her.
Finally, I had enough of the endless put downs, insults and backhanded “compliments” and decided I needed to cut off all contact. Thus, I blocked his emails and chose not give him my new phone number when I changed carriers.
I won’t deny that it was difficult to cut off contact in the beginning, but then a funny thing happened as a result: I felt a lot better when no longer having to deal with this “friend.” The pros of not having him my life far outweighed the cons.
Looking back, my biggest regret is not having done it sooner.
Still, I know I am not alone in this. Often, we use excuses to keep toxic people in our lives. These excuses may sound valid and logical but in reality, all they do is keep people in our lives who should not be there.
So, without further ado, check out the list below and ask yourself if you are using any of these reasons to keep toxic people in your life. If you are, I suggest taking a good, hard look at your relationship and decide if you really need someone like this in your life.
1. We’ve known each other a long time.
As I shared in the example of my own story, I know how hard it can be to let go of this one. Some may disagree, but I feel that people who have known me since I was a child or teenager know the real me a lot more than the people who met me as an adult.
Plus, there is a shared history especially in the case of a former lover or childhood best friend.
However, that does not give anyone an open ended ticket to remain in your life forever. While you will always have those good memories of the past, there is a real danger that they may be overshadowed be not-so-good or downright painful memories of the present and future.
People can and do change over time and unfortunately, some change for bad.
We are constantly ending and getting into new relationships. Often relationships that suited us in the past no longer suit our present situation. If any relationship, be it with a partner, parent or friend is causing you far more pain and frustration than pleasure, it could be a sign to end it for the sake of both of you.
2. We love each other despite the fact we hurt each other.
Ask yourself if this is really true. Generally speaking, people who love you do not hurt you. While it’s true that we often hurt the ones we love and vice versa, there is a big difference between intentionally and unintentionally hurting someone.
Perhaps you love this person, but they may not feel the same about you. Maybe at one point, there was a mutual love there, but love can go away and feelings can change to the point where love becomes hate.
Or maybe what you feel is not love but actually co-dependency. There are several things that masquerade as “love” but actually aren’t love.
3. We are family or we have mutual friends.
This is another one that I know all too well. No one lives in a bubble. If someone has been in your life for a long time, then there is good chance you will have mutual friends in common. It’s even trickier in the case of family members.
It’s human nature to want to know what happened, why the two of you are no longer in contact, but just because someone asks doesn’t mean that you are obligated to tell them. Simply saying, “We are no longer in contact, and I do not wish to talk about it at this time,” is fine. If people continue to press, say outright that you will not talk about it.
As far as taking sides go, I won’t lie and say it doesn’t happen. It does. It can be painful. However, consider if the people who are taking sides and don’t know the full story are the sort of people you really need or want in your life. It’s possible they may be toxic as well.
4. S/he isn’t always this way—it’s only when they are stressed out or I’ve done something to annoy them.
Here’s a secret about toxic people: most are not toxic 24/7. In fact, many of them can be very charming and act like true friends at times.
However, what makes them different from real friends is that they are putting you down more often than not and most of the time leave you feeling worse than you were before you interacted.
In the example I cited, this man was very good at giving compliments or praise that were actually insults and put downs. Like many people who know anyone for a period of time, he knew exactly what my triggers were and would set them off while all the time denying that was his intention.
I’ve since learned that this is not uncommon.
Many toxic people, for lack of a better word, “get off” on creating conflict and discomfort in others’ lives.
As an acquaintance of mine once said about my toxic relationship, “some people like nothing more than to throw emotional grenades and relish in the chaos they create.”
She was right.
Examine your own motives for continuing to have someone like this in your life. It is possible that you may get some sort of rush from the constant arguing or feel that when you argue with this person, you can release all sorts of bottled-open anger inside that actually has nothing to do with person.
In that case, that is a clear sign that you need this person out of your life.
Most of us have had or will have toxic friends or “frenemies ” in our lives at some point. While we cannot control how people behave or how they may change, we do have control over whether or not we want to continue to have them in our lives.
Sometimes, it’s not only the best thing for you not to have these people in your life, but it is also what is best for them. Again, while you have no control over how others choose to behave, sometimes it takes hitting rock-bottom for toxic people to wake up and see what they are doing.
Therefore, you may not only be doing yourself a favor, but a favor for toxic people as well.
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Ed: Catherine Monkman