January 20, 2014

4 Telling Signs that a Relationship is Toxic.

In general, I’m not someone who likes to get rid of things, especially when it comes to people.

The majority of my friends have been in my life for over 20 years.

However, sometimes, we are all better off cutting certain people out of our lives permanently, or at least for a very long period of time.

Specifically, I am referring to  the people who hurt us over and over again and leave our lives, only to return with promises that they will never treat us this way again, that they weren’t themselves, etc., only to repeat the process again. They came in the guise of friends, lovers and even family members. As someone who has been on this emotional merry-go-round more times than I care to admit, I know first hand how draining these “emotional vampires” can be. Also, as someone whose seen others struggle with this, I know how difficult it can be to see a friend or loved one keep returning to these sort of relationships.

While I tend to think most people deserve the benefit of the doubt and change is possible, here are a few red flags to be aware of, suggesting the relationship is toxic.

When we see these things, it is a clear sign to get off the merry-go-round once and for all. It may be hard but ultimately, you will thank yourself for ridding these people from your life.

1. They refuse to take responsibility for their actions.

They may be good at saying they were wrong, but they do nothing to make amends for what they did. Making amends means more than acknowledging fault. It means reaching out to the people they hurt, saying they were wrong, empathizing with them, and making a deliberate attempt to avoid treating others like that in the future.

While one need not engage in self-flagellation, true remorse is pretty easy to spot.

2. They rewrite history—dramatically.

All of us are guilty of rewriting the past from time to time, but these sorts do so in such a way that that their version of events has little or nothing to do with the actual event.

One example I can think of is the time when a former friend came back into my life and said that I was directly responsible for the event leading up to the fight that ended our friendship. It was not how I remembered it nor was it how those around us remembered it. Our friendship could not be mended or repaired when they refused to acknowledge even the most basic facts of what had happened.

3. They say someone or something “forced” them into making the decisions they made.

People can be influenced to make decisions that hurt others, but ultimately, no one can be “forced” into acting or doing something unless they want to.

Blaming others for one’s poor choices or bad behaviors is the ultimate way to avoid responsibility. (See #1) and it is a way of them to reinvent what happened so they don’t have to admit they were in the wrong (See #2).

As soon as anyone says, “It wasn’t my fault but (insert person, circumstances, etc.)” run, don’t walk away from them.

4. They’ve done this before.

This may seem obvious, but as someone who kept giving a “friend” the benefit of the doubt over and over again only to get burnt each time, I can say that sometimes we are very good at being in denial. In this case, I really wanted to believe this person was truly good at heart. There were times when they really were there for me, showed me true love and loyalty, but those were overshadowed by the times that they hurt me, lied to me, and otherwise let me down.

In my case, it finally took someone to frankly point out that this was a leopard who wasn’t going to change their spots. Worst of all, I wasn’t the only person who experienced something similar.

At some point, all the love and compassion in the world cannot “save” someone who has no interest in being saved.

While most of us know better than to stay with people who physically abuse us, it can be far harder to walk away from those who are emotionally abusive. People like myself, who desire to see the good in most people and hate seeing people leave our lives, tend to be the most at risk for attracting these sorts.

However, there comes a time when we have to cut ties, or else we risk losing ourselves or those around us.

The first cut may be the deepest and hardest, but it may ultimately be the most liberating thing we can do for ourselves.


Relephant reads:

12 Ways to Deal With A Toxic Family/Family Member.

5 Ways to Detect Toxic People. 

The Relationship Funeral: Rituals for a Breakup.


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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: Pablo Merchán Montes

Bonus: The one Buddhist Red Flag to watch out for & how you’ll know if he or she is The One.

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