January 24, 2014

How to End a Toxic Relationship.

Note: This is the second part of a series. Read Part one here.

An old friend of mine recently remarked that she was always impressed by how I maintained contact with a number of people who had been in my life at some point.

Until recently, I took great pride in the fact that I had remained “friends” with former boyfriends, people I had fallen out with in the past, etc.

However, in the past year or so and without realizing it at first, I began to cut people out of my life that frankly, were not my friends and were not adding to my life in any worthwhile way. As I stated in my previous article, it can be difficult to spot toxic people.

Still, ending the relationship can be a whole other can of worms and may be easier said than done.

Toxic people are often charismatic. The ones I know were able to charm their way back into my life repeatedly with promises of change and vows never to engage in hurtful behavior again.

Therefore, if we’re at the point where we are ready to cut a toxic person out of our lives, keep the following things below in mind. While they may not guarantee a seamless break, they can make things easier and keep the drama to a minimum.

1. Take the simple way.

While it may be tempting to simply cut off all contact, I believe it’s good manners to let the person know that we no longer want them in our lives. While emails are okay, I think it’s preferable to do so with a phone call or in person.

While it’s up to you how you want to tell them, it is possible to keep it simple and brief and merely say, “I don’t feel that you have been very good to me and I no longer want you in my life anymore.”

Be firm. Let them know that this non-negotiable. Do not be swayed by promises or threats. If you really are fearful of the other person’s reaction, then stick to an email or phone call.

One caveat: this may not be possible if the toxic person is one of those who cannot take no for an answer.

Not only will they continue to contact us even when we have repeatedly asked them not to, but even the slightest contact with them—even if it’s to tell them that we don’t wish to be in contact anymore—may be opportunity enough to try and get back into our lives.

Case in point: I knew a situation where a man decided that he no longer wanted to be in contact with an ex-girlfriend he tried to remain friends with. An attempt to tell her via a letter led to years of unwanted letters, postcards, and packages. In a situation like this, it may be best just to cut off all contact and skip the letter, phone call, or email.

2. Let it out if you want, but be cautious.

While some people may want to keep a dignified silence, now is the time to get it all out if we so desire. Let them know that we are upset over the times they forgot our birthdays, never repaid us for the money they loaned, etc. However, once it’s out, refrain from contacting them again to share more grievances. Whenever we are trying to end anything, it’s important to have a definitive end.

Also, don’t expect the other person to apologize or accept the wrong they caused us. In many cases, we simply aren’t going to get it. Also, be prepared if they don’t even acknowledge that they did anything wrong. As I mentioned in my previous article, toxic people often completely re-write history.

Therefore, if you’re choosing to vent, do so for one reason and one reason only: your own peace of mind. Expect nothing from the other person.

3. Resist the urge to bad mouth them to mutual friends and acquaintances.

This can be difficult to do, but it’s good to refrain from this in most cases. Many of the toxic people I knew had reputations for being “nice” guys and girls. If they get wind of this, they can easily turn things around and paint themselves as the victims.

Plus, people’s true colors tend to show themselves sooner or later. I remember one particular instance where I had a falling out with someone whom I thought everyone loved and adored. When I mentioned to a few mutual acquaintances that we were no longer friends without elaborating why, I was shocked to learn that quite a few people had experienced similar things and the “nice” act wasn’t fooling everyone like I had thought.

My point is, while it can be tempting to want others to know the truth about a toxic person parading around as a nice person, sooner or later most of these people will out themselves without help from anyone else.

Ending any relationship is hard, but ending one with toxic people can be especially difficult because of the challenges involved with such people.

However, if you decide to do so, don’t delay. While it will no doubt be painful, at least once such a person or persons are out of our lives, the healing can begin.

Finally, whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up or blame yourself for allowing such a person in your life. Most toxic people are masters of manipulation. Instead, thank yourself for having the courage to move forward, and look forward to the possibilities that await you with new people who support and appreciate you.

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: tinou bao/Flickr

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