Knowing When to Let Go of Toxic Relationships

Patient Expert

Relationships are an integral part of the human experience and a major factor in our physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Yet while relationships can be exhilarating and supportive, they can also be destructive.

Toxic relationships can be detrimental to your ability to live a fulfilling life. They often result in stress and can impede your personal growth and development significantly. Here are some ideas on how you can learn to let go of toxic relationships, whether romantic, platonic, or professional.

Signs of a toxic relationship

Toxic relationships don't always reveal themselves right away. As such, you may not realize you are in one until you have been in a relationship with someone for a long time. Below are the common signs of unhealthy relationships.

Toxic relationships bring out the worst in you

One of the major symptoms of a toxic relationship is that it does not make you better, but worse. The worst in you can manifest in many ways. For example:

  • You become increasingly irritable
  • You do not sleep as well
  • Your self-confidence and self-esteem diminish
  • You lose other friendships
  • You fall behind in other aspects of your life

If being around someone makes you unhappy to the point that you start disliking yourself, then that is a toxic relationship. Healthy relationships result in your personal growth, with benefits that resonate through all aspects of your life.

You are always walking on eggshells

Toxic relationships will leave you emotionally drained. If you feel that you have to double-check what you are about to say or do around someone, that relationship might be toxic. Comfort is a critical factor in a healthy relationship.

If you are always walking on eggshells or feel mentally exhausted when you’re around someone, you will eventually start avoiding them. The freedom to express yourself is a benefit, not a detriment.

Constant power struggles

Conflict happens in every relationship. If the other party is more focused on winning arguments rather than finding solutions, the relationship suffers. Healthy relationships focus on both people. A balance has to exist that works both ways. Constant attempts to gain control are a symptom of toxic relationships.

How to let go of toxic relationships

As you can imagine, making the decision to get out of a toxic relationship isn't easy. Most people want to hold on to the hope of change. Holding on to unhealthy relationships keeps you from growing and prevents you from nurturing healthy ones. If a relationship is negatively affecting the quality of your life, then it is time to let go.

1. Be brutally honest with yourself.

Brutal honesty is the first and most important step. It is often the most difficult for many people. Conduct a thorough self-evaluation and admit to yourself that you are in a toxic relationship. Take the time to reflect and look for symptoms of toxicity in the relationship.

It's also helpful to ask yourself how much energy are you willing to put into the relationship. Admit that you feel stressed, frustrated, or anxious when you spend time with this person. Trusting your instincts is crucial. Those gut feelings that you ignore can tell you where you stand in a relationship.

2. Be honest with others

Being assertive can prevent you from getting involved in toxic relationships. Letting people know how they make you feel is the first step to emotional freedom. A good practice is using "I" statements, for example: "I feel offended when you do not take my opinions into consideration."

Assertiveness means that you stay firm and let others know what you would like from them. For instance, you may calmly let a friend know that they are derailing your life and that it's best they keep their distance.

3. Set boundaries

Boundaries are a foundation of all healthy relationships and are especially important for familial or professional relationships. Unfortunately, most people overlook boundaries, because establishing them can be quite difficult. Learn to say no unapologetically.

4. Set a clear path and be consistent

We often know what’s healthy and what isn't, but we struggle with putting a regular plan into action. Taking action is even more challenging when your emotions are involved. A great tip is to write down the direction you want your life to take. Be as clear as you possibly can be in articulating what you expect and deserve from your relationships.

Your relationships should ideally make you happy and content. They should provide you with a sense of calm and fulfillment that will enable you to grow in all areas of your life. Use this checklist to evaluate all your relationships on a regular basis.

5. Ask for help

If you have difficulties letting go of a toxic relationship, it is wise to ask for help. Whether it's a mental health professional, a coach, or a friend, another person can often times give you an objective perspective on a strained relationship. The best people to seek advice from are people who have cultivated healthy relationships themselves.

Ending a relationship is never easy, especially when you’ve invested a lot into it. However, you will come to a point in all of your relationships where you have to ask yourself whether it’s worth the energy, time, and effort. If your answer to these questions inclines more towards 'no,' it is probably time to end the relationship.

See more helpful articles:

End Toxic Relationships to Improve Your Diabetes Health

Toxic Families: Going Home for Thanksgiving

How to Deal with Difficult People