A new year. A new start.
This is a great time to leave things behind that aren’t serving your best interests. Like old clothes, bad habits, or a toxic relationship.
Of course you don’t need it to be a new year to get rid of toxic, unhelpful things or people. You could do it any day of the year.
You might find that the thought of a fresh start for the new year can be the extra motivation you need to finally take the leap and leave behind the negativity you’ve been putting up with.
The first day of the new year I cleaned my windows, tidied a room, and finally said goodbye to a “friendship” that was causing me more grief that happiness.
Phew! What a relief. I feel lighter just knowing I won’t be caught up with that person anymore.
Is there a toxic person in your life?
Is there anyone in your life who’s consistently bringing you down and with whom you suspect (or outright know) you’d be better off changing the way you interact?
There are many ways a person can be toxic:
- Is there someone you know that is chronically negative, critical, judgmental or hurtful towards you?
- Is there someone who takes, takes, takes and never gets around to giving back in return?
- Is there someone who thinks only about themselves and neglects, overlooks and inadvertently hurts you due to their self-centeredness?
- Is there someone who regularly lies, manipulates or cheats?
- Is there someone who habitually makes you feel small, inadequate, unworthy, or deficient?
- Is there someone who uses you for their own agenda without caring about you as a person and damaging your well-being?
Is there someone in your life who, for whatever reason, your instinct tells you you’d be better off seeing less or not at all? Even if you can’t quite put words to why.
Is there a toxic relationship in your life?
Or perhaps it’s not fair to call the other person toxic, but between the two of you, you have built up a toxic relationship due to unhealthy patterns of relating and too many unresolved grievances in the past.
Perhaps it is you that needs to make some changes to the way you interact with them. To break the bad cycle.
Can you take ownership for your side of the relationship? What can you do to change this dynamic? Is the relationship worth saving by making some changes? (Be honest… perhaps it’s not really that great anyway.)
Perhaps, now‘s the time to change your own relationship habits.
Why are you still in this toxic relationship?
Some toxic relationships are harder than others to deal with. Perhaps it is a parent, spouse or child who you can’t cut out of your life entirely. Perhaps it is someone you work with or is on a team or committee you are part of, and can’t avoid interacting with them once in a while.
Often, however, there are people we keep around who we don’t really need to keep around. Like a friend, acquaintance or a boyfriend. These people may add more negative than positive to our lives, yet we get stuck holding onto them when we’d be better off without them.
People can develop habits or beliefs that keep them attached to keeping negative people in their lives.
Your limiting beliefs can keep toxic people in your life
- You don’t have to keep hanging out with someone just to be nice. Or because you have in the past.
- You don’t have to be friends with someone out of pity because you know they don’t have many other friends.
- You don’t have to keep making excuses for another person’s bad behavior and them hurting you.
- You don’t have to hold onto a relationship that consistently makes you feel bad, just because you know the other person doesn’t intentionally mean to hurt you.
- You don’t have to keep putting up with their bad behavior just because you are a forgiving / kind / nice person.
- You are not responsible for other people’s social lives or emotions including that they will be lonely without you.
- You can make friends with other people who will treat you with respect and kindness.
- You can stand up for yourself and your needs and set boundaries to protect your best interests.
- You can learn what to look for in other people to choose people who make good friends/partner in future.
- You deserve to be treated with respect.
- You are allowed to choose to spend your time with people who make you feel good about yourself.
Setting healthy boundaries with a toxic person
Different levels of toxicity will require different boundaries to be put in place. If you need help working out which boundary you need to set, or how to go about setting it, I’d recommend reading the book Boundaries by Dr Henry Cloud & Dr John Townsend.
Do you need to cut all ties?
Perhaps, such in the case of someone who is suffering from chronic addictions or is physically abusive, you need to cut them out of your life entirely. And as soon as possible. If this is the case, seek support from appropriate organizations near you to help you make this change.
Or perhaps you have an on-off romantic relationship that keeps going around in circles because you can’t spend time near that person without getting re-entangled with them… again… and again.
Or perhaps the other person’s toxicity is so chronic that it is completely detrimental to your life.
If you’re dealing with someone who is toxic to the point of having some sort of disorder, try reading the book Psychopath Free (Expanded Edition): Recovering from Emotionally Abusive Relationships With Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Other Toxic People.
Can you set another boundary instead?
In other situations, it may not be necessary to completely cut a toxic person out of your life.
Perhaps you have a chronically critical relative who brings you down whenever you talk with them, without fail. You may feel it’s best to remove them from your life.
Or you could still see them once in a while without cutting ties altogether, such as on Father’s Day or family holidays.
Or you could find a way to confront them or otherwise address the way they interact with you.
Could you politely and honestly tell them how you feel when they act in a toxic way towards you, and ask them to speak in a different way in future?
Could you choose to see them socially but politely leave every time they crossed your boundary?
Could you limit the duration of your visits with that person so as to protect your energy level?
There are many ways to set boundaries. The key point is that you don’t have to accept the status quo.
It is possible to love a person and wish them well in life, AND still set a relationship boundary that protects you from getting hurt.
What new boundary do you need to set?
If you are stuck in a rut and can’t think of new solutions try talking with a counselor.
I’d highly recommend the book “Boundaries” by Dr Henry Cloud & John Townsend and the associated “Boundaries Workbook”. This is great reading for anyone at any time, but if you’re in a situation that’s lead to you reading this far down this article, then I especially know it will help you right now.
As we start a new year, you could make a New Year’s Resolution to set a new boundary with the toxic person in your life to make a healthier dynamic for yourself going forward.