Many a times we find ourselves in unhealthy relationships. They suck the happiness and joy out of our lives and make us feel trapped and miserable. These unhealthy and failed relationships are not always the romantic ones. These can exist between friends, parents-children, siblings or even coworkers.
Often we tend to stay in such relationships due to various reasons. We do come across the cross roads of ‘leaving’ or ‘staying’ in them but we find it hard to leave even though we know we are in a rut. So how do we then break this pattern? This circle of knowing that we should immediately leave but we still don’t leave? How do we end these toxic relationships that drain us completely without giving us anything in return?
Recently I found myself dealing with people who pretended to be my friends and well wishers in front of me but didn’t shy away from back stabbing at the first opportunity they got.
Initially I was in a state of shock and denial. I couldn’t believe it happened to me because I thought why me? Why would someone try to belittle me? But then I realized that this world is full of different people and they work with their own motives.
I am glad I recognized them soon and decided to park myself away from them. I made some deliberate efforts to stay away from them. Blocked them from my contacts and reduced the communication with them to mere greetings.
Initially it seemed a little awkward to leave the conversations right after greetings when you are used to having long chit-chat sessions but now that I am over it, I find myself much more peaceful, productive and positive as a person.
This wasn’t easy for me to do but it didn’t seem impossible too. In fact, I wasn’t very close to these people so it was a little easier for me than it would be for some of you who are in deep, committed relationships. But trust me, it only seems harder. Once you get to break free from it, it becomes do-able.
Here are some of the tried and tested ways to end unhealthy relationships.
1. Acknowledge that you are in an unhealthy relationship
When it comes to breaking out of rut, denial doesn’t work. Step out of denial. Acknowledge that things are not right and that you are in a toxic relationship. Unless you accept that it isn’t an enriching relationship, it won’t help.
How do you know it is toxic? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does this person’s presence make me feel good about myself?
- Do I want to spend more time with him right now?
- Does he encourage me to do better in life without belittling or crushing me?
- Does he add to my life or deplete from it?
Answers to the questions above will tell you if you should stay back or make a run right away.
Believe me it all starts with this one step. Tell yourself that you need to break free and rest will follow.
2. Just get away from it
Once we decide to leave, we still often loom around it. We continue to respond to their texts, calls and meet them as and when the need arises. These abrupt connections and communications do not let the break ups happen and after a while we get back to square one.
Break this pattern. Just get away from it. Stop responding. Do not communicate. Take a break.
You do not have to block the person literally but try as much as possible to avoid him. If you keep dwindling between minimizing the contacts and being in contact, nothing will come out of it. Such relationships have us deeply entangled which is why we find it difficult to end them. But to do so, you have to take a break. Get away from it as far as possible.
3. Identify the voids and fill them
Now that you are away from the person, find out the holes or gaps this person’s absence has left in your life. Most likely it will be a need to talk to them.
In most cases, we become over dependent on such people and that leads to our weaknesses which makes us unable to stand up for ourselves when such people drain us out.
You are not in contact (or in minimum contact) with them anymore, so identify the voids. Fill them with alternatives. Move on.
If he or she was your go-to friend to vent out your frustrations, replace them with a journal. Start writing in a diary.
If you depended upon them for sharing your dreams and aspirations, do not miss them. Instead, make a plan. Make a strategy to fulfill our dreams.
In my case, this friend was someone I would hang around casually whenever I was free. Mostly during the evening walks. I wouldn’t say I missed her when I decided to get away from her but yes, I had to find a companion for evening walks. And would you guess who I found? Music on my phone and that works very well.
Our lives are amazing. If you look around, you will find beautiful alternatives that help you in achieving the purpose of your life. Just look around and find better alternatives.
4. Consider the pros and cons
Although this isn’t really needed but once you take a drastic step, it is always better to look back and assess and introspect things in hindsight.
What makes you feel better about yourself – writing a journal or confessing things to a person who later takes it against you?
Do you feel stronger as a person now that you lean onto yourself more than on them?
I am sure once you begin to revel in your own company, you will find it more fulfilling and enriching than anything else.
I am at much more peace right now than I was when I had these ladies around me. We may not realize the pros right away but it is a good practice to do a balance sheet kind of analysis of things when you take a decision like this. It helps in realizing what was missing in our lives earlier.
5. Stand up with yourself
Once you take a decision, do not go back. Own you decision. Back it up with your support. I understand ending any kind of relationship can be painful and may leave you heart broken but remember that you did it for yourself and not for anyone else. Remind yourself that it will help you in carving a better future of yours.
Things may seem difficult to sail sometimes but if you have the support and love of yourself, you will do much better than you expect from yourself.
6. Do not hold grudges; forgive them
Holding grudges against someone is never healthy. And if you hold something against them, then you are not out of the unhealthy relationship yet.
Bless them for good. Wish goodness for them as you wish for anyone else. Throw away that emotional baggage.
I understand it isn’t always easy to forgive people but practicing compassion makes it possible. Tap into that reserve of kindness inside you and get rid of any kind of resentment or hurt that you have been harboring.
Feel free and un-trapped and thank them for teaching you some great lessons. It is only because of them that you are now a little wiser than before.
7. Learn from this relationship
I am of the firm opinion that no relationship is a waste of time and emotions. Every relationship teaches us something.
Now it is time to learn from this one. How did you get into this unhealthy relationship? Or when did it become so toxic in nature? What made you stay in this rut for so long?
Seek answers to these questions. Once you have the answers, learn lessons from them and try your best to apply the learnings in life.
We are humans. We all make mistakes. But a wise human being is one who learns from his or her mistakes and doesn’t repeat them.
8. Become emotionally self reliant
Becoming emotionally self-reliant is not only important to break away from such unhealthy and unhappy relationships but it is also crucial to be able to derive happiness from within; to be able to have more meaningful relationships in future.
Leo Babauta of ZenHabits.net has written a very detailed post on becoming emotionally self reliant. He recommends ways to feel more gratitude in life and being at peace with one self.
I have noticed immense positive changes in me since the time I changed my outlook towards life and started looking at it more positively and with gratitude.
When we are emotionally stable and self reliant, we become our biggest source of emotional dependence and thus do not over depend upon others for our emotional needs. This saves us from getting into toxic relationships in future and helps us in cultivating enriching relationships.
While there is no sure shot rule of living one’s life, the above tried and tested ways have worked well for me in the past. I have gotten rid of many unhealthy and detrimental relationships in the past and I assure you that while it seems difficult in the beginning, with high resolve it all falls in place after sometime.