How to Deal With a Toxic Relationship | Reclaiming Zen

How to Deal With a Toxic Relationship

Letting go doesn’t mean giving up but rather accepting that there are things that cannot be


Toxic relationships can grow quickly or over time. It may be someone that is new into your life, someone you have been friends with for many years or even a family member. Sometimes those we thought we were closest to can become cold and careless. This can happen for no reason at all and it can leave you feeling shut out and longing for the previous connection. It can happen very suddenly or it might happen slowly over time and you just wake up one day and wonder, “How did it come to this?”

We often want them back. We can begin to question and blame ourselves. Was it the time I said no to coffee? Was it when I used her things without asking? What did I do? What can I do to make it better?

It can be good to ask ourselves these questions and sometimes there might be a good reason that can be fixed, but when someone becomes cold and drifts away from you it can sometimes be beneficial to just let go of the memory; the memory of who they were and just accept who they have become.



This happened to me a little while ago. I had a friend that I had known for years, we were very close and had gone through a lot together. 

We hadn’t argued or fallen out, but we had just grown apart. She got a new boyfriend and drifted away even further. I would try to contact her and get little to no response. It hurt and when we did speak she would be cold and defensive. She no longer opened up to me and we had little to talk about. Slowly but surely the relationship went more downhill and I struggled with the loss of a friend that I was once so close to. For a long time I thought about what I could have done wrong but there was nothing that stood out.

So I decided not to dwell on feeling hurt by my loss any longer. I looked up the many ways to cope with toxic relationships and what to do when they eventually break down. My friend was no longer the person that I knew before, I had to accept that and let it go. So whilst moving on I learnt a lot about coping with this loss of a close relationship and how to take action for the sake of my happiness.

I have put together the steps that myself and many others have taken to help with toxic relationships. I hope that this list can help others who are experiencing a toxic relationship.


1.  Identify what makes the relationship toxic

The first step is to establish what it is that makes the relationship toxic. As we said a toxic relationship can be with someone you just met, someone you have known for years or even a relative. A toxic relationship can manifest in many ways so you need to identify what it is that is toxic The individual may put you down, they may act passive-aggressive, lack empathy or ignore you when you speak to them. You need to make a mental note of the individuals actions and pinpoint the persons patterns of behaviours. Knowing how to recognize toxicity is the very first step.


2.  Identify how you feel

Next, we must identify how the toxic actions and behaviours make you feel. Once you have spotted the toxicity think about how it affects your mood, body language, self-esteem, energy levels, peace of mind and mental health. Once you can spot the toxicity and recognize how it makes you feel you will be able to empower yourself and deal with the situation.

3.  Accept that you may never find the root cause

This one can be tough, some people stay in therapy for many years and there is never an answer. If you are able to talk to the individual about your relationship then they may be able to find out why they act a certain way. If you are anything like me the option to ask them is just not there and in this case sometimes we just have to accept that we cannot find the root cause. The reason that the person treats you badly may not have anything to do with you and may just be the way they process and respond to what is going on in their life. We all react differently to life and for some it can change them for the worse.

Whilst we cannot always find a root cause we can still change the way we view the toxicity. Try to rethink about toxicity, understand that it comes from a place of unhappiness and discontent. Dealing with the relationship and hurtful actions can become easier once you realize that peoples actions reflect their inner state rather than your own.

4.  Do not normalize toxicity

Make sure that you remember that it is not normal for anyone to continually be negative, hurtful or inconsiderate towards you. When you have done nothing wrong it is not normal for someone to continually act in this way towards you. When this keeps happening it can be easy to lose perspective about right and wrong behaviour. This can be especially true if you find yourself continually justifying a persons action because of stories of their past traumas or hardships. This does not make it ok.

We have all justified others actions at some point. When it is someone close to us we often let them get away with things we know are not ok. We wish to forgive and forget, avoid conflict with them and avoid pushing them away even further. Whilst you should remain empathetic you should not make excuses for hurtful behaviour. You need to set limits and say when it has been enough before such behaviours become the normal.

5.  Do not expect anything from the other person

This relationship is toxic and therefor something is not as it should be. With any other relationship you would expect the other person to have your back just as you would have theirs, however, in a toxic relationship the same cannot be expected. If you are struggling to maintain a relationship with someone do not expect them to be there for you, keep their word or be how they may have been for you. It can be hard especially if you are a loyal, friend or sibling to them. If the individual has continually let you down expecting form them may only led to your own disappointment. In letting go of expecting from them you let go of this power they have on your emotions.

6.  Realise that it takes two people to fix a relationship

A relationship involves both parties. This means that as much as you may try it will always take both of you to fix it. You may be willing to put in 100% but chances are if it is already a toxic relationship at this moment in time they are not and you can not force them. The relationship is likely to remain toxic for as long as they are not willing to change. This is not your fault and you should not blame yourself for this.

7.  Decide how much space and time you want to give them in your life

Depending on whether this a long-term friend, work colleague or family member, you may be likely to see this person again. You may have the same social circle or meet at family gatherings, whilst this cannot be avoided the amount of time you give to them can be. Try to keep communication and time in their presence minimal.

To begin with it may be beneficial to cut them out of your life for entirely. Whether this is permanently or just momentarily, trying to reach out to them all the time and keeping space open for them can be draining and exhausting.

Most importantly do not feel guilty about this. Once you have tried and done your best you should not feel guilty about drawing the line and saying that it has been enough.

8.  Don’t bottle things up

Whether it be another close friend or a relative, communicate your feelings to people you trust. They other individual may also feel the same or they may not and this is fine. Just allow them to listen, talking through your feelings can be therapeutic and even help you to understand your own perspective on the situation. It is much better to release your emotions rather than keep them bottled up.

9.  Refrain from gossiping about the other person

Do not confuse letting your feelings out with gossiping. There is a difference between sharing your feelings and focusing all conversations on this individual and what they have done or said. Speaking about someone’s actions may risk you the habit of speaking badly of someone and the conversations may often go round in circles. Instead you should voice how you feel, let it out and then forget about it. Focus on the positive in your life and the positive aspects of other’s lives.

10.  Don’t give the other person an opportunity to blame you

If you are in a toxic relationship the other individual may appear as a narcissist at times and blame everyone but themselves. If you are in such a conversation with this individual it is important to not give them such ammunition for this blame-game. When the other individual is late, hurtful, rude, never tidies up or uses your things it can be tempting to act in the same way. Resist the urge to retaliate, by doing the right thing they will not be able to reproach you for anything.

11.  Accept that you may not be able to have a heart to heart conversation

Depending on who you are working with you may never get a heart to heart conversation, or it may not be for a while. If the other individual is devoid of vulnerability, does not open up emotionally and excessively proud you may not be able to have the heart to hearth you want with them. When the other person does not want this is can be hurtful. Instead you should strive for closure on your side and move on.

12.  Shift your focus

This is a long and hard process, but it is important for your own mental health. Try not to dwell on the loss of the individual. Instead of focusing on the toxic relationship build on the positive ones you have already. 

Accept what is happening and allow space for new relationships or investing time into the ones you already have. Remember how wonderful you are and focus on this, think of all the positive aspects of your life, and build on these. Fill your heart with happiness!

I hope this list helps others just as it helped me.

Let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments below 🙂


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