We all have different types of friends, partners or even family members. We have friends we only ever really go out with, but every party with them is an amazing time. We have friends we see everyday and who we are completely comfortable with, people you can sit next to quietly for hours and who make watching the news as fun as going to a concert. We have friends we rarely ever see, but when we do it is like no time has passed at all. Friendships and relationships are beautiful and diverse and ever-changing - or they should be. However sometimes relationships and friendships grow apart, feel draining or emotionally abusive or like a chore. And while we have learned how to deal with romantic relationships in these situations (talk about it, work through it or end it) in friendships and especially in familiar relations this is not always an option. So how can we deal with toxic friendships or family members?

Negative or toxic?

I first and foremost want to point out the difference between one of your friends or partners feeling down and them behaving in a toxic way. I feel like there is an increasing trend, especially online to mark every person, who is not positive every second of every day as toxic. This fake positivity is extremely pressuring and can make you feel very guilty about not being a ray of sunshine every day or even discredit absolutely valid feelings of loneliness, unhappiness, anger or even anxiety and depression. There is no way you or people around you can be happy every single day. It is okay and reasonable for your friend, partner or family member to have periods in which they feel terrible and these periods can last weeks and sometimes even months. What is ultimately deciding in understanding if someone or their behaviour is toxic, is how they deal with this natural negativity in life. Are they legitimately upset and sad? Or are they using feelings of unhappiness to make you feel bad about yourself? Constantly criticise or gaslight you? Make you feel small, unwanted, unworthy or unloved?
While it may be hard to have a friend or partner, who suffers from mental illness or who is just generally not as immediately positive as you may be, that is human. It is only when they somehow try to manipulate you or consistently make you feel bad about yourself as well, that you may want to reevaluate the relationship. I think it is part of every relationship to also go through hard periods and be there for one another and I know I would not want my friends to run away the instance I am not completely happy go lucky. This table explains the differences in a very good way in my opinion and helps to reevaluate your ways of thinking. So before you label someone as toxic reevaluate if they may actually be suffering themselves. As long as they are not actively hurting you, they are not doing anything wrong.

Have a chat

I am a pretty direct person. I usually put my feelings out there rather quickly and my main method of flirting is straight up asking if the other person wants to make out. But I still struggle to have arguments with friends. I am lucky in that I am mainly surrounded by absolutely wonderful people, who are quite easy-going and open themselves, but I also find myself heavily struggling every time an issue arises and I should bring it up with a friend. However if somebody has been hurting you in different ways or behaving not like a true friend, bringing this up early before the snowball effect sets in, is usually the best way. One way to do this, is to regularly check in with your friends.
Anxious people everywhere love this simple trick of literally always asking: "Have I done something that upsets you? Would you like me to change my behaviour?" This way small issues can be resolved quickly and do not turn into massive arguments. Openness and honesty is usually your best policy in every area of life.
Sometimes we tend to sweep first little mishaps under the table until they really pile up and turn into a massive fight. While this is human and happens to the best of us, not all is lost even if you got to this point. Take actual time for this conversation. Go somewhere calm and private so you can both let your emotions out and make sure you have at least an hour and no urgent matter to attend to afterwards. NEVER have this sort of conversations via a chat or texting, face to face is key here. Generally try to send I messages during an argument. Not to be confused with iMessage this is also a direct message, but a little less technical: instead of accusing the other person, communicate how their behaviour has made you feel e.g. "I feel hurt by..." instead of "You hurt me!". This way the other person can (at least theoretically) react calmer and you get your point across in a way that is much more constructive and approachable. 
Maybe even schedule out five to ten minutes for each person to speak without interruption so you and they can speak calmly, get their point across and you do not immediately enter into accusations, justifications or a full-on fight.
Try to clearly show what made you feel upset. Chances are your friend or partner has not even realised that they have hurt you with their actions. Afterwards actually talk about what you want to change. Maybe set a date to meet again and see if things have changed.

Ignore it

If talking it out is not really an option, for example if it is a family member that you can´t really confront and/or cut out of your life or if it is somebody, where having an in-depth conversation seems senseless your best guess may be to just let it go. While I am all for talking things out, sometimes the emotional labour of having a heartfelt conversation is just too much investment for some people. In some instances it is best to pick your battle and save that energy. Some people, however toxic they may be, are in your life to stay and while I would suggest removing yourself from that environment as much as you can, in the instances where you can´t, just try and ignore comments or insults. Obviously this only works to a certain extent. If someone is full on abusing you, you should just straight up leave, whether they are a family member or not, you do not need that in your life.
However sometimes it can help to just realise some people are deeply unhappy and not worth your energy at all and you could try to just let their comments wash over you. You are a pretty spectacular person and if they can´t see that, then it´s their loss. Let their comments go in one ear and out the other and then spend the rest of your time with cool people, who see your worth.

Dump them

Let´s say you had one or two conversations. You have clearly told the person why their behaviour makes you feel bad and you have given them a chance to change it and they still have not done so. In my personal opinion after all of this you really only have one option: to follow the advice of our lord and saviour Britney Spears and dump them.
Whether for a while or for ever, it may be good to simply take a break, get some distance and remove yourself from any relationship that makes you feel hurt, unloved, sad or unworthy. Depending on the situation I think you can either simply remove yourself from an argument without justifying your actions or you may want to have one last chat and/or send one clear message to end this chaos. 
This seems extreme to many, but I personally think you do not owe other people shit. Anyone, who continuously hurts you, puts you down, humiliates you or does not make you feel like the wonderful special person, every single one of us is, does not deserve to have you in your life. It may be painful at first and I for one am great at giving people one too many chances, but in the pursuit of self love you should learn to remove any form of intense negativity and hatred from your life. Most of us put ourselves down enough without additional hateful voices. You deserve to only be surrounded by loving caring people, who make you feel your best. Again I am not saying you should kick out everybody, who has some genuine critique or tries to call you out on your bullshit, but people who do not celebrate your successes, genuinely make an effort to be in your life, listen to you and make you feel loved. Selfcare also includes not letting other treat you like shit and as much as you want to forgive and care for others, you deserve people who act the same way towards you.

Toxic Behaviours you never have to accept

Sometimes it can be difficult to spot toxic behaviours. Many manipulative people have developed very crude methods to make you feel shit about yourself and it can be quite hard to spot them. Here are some things real friends or people, who love you never do:

1. Belittle you or things you are excited about

A true friend should be excited about you and the things you like. They don´t have to fully submerge in your hobbies or passions, but they should support you, listen to you when you talk about these things and especially be happy for your successes or things that make you happy. They should love you exactly how you are and remind you of why you are so great when you forget it yourself. Some mocking is fine, but if someone continously makes hurtful comments or jokes at your expense that is not okay.

2. Not listening, not being there for you, making everything about themselves

While each person in every relationship may net some extra TLC from time to time and it is unlikely attention and support will always be 50:50, if you are the only one making an effort, organising meetings or every story you tell gets cut short or regarded as irrelevant, something is wrong. If this goes on long-term you should speak out.

3. Only using you in the bad times, not being there for the good

If you are their shoulder to cry on, but never invited to the fun stuff that´s not okay either. Especially if they never listen to you, when you are sad. Some people just thrive of others while not contributing, which longterm can be intensely hurtful. Do not give those type of people your energy or time.

4. Lying, cheating, deceiving

If somebody continously or regularly lies, is dishonest or manipulates you, let them go. This behaviour is absolutely not okay, makes you question yourself and influences your sense of true and false. Over a long period of time, this can be detrimental to your mental health.

In general friends/partners/family should be loving and supportive. They should be there for you when you need them, you should be able to talk about your emotions or things that are important for you and you should feel heard. You should be able to go through hard times, but you also should have lots of fun together. It is also normal to be more or less close over time, to text more or less, to sometimes fight. But it is never okay to continously and intentionally make your friends feel like shit or like they are not great people.

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1 Kommentare

  1. Unfortunately, there are such people ... but they shouldn't have a place in our lives.
    xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena


Thanks so much for your lovely comments, constructive criticism and suggestions. I will try to answer all of you!