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This topic is adapted from the watchwellcast YouTube channel.

At some point in life we all find ourselves in a toxic relationship. This can be with a friend, significant other, or family member. Regardless of who that toxic person is, you need to reduce their power in your life or maybe even get them out of your life. Over the long-term, such people can be detrimental to your physical and mental health.

Step One: Diagnose the Relationship

The first step to getting out of a toxic relationship is to determine if that relationship really is toxic. But how are you supposed to know if someone is dragging you down? Well, just like a cold, toxic relationships come with symptoms. When you are around this person take inventory of how you feel. Do they put you down all the time? Do they get jealous when you spend time with other people in your life? Are they constantly trying to change you? Do they take more than they can give? Do they always control the things you do together? If you answered yes to most of these question, then you are probably in a toxic relationship.

Step Two: Recognize Your Role in the Relationship

To quote the movie Princess Diaries, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” You have autonomy in each of your relationships. If you have a “friend” who is making you feel bad, you need to figure out what you are doing to allow them to make you feel that way. Are you being a doormat and putting their needs above your own? If you do that, you are opening a door for them to take advantage of you.

Step Three: Start to Build Boundaries

If your friend does things like show up at your house whenever they feel like it, constantly bosses you around, or always borrows money from you, then you need to set some boundaries. Determine what they do that you would like to end. Draw a line in the sand and don’t let them cross it. If you have boundaries in place and they are aware of them but still try to push you, then it may be time to cut them out of your life. Your boundaries are in place to keep you safe and comfortable, not to please them.

Step Four: You Can’t Change Other People, but You Can Stop Being a Doormat

If you have determined that a relationship is toxic, then you have to change the way that relationship works. Start by spending less time with the person in order to detach yourself emotionally. Setting strict boundaries will hopefully help you to phase that person out of your life.

Step Five: Get a Second Opinion

If you are emotionally vulnerable, the best thing to do is surround yourself with people who love you and want to see you happy. Use them as a lifeline during this hard time.

Step Six: Look Out for Yourself

People with low self-esteem are much more likely to find themselves in toxic relationships. This is because they allow people to take advantage of them. If you love yourself, other people will see the love you deserve and will treat you with dignity, respect, and care.

[Related: What Does a Healthy Relationship Look Like?]

Cutting someone out of your life is typically never going to be a happy experience, but sometimes we get attached to people who do more harm than good.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
  2. What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
  3. Have you ever known someone who was in a toxic relationship, whether it was a friendship, romantic relationship, or family relationship? What happened?
  4. What are the telltale signs of a toxic person? Explain.
  5. What are the characteristics you have that might become toxic to other people? What can you do to keep yourself from being toxic to others?
  6. How can you help others who may be in a toxic relationship? What boundaries should you establish?
  7. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.