Knowing When It’s Time to Say Goodbye to a Toxic Relationship

Many people have the unfortunate experience of finding themselves in a toxic relationship. If your first thought is, Oh, not me. I’ve had good luck with the partners I’ve had in my life. That’s awesome. But take a look at the other relationships – both past and current – in your life. Toxic relationships are not just reserved for romantic relationships. You might have a toxic friendship or even a toxic relationship with a family member. When you realize you are involved in a toxic relationship, it is important to know when to walk away. 

What is a Toxic Relationship?

What does it mean to say you are in a toxic relationship? Sometimes the first signs that alert you when a relationship isn’t healthy for you is that you always feel drained, stressed, or unhappy after spending time with or talking to that person, whether it is your partner, a friend, or a family member. Most often this is something that happens over time. While at some point you enjoyed being around this person, that joy eventually changed into something far from it. If things go on long enough, you may eventually even dread the thought of seeing or talking to them. 

Not all toxic relationships look the same. Depending on your exact situation, the signs may be really obvious but they could very possibly be subtle as well. Some people might see red flags constantly while someone else might struggle to define their situation as toxic. Whether obvious or subtle there are some signs you can look for if you have concerns. 

READ MORE: 10 WAY TO KEEP LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIPS WITH FRIENDS GOING STRONG

1. Unsupported

In a toxic relationship, you don’t feel like this person supports or encourages you and the things that are important to you. They don’t show up for you when it is important. You get the feeling that your needs and interests don’t matter to them. They expect you to show up for and care about their needs and what is important for them though, making it clear that they are only concerned about what they want. 

Because of this, you find yourself going along with whatever this person wants, even when it goes against your wants, needs, or comfort level because it is easier than starting an argument. 

Knowing When It’s Time To Say Goodbye To A Toxic Relationship

2. Lack of Kindness 

Interactions with a person in a toxic relationship lack kindness. They may make hurtful remarks or often respond to you sarcastically. When the overwhelming majority of your interactions with a person leave you feeling down about yourself, that’s a good sign that you’re dealing with a toxic relationship. 

READ MORE: COMMUNITY MENTAL HEALTH – MEN ARE IN CRISIS

3. Disrespect 

Beyond being unkind, a toxic relationship will leave you feeling like that person doesn’t respect your time or your feelings. Maybe they show up late when they are supposed to meet you or they don’t show up at all. They are slow to return your calls or respond to texts. They might disparage things that they know you care about or like. They might refuse to do tasks you asked them to take care of or they refuse to do things other than their own way. 

4. Dishonesty

A toxic relationship is full of secrets and dishonesty. It could be that you or the other person in the relationship lie about where you are, what you are doing, or who you are with to avoid arguments or because you don’t want to spend time with them. You might keep things from them because you know they won’t support you or you’ll end up feeling down about something you were really excited about after telling them about it because they’ll make it feel trivial or won’t care about it. 

Knowing When It’s Time To Say Goodbye To A Toxic Relationship

5. One-sided

Ultimately, a toxic relationship will eventually feel one-sided. They expect everything from you and give nothing in return. You end up giving so much of yourself until there is nothing left to give. Often, that is when you realize the relationship is toxic because you take a step back and are able to think, wait a minute…I’m the only one here putting effort into this.

All of these things end up making you feel stressed out, anxious, and unhappy. Again, these traits of a toxic relationship can show up in any kind of relationship. You may have a friend who cares nothing about your interests and always talks about themself. Maybe your mom always seems to put you down when you bring up things that are going on in your life or think you are wasting your time doing certain things you enjoy. And of course, you can be in a romantic relationship that is not good for you. 

READ MORE: MARRIAGE PROBLEMS: THE CRAZY UPS AND DOWNS OF REAL LIFE

When is it Time to Walk Away?

When you realize that you are in a toxic relationship, you have to decide what you are going to do about it. You can continue on in the toxic relationship with no changes but that is an unhealthy situation that is just going to continue to wear you down and stress you out. It will likely only get worse and the relationship will deteriorate to a point where you will resent or completely dislike the other person. 

We tend to do this with family members because we feel like that’s “just the way they are” and assume nothing will ever change. It may also be because if you were raised in a family where the relationship dynamic was toxic, by the time you become an adult and see the relationship for what it is, you know that your parent or other relative is quite unlikely to change their behavior. 

Knowing When It’s Time To Say Goodbye To A Toxic Relationship

The next option is to try fixing and repairing the relationship. In some cases, you might feel like you can talk to that person about how they are making you feel. A toxic relationship can be the result of unresolved issues in that relationship that you have never talked through or can be due to issues one or both of you are carrying over from previous relationships.

In cases where you 1) want to try saving the relationship and 2) feel like you can sit down and talk to the other person, it is worth trying to have a conversation about how certain things about this relationship make you feel. It is worth trying to talk with someone even when you are unsure whether or not it will change anything. It may not make any difference, but the worst thing that could happen is that they dismiss your concerns, which tells you that maybe it’s time to walk away from that person.

READ MORE: 9 HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP SIGNS THAT SHOW YOU AND YOUR PARTNER ARE MEANT TO BE

If the two of you decide to work on your relationship, be careful not to dwell on past mistakes. While it is important to address your problems so that they don’t continue into the future, constantly dwelling on and bringing up past missteps will only turn into resentment and frustration, which is likely to lead you right back to where you started. It is also important to remember that a relationship involves two people and to look at how you could have contributed to the state of your relationship being what it is. By no means should you take the blame for everything, but be honest with yourself about how you got to where you are.

Knowing When It’s Time To Say Goodbye To A Toxic Relationship

If you try to repair your toxic relationship and it doesn’t work or you decide that it is either not worth saving or that it is not good for your mental well-being to stay in the relationship, then it is time to walk away. This can be hard under any circumstances, even when you know it’s for the best. 

Just because you see that a relationship is toxic and decide to walk away from it, doesn’t mean it is an easy decision or that you won’t mourn the loss of that person. Some toxic relationships – like when it involves a parent or other family member – are especially hard to walk away from because it involves disassociating yourself from someone who you probably never saw yourself not speaking to again.

READ MORE: DATING LIFE AFTER THE DIVORCE: WHY IT’S EASIER TO FIND A PARTNER THAN YOU MIGHT THINK

With friends and especially with family members, it can be difficult to end that relationship and remove that person from your life. If your parents are the problem and you have siblings who have a better relationship with them for instance, you may not be able to completely cut off that toxic relationship with your parents. Or maybe the toxic relationship is with a friend who is part of a larger friend group and you can’t exactly cut them out of your life without cutting out all the rest of your friends. 

In those types of cases, start by doing what you can to decrease your interactions with the toxic person or people. You don’t have to spend excessive amounts of time with your parents for instance if they are the toxic relationship and you can’t completely walk away. See them on holidays. Keep your distance when you can and protect the things that are important to you. Don’t let them rain on your parade! The same goes with a toxic friend. If one friend is the issue, limit the times you hang out with that group and keep your interactions with that toxic person to a minimum. 

Knowing When It’s Time To Say Goodbye To A Toxic Relationship

Trust yourself and your instincts. Too often we ignore that voice inside that is telling us to walk away from something because we either don’t trust ourselves or because it is going to be hard. You know what’s the right thing to do. Trust yourself and move forward with what you know is best for you. 


No matter the situation, be sure to get support when leaving a toxic relationship. That can come from a therapist or from your family and friends. Make sure you have people around you to offer emotional support or even other functional support like a place to stay or help moving out of your partner’s house. Finally, always be sure that you are taking care of yourself. Leaving a relationship can be hard. Leaving a toxic relationship, especially if it is a long-standing relationship like with a family member, can be even harder. Listen to your body. Make sure you practice self-care. And above all, be kind to yourself.


WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out How to Be More Self-Assured and Stop Apologizing All the Time for more advice, tips, and tricks.


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Knowing When It’s Time To Say Goodbye To A Toxic Relationship

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Michelle Frick
Michelle Frick
Born in Massachusetts, Michelle currently lives in North Carolina. She has two teenage boys who are growing up way too fast. Besides her love of writing, she enjoys running, practicing yoga, watching hockey, and cheering on the Boston Red Sox.
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