How to end a toxic relationship

For most of us, ending a toxic relationship isn’t the real problem. It’s removing the guilt associated with it that is.

The good news is that choosing not being around toxic people can be life changing. Suddenly, you’re free! You can breathe again. What a relief it is to not be dreading the next phone call, visit, invitation, conversation, or uncomfortable gathering.

No matter who you are, you have a right to live without fear of: disappointing, irritating, or being judged, criticized, dismissed, or taken advantage of. You are not a bad person for wanting this. Who doesn’t?

The hardest part of this process is dealing with the fallout from family, friends, or coworkers. Everyone will have an opinion, and some will tell you you’re making a bad decicision. And maybe you are.

But the thing to remember is that what’s toxic to you may not be toxic for someone else. So deciding to end a  toxic realtionship is that it’s your “bad decision,” not theirs. Only you know what being around that person feels like to you.

Your life may change for the better without this person in it, but your choice may not feel better to other people. This is especially true if the person you’re trying to get rid of is a relative who is still close with other members of your family.

So you’ll have more decisions to make. But go easy on yourself. You don’t need to make a scene or proclamation. And you don’t have to decide everything at once. Take whatever step you’re ready to take, and congratulate yourself for making progress. Freedom isn’t a light switch. It’s a lifelong process.

How do I end a toxic relationship with someone?

For most of us, ending a toxic relationship isn’t the real problem. It’s removing the guilt associated with it that is.

The good news is that choosing not being around toxic people can be life changing. Suddenly, you’re free! You can breathe again. What a relief it is to not be dreading the next phone call, visit, invitation, conversation, or uncomfortable gathering.

No matter who you are, you have a right to live without fear of: disappointing, irritating, or being judged, criticized, dismissed, or taken advantage of. You are not a bad person for wanting this. Who doesn’t?

The hardest part of this process is dealing with the fallout from family, friends, or coworkers. Everyone will have an opinion, and some will tell you you’re making a bad decicision. And maybe you are.

But the thing to remember is that it’s your “bad decision,” not theirs. Only you know what being around that person feels like to you.

Your life may change for the better without this person in it, but your choice may not feel better to other people. This is especially true if the person you’re trying to get rid of is a relative who is still close with other members of your family.

So you’ll have more decisions to make. But go easy on yourself. You don’t need to make a scene or proclamation. And you don’t have to decide everything at once. Take whatever step you’re ready to take, and congratulate yourself for making progress. Freedom isn’t a light switch. It’s a lifelong process.

Best friend has borderline personality disorder. How to stay connected?

In my experience, you can’t win with someone who has borderline personality disorder (BPD). You might start off feeling great around them, but sooner or later, they will accuse you of “offending, betraying, abandoning, or not really caring” about them. And one day, because you will tire of trying to prove yourself, you will give up. You will feel controlled, and they will feel justified for assuming the worst about you.

Understanding borderline personality disorder (BPD)

  • People with BPD aren’t crazy. They can be high-strung, thin-skinned, and self-absorbed.
  • Their reactions—while extreme to you—feel justified to them.
  • Because they feel everything—and often misinterpret what they’re experiencing—they can be difficult to reason with.
  • Things that feel innocuous or reasonable to you really can feel unbearably rude, hurtful, or painful to them.
  • Because their bodies misinterpret or exaggerate the meaning of other people’s words or actions, they are often disappointed when a relationship they thought was mutual turns out to be one-sided.
  • Their relationships tend to be voloatile, intense, and short-lived.
  • Because they feel slighted often, the people around them tend to tiptoe, give more than they receive to prove they care, and accept erratic, irrational, and seemingly crazy behavior.
  • Giving in to irrational demands for loyalty, devotion, or special treatment will eventually lead to resentment of the person you once loved.

Loving someone with BPD

It’s possible to love someone who suffers from borderline personality disorder. As long as you meet their needs, they can be delightful. But as soon as you disappoint them, watch out. You’ll find yourself scratching your head while walking on eggshells.

My advice is to tell your friend that you love her. Andthat you will honor her request for no contact. And enjoy your freedom.

Chances are that sooner or later, your friend will call you out of the blue. She won’t mention the month that’s passed since you last spoke. She won’t apologize for cutting you off, hanging up on you, or accusing you of not caring about her.

She’ll probably act like nothing happened. Then she’ll ask you if you still want to go to concert you planned to attend together.

Above all, do not bend over backwards to prove your love or give in to emotional demands for greater loyalty or special treatment. This only encourages more of the same. Instead, express love-with-limits. It’s really your only hopeof being in a successful long term relationship with someone with BPD.

Years ago, I had a client who always arrived late and wouldn’t leave at the end of her session. When I mentioned this pattern, she blew up. She accused me of “faking it all along.” She told me I had misled her into thinking she was special.

“If I didn’t know it before,” she said, “I know it now. All I am to you is a paycheck!”

In her mind this made perfect sense. If she arrived late and I gave her extra time, this would prove she was special. The truth was that if I gave her extra time, it would mean that my next client would be kept waiting. Not only would this be disrespectful of their time. It would mean that everyone would have to start late, and I would be running over for the rest of the day.

Over time, if you give in to irrational expectations they will continue. Sooner or later, you will start to pull away. And your friend will be right. You’ll go from being the “only one who cares,” to being “just like everybody else.”

You’ll be the latest in the string of people who have “stopped caring” and really are trying to avoid her.

Tricky Tuesday: How to communicate with someone who won’t talk to you

Weekly lesson in how to deliver hard messages

Today’s Tricky Tuesday is about breaking through the silence when someone you care about is unwilling or unable to talk to you.

First off, you must understand the distinction between those two states—unwilling or unable. While the two may exist at the same time, they don’t necessarily.

You must understand the distinction between unwilling and unable. While the two may exist at the same time, they don’t necessarily.

Unwilling can mean many things:

  • I’m hiding something.
  • I’m afraid of your reaction.
  • I’m ashamed of something I did.
  • I’m stalling for time to come up with an alibi or excuse.
  • I’m showing you how it feels to be shut out.
  • I’m trying to guilt you into doing something you forgot to do, or don’t want to do.
  • I want you to suffer.
  • I’m trying to make you think I know more than I do about something you did (so you’ll confess).
  • I’m actually protecting you by not saying what I’d like to say right now.
  • I need to focus on another task or issue that can’t wait.
  • I refuse to talk about this with others present.
  • I don’t feel safe or equipped to talk about this topic, except in therapy.

Unable can mean something very different:

  • I’m over-stimulated right now and my brain isn’t working well enough to talk.
  • I’m not sure what I’m feeling because my body is flooded with multiple feelings at once.
  • I can’t find the right words.
  • I need more time to process what I’m feeling.
  • I can’t be pressured into talking.
  • I’m too tired.
  • I need to better-rested before we have this conversation.
  • You always interrupt me or tell me what I should be thinking or doing, so I can’t get my thoughts out.

 The situation

Ben and Joel have adopted a child. Initially, they were thrilled, but for the past few days, something hasn’t felt right.  Ben came home from work Friday, agitated. He barely acknowledged Joel or the baby the entire weekend.

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Before the baby came, the couple had agreed: Ben would keep working as a teacher, and Joel would take unpaid leave from work to stay home with their new baby. Then, once school was out, Ben would take over for the summer and Joel would go back to work.

The silence was deafening.  Joel knew something was wrong, but Ben refused to talk and insisted everything was fine. The truth was, Ben had lost his temper with a student who made an offensive joke about gays.  Witnesses saw Ben chase the boy down the hall and shove him against a locker.  Ben was fired.

There is nothing unusual about this kind of problem. When shame takes over, it becomes painful–if not impossible—to speak about it.

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The Talk to Me, Already!  card was designed to give the person who’s feeling shut out a way to connect with the person unwilling or unable to speak. It allows the Sender to express their hurt, anger, suspicions, or fears from a distance when the person in the room is unresponsive. Below is an example of screenshots I took of an Express Yourself ECard Joel might have written to Ben. The remaining checklists (not visible on the first screenshot) give Joel a chance to express both his hurt and his love for Ben, as well as his desire to know the truth so he can be part of whatever solution they need to come up with as a couple. The beauty of the cards is that they can be sent from a distance to anyone’s phone (even if they have an android) or tablet, since the link appears in an email.

TT Cropped tightly Oct 11 Talk to me double