4 Steps to Ending a Toxic Relationship

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Toxic Relationships… I’ve had my fair share of them and have been fortunate enough to get out. I want to use my experience to help you make a clean break if you’re ready.  

They can be really hard to let go of. We’ve all been there. But how do we end them? 

Well before we go into the how, I want to be clear on my definition of a toxic relationship.

I see toxic relationships as any relationship that gets in the way of the following: 

Your relationship with God

Your career or calling

Your health

Your destiny

You know what it looks like. You’re losing sleep, you’re crying all of the time, you’re losing weight, you’re unhappy, you pray less, you’re anxious and you start to lose your function. You’re fearful of losing them, you spend more energy trying to keep them happy so that your fears don’t come true and because of it you are incapable of focusing on what’s important (i.e., your relationship with God, your career and calling, your health and your destiny).

The people in your life are supposed to add value in these areas, not take it way. So if they are interfering in any of these ways, it is time for them to go. It is not worth it. And if allowed to fester, it will ultimately destroy you.

This can happen in romantic relationships, friendships, professional and family connections alike.

The following steps will help you eliminate the toxicity.

Step 1: Write a List

Write a list of the people you feel you may need to cut off.

Here’s some suggestions on how to develop the list.

Anyone who repeatedly makes you feel like you’re less than you are

Anyone who causes you to doubt your gifts or calling

Anyone who makes you feel less than beautiful or makes you feel insecure

The people connected to them that do the same

Whoever comes to mind. Just write them down.

Then I want you to take a moment and imagine yourself 5 years from now living the life you want. Who’s there? Are these people there? Did they help or hinder you getting there? Dream for a bout 45 seconds or longer about where you see yourself.

Anyone that is standing in the way of your destiny has simply got to go.

What you choose to do with the rest on the list is up to you. Maybe you realize, they are a nuisance, but it isn’t actually necessary to cut them completely out of your life. Maybe you just need to have a conversation with them to air your grievances and move past them. Maybe you just decide you want to distance yourself and limit their access to reduce the amount of agitation. They may not be toxic enough to be getting the axe. But do take action in the form of a conversation or some distancing.

Step 2: Send a Text

So after you’ve decided who’s getting the X, it’s time to commit with a text. (Bars!)

You’re going to send one of two texts.

If you’re confident it’s time, and you don’t think it’s worth a face-to-face conversation, then prepare to send a text and skip to Step 3.

Particularly if it was a romantic one, one that has lasted longer than 3 months, and one where you do not feel like your physical safety is at risk, then consider doing it in person. 

Additionally, for those on the list who you still see on a regular basis… maybe they go to your church or school, they’re a coworker, roommates,  or family, it may be inappropriate in these cases to do it by text. So strongly consider a face-to-face interaction.

In these cases, your text should read, “Hey, when do you have time to meet in person.” And schedule the time to meet up.

Step 3: The Conversation

Now here’s how the conversation (or text) should go. Many people stay in relationship with toxic people because they do not know how to approach the conversation. Here’s a template to make it simple and effective.

First, start by thanking them for what you’ve gained by being in relationship with them.

-Maybe it’s that you’ve learned a lot about yourself and your needs by being in this process with them.

-Whatever you can think of to show gratitude. Because everything has a purpose and all things work together to make us better and for our good.

Second, you want to get to the point. What are you saying?

-I often do this in coaching or when having a challenging conversation with someone who is dancing around the point. 

-A lot of the times when we are afraid of a reaction or how they will take it we hesitate and start to ramble. This makes things more uncomfortable than they make them better. 

-So just get to the point.

Thank you… but it is not in our best interest to remain friends…

Thank you… but I cannot continue to be in this level of relationship with you… 

And the third part is where you explain why.

-You cannot make this about them

-Simply explain to them how their actions made you feel, where you are in the process of your journey, and what you are doing and adjusts you are making to best continue on that journey

-This is not about them, it’s about you and what you need to do to protect you.

-Use I statements and as much as possible avoid using “You” statements the way that I did in the last few moments.

Lastly, I want you to end with what you wish for them. Send them off well. This does not have to end in violence. It can end amicably. 

Wish them well on their journey. That they would find who is right for them, or that they would get healing too if they’ve been vulnerable enough to share that they need it, or whatever your wish is for them. And do not make it snarky. In fact, you should not be having this conversation if there is even remotely one single snarky bone in your body. 🙂

So that’s it for the conversation: 

  1. Thank them, 
  2. Tell them what, 
  3. Tell them why, 
  4. Wish them well. 

That’s all.

And then the final step, is this…

Step 4: Close the Door

That’s it. You’re free. If you need to put them on block so that you no longer have to see the hurtful things they send, or you want to eliminate their ability to contact you, do that. Close the door on them.

Whatever closing the door looks like for you. Close it. If you have to leave the conversation and sit with the pain of the loss and mentally envision them leaving and you closing the door or you leaving and shutting the door behind you, do something that allows you to feel the finality of it. It is so important that you grieve and go through this process if you want it to be final.

Now what happens if after the conversation, you choose not to remove them from your life and block them? Maybe they showed up to the conversation a new person with a different attitude and were very apologetic. That is very possible. But that does not mean that they deserve to continue to hold the same place in your life. After all, people put on shows in interviews all the time to get the job. You are the CEO of your own life, hire, fire and promote, accordingly.

You may decide to give another chance but they do not get to continue to fill the same space in your life they once did. If he cheated on you repeatedly, and you decided not to drop him, then he needs to at least drop to a lesser position in your life and work his way back up. Fellas, if you do choose to keep her, at least give her a different position until she’s earned it. If they are family and you found out they’ve betrayed you to others on numerous occasions after being confronted, they do not get to play the same role in your life or have the same access. 

What’s toxic is allowing them to refill the space they’ve already told you they are incapable of filling. 

They can start back over from the bottom and work they’re way up. And if they are not willing to, then so be it. God will send you a better replacement. 

I hope this was helpful. Let me know in the comments what other steps work for you. If you have the courage to lay the axe, message me and let me know how it goes.

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