Romantic relationships are not the only ones that can be toxic. Friendships, mother-daughter, and sibling relationships can all be toxic. You can even have toxic relationships with coworkers. If someone is consistently bringing you down and making you feel less than, there’s a good chance that they are a toxic person, and therefore your relationship with them is toxic.
If you’ve realized that choosing to forgive toxic individuals can change your life for the better, continue reading to discover an effective guide to forgiving toxic individuals.
Toxic Behavior: Signs of a Toxic Person
Dealing with a toxic person is both difficult and draining. Even if you don’t know a toxic person now, or don’t think you do, you are bound to know one sometime. The best way to defend yourself against a toxic person is to know the toxic personality traits. Once you can identify toxic behavior, you’ll be able to avoid having them in your life.
Types of Toxic People
Unsupportive, draining, difficult people are one of the biggest challenges in life. And, being around them often is no fun. In order to keep toxic people out of your life, look out for these seven signs of toxic people.
Conversational Narcissism Personality Type
You know that person who keeps on interrupting you when you talk? Or the one who never lets you get a word in edgewise. It’s hard to complete a sentence or even a thought around this type of toxic person.
This is the conversational narcissist. They love to talk about themselves. Or maybe just to hear themselves talk. They don’t ask questions, they probably aren’t even listening to what you are saying, just waiting until you stop talking so they can say what they want. And, they won’t stop talking.
If you are in a relationship with a conversational narcissist, they will be completely self-centered, and they will never understand or be aware of your needs.
Strait-Jacket Personality Type
Sometimes known as the compulsive personality type, the straight jacket personality type wants to control everyone and everything around them. And that includes you. What you do, what you say, and what you think. You know this person. They go off the rails when you disagree with them, and won’t stop until you agree that they are right.
If you are in a relationship with the straight jacket personality type, they will give you no space of your own and will continuously pick at you until you agree with them on everything. They will try to own your emotions, conversations, and mental freedom until there is nothing left of you.
Emotional Moocher Personality Type
Emotional moochers are sometimes called spiritual vampires, because they can suck the positivity right out of you, leaving you emotionally drained. This type of toxic person always has something pessimistic, negative, or sad to say. They can never see the bright side of any situation, and worse, they usually bring everyone else down with them.
If you are in a relationship with someone who never has anything good to say whenever you see them, be careful. It is more likely to get worse than better.
Drama Magnet Personality Type
Do you know someone who is a magnet for drama? Something always goes wrong, it only rains on their side of the street, and so on. And once the problem is fixed, something else goes wrong. To make matters worse, they don’t really want to fix the problem, whatever it is. They don’t want your advice, just your sympathy, empathy, and support that they have the worst luck ever. Your offer of help and solutions are rebuffed. Instead, they continually carp and complain.
A relationship with a drama magnet will be filled with crisis after crisis because that’s how they define themselves. Be careful, you may become a part of the drama.
Jealous-Judgmental Toxic Person
The jealous-judgmental toxic person, otherwise known as a JJ, is super toxic because they have so much self-hate inside them that they find it impossible to be happy for anyone. Generally, their jealousy shows up as judgment, gossip, or criticism. The JJ thinks everyone but themselves is uncool, awful, or inferior in some way. If you know someone who regularly gossips jealously about others, be on your guard. They might be a toxic person, and you can be sure they are gossiping about you behind your back.
Fibber Toxic Person
Whatever you call them—exaggerators, liars, fibbers—this type of toxic person is exhausting to be around. Whether it’s slight exaggerations, little falsehoods, stretching the truth, or outright major lies, you just can’t trust a fibber in a relationship. Honesty is the cornerstone of every relationship, dishonesty exhausts us because we are always doubting what a fibber says. If your inner lie detector is going off, pay attention to your instincts, and get out.
Tank Toxic Person
This type of toxic person is just like what it sounds like: a tank. They crush everything in their path. They think they are always right, and they don’t take anyone else’s ideas or feelings into account. They are super arrogant and consider their opinions facts. They usually think they are the smartest person in the room, and rarely see others as equals. This can be challenging in a relationship. If you feel like you are not being respected and your ideas are not being listened to, you may be in a relationship with a tank.
How to Forgive People
We all know the saying, “Forgive and Forget.” If only it were that easy. At first, it may be challenging to figure out which is easier, forgiving or forgetting. But, over time, you may wish to forgive a toxic person who has wronged you, not for their sake but for yours. You may never forget what they’ve done, but by letting go of your anger around it and forgiving them, you can move past the pain. You can learn to forgive toxic people.
You will have to wait until you are no longer angry to start to forgive someone. Feelings of anger are normal in these situations. But, it does not serve you in the long run. In fact, this is one of the ways to release the anger from the situation. When you notice your anger over someone else’s actions, pause and acknowledge your feelings. You have every right to feel anger. But then ask yourself if focusing on your anger will help you in the long run?
Forgiveness doesn’t mean you are okay with whatever happens. It doesn’t mean you excuse it. It just means you are not letting it take over your life. This is why forgiveness doesn’t mean you will or want to reconcile with the person who did you wrong. You may, or you may not. It’s your choice.
Also, know that forgiveness is not a feeling. We often don’t have direct control of our feelings, especially when someone has seriously wronged us. But we can control our actions. By forgiving someone, you’re choosing not to let someone else’s actions dominate your life.
Although everyone’s path to forgiving someone is their own, there are some commonalities in the process of forgiving.
Forgive Yourself, Too
The majority of us tend to be harder on ourselves than we are on others. If you are feeling unlovable because of actions you’ve taken, you may need to forgive yourself as well. We often beat ourselves up about not getting out of a toxic relationship sooner, letting someone take advantage of us, and so on.
To forgive yourself, you honor and accept yourself as a person, no matter if you are imperfect, as we all are. If you’ve broken your personal standards in a significant way, you may hate yourself for it. If this happens, you may stop taking care of yourself, you might oversleep, overeat, or stop exercising. If you are beating yourself up about past actions, begin to show yourself some compassion. Soften your heart toward yourself. This can also help you start the process of forgiving others.
Realize Their Behavior is a Reflection of Their Own Issues
Instead of assuming that the way that a toxic individual such as a family member or friend treats you is unique, try to realize that the toxic individual mentioned will treat everyone the same way. Remember that it’s impossible to please an individual who treats yourself and others poorly, due to their own insecurities. As an example, if a family member constantly belittles you and makes snide comments about your life or your appearance, it’s very likely that they’re un-happy with their own appearance or life and are simply picking on you to validate their negative thoughts about life. Once you realize that the way that toxic individuals treat people is a direct reflection on their own emotional state, you can start to forgive them for their actions.
Try to Have Empathy for the Individuals Who Treat You Unfairly
Once you’ve accepted that an individual treats you poorly due to their own emotional state, you may find yourself having genuine empathy for them. As an example, reusing the example of a family member who belittles you, once you start to have empathy for them you may be able to rationalize why they act so cruelly towards you. Perhaps they were raised by parents who constantly belittled them and withheld their love, or they may have had a difficult upbringing and may feel that the world is not on their side. You may even discover that an individual may act like a bully due to a mental illness. Once you start thinking about the possible reasons why a toxic individual may act the way that they do, it will be far easier to forgive them and to move on with your life.
Limit the Time That You Spend with Toxic Individuals
Just because you’re ready to forgive an individual for their treatment, doesn’t mean that you should feel obligated to continue spending the same amount of time with them. In fact, if the individual in question isn’t an immediate family member or a childhood friend, you may want to consider cutting off all contact with them. In an ideal situation, you should seek to surround yourself with positive, supportive influences. However, if the toxic individual in question is a close relative or friend, you may find it easier to forgive them for their behavior by spending less time with them. After all, if you only see a toxic individual once in a blue moon, their hurtful behavior or words will have far less impact on your life, than if you were to spend time with them every week. You may even find that their behavior towards you improves as a result of only seeing you from time to time. As most individuals find it far easier to bully or berate people who they feel close to or see on a daily basis.
Whether the toxic person is a family member, coworker, or someone you rarely see anymore, setting boundaries can keep you from letting them back into your life. This is especially important if you are still working on forgiving them for something, or just don’t want to be pulled back into their orbit.
Toxic people tend to be manipulative and draining, exhausting all your inner resources by continually pushing your buttons.
Give some serious consideration to what you will and will not tolerate from everyone in your life: family, partners, colleagues, and friends. This will give you a way to measure other people’s actions. If you get the sense that something is “off” in your interactions with someone, go through your mental checklist, and enforce the boundaries you have set for yourself.
This may be the most difficult part, as toxic people do their best to worm their way back into your life. They will take advantage of any perceived weakness to get back in. If you decided not to respond to their emails, phone calls, and texts, then don’t. These days, it’s pretty simple to block someone’s number and unfriend or block them on social media. Stick to it. Don’t check in six or eight months from now, or even a year. Once you’ve made the decision to cut ties, stick to it. It may be difficult at first, but you’ll get stronger and feel better over time.
Know When It’s Time to Let Go of Someone
Knowing when to let go is one of the most difficult things to figure out. These situations are emotion-filled, and that makes it even harder. Feelings cloud the issue, and it is easy to remember all the good times or talk yourself into thinking they will change. Because there were most likely some good times, and it’s hard to give up on relationships. Should you let go? How do you know?
If you let them, toxic people will keep coming back, so if you decide to let them go, make sure you mean it and are ready to make it permanent. Here are some signs to look out for to know that it’s time.
You’re Expected to Turn into Someone You’re Not
Fundamentally, your personal values are what make you who you are. If your friend or partner forces you to be someone you are uncomfortable with, it’s time to let them go. You may never truly be able to do it, and you will probably not be happy.
They Keep Breaking Your Trust
If your partner or friend consistently hurts you, neglects or negates your feelings, and doesn’t keep their word, it’s time to think about letting them go. The more they hurt you, the more they think they can, without consequences.
Staying Makes You Feel Depressed, Frustrated, and Broken
You may begin to wonder why you are staying, you feel depressed, sad, or broken. Maybe you cry for no reason. All these are signs that it might be time to think about letting go.
You Lose Your Self-Worth
You never seem to feel good anymore, and you feel unappreciated and taken for granted. Maybe you feel like nothing you do is right. When it seems like you are the one doing all the relationship “work,” it’s time to let go.
You Make Up Reasons to Stay
If you keep making excuses for the little hurts, “They’re so busy” or “They forgot” when you know that isn’t the case, really listen to what you are saying and the excuses you are making. Do you believe what you are saying to yourself? If the answer is no, then it’s time.
You Can’t Remember When You Were Happy
You can’t remember when you were satisfied, content, and comfortable with yourself. You can’t remember when you were happy. If you really can’t remember, it may be time to let go.
You Are Always Making Sacrifices
You are making sacrifices, and they are not. It’s that simple, are you the one who always gives more time, more effort, more feelings? If you answered yes, then you should reevaluate and consider letting go of the relationship.
You Can’t Express Yourself
If you notice that your opinions and ideas are ignored, or treated as if they were trivial, and you just stop expressing yourself, it’s time to reevaluate.
You Avoid Your Feelings
You don’t want to think about what might be going on or what might be going wrong. You try to convince yourself that everything is okay or will be okay.
Words and Actions Don’t Match Up
If the person you are dealing with has a way with words, it’s easy to be taken in. If you start to notice that their words and actions don’t match up, it’s usually a bad sign. If they say one thing but do another, let go.
You’ve Given It Your Best Effort
When you’ve done everything you can, when you realize they will never change, when you realize that you can’t be happy with them, it’s time.
What If Your Family Members Are Toxic?
When the toxic person in your life is a relative, things can get a little complicated. While there are no easy answers to how to do this, getting rid of a toxic family member might be the most important thing you can do for yourself. Family has that special way of pushing your buttons more often and harder than anyone else.
When the toxic person is a family member, it can be harder, and sometimes impossible to make a clean break. Creating and keeping distance between you and a toxic family member is probably your best move. This distance can be emotional or physical. This is part of learning how to deal with family members that disrespect you.
You can still set clear limits for how and when you want to interact with them. For example, you may decide you will only speak once a month, or only see each other at family holidays and other family events.
You May Have to Interact with a Toxic Person Sometimes
Recognize that even if you distance yourself emotionally, you may still have to interact with this person sometimes. You may see them at holiday dinners and events, or you may end up sharing the responsibilities of caring for a parent. You may need to disengage your physical involvement from your emotional involvement. It’s not always easy, but in these situations, with practice, you can learn to focus only on what you need to do without having to deal with an emotional web of toxicity.
The critical thing with family is to make careful and rational, calm decisions. How you handle a toxic family member can affect your relationship with other members of your family. Consider what resistance you may get from other family members. How will you handle the holidays? Is it realistic to think you can cut them out of your life completely? The answers to these questions may make a difference in your approach. It is important to consider the dynamics of the situation and what might happen before you make your decision.
Can You Fix a Toxic Person?
You cannot fix toxic people in your life, although you may want to try. But, it is impossible to control another person’s behavior, as hard as we may try. The best you can do is be an example through your actions. If you set an example for the people around you, they may decide to become more like you. But, there is no guarantee that they will. Therefore, your focus should be on yourself and not on fixing someone else, whether they be a toxic husband, wife, or partner, or even toxic siblings.
How to Get Out of a Toxic Relationship
Recognizing when to leave a relationship is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Relationships often consume a lot of our emotional and mental space, and when they go wrong, it can be painful. If you’ve gone through the steps above and you think your relationship could be toxic, there are steps you can take to get out of it.
1. Don’t Expect Them to Change
Moving past a toxic relationship requires you to truly accept that you cannot force toxic people to change. They may say they will change, and they may even try. Or you may convince yourself that you are the one who can “fix” them, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Toxic people are motivated by their own needs and complex problems. Sadly, this often means they are not motivated by their relationship with you, or even what is good for them. When you let go of the desire or need to change them, it becomes that much easier to let them go.
2. Cut Off Communication
Staying in communication with a toxic person can prolong your healing process. If the toxic person is someone you have to deal with, this can be difficult. If there are children involved or the toxic person is a family member, for example.
In these cases, keep your communication minimal and direct—discuss what you need to, and nothing else. You may, after some time has gone by, and you both heal, have a more cordial relationship. But just after a breakup, don’t expect to be friends and keep contact minimal.
3. Take Time to Heal
Focus on spending time with people who love you and who support you. Pets are great for this, they offer a good model of unconditional love and help relieve loneliness. They can also keep you moving and meeting others.
4. Don’t Get Sucked into the Drama
Toxic people are almost always surrounded by drama. They often create the drama. They make you feel like they need you because they are almost always on the verge of crisis. The important thing to know is that they make their own crises, and can get out of them if they wish to. They often create drama to get attention, so remember this the next time they try to pull you in. You might feel bad about it, but remember that you are dealing with someone who is really in distress.
5. Focus on the Solution
Even as you get them out of your life, toxic people give you a lot of reasons to be angry or sad. If you focus on these things, you’ll remain miserable and frustrated, even as you eject that person from your social circle.
Rather, turn your focus on the fact that you are getting rid of something in your life that is bringing you down and maybe even holding you back from your dreams. If you focus on figuring out a toxic husband or partner’s negative behavior, they’ll continue to drain all your energy, even when they are no longer active in your life.
6. Do a Personal Inventory
When in a toxic relationship, no matter what kind, you may notice how the other person exploits your flaws. They seem to be experts at finding ways to use your flaws against you. You can drastically reduce the likelihood of them doing this by taking a self-inventory and getting to know yourself better, and accepting your weaknesses while trying to strengthen them.
During your self-inventory, balance your weaknesses against your strengths, everyone has both. This can help you see that you are a good person, and it can inspire you to take steps toward self-improvement. That way, you can protect yourself when a toxic person tries to use your weaknesses against you, and you won’t be easily manipulated.
7. Understand Projection
Part of getting toxic people out of your life includes reducing their ability to manipulate your emotions. That requires realizing that they’re not really seeing you when they hurt you. What they are actually doing is projecting onto you their toxic personality traits that they don’t want to acknowledge or accept. In this way, they pour their self-hatred into attacking you. Their cruel behavior is a way for them to avoid the truth about themselves.
8. Understand They May Resist
Don’t expect a toxic person to give up without a fight. They may put up a fight and throw a tantrum when you ignore them. This is generally because they can no longer manipulate or control you. This is what makes dealing with a toxic personality so difficult. At first, they are likely to increase their tactics, but eventually, they will accept you have let them go and find someone else to meet their needs.
Don’t cave when their behavior escalates. Instead, remember that this is someone who hurt you and that you’re showing them that their old ways no longer work.
9. Pick Your Battles Wisely
Pick your battles wisely. A conflict with a toxic person uses up a lot of energy and wastes a lot of time. If you can ignore the toxic person completely, that is ideal. However, if you must have contact with them, keep in mind that you don’t need to be a part of every fight they may try to instigate. Save your energy for taking care of yourself and for building relationships that are healthy and good for you.
10. Surround Yourself with Healthy Relationships
Letting go of someone toxic can be deeply painful, as you may still care for them. Or, you may remember how much you once cared for them. To cope with any sadness and maintain your resilience, stay close with people who make you feel cherished, safe, valued, and happy. This will remind you why you are choosing to get out of a toxic relationship.
After You Leave the Relationship
Be wary of toxic relationships becoming a pattern for future ones. We are often drawn to the same type of people, and so you may repeat the pattern without realizing it at first. Know the signs and keep them handy. Letting go of toxic relationships is not only courageous, but it also benefits your well-being so you can find a healthier relationship in the future.
For more ideas on self-care, visit our 101 self-care guide.