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Ending Toxic Relationships

by Emily Somma


Photo by Alex Green from Pexels


Real-world relationships are not nearly as ideal as the ones we create in our minds; it is much unlike the gallant handsome man who will buy you every flower in the flower shop or characters we see in our favorite rom-coms—in the real world people have less than ideal problems and habits that can prevent a relationship from becoming everything that it could be. No matter how things are in the beginning, as time passes and you and your partner become more interconnected, your feelings and perceptions about one another may change. If your values aren't compatible, if one of you is more committed to the relationship than the other, or if one of you is more self-centered than the other, the ingredients are there for a relationship to turn toxic. This doesn't apply only to romantic relationships.

Toxic relationships happen between parents and their children, between bosses and their employees, between coworkers, siblings, and even between friends. Toxic relationships are not limited to women's dealings with men, or with other women depending on their sexual orientation. Both genders and all sexual orientations are fair game for a relationship to turn toxic. Gender and sexual orientation do not make us immune from being a jerk. If it turns out the person you're with is a jerk, walking away can still be hard. For richer or poorer, for better or worse, regardless of your age, your heritage, or how much money you make, across every gender and sexual orientation, we are social creatures. And, because we're social, the thought of being alone can be a scary proposition. Even the most self-contained people among us, the introverts and loners crave affection and contact with other humans. But when a relationship turns toxic, sometimes for your sanity, your safety, and your health the very best thing you can do for yourself, is ending toxic relationships.

In her book titled Becoming Toxic Person Proof, best-selling author, and Toxic Relationship Specialist, Sarah K. Ramsey, describes a toxic relationship as one where the parties play by two sets of rules, and one of them always ends up with the short end of the deal. Simplistic as her definition is, it technically does cover all toxic relationships. However, what it doesn't take into consideration, is that toxic people are as different from one another as night is from the day. Some toxic people will hurt and confuse you, maybe play you, and use you, but they aren't an actual physical danger to you. Others are downright dangerous. Base your escape plan for leaving on whether you believe that person is dangerous. As the Office on Women’s Health explains, if you're in a violent and dangerous relationship, having a safety plan in place can help get you out alive.


Toxic relationships are an unhealthy place to be. Staying with a toxic partner can cause you to become anxious and depressed, socially and emotionally isolated, and make you more prone to physical ailments. It can also lead you to suicidal thoughts and actions. This does not even take into account the physical and emotional harm you can experience at the hands of a toxic partner.

  • There may be some toxic relationships, such as your relationship with your father, wherein because you're related you may decide it's better not to cut them out of your life altogether, but instead learn to set boundaries with them.

  • If the toxic person is the father of your children, you might be tempted to stay for the sake of your children. But, in the long-term, your children will suffer more if you stay.

Nobody knows your relationship better than you. You're the one that needs to evaluate it and make your decisions based on what you believe is best.

Now that we've talked a bit about toxic relationships and why it's sometimes necessary to leave them, we're going to look at a couple of modern-day phenomena around toxic relationships that you may find yourself dealing with.


One example of a toxic situation you should quickly remove yourself from happens when a friend or perhaps someone you've had a brief romantic involvement with ghosts you. They don't return your calls or answer your messages. You post a photo on Facebook or Instagram that perhaps shows you having fun. And, out-of-the-blue, they click the like button on it. This is called orbiting. It’s a mind game. If you show the orbiter you're not interested in playing with them, they will quickly move on. Just hit block or unfollow. If you play the game, they’ll come back into your life when it suits them, and then ghost you all over again.


These days we use the term toxic relationship to give a name to many different levels of relationship distress. From the issue of a toxic parent, or a brief romantic encounter that orbits you, now we’re at the other end of the spectrum. Narcissists, sociopaths, and other abusive personality types will leave you shattered, but they are also dangerous to leave.

For people with narcissistic character traits, everything is a game, a competition, in which they have to win. If you discard a narcissist, you may find they linger or keep coming back. They may threaten you or even hire strangers to threaten you. They may go to great lengths not just to smear your reputation, but to destroy your life.

If you plan to leave a narcissist or other abusive person, you need to make your escape plan very carefully. You may need to involve the police. Your local Women’s Health Center can do a risk assessment to determine how much danger you’re in. The risks with these controlling and abusive personality types are real, and they can be fatal. So don’t try to go it alone.


  • Call your local Women's Health Center and find out what supports are available for you

  • If you have friends and family you trust, explain to them what’s happening and enlist their help

  • Make sure your level of risk is assessed and that you take every possible precaution to protect yourself and your children if the situation you're leaving is a dangerous one

Toxic people cause harm to you and your life. Although it may be hard for you to imagine a situation better than the one you’re in, you need to know your worth and celebrate finally being free from someone whose only intention is to hurt you. Even if you don't feel it now, you have enormous inner power.

Remember: There are countless good people in the world. Life is short and your life should be filled with joy, accomplishments, and things that make you happy. If you’re in a situation that is making you unhappy, the only person who can change that situation is you.

Familiarize yourself with all the resources that are available to you, and plan before you leave. It won't be an easy road, but it’s a road that will take you to a better place.


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