When Someone You Love is Toxic – How to Let Go, Without Guilt

When Someone You Love is Toxic How to Let Go of a Toxic Relationship, Without Guilt

If toxic people were an ingestible substance, they would come with a high-powered warning and secure packaging to prevent any chance of accidental contact. Sadly, families are not immune to the poisonous lashings of a toxic relationship.

Though families and relationships can feel impossibly tough at times, they were never meant to ruin. All relationships have their flaws and none of them come packaged with the permanent glow of sunlight and goodness and beautiful things. In any normal relationship there will be fights from time to time. Things will be said and done and forgiven, and occasionally rehashed at strategic moments. For the most part though, they will feel nurturing and life-giving to be in. At the very least, they won’t hurt.

Why do toxic people do toxic things?

Toxic people thrive on control. Not the loving, healthy control that tries to keep everyone safe and happy – buckle your seatbelt, be kind, wear sunscreen – but the type that keeps people small and diminished. 

Everything they do is to keep people small and manageable. This will play out through criticism, judgement, oppression – whatever it takes to keep someone in their place. The more you try to step out of ‘your place’, the more a toxic person will call on toxic behaviour to bring you back and squash you into the tiny box they believe you belong in.

It is likely that toxic people learned their behaviour during their own childhood, either by being exposed to the toxic behaviour of others or by being overpraised without being taught the key quality of empathy. In any toxic relationship there will be other qualities missing too, such as respect, kindness and compassion, but at the heart of a toxic person’s behaviour is the lack of concern around their impact on others. They come with a critical failure to see past their own needs and wants.

Toxic people have a way of choosing open, kind people with beautiful, lavish hearts because these are the ones who will be more likely to fight for the relationship and less likely to abandon.

Even the strongest people can find themselves in a toxic relationship but the longer they stay, the more they are likely to evolve into someone who is a smaller, less confident, more wounded version of the person they used to be.

Non-toxic people who stay in a toxic relationship will never stop trying to make the relationship better, and toxic people know this. They count on it. Non-toxic people will strive to make the relationship work and when they do, the toxic person has exactly what he or she wants – control. 

Toxic Families – A Special Kind of Toxic

Families are a witness to our lives – our best, our worst, our catastrophes, our frailties and flaws. All families come with lessons that we need to learn along the way to being a decent, thriving human. The lessons begin early and they don’t stop, but not everything a family teaches will come with an afterglow. Sometimes the lessons they teach are deeply painful ones that shudder against our core.

Rather than being lessons on how to love and safely open up to the world, the lessons some families teach are about closing down, staying small and burying needs – but for every disempowering lesson, there is one of empowerment, strength and growth that exists with it. In toxic families, these are around how to walk away from the ones we love, how to let go with strength and love, and how to let go of guilt and any fantasy that things could ever be different. And here’s the rub – the pain of a toxic relationship won’t soften until the lesson has been learned.

Love and loyalty don’t always exist together.

Love has a fierce way of keeping us tied to people who wound us. The problem with family is that we grow up in the fold, believing that the way they do things is the way the world works. We trust them, listen to them and absorb what they say. There would have been a time for all of us that regardless of how mind-blowingly destructive the messages from our family were, we would have received them all with a beautiful, wide-eyed innocence, grabbing every detail and letting them shape who we were growing up to be.

Our survival would have once depended on believing in everything they said and did, and resisting the need to challenge or question that we might deserve better. The things we believe when we are young are powerful. They fix themselves upon us and they stay, at least until we realise one day how wrong and small-hearted those messages have been.

At some point, the environment changes – we grow up – but our beliefs don’t always change with it. We stop depending on our family for survival but we hang on to the belief that we have to stay connected and loyal, even though being with them hurts.

The obligation to love and stay loyal to a family member can be immense, but love and loyalty are two separate things and they don’t always belong together.

Loyalty can be a confusing, loaded term and is often the reason that people stay stuck in toxic relationships. What you need to know is this: When loyalty comes with a diminishing of the self, it’s not loyalty, it’s submission.

We stop having to answer to family when we become adults and capable of our own minds.

Why are toxic relationships so destructive?

In any healthy relationship, love is circular – when you give love, it comes back. When what comes back is scrappy, stingy intent under the guise of love, it will eventually leave you small and depleted, which falls wildly, terrifyingly short of where anyone is meant to be.

Healthy people welcome the support and growth of the people they love, even if it means having to change a little to accommodate. When one person in a system changes, whether it’s a relationship of two or a family of many, it can be challenging. Even the strongest and most loving relationships can be touched by feelings of jealousy, inadequacy and insecurity at times in response to somebody’s growth or happiness. We are all vulnerable to feeling the very normal, messy emotions that come with being human.

The difference is that healthy families and relationships will work through the tough stuff. Unhealthy ones will blame, manipulate and lie – whatever they have to do to return things to the way they’ve always been, with the toxic person in control.

Why a Toxic Relationship Will never change.

Reasonable people, however strong and independently minded they are, can easily be drawn into thinking that if they could find the switch, do less, do more, manage it, tweak it, that the relationship will be okay. The cold truth is that if anything was going to be different it would have happened by now. 

Toxic people can change, but it’s highly unlikely. What is certain is that nothing anyone else does can change them. It is likely there will be broken people, broken hearts and broken relationships around them – but the carnage will always be explained away as someone else’s fault. There will be no remorse, regret or insight. What is more likely is that any broken relationship will amplify their toxic behaviour.

Why are toxic people so hard to leave?

If you try to leave a toxic person, things might get worse before they get better – but they will always get better. Always.

Few things will ramp up feelings of insecurity or a need for control more than when someone questions familiar, old behaviour, or tries to break away from old, established patterns in a relationship. For a person whose signature moves involve manipulation, lies, criticism or any other toxic behaviour, when something feels as though it’s changing, they will use even more of their typical toxic behaviour to bring the relationship (or the person) back to a state that feels acceptable.

When things don’t seem to be working, people will always do more of what used to work, even if that behaviour is at the heart of the problem. It’s what we all do. If you are someone who is naturally open and giving, when things don’t feel right in a relationship you will likely give more of yourself, offer more support, be more loving, to get things back on track. 

Breaking away from a toxic relationship can feel like tearing at barbed wire with bare hands. The more you do it, the more it hurts, so for a while, you stop tearing, until you realise that it’s not the tearing that hurts, it’s the barbed wire – the relationship – and whether you tear at it or not, it won’t stop cutting into you.

Think of it like this. Imagine that all relationships and families occupy a space. In healthy ones, the shape of that space will be fluid and open to change, with a lot of space for people to grow. People will move to accommodate the growth and flight of each other. 

For a toxic family or a toxic relationship, that shape is rigid and unyielding. There is no flexibility, no bending, and no room for growth. Everyone has a clearly defined space and for some, that space will be small and heavily boxed. When one person starts to break out of the shape, the whole family feels their own individual sections change. The shape might wobble and things might feel vulnerable, weakened or scary. This is normal, but toxic people will do whatever it takes to restore the space to the way it was. Often, that will mean crumpling the ones who are changing so they fit their space again.

Sometimes out of a sense of love and terribly misplaced loyalty, people caught in a toxic relationship might sacrifice growth and change and step back into the rigid tiny space a toxic person manipulates them towards. It will be clear when this has happened because of the soul-sucking grief at being back there in the mess with people (or person) who feel so bad to be with.

But they do it because they love me. They said so.

Sometimes toxic people will hide behind the defence that they are doing what they do because they love you, or that what they do is ‘no big deal’ and that you’re the one causing the trouble because you’re just too sensitive, too serious, too – weak, stupid, useless, needy, insecure, jealous – too ‘whatever’ to get it. You will have heard the word plenty of times before. 

The only truth you need to know is this: If it hurts, it’s hurtful. Fullstop.

Love never holds people back from growing. It doesn’t diminish, and it doesn’t contaminate. If someone loves you, it feels like love. It feels supportive and nurturing and life-giving. If it doesn’t do this, it’s not love. It’s self-serving crap designed to keep you tethered and bound to someone else’s idea of how you should be.

There is no such thing as a perfect relationship, but a healthy one is a tolerant, loving, accepting, responsive one.

The one truth that matters.

If it feels like growth or something that will nourish you, follow that. It might mean walking away from people you care about – parents, sisters, brothers, friends – but this can be done with love and the door left open for when they are able to meet you closer to your terms – ones that don’t break you.

Set the boundaries with grace and love and leave it to the toxic person to decide which side of that boundary they want to stand on. Boundaries aren’t about spite or manipulation and they don’t have to be about ending the relationship. They are something drawn in strength and courage to let people see with great clarity where the doorway is to you. If the relationship ends, it’s not because of your lack of love or loyalty, but because the toxic person chose not to treat you in the way you deserve. Their choice. 

Though it is up to you to decide the conditions on which you will let someone close to you, whether or not somebody wants to be close to you enough to respect those conditions is up to them. The choice to trample over what you need means they are choosing not to be with you. It doesn’t mean you are excluding them from your life.

Toxic people also have their conditions of relationship and though they might not be explicit, they are likely to include an expectation that you will tolerate ridicule, judgement, criticism, oppression, lying, manipulation – whatever they do. No relationship is worth that and it is always okay to say ‘no’ to anything that diminishes you.

The world and those who genuinely love you want you to be as whole as you can be. Sometimes choosing health and wholeness means stepping bravely away from that which would see your spirit broken and malnourished.

When you were young and vulnerable and dependent for survival on the adults in your life, you had no say in the conditions on which you let people close to you. But your life isn’t like that now. You get to say. You get to choose the terms of your relationships and the people you get close to.

There is absolutely no obligation to choose people who are toxic just because they are family. If they are toxic, the simple truth is that they have not chosen you. The version of you that they have chosen is the one that is less than the person you would be without them.

The growth.

Walking away from a toxic relationship isn’t easy, but it is always brave and always strong. It is always okay. And it is always – always – worth it. This is the learning and the growth that is hidden in the toxic mess.

Letting go will likely come with guilt, anger and grief for the family or person you thought you had. They might fight harder for you to stay. They will probably be crueller, more manipulative and more toxic than ever. They will do what they’ve always done because it has always worked. Keep moving forward and let every hurtful, small-hearted thing they say or do fuel your step.

You can’t pretend toxic behaviour away or love it away or eat it, drink it, smoke it, depress it or gamble it away. You can’t avoid the impact by being smaller, by crouching or bending or flexing around it. But you can walk away from it – so far away that the most guided toxic fuelled missile that’s thrown at you won’t find you.

One day they might catch up to you – not catch you, catch up to you – with their growth and their healing but until then, choose your own health and happiness over their need to control you. 

You can love people, let go of them and keep the door open on your terms, for whenever they are ready to treat you with love, respect and kindness. This is one of the hardest lessons but one of the most life-giving and courageous ones.

Sometimes there are not two sides. There is only one. Toxic people will have you believing that the one truthful side is theirs. It’s not. It never was. Don’t believe their highly diseased, stingy version of love. It’s been drawing your breath, suffocating you and it will slowly kill you if you let it, and the way you ‘let it’ is by standing still while it spirals around you, takes aim and shoots. 

If you want to stay, that’s completely okay, but see their toxic behaviour for what it is – a desperate attempt to keep you little and controlled. Be bigger, stronger, braver than anything that would lessen you. Be authentic and real and give yourself whatever you need to let that be. Be her. Be him. Be whoever you can be if the small minds and tiny hearts of others couldn’t stop you.

[irp posts=”1602″ name=”When It’s Not You, It’s Them: The Toxic People That Ruin Friendships, Families, Relationships”]

922 Comments

Mary

I’ve never been more moved in my life. Perfectly said. I’ve just left a 34 year toxic relationship. Let’s face it not every second of all 34 years were horrible, but they were toxic.
I was 15 years “young” when we started dating. My key word was that I was “insecure”.
I will save a read this article a lot.
34 years together, 25 years married… very toxic. I stayed as the right thing to do for my for my son, which by the way turns out to be not so respected “thing” to do. My son saw and heard things no one should and “I have to live with that”. Which I’ll happily do knowing that my son didn’t have to change schools in elementary years, lose great and gifted teachers, Because I stayed, I didn’t lose my footing trying to make it on my own, sleeping around, man after man, and not being there at the kitchen table every night doing homework with him.
So grateful to my alive, having not gone crazy feeling so miserable and unimportant.

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Melissa

I just got out of a toxic relationship where I felt I was being used and controlled. In the end I’m not sure who was worse. It was always everything I done wrong to him how everyone else said what I should be doing for and to him. Everything is my fault. I’m the stupid and toxic one all so he can play victim & innocent one. If I ever wanted to do something on my own, I don’t see the point in that, but perfectly fine for him to get money or savings go and do whatever he pleased.

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Tabitha

Wow this article is so true. I was with my boyfriend for about 2 years. He consistently accused me of cheating, he belittled me, disrespected me, manipulated and controlled me. Every time we broke up, he knew the exact words I wanted to hear and did everything I always asked him to do, so I took him back. He deployed and this time we both decided to break up because our futures weren’t aligning and because of all our problems. However I found out a few weeks later that he was with someone who he was deployed with less than two weeks later meaning he was cheating while we we’re together. I finally learned the truth about him and how our relationship really was full of lies and deceit. Yes, he was very good at it too. I learned he was using me and stringing me along the whole time. Finding that out a few days ago still hurts so much. But I can’t wait till I heal and see that I deserve so much better and how what I went through wasn’t the definition of love. Thank you for this article, I still sometimes find me blaming myself and asking myself what I did wrong for him to treat me that way and cheat on me…

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steven

its not worth it you all try to terminate these toxic relationships before you lose years of your life

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Cyn

I found this article and it was so insightful and honestly an eye opener. For the longest time I just thought the toxic traits were normal and that they would get better and that somehow I could make it change. It’s been 6 years and nothing has really changed. We have a son together and I know this is not what I want my son to see as a “healthy” relationship often times my son will ask me why does dad get so mad or why doesn’t he come home, and the truth is I don’t know. He does what he wants when he wants and as he pleases. I realize if I love my son and myself I need to walk away. Parts of me are scared and feel guilty like I’m leaving him alone. But the reality is he doesn’t care if I’m alone. He doesn’t care that he doesn’t come home. He thinks I overreact. So why is it still a challenge for me? Why do I feel bad?

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Hannah

Because you love him and he has made you feel this way, please believe me. This is a narcissist and he will never change for you or your son, I’m sorry to say. I can bet it is ,or would be a problem ,should you stay out all night or perhaps go out at all. I have been in the same position and I’m finding it hard to break away. Their behavior will always be acceptable and of course you’re overreacting( you’re not, you are setting healthy boundaries for yourself and maintaining self respect, something I’ll bet he wishes you never had) I hope you don’t mind me saying this just maybe needed someone to say this to me.

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Joanna H

I really needed the read what you had written. I have just come out of my 2nd toxic relationship (you’d think i would have learnt by now) but this was by far the worst and cut the deepest and your words have really helped so thank you x

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April D

Not sure if the article was the most helpful or the stories from the feed. Letting go of a 2 year one.. No kids and avoided having to move to another country and giving up everything that is great for me here at home. Every toxic relationship will take a big part of you and change you. Hopefully for the better so you don’t bring any baggage to the next one. It’s a crazy cycle between the lives of the toxic and non-toxic person.

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Rachel

I really needed to read that right now. I’m stuck in a toxic relationship that I can’t get out of. I feel like either way I get hurt. Whether I stay with him or try to leave both horribly painful but staying hurts a little less. I love him and I really wish I didn’t. Every day he makes me feel worthless and belittles me. I want to leave but I just can’t, it hurts too much. I feel stuck and trapped.

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Nickkiey

I understand what you’re going through! I have been with my boyfriend for 7 years. 3 years ago I left for 3 months and my stupid self didn’t know he was toxic or what that even was. Last july 2018 I had left again this time for a year. I was happy but missed him so much. I tried to see other people but was afraid h ed would show up all the time. He alighted me so badly I felt like I was always hearing his truck out side my room. And of course he snoozed his way back into my life and my best friend I lived with had a major argument and kicked me out. My 15 yr old daughter couldn’t go back to my moms with all the crap he did so us being on a friendship level said we could stay there. I’m so stupid! It immediately turned back to a romantic relationship. I had also lost my job 3 months before that so he know I needed him. He told me all the good things I wanted to hear and as a dummy I moved back in. He is now so much worse than he ever was and meaner x 10. Ugg I have no job, no $, and i a m stuck here. Fortunately I have a car again as I lost mine 1 month after I lost my job. The issue isn’t that I don’t know he’s toxic because I do. The problem is it hurts so bad to not be around him or with him, but the feeling I had just being around positive people was so uplifting I never even know that feeling existed.ive tried so hard to show my daughter the strength of a women but when I met him something in me went different . I’m not longer strong now I’m only weak. Long story short the law of attraction has been so helpful in gaining my self worth I highly suggest you read it. It really does help.good luck my friend and stay strong !

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agata

Same here, stuck in a toxic relationship of 4.5 years- im so scared of leaving but I cant live with him anymore. Its so hard.

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Jan

I was in a toxic relationship for 18 months, it started off great , I thought I’d met the man of my dreams, funny, generous ,kind, omg ! As time went on , the abuse got worse, never any apology, he would go from venous fury, too so calm in an instant , he would scream terrible names at me , withhold sex for months , and I would just have to accept it , I was constantly walking on egg shells not to upset him , I was shit on his shoe ! No respect , none of his friends have never seen this side of him , he is never wrong, and will completely change the story, we have finished now , time is a healer, he is self soothing now with alcohol as he is regretting it but what be accountable for his actions , he went on a two day bender , and attacked his son who went round to comfort him , he hasent even said sorry to him , he dident have a good child hood and my god how it’s affected him , the abuse has just gotten worse each time , toxic people never change only their victims do ! And the never take the blame. Good luck .

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Meaghan

I feel exactly the same way. I try to leave and it becomes even worse. I am trapped with a person in my life that will not go away. If I try to remove him from my life “it’s hell to pay” and he will make sure my life is miserable and he will continually hurt me at all costs. I’ve already moved out and have been on my own for 5 months and am still dealing with the nasty texts, calls, and showing up banging on my door. I feel completely trapped and defeated and completely broken as a person. It took me 1 1/2 years to muster enough courage to leave and when I did move out it was absolute hell. I don’t know how to get away from this person. It ruins every day of my life and takes a toll on my children as well (not his). I feel like I have to move away or it’ll never stop. If you are in a new relationship, and it feels wrong, do not ignore how you feel. Don’t stay until you are beat down, and belittled to the point where you have no worth or value and just stay because you are stuck. It will ruin your life and affect those you love as well.

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Leora

Hun, I mean this with all my heart! Get a restraining order and work with law enforcement to uphold it by reporting him the very second he violates it. My brother is a policeman and I can’t tell you how many times stories like yours end very badly!

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Kt

I just got out of a toxic relationship of two years. He was just using me until I broke up with him last week. Hes such a jerk. He would call me bad names and say it was my fault he called me that. He would talk to other girls behind my back. I’m so glad I realized I can find a better man out there.

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Kelsey T.

I just got out of a bad relationship of two years. Hes such a jerk. He would tell me to go out with this guy who’s in his 60s when I’m only in my 20s. I kept telling him I dont like elderly men, but he would torture me saying I liked way to old men , when I dont. He would also call me names that arnt true. I hope you guys out there know u dont have to be mean to women who arnt the way u want them to be.

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Phil

Hello Kelsey,
Sorry you experienced what you did. That person is considered to be toxic and what you’re saying about him sounds more like he had no respect for you and in essence was trying to act as your pimp. Be thankful that you walked away not all men and women are the same. There is happiness out there for everyone.

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Anonymous

Two years ago my husband had a dream that I had an affair with someone we know. The next morning he told me to leave. It broke me. Since then, I have been accused of sneaking around with that man. My motivations behind wearing perfume or a bra that isn’t a nursing bra (we have 4 children) is something shady. He told me Thursday that I wasn’t wearing perfume or a “sexy bra” for him. It must have been for someone else. Now he just told me, “good luck finding a husband who will allow you to stay home with the kids and provide for you like I have. You’ll need to find one who will cook and clean and care for the kids, too” I feel so worthless. I’m so angry and hurt. I don’t have a job outside of the home. I take care of our kids, and run our dog-boarding business inside of our home, but nothing has my name on it. I know this relationship is toxic, but I’m trapped. He told me I have no ambition, and HE is the one who has to tell me what to do or else I won’t get anything done. My house is cluttered, but I work hard caring for everyone. He told me HE is tired of feeling rejected (I have rejected his sexual advances since Thursday when he insulted me and told me I was wearing a sexy bra for someone else), and he told me he owes me no apology because he knows he’s right. He voluntarily slept on the couch last night. he just told me he will until our 5 month old is 18 because he’s “DONE WITH IT”. He told me I have changed 20 different times since getting married, and he’s had to cope with the changes. He, on the other hand, “has stayed the same.” I am currently going through post-partum depression, and I have been “off my meds” for 2 weeks now. my family came to visit last weekend, and his family this weekend. I didn’t want to begin taking them again before either of our families came to visit because the pills take about 1 week to acclimate. They make you feel drunk and drowsy for that whole week. He told me I’m an asshole without them, and that I need them. He makes me feel like I’m a crazy person. I feel so unloved.

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Davis

14 years together. I had never met a person like this. I always thought they just need time,patients,an love. Here I am still trying. Some days I want to walk away. Some days I think I’m strong I can take it. I’m not without my part in this at least for the past 2 years. I have given them he’ll feeling as though I had gave it back.the truth is I only hurt them an myself. I’m still here but my patients an anger has changed. I still try I still love them an it would be the hardest thing for me to do to walk away. My hope keeps me here but my own happiness wants to walk me out of here. I don’t know what I’ll do just yet but a decision is making its way to the surface. I really hope we can change an come together. I love them so much even with all things that make me sad I know one day light will come back to them an life of a full heart with kindness, compaction,gratitude,thankfulness take hold an replace old to become new. I hope an pray. I wait an watch. I stand an stay prepared. I won’t allow this to stand much longer. I want to be happy an successful. I will leave if that the only option they leave me.

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Steph J

I never leave comments on Web articles but felt compelled to leave one here. Absolutely fantastic article, you have given me the strength to put into place something I’ve wanted and needed to do for 20yrs. Thank you.

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Julie

I think this article is so misleading. My recent boyfriend just broke up with me after reading this article. We were together3 1/2 years, we were talking about getting married. You have truly made me lose the best thing in my life! Turned my world completely upside down and made me feel broken.Most of the stuff in this article is so untrue. You make people, that are supposedly “toxic” feel terrible. I know I can change, anyone can change as long as they know what needs to be changed. Talk to the person, let them know so they are aware of their actions, don’t just kick them out of your life, no one is perfect.

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Phil

Hello Julie,
If you feel like this article was the cause you’re wrongly mistaken. He chose to leave after reading this but already felt the need to leave prior to that’s why he searched for this information to validate what he was already feeling. If you feel that is not you that is being identified in here then don’t take it to heart. He made this choice not the author here. What’s meant to be will be no matter the storm. Don’t ever forget that.

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Dan C

Thank you , very insightful and true .

it is important to know that toxic person can then get you on their level and before you know it you become toxic defending yourself so you don’t feel like you’ve been walked all over and used .

there’s also a sense of entitlement with toxic people and they feel like you owe them something almost as if you should pay them for being with you .

The most humiliating thing is to have your wife say very disrespectful and mean things that your children would never forget … Then also anytime they’re mad or upset with you bring in other family members and friends and tell them their spin on the story to make you look like you’re the bad guy it’s totally manipulative and effective to keep them in control .

I know that most the time it seems to be men that are controlling women but in my case and many others most men don’t speak it out because it makes them seem less than a man to say that a woman can be so hurtful and dangerous to your psychological and physical self .
most people will stay in a relationship thinking that they can change it and end up just basically doing everything that their spouse wants him to do regardless of how demeaning and controlling you know it really is if you Buck them they get worse and worse and worse until you finally just decide to go along with them so you don’t have the conflict if nothing else for the children .

There’s absolutely no way to win you cannot win because if you really want an adult relationship with another person that is equal and fair loving and kind you will never find it with a toxic person that is probably a narcissist or sociopath as well. there’s absolutely no way to win you cannot win because if you really want an adult relationship with another person that is equal and fair loving and kind you will never find it with a toxic person that is probably a narcissist or sociopath as well
i’ve done a lot of research and I think that the only way to get away from them is to absolutely just abruptly and immediately leave and then not know where you are. period

no way to have a commonsense adult conversation because they are not going to let you talk you’re going to talk over you and everything you say they do not listen and everything they say they feel is true and important what you say means nothing

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Susan F

Dan I just got out of a toxic relationship a month ago, finally left. I used this site as one resource to build my strength and clarity.
Re-visiting today and reading your words, I am reminded of how bad it was and why I left. Thanks for sharing, it helps, there are days I question “well I never tried X”. Crazy thinking. Now that I am free, it feels like the life is starting to drain back into me. Life feels sane. I have huge holes to fill in my self esteem, but with time, that can happen. Yes women can be toxic!!!! My Mom was a toxic narcissist (I am working through that with giving up this relationship in my case!). Blessings on your journey!

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Basha

I just broke up with a toxic boyfriend. Luckily it only lasted about half a year, but it was 6 months of dense, overbearing love. It was my first ever relationship, and he was considerably older than me. At first he treated me incredibly… I felt so, so lucky, but the treatment came with a warning. He told me that he could be an amazing, sensitive, thoughtful, generous human being, but that deep down on the inside, he was a bad guy. He understood people so well, he knew how to please them, and how to hurt them, to the point of dread, of emotional paralysis.

I didn’t believe him. I thought he was being hard on himself, and I wanted to try my hardest to prove to him that he was wrong, that he was a special human being.

So I forgave, and forgave, and forgave… each time he ignored me when I said “no”, each time he told me I was a slut, littered with STDs, each time he criticized my relationships, my character traits, my lifestyle, my choices, even my home decor! And he moved the relationship forward so quickly… He appeared at my doorstep unannounced, forced me to profess my feelings, and then tore me apart when I wouldn’t let him into my home. I wasn’t ready, but I eventually let him in.

I thought it was love, but it felt so stressful, heavy, like a burden. Feom the beginning, our relationship was beyond repair, but I felt hopeful. He said he’d change, he owned up to his mistakes, he started listening to me, asking for my opinion, appreciating what I did, and he even stopped drinking! But soon remnants of his past behavior came creeping back, and he started drinking again… appearing on short notice, name-calling, interrogating, invalidating my opinion, my beliefs.

When I started acquiring his toxicity, and I started name-calling, and being insensitive, I realized thst our relationship had to end. I called him a coward, just to hurt him… and I enjoyed it. That’s when I knew I lost myself in this whole mess.

With him, I felt unstoppable… without him, I felt hopeless. That’s why it was so hard to leave, and so dangerous to stay. It was all bound by dependence.

I still love him. I know he has good in him. I wish him the best, and I hope he resolves his troubles in a healthy way.

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Amanda S

I am curious for myself – Similar to what Basha described… How do you forgive yourself when you let your toxicity become so strong? I pushed him, I became physical first – and he told me that he had to cheat on me because I was jealous, to hit me from self-defense of my aggression. He is right however, I WAS aggressive, and I was physical. How can I ever forgive this in me?

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Leora

By recognizing all humans make mistakes and if anything, if he really loved you, he would try and help you grow past it, not condemn you for it. Do what he would not. See what you can be and guide your path toward better behavior. Leave your mistake where it belongs. In the past.

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Ryan

This information was completely 100% helpful for me. I am breaking up with someone today and the pain I am feeling right now is unbelievable. She is so toxic, but for some reason I have stayed around hoping that her actions could change. Today is the day and I am very scared and nervous to go through with it, but I know it is the right decision. Wish me luck!

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Molly

You get to realise and you accept that there person you love is toxic. You stay with the hope that they will change. It’s still the hardest thing to do, leaving a toxic person. I’m still I’ll be with him, and I still can’t leave. I know he is bad for me, I know he is toxic. How do I let go of this drug.

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Tatianna

This article actually helped me IDENTIFY that I was in a toxic relationship. I was with the guy only for a year. We met in university.. In the first few weeks of getting to university. he quickly became my best friend. I knew he had feelings for me and I guess he used my insecurities to win me over because before I knew it , I was head over heels in love with him. Our relationship moved quick and within a month of dating , we started living together. I tried and tried to get him to go back to his own place but he refused saying that he couldn’t sleep if he wasn’t with me and that he had terrible nightmares so I gave in. Slowly things started to change. He was always loving but would get mad if I ever spent even more than an hour with any friend I had made plans with. He would get upset if i picked up a phone call when i was with him and he would absolutely hate it when i was on social media. He would get offended as if he weren’t enough. So I stopped doing so many things that I’d enjoy simply to avoid the hassle of an argument. Over the summer holidays we went back to our respective hometowns and he would freak out if I didn’t text him the entire day. He would get mad if I wasn’t attentive on video calls (I was super jetlagged in the first week) and if he knew I had plans with a friend , he would expect me to text through throughout and would accuse me of forgetting him if I didnt. So I started learning to do everything that would please him and ofcourse naturally I expected the same from him. That brought the toxicity in me out I guess and when he didnt do those things he expected from me , I would begin getting upset at me just the way he did. Those fight, he says, is what then lead him to cheat on me. After convincing me that him cheating was our fault , we tried to work on our relationship for months. This involved periods of time where he was distant, sometimes ignorant, hateful, angry and he would say it’s all because he fears me and my anxiety. After trying and trying so hard and begging him to work through our issues with me and hearing way too many times how my crying is irritating and how we should break up, I finally broke up with him. Now its again my fault, apparently I ended things so easily when he was going through a hard time and I wasn’t understanding enough. And that I should I have known breaking up isn’t what he wanted. That he was there for me through so much and I gave up so easily. Sometimes I do feel guilty , but I really need to keep reminding myself that I didnt give up , I actually already gave it my all

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D’Mari

I have been in a toxic relationship for 20 years. I was so in love that I convinced him to buy the house next door from my parents home. I manipulated the situation to move in with him. We had a daughter and I felt like he just needed a push because that is what he really wanted. I has been a complete nightmare for me and my daughter. I had no say in anything that went on in the house. His family would treat me as if I was nothing and he would allow it. I lost my job and he gave us nothing. the only way we ate is from food stamps that he suggest that I apply for. He cheated on me, he had friends that I didn’t know, he went out but never took me with him, he disappeared for every holiday. Our daughter still remembers him not coming home one Christmas. I would get so sick when the holidays where getting near for years due to the stress it would cause me. I began smoking marijuanas every day and drinking just to deal with the situation. I finally left 4 years ago. I am working and I had to go to court for child support. I moved back home with my dad. But, since he is next door, the cycle continue . He will be so kind to my dad and helpful in the house since my dad is 90 yr old and can’t get around as much that he pulled me back in. When he thinks I have fallen back in love (stupid me), here comes the lies the mean comments and when I say anything, here comes the remember you left me. You took me to court although I took care of you. He paid the same bills that he is currently paying. But it still makes me feel like I did something wrong. So I try to make up for it. I can’t afford to move and I feel like I am stuck in this never ending cycle. I feel weak and helpless. I went to rehab for the smoking, drinking and wanting to die. Then he convinced me after 2 months that AA was a cult and that I can drink in moderation. Told me I was a joy kill if I was sober. Got me drunk on halloween and here I am struggling to start all over. But I want to thank you for this article. I now at least have a peak inside his game book.

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Susan

I have read this article at least 20 times, and it was one of a handful of resources, plus the clear eyed support from a few friends that helped me develop the escape velocity to leave a 4 year utterly toxic relationship. It matched the description here perfectly. This man had lost all of his children and three prior relationships due to his toxic suite of behaviors- none of these people will talk to him. He accepts zero responsibility, says they are all assholes, blames them for what happened. Your own kids?
Sure, they are in the early 20’s, but where is the adult? There isn’t one. I should have asked better questions up front about him, once I found this out the attachment had started, and my confusion was already settling in. And he was brilliant – a genius artist making profound work that the world loves. He was my brothers best friend growing up, and I just did not scrutinize him the way that I should have, there was an unearned basic level of acceptance and combined with his talents, what a disaster. It is utterly frightening to think you are in love with someone who, once you get into it, only cares about what they can get from you – no thought of my needs. Just what he could get from me. I have never felt so alone with another person in the same room.
I also learned along the way that the drama of a toxic relationship with emotional highs and loves can feel like love to the brain, but it isn’t. Thanks for placing this resource out there for people like me to be able to find easily. Even though I am out, and will stay out, there’s a part of me that still thinks if I just did XXX, it could work. Crazy thought patterns. In reminding myself of why I got out by revisiting this article and other resources, I gain strength to march forward. Next time, I will be sure to vet who I am dating really, really carefully, kind of like buying a used car, inspect every detail and be sure I can live with the flaws if nothing changes. I have so much to offer, and won’t make the mistake of settling for another person who does not give an abundance of real love and support in return. I will pick someone who deserves to be in my life. That said, it will take me at least a year to get over the trauma of where I have been. It’s awful. This will take time.

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Shauna

I have left a toxic relationship for about the 5th time in two years. My issue is that even I logically know what he is saying is not true and that I am being manipulated, I still constantly question myself and think maybe he is right, it is me and he just loves me. How do you overcome doubting yourself?

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Ginger

Read alot about these toxic people. Every article I’ve read tells me I was right to leave and yes, it’s killing me. I miss the routine, I miss the days when he treated me well, I miss being with someone. But my self esteem has taken a hit. 9 months with a man who mostly sexed me but never really loved on me unless we were around other people. It got to be too much. I walked on egg shells and always tried to do what would make him happy. He never complimnented me and only let me know how wrong or bad I was and he NEVER apologized….because whatever I did was worse and caused him to do what he did….what a pant load. It hurts but get out and stay out….work on yourself. I’m trying to rebuild a little self esteem.

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Leah S

Ginger, I swear I could have written your reply word for word myself. I am in the exact same situation, still with him though. I’m just now starting to see that it’s not me, this man is messed up and hurting me and will never change…could you find me on Facebook (Leah Summer) or email me? See, I left a 20 year abusive marriage a year and a half ago. I was also dealing with my closest siblings suicide…I was a broken mess. My first relationship back on the dating scene, I had found Prince Charming. We were great for a couple of months, I was growing and coming out of my shell. Then everything changed. He’s more volatile, everything I do and say upsets him. He blames his anger on stupid things I do or say, so then I get all inside my head of how I’m a failure, I’m unworthy of love because maybe I am just a stupid girl. When I mess up, he withholds sex as punishment. We’ve been together 9 months, but have only cuddled twice and one time he doesn’t even remember it because he was drunk. He’s great in bed and he knows it. When hes good hes great, but when he’s bad he’s Satan.

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Manal

I just left one toxic relationship too, actually a few days ago. I think the best way to overcome the doubt is to remember what made you want to end the relationship. It may be the emotional abuse, the way he reacts or the way you feel so attacked by him/her all the time and ask yourself if you want to have another day, week, month or year in the same situation. And if your answer is NO. Then there is no reason for you to doubt. Trust me there are days when I want to take him back but fight the urge this will make you stronger. Remember the toxic cycle never ends and it will always be you adjusting cause they like the control. This to shall pass. Keep your head high and put all the love you have given that person on to yourself.

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Amanda S

Hi Shauna,

I am in EXACTLY the same situation. We broke it off about 5 times (amongst the months in between of me trying to ask for more and just getting shut down) – He said incredibly hurtful things that resonate and reflect inside of my mind so often: ‘that I was useless, that I have nothing, that I am crazy, that I don’t have a choice better than him, that I’ll end up a nobody and with a nobody if I leave.’ on and on… from two years of this.

All I can say, is that I’m reaching out to every friend, family, stranger, online class and article, ANY spark of hope to build myself up and step away from this. Maybe I won’t be able to run as quickly as I like into a healthy mindset, but I am at least breathing in every moment as an opportunity to listen to my wise friends and family, and even the wise part of myself not to go back.

Also, not to believe the things he said. Because in truth, the hurtful things which I let resonate with me also resonate with some injury I’ve gotten as a child, or injured part of me I need to address. I have to find love for that child, and that past. I need to forgive that child and that part of me that I still hold accountable.
When I feel pain, I need to be with it rather than run away, to ask myself: where is this anxiety and pain coming from, why was I triggered, why does something seemingly insignificant make me feel so hurt? For two years not working on this has driven me back into someone’s arms who wants me to feel less than, unworthy of love, powerless and undeserving of respect and love.
SHAUNA – YOU ARE DESERVING OF LOVE TAKE THE TIME TO LISTEN TO FRIENDS AND FAMILY WHO WILL TELL YOU HOW WONDERFUL YOU ARE, and WORK ON BELIEVING THE THINGS THEY SAY AS TRUE. Try listening to Byron Katie, she is fantastic at helping us question things we think of as true.

FYI, 5 days ago he broke up with me and kicked me out, I live now DOWN THE DAMN STREET and have to fight not to go and beg forgiveness because I KNOW it is the same manipulation as always. Even if he would never take me back, and keep me here in this limbo forever – I have to find the home within me, the forgiveness of the guilt I have, I have to give myself what I wanted from him, and I have to take me back. You deserve love, respect, support, acceptance and forgiveness. FULLY> Good luck, – Wish me luck too! And always feel free to reach out for support!

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Glorie

I’ve been in a relationship I refuse to admit is toxic even though I know it is. I’ve repeated same relationship 6 times. And it just keeps getting worse, and I’m scared of getting into another relationship cos I feel he’ll change and come back to who I fell in love with.
Thing is, we started well, I tagged the relationship my “last bustop “ planed future and how we going to spend the rest of our lives together.
Not until the 8th month. Everything I did began to upset him one way or the other. We had issues almost everyday!. Anytime we get back he says he’ll change and he’s working on himself, and I shouldn’t give up on him, instead I help him get better.and I just stuck around,believing he will get better.Most times I take the blame for what he does, just to make things right.
We’ve been in this mess for the past 2years and he just came up with a new thing,saying “ he can’t cope,..I’m too dramatic and I stress him too much”.
And I just begin to think why I’m not good enough.
I’m too scared to move on, a part of me wants to pick the broken part and move on, but the other part says he’ll come back a changed person. Now walking away is the only option when what I want keeps breaking me.

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Barbara

I am in the same situation. Did you find help or peace that is working for you?

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"You Have Issues", they said.

A friend shared this article with me. I didn’t realize how much I needed to read it. Wow-very cleansing. And the final straw to make the decision to leave my lethally toxic sister and my mother behind. Two against one is draining and demoralizing. I can and will move past all of the insults, lies, ridicule and control. What will be hard to lose are the family members that refuse to acknowledge those same insults, lies, ridicule and control by both of them, directed at me. I choose peace.

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Unknown

I just ended my relationship with this guy I was with for a year. He was sweet at first but not even 2 months later, he would talk about my weight a lot and told me that he preferred to be with someone a little more “healthier”. I only weigh 130..he moved the relationship way to quickly and I often found myself crying a lot whenever he would ask for nudes even though I told him I don’t like the idea of sending it to anyone because it is risky. We broke up multiple times and tried to work things out but we were never compatible to begin with.Not going to lie, I think I was also toxic to him as well. I started to fall out of love with him and decided to end it.

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Anonymous

A friend shared this article with me. I was blindsided. I cried with joy that I make sense; but, I cried with sadness because it’s so painfully hard to admit that my mother and sister have done this to me for years. We don’t hurt the people we love. It’s that simple. And it isn’t walking away from them that’s the hard part – it’s knowing that a ripple separation will occur because extended family members refuse to see and acknowledge what’s been going on. Two against one is always a losing battle. The fight was exhausting. I choose me. I choose peace.

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Paul

Right choice,we can’t do anything about the past but we can have a barring on today and tomorrow.life is indeed a forward journey enjoy .

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Filled with Light

Thank you for this article. It helped me cope with leaving my ex husband. For years I thought I was a house wrecker, that I should have stayed and coped with the nights crying myself to sleep. I was helping him raise his daughter. It was when I realized she was witnessing our fighting spells that I finally realized something was wrong. I was ok with my pain and suffering but I couldn’t rationalize away the affect we were having on her. I think I picked up bad habits from a few toxic relationships in my past as well as from him. So, I was probably contributing to the poison defensively as well. This article helped me to see my own toxic habits so I can remove them and perhaps if I ever find a husband again our relationship can be a healthy one.

I also learned about setting healthy boundaries. That will be helpful sense I still babysit his daughter regularly. I hadn’t realized I was already setting boundaries semi successfully. But now I will do so intentionally and I know I will have more success. You are such a blessing. You are improving lives. Keep spreading the word! ????♥️

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Anonymous

I’m in the process of getting out of a toxic relationship; my first. As this is new to me, I have / had no experience with it until now. She exerts so much control over me through fear, etc. I was a military officer until two months ago and have been deployed many times. You would think I’d be tough.. This is tougher. Thank you for the article. I keep re-reading it to help me understand what’s happening and what I need to do. Good luck and Godspeed to everyone else on here in a similar situation.

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Bench

hey man, I feel your pain, been trough a very rough one, I suggest you read these two books, they helps me understand what happened, revalued myself and heal.

Psychopath Free- Jackson Mckenzie

Healing from Hidden Abuse- Shannon Thomas

best of luck on your recovery.

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Anxiety has a way of demanding ALL of the attention. It shifts the focus to what feels scary, or too big, or impossible, or what needs to be avoided, or what feels bad, or what our kiddos can’t do. As the grown ups who love them, we know they are capable of greatness, even if that greatness is made up of lots of tiny steps, (as great things tend to be).
Physical activity is the natural end to the fight or flight response (which is where the physical feelings of an anxiety attack come from). Walking will help to burn the adrenalin and neurochemicals that have surged the body to prepare it for flight or fight, and which are causing the physical symptoms (racy heart, feeling sick, sweaty, short breaths, dry mouth, trembly or tense in the limbs etc). As well as this, the rhythm of walking will help to calm their anxious amygdala. Brains love rhythm, and walking is a way to give them this. 
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Try to help your young one access their steady breaths while walking, but it is very likely that they will only be able to do this if they’ve practised outside of an anxiety attack. During anxiety, the brain is too busy to try anything unfamiliar. Practising will help to create neural pathways that will make breathing an easier, more accessible response during anxiety. If they aren't able to access strong steady breaths, you might need to do it for them. This will be just as powerful - in the same way they can catch your anxiety, they will also be able to catch your calm. When you are able to assume a strong, calm, steady presence, this will clear the way for your brave ones to do the same.
The more your young one is able to verbalise what their anxiety feels like, the more capacity they will have to identify it, acknowledge it and act more deliberately in response to it. With this level of self-awareness comes an increased ability to manage the feeling when it happens, and less likelihood that the anxiety will hijack their behaviour. 

Now - let’s give their awareness some muscle. If they are experts at what their anxiety feels like, they are also experts at what it takes to be brave. They’ve felt anxiety and they’ve moved through it, maybe not every time - none of us do it every time - maybe not even most times, but enough times to know what it takes and how it feels when they do. Maybe it was that time they walked into school when everything in them was wanting to walk away. Maybe that time they went in for goal, or down the water slide, or did the presentation in front of the class. Maybe that time they spoke their own order at the restaurant, or did the driving test, or told you there would be alcohol at the party. Those times matter, because they show them they can move through anxiety towards brave. They might also taken for granted by your young one, or written off as not counting as brave - but they do count. They count for everything. They are evidence that they can do hard things, even when those things feel bigger than them. 

So let’s expand those times with them and for them. Let’s expand the wisdom that comes with that, and bring their brave into the light as well. ‘What helped you do that?’ ‘What was it like when you did?’ ‘I know everything in you wanted to walk away, but you didn’t. Being brave isn’t about doing things easily. It’s about doing those hard things even when they feel bigger than us. I see you doing that all the time. It doesn’t matter that you don’t do them every time -none of us are brave every time- but you have so much courage in you my love, even when anxiety is making you feel otherwise.’

Let them also know that you feel like this too sometimes. It will help them see that anxiety happens to all of us, and that even though it tells a deficiency story, it is just a story and one they can change the ending of.
During adolescence, our teens are more likely to pay attention to the positives of a situation over the negatives. This can be a great thing. The courage that comes from this will help them try new things, explore their independence, and learn the things they need to learn to be happy, healthy adults. But it can also land them in bucketloads of trouble. 

Here’s the thing. Our teens don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to go behind our backs, but they also don’t want to be controlled by us, or have any sense that we might be stifling their way towards independence. The cold truth of it all is that if they want something badly enough, and if they feel as though we are intruding or that we are making arbitrary decisions just because we can, or that we don’t get how important something is to them, they have the will, the smarts and the means to do it with or without or approval. 

So what do we do? Of course we don’t want to say ‘yes’ to everything, so our job becomes one of influence over control. To keep them as safe as we can, rather than saying ‘no’ (which they might ignore anyway) we want to engage their prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) so they can be more considered in their decision making. 

Our teens are very capable of making good decisions, but because the rational, logical, thinking prefrontal cortex won’t be fully online until their 20s (closer to 30 in boys), we need to wake it up and bring it to the decision party whenever we can. 

Do this by first softening the landing:
‘I can see how important this is for you. You really want to be with your friends. I absolutely get that.’
Then, gently bring that thinking brain to the table:
‘It sounds as though there’s so much to love in this for you. I don’t want to get in your way but I need to know you’ve thought about the risks and planned for them. What are some things that could go wrong?’
Then, we really make the prefrontal cortex kick up a gear by engaging its problem solving capacities:
‘What’s the plan if that happens.’
Remember, during adolescence we switch from managers to consultants. Assume a leadership presence, but in a way that is warm, loving, and collaborative.♥️
Big feelings and big behaviour are a call for us to come closer. They won’t always feel like that, but they are. Not ‘closer’ in an intrusive ‘I need you to stop this’ way, but closer in a ‘I’ve got you, I can handle all of you’ kind of way - no judgement, no need for you to be different - I’m just going to make space for this feeling to find its way through. 

Our kids and teens are no different to us. When we have feelings that fill us to overloaded, the last thing we need is someone telling us that it’s not the way to behave, or to calm down, or that we’re unbearable when we’re like this. Nup. What we need, and what they need, is a safe place to find our out breath, to let the energy connected to that feeling move through us and out of us so we can rest. 
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But how? First, don’t take big feelings personally. They aren’t a reflection on you, your parenting, or your child. Big feelings have wisdom contained in them about what’s needed more, or less, or what feels intolerable right now. Sometimes it might be as basic as a sleep or food. Maybe more power, influence, independence, or connection with you. Maybe there’s too much stress and it’s hitting their ceiling and ricocheting off their edges. Like all wisdom, it doesn’t always find a gentle way through. That’s okay, that will come. Our kids can’t learn to manage big feelings, or respect the wisdom embodied in those big feelings if they don’t have experience with big feelings. 
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We also need to make sure we are responding to them in the moment, not a fear or an inherited ‘should’ of our own. These are the messages we swallowed whole at some point - ‘happy kids should never get sad or angry’, ‘kids should always behave,’ ‘I should be able to protect my kids from feeling bad,’ ‘big feelings are bad feelings’, ‘bad behaviour means bad kids, which means bad parents.’ All these shoulds are feisty show ponies that assume more ‘rightness’ than they deserve. They are usually historic, and when we really examine them, they’re also irrelevant.
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Finally, try not to let the symptoms of big feelings disrupt the connection. Then, when calm comes, we will have the influence we need for the conversations that matter.

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