Toxic People: 12 Things They Do and How to Deal with Them

The 12 Things Toxic People Do and How to Deal With Them

We have all had toxic people dust us with their poison. Sometimes it’s more like a drenching. Difficult people are drawn to the reasonable ones and all of us have likely had (or have) at least one person in our lives who have us bending around ourselves like barbed wire in endless attempts to please them – only to never really get there.

Their damage lies in their subtlety and the way they can engender that classic response, ‘It’s not them, it’s me.’ They can have you questioning your ‘over-reactiveness’, your ‘oversensitivity’, your ‘tendency to misinterpret’. If you’re the one who’s continually hurt, or the one who is constantly adjusting your own behaviour to avoid being hurt, then chances are that it’s not you and it’s very much them.

Being able to spot their harmful behaviour is the first step to minimising their impact. You might not be able to change what they do, but you can change what you do with it, and any idea that toxic somebody in your life might have that they can get away with it.

There are plenty of things toxic people do to manipulate people and situations to their advantage. Here are 12 of them. Knowing them will help you to avoid falling under the influence:

  1. They’ll keep you guessing about which version of them you’re getting.

    They’ll be completely lovely one day and the next you’ll be wondering what you’ve done to upset them. There often isn’t anything obvious that will explain the change of attitude – you just know something isn’t right. They might be prickly, sad, cold or cranky and when you ask if there’s something wrong, the answer will likely be ‘nothing’ – but they’ll give you just enough  to let you know that there’s something. The ‘just enough’ might be a heaving sigh, a raised eyebrow, a cold shoulder. When this happens, you might find yourself making excuses for them or doing everything you can to make them happy. See why it works for them?

    Stop trying to please them. Toxic people figured out a long time ago that decent people will go to extraordinary lengths to keep the people they care about happy. If your attempts to please aren’t working or aren’t lasting for very long, maybe it’s time to stop. Walk away and come back when the mood has shifted. You are not responsible for anybody else’s feelings. If you have done something unknowingly to hurt somebody, ask, talk about it and if need be, apologise. At any rate, you shouldn’t have to guess.

  1. They’ll manipulate.

    If you feel as though you’re the only one contributing to the relationship, you’re probably right. Toxic people have a way of sending out the vibe that you owe them something. They also have a way of taking from you or doing something that hurts you, then maintaining they were doing it all for you. This is particularly common in workplaces or relationships where the balance of power is out. ‘I’ve left that six months’ worth of filing for you. I thought you’d appreciate the experience and the opportunity to learn your way around the filing cabinets.’ Or, ‘I’m having a dinner party. Why don’t you bring dinner. For 10. It’ll give you a chance to show off those kitchen skills. K?’

    You don’t owe anybody anything. If it doesn’t feel like a favour, it’s not.

  1. They won’t own their feelings.

    Rather than owning their own feelings, they’ll act as though the feelings are yours. It’s called projection, as in projecting their feelings and thoughts onto you. For example, someone who is angry but won’t take responsibility for it might accuse you of being angry with them. It might be as subtle as, ‘Are you okay with me?’ or a bit more pointed, ‘Why are you angry at me,’ or, ‘You’ve been in a bad mood all day.’

    You’ll find yourself justifying and defending and often this will go around in circles – because it’s not about you. Be really clear on what’s yours and what’s theirs. If you feel as though you’re defending yourself too many times against accusations or questions that don’t fit, you might be being projected on to. You don’t have to explain, justify or defend yourself or deal with a misfired accusation. Remember that.

  1. They’ll make you prove yourself to them.

    They’ll regularly put you in a position where you have to choose between them and something else – and you’ll always feel obliged to choose them. Toxic people will wait until you have a commitment, then they’ll unfold the drama.  ‘If you really cared about me you’d skip your exercise class and spend time with me.’  The problem with this is that enough will never be enough. Few things are fatal – unless it’s life or death, chances are it can wait.

    [irp posts=”1195″ name=”Toxic People: 16 Practical, Powerful Ways to Deal With Them”]

  2. They never apologise. 

    They’ll lie before they ever apologise, so there’s no point arguing. They’ll twist the story, change the way it happened and retell it so convincingly that they’ll believe their own nonsense.

    People don’t have to apologise to be wrong. And you don’t need an apology to move forward. Just move forward – without them. Don’t surrender your truth but don’t keep the argument going. There’s just no point. Some people want to be right more than they want to be happy and you have better things to do than to provide fodder for the right-fighters.

  1. They’ll be there in a crisis but they’ll never ever share your joy.

    They’ll find reasons your good news isn’t great news. The classics: About a promotion – ‘The money isn’t that great for the amount of work you’ll be doing.’ About a holiday at the beach – ‘Well it’s going to be very hot. Are you sure you want to go?’ About being made Queen of the Universe – ‘Well the Universe isn’t that big you know and I’m pretty sure you won’t get tea breaks.’ Get the idea? Don’t let them dampen you or shrink you down to their size. You don’t need their approval anyway – or anyone else’s for that matter.

  2. They’ll leave a conversation unfinished – and then they’ll go offline.

    They won’t pick up their phone. They won’t answer texts or emails. And in between rounds of their voicemail message, you might find yourself playing the conversation or argument over and over in your head, guessing about the status of the relationship, wondering what you’ve done to upset them, or whether they’re dead, alive or just ignoring you – which can sometimes all feel the same. People who care about you won’t let you go on feeling rubbish without attempting to sort it out. That doesn’t mean you’ll sort it out of course, but at least they’ll try. Take it as a sign of their investment in the relationship if they leave you ‘out there’ for lengthy sessions.

  3. They’ll use non-toxic words with a toxic tone.

    The message might be innocent enough but the tone conveys so much more. Something like, ‘What did you do today?’ can mean different things depending on the way it’s said. It could mean anything from ‘So I bet you did nothing – as usual,’ to ‘I’m sure your day was better than mine. Mine was awful. Just awful. And you didn’t even notice enough to ask.’ When you question the tone, they’ll come back with, ‘All I said was what did you do today,’ which is true, kind of, not really.

  4. They’ll bring irrelevant detail into a conversation.

    When you’re trying to resolve something important to you, toxic people will bring in irrelevant detail from five arguments ago. The problem with this is that before you know it, you’re arguing about something you did six months ago, still defending yourself, rather than dealing with the issue at hand. Somehow, it just always seems to end up about what you’ve done to them.

  5. They’ll make it about the way you’re talking, rather than what you’re talking about.

    You might be trying to resolve an issue or get clarification and before you know it, the conversation/ argument has moved away from the issue that was important to you and on to the manner in which you talked about it – whether there is any issue with your manner or not. You’ll find yourself defending your tone, your gestures, your choice of words or the way your belly moves when you breathe – it doesn’t even need to make sense. Meanwhile, your initial need is well gone on the pile of unfinished conversations that seems to grow bigger by the day.

    [irp posts=”1762″ name=”When Someone You Love is Toxic: How to Let Go of Toxic People, Without Guilt”]

  6. They exaggerate.

    ‘You always …’ ‘You never …’ It’s hard to defend yourself against this form of manipulation. Toxic people have a way of drawing on the one time you didn’t or the one time you did as evidence of your shortcomings. Don’t buy into the argument. You won’t win. And you don’t need to.

  7. They are judgemental.

    We all get it wrong sometimes but toxic people will make sure you know it. They’ll judge you and take a swipe at your self-esteem suggesting that you’re less than because you made a mistake. We’re all allowed to get it wrong now and then, but unless we’ve done something that affects them nobody has the right to stand in judgement.

Knowing the favourite go-to’s for toxic people will sharpen your radar, making the manipulations easier to spot and easier to name. More importantly, if you know the characteristic signs of a toxic person, you’ll have a better chance of catching yourself before you tie yourself in double knots trying to please them.

Some people can’t be pleased and some people won’t be good for you – and many times that will have nothing to do with you. You can always say no to unnecessary crazy. Be confident and own your own faults, your quirks and the things that make you shine. You don’t need anyone’s approval but remember if someone is working hard to manipulate, it’s probably because they need yours. You don’t always have to give it but if you do, don’t let the cost be too high.



I just got out of a toxic friendship with one of my friends, I’ve known her nearly all my life, and most of the time I am her friend. There has been the odd year where I haven’t been. It gets quite annoying because all she ever does is start drama. It is extremely annoying. The whole of last year, all she did was make me feel small and worthless. She turned everyone in the friendship group against me, it was a shit year. I couldn’t even get out of there because she would just turn everyone against me, one time in grade 3, she was had locked herself inside a small room, and I was trying to help her get out, then when I got it free, the chain on her side of the door hit her in the face. It was just me and her there, so she went off and said I punched her! For the next six months, no one would go near me!
I started at high school this year, sadly she is still in my class because the majority of students were from my school, but all these new people came to school too. People said I was lucky because I knew a lot of most people, but to me, I felt like a new student, because I promised myself, that even if it meant I would have no friends for a while, I wasn’t going back there. Now I have a lot of friends and after a while, two of the girls that were friends with the mean one ditched her and came over to me.
It is still hard though. I always help whoever is in a fight with her, because I know exactly what it’s like. She is still really mean to me and starts drama all the time, but honestly, it is hard to start drama with someone who doesn’t care. I try my hardest not to let it get to me. I don’t care if she starts fights, the drama she can even try to turn my friends against me. Even if she does manage to turn my friends against me, they weren’t really my friends. My new friends are still learning. But they all know that I would do anything for them. I have saved all of my friends from one time or another. Honestly, even though I do all of this, I’m the least important in our group. I have done some pretty stupid stuff to save my friends, and I’ve lost friends because of it, but I don’t care.
It is getting hard being away from here, and she is starting a lot of drama. It’s hard not being friends with her. I know if I do go back, I will lose a lot of my friends, then if I do get out they won’t be there. Those friends have saved me. If I didn’t have them, I honestly wouldn’t be here, and that scares me. If you have any tips on stopping yourself from getting back into that friendships, please, please let me know.


I’m currently talking to this guy. All in all, he’s really nice. I’ve liked him for several years now and I managed to confess earlier this year to him. He told me he wasn’t looking for a relationship. He also said that he and I could be friends.
I accepted his feelings of not wanting a relationship, and as such, I started talking to him as friends. We talked for a good 6 months or so, and then we got into this fight.
I don’t know what sparked the fight, but all I know was that I was angry at him for something. He initially asked what had happened, and I told him the issue.
I felt that the conversation was quite productive, so I said goodnight and went to bed as I outlined to him that we could talk about it the next day as I was tired. The next morning, he was saying really nice stuff and talked to me a lot (like he would reply back really quickly and would talk to me for hours).
I decided to check my social media and I found that he had removed me on Instagram and blocked me on snap. I was extremely confused.
I immediately asked him if he had blocked me, and if so, why and what happened. He then said that it was because he was ‘pissed’ at what happened that night. I asked him to outline what made him angry, and he said that it was what I said to him about what made me upset/angry. He said that apparently, I was saying bad things about him, and I kept ‘calling him out’. He also said that his school friends told him to block me.
I asked him why he found blocking me was a solution. In a sense, we could’ve talked it out. I was willing to say sorry and work things out. He got angry and blocked me on Instagram and on Discord (which is where we talk).
I tried to get to him to know where the real problem was through his private acc on Insta, and that’s when he unblocked the discord acc.
I don’t know if I’m the toxic one here.
I don’t know what to do anymore. We’re still talking now, but it’s definitely more awkward. The way me and him know each other is through Church. I never intended for him to be this angry at me, and he stated that he is still thinking about if he should unblock me on Instagram. I’m afraid of having a discussion with him, especially because he said he gets angry really quickly. What if I make him upset and angry? I feel like I destroyed our connection.


My brother-in-law is like this, and to complicate things, he’s manic depressive, so he’s used to people giving him a pass, and I’ve caught him bragging to my sister about his “get out of jail free card”.

And my wife has clinical depression, so it’s not like I don’t know what I’m talking about. She doesn’t buy into his nonsense, either. In fact, she constantly worries about taking advantage of me herself, and I tell her not to worry, if she was, I’d know. She also doesn’t buy into his nonsense, nor does she expect a pass because of her own condition.

Sadly, my dad does, and always has. He once told me that being mad at my brother-in-law when he becomes verbally abusive is “like being mad at somebody for having a broken leg”.

Wrong. It’s like being mad at somebody with a broken leg who keeps poking you with their cane and kicking you with their cast, because they think it’s their right.

Big difference.


So, I live with my Ex-husband. I know, l-a-m-e. But, unfortunately I had a severe medical disability happen to me where I was no longer able to work at 51 and I basically had no where else to go. We were married for 17yrs and although it wasn’t the best of times, it also wasn’t the worst of times. However moving back in with him I thought (much to my disillusion) that he had actually changed in the 5yrs we had been apart and maybe had grown up some and realized his degree of toxicity, stubbornness, and laziness, does not make for a good partner for even the worst wife on the planet. So, long story short, not only did he make progress, he digressed more than I ever imagined possible. If they were to ever post an article about toxic men I am 1000% certain his picture would be featured. And no, I am not a man hater. Not at all. I am a toxic person hater. Let me give you an example. I have extreme back issues/pain. I was trying to toss a small, empty, prescription bottle to him to help him out so he could look into what happened with a refill and with my unsteady back the bottle ended up instead of on his desk landing on the floor. He accused me of throwing it at him!!! He actually tried to convince me I did this, and, on purpose! He would rather die than apologize for anything, yet he swears he apologizes more than any person on the planet!! This loser has a master’s degree when it comes to placing blame, dodging responsibility, and owning anything. And, for those of you who are savvy on your “criminal thinking errors”, he has “victimstance” down to a T. His favorite saying is “you can’t question MY feelings, this is how you make me feel”. Funny thing is, if I ever dare try to tell him anything about himself, he immediately interrupts me by jumping on the defensive bandwagon telling me how I am delusional. Bottom line, if you are ever unfortunate enough to run into an individual like this… Far and Fast. For you own mental well being. These people are masters at mental mind effs.


How do you know who is the toxic one because the line’s are so unclear to me at this point. I tell my hun, good morning his response is what’s so good about it. I say it’s so nice out let’s go for a drive or something. He will say why ? Or he never feels good. We just go round in round about the same issues in our relationship never really fixing the problem and no counselor is ever good enough. I am told because of my lack of trust for him is why every problem in the relationship is mine. I tell him he put our bills in the back of his truck basically under the seat. I didn’t know which bill had not been paid yet because he said he paid them. Then the PUD got shut off but ne not trusting him is my fault. He said he paid the water bill and that got shut off. I had just gotten paid so I paid the bills he said he paid and when I ask what happened too the bill money he gets mad for asking. I am told I’m the toxic one all of the time to the point that I wonder are we both Toxic or is the whole darn world toxic. When is it time to say enough is enough. He hid money from me but of course. I would find out money is missing when it’s 4,000. Like G I’m not going to notice that. Ok so you get my point.


Thanks for this article about toxic people. My brother and my son hurt me for 10 years and stole my house then I got free with my remaining life even with less money -Is that right!!


This is a comforting read. I just got out of a relationship with a person like this yesterday. I am hurting badly as I have feelings for them. They told me from the get go that they had a few personality and mental disorders, which I dutifully researched in an attempt to understand, and I thought I could help them. Naive of me.
I recognise so much of this. Always creating drama, nothing you say or do ever being enough to resolve their issue, no responsibility taken for wrong behaviour, being accused of crazed paranoia if you dare to suspect you’re being lied to, being totally in love with you one day but cold as ice the next, laughably being accused of being an alcoholic for occasionally wanting to socialise with friends.
My head is messed up. My work and social life were being slowly consumed by them. For seemingly bugger all in return. This reassures me I have done the correct thing.

Steve C

It’s difficult to read these comments because I loved a person like this as a friend. I thought I was toxic and a narcissist because she called me one! Even being in love with her as a friend was wrong.. I’d crossed a line by telling her..I’ve done so much for her…then made a huge mistake and paid for it. Seems whatever I did before or the value of our friendship meant nothing to her really..never mind. Move on.


I was in an incredibly abusive 6-month relationship (felt like 6 years) with a man who drained me of all joy in life. Like the typical NPD-ridden psychopath, he charmed the hell out of me until I agreed to be his girlfriend, and oh how quickly things changed. It always starts with the emotional abuse and then leads to physical, you know, at first it’s just “You’re not wearing that. Who are you trying to look sexy for? You look like a whore” then it’s a slap, then it’s a cigarette burn, then it’s a full blown K.O. He busted my face, ears, broke all my electronics, gaslighted me, stole my belongings, threatened to kill me, kill himself… I could go on forever. I had to leave the country to escape him and when I finally did, and turned to my father for healing, I was met with more emotional abuse. My father shamed me for leaving the job he had helped me get. He got angry at me for having no appetite. I had lost 20 lbs (I’m already thin) by this point and was suffering with food poisoning, yet was forced by him to attend hotel dinners and whatnot. I finally left him and turned to my mother who basically nursed me back to health for 4 months. Years later I am in a healthy relationship with someone who adores me and treats me like gold, yet I am continually noticing the toxic behaviours I have picked up due to my previous relationship. The worst thing about being in these abusive relationships is that you end up carrying baggage with you throughout the rest of your life and sometimes no matter how much self-love you try to practice and how many therapy sessions you attend, you don’t really ever see the light at the end of the tunnel. I send healing energy to every single person out there, man and woman, who is in my position. Take life day by day and I truly hope you are able to find the happiness you deserve.


Both my mother and older sister are the most toxic people I’ve ever met. They literally tick all the boxes, especially the fact they never admit their mistakes, let alone apologizing. Someday when I’m financially independent, I’m gonna cut off contact with them and flee as far away from them as I can.


I thought I was alone, I am in a nightmare now with a person who you have described down to the last detail. My toxic seems to be going into overdrive trying desperately to pull me back as I try to pull away. I am stressed to the max that I am on pills to calm me down. Toxic has me afraid, he has a temper too, he screams and yells with teeth bared like a rabid dog and slams things around if he feels he is losing ground. He has very little regard to any of my needs or feelings and I am left feeling like a burden and need to be tolerated. I am tired, because of his manipulations I have resort to subterfuge to escape. So I sit here night after night trying to devise my escape. It may take a while but I will be free.


I’ve been dealing with a toxic Friend, Who really tries to Switch things up On me an Make me out to be the toxic one. All I asked her is one Question and I got Screamed at, an entire paragraph how I’m hurting her, When those really weren’t my intentions, at all. Her reasoning for it was really stupid as well, I did end up saying sorry, but I kept getting frustrated with her so I just decided to Block her and end it. She was trying to manipulate and guilt trip me, not to mention she was 2 faced, And just so much more. Anyway thank you for the article, It helped a lot 🙂


WOW! YOU ARE SPOT ON! Thank you.

Marriage counselors suck – as in “make things your fault” – when you’ve got a toxic significant other but this article nails it. Thanks for making me say, “Eh, he’s screwed up,” rather than “how can I be a perfect independent woman while being nice to my lying husband while he does whatever crap he wants”, and then praising him effusively for taking out the trash before he is blows you off while telling you how great his day was;” Your crappy marital counselor (hopefully, “was” your counselor) will then tell you that you talk too much and advise you to avoid judging or drawing conclusions about his character. Seriously, “avoiding the ‘I’ word” when you’re dating/married to a narcissist is the equivalent of walking into a gun fight with a knife. Now I know to avoid the fight.


And sorry for talking too much (I know I know) but this article needs to form the basis of a new mental disorder in the DSM VI: “Toxic People” with subcategories of “Co-Workers / Bosses”, “Significant Others”, “Family”, “Friends”, and “Everyone Else.”

Also, nos. 9 thru 12 need a advice re: responding. (I know this is an ancient post my gawsh: it’s popular.)

loving virgo

hi, my partner is like that, she loves me alot, but she has all those things, she will have tantrum and she will get too much emotional. if i go to washroom also i need to keep proof but still it willnot work. i tried to stay separate bcz i was tired of 3 times a day fight, morning evening and afternoon. i spend a few weeks very relax and happy but i saw her whatsaup status and facebook post, she keep crying and sad, which i couldnt bear it, i start meeting with her again. but still the same. i really want to help her, can you advise me or help me how to make her a normal person. i m tired of this attitude. for me its very hard to leave someone in my life. please help me i want her to be ok.


What do I do, the person I am with is nice to me one day and is cold and distant the next… ?sometimes quite passive aggressive when I am trying to have a simple conversation with him, he acts uninterested, it makes me feel like I’m trying to force conversation with a stranger and it makes me feel like he is quite detached from me.


Don’t force conversation with him. Let him come to you.

What is your relationship to him? Wife, partner, or friend? If it’s one of the last two, it might be best for you two to walk your separate ways.


Elle, it sounds like he’s passive-aggressive and abusive and someone you’d want to avoid having a relationship with. Follow your intuition – if he runs hot and cold and is distant and detached then listen to the warning signs. You should only surround yourself with good and loving people, people who respect you. People who are stable and don’t play mind-games. You deserve better. Also, if you’re in a sexual relationship with him and he’s treating you this way, that’s a huge red flag. He should respect you, make plans for dates, show affection in non-sexual ways, and want to converse with you and listen to your feelings. Cool off on the sex and see what happens – does he drop you like a hot potato, does he start begging for sex (which may indicate that’s all he’s after), or does he try to mend your relationship, which is the only correct answer. Please don’t let yourself be used or mistreated in any way. And it’s not your job to teach another person how be decent and kind. If they don’t possess those qualities on their own then it’s time to move on.


Leave him alone. He’s either not interested or is playing a game or has problems you can’t help him with. Do not allow yourself to get down on yourself over how a guy treats you. If he’s not lifting you up, he’s bringing you down.

K. L

I had a guy like that. We started dating and he was really into and then suddenly he backed off, stopped calling me and acted like a casual and indifferent acquaintance. I confronted him but he didn’t respond. I gave up and walked away from the relationship thinking he just didn’t love me and it was breaking my heart. I went about my life and threw myself into my work to get over him. After a few years, he found me online and emailed me. He regretted how he had treated me and professed his love. My distance showed him he loved and missed me.
The lesson? Walk away if he won’t respond to you and get on with your life. If he cares and loves you, it’ll be a wakeup call to him. If not, you will find love with someone else. There are good men looking for good women. Don’t waste your time on someone who doesnt love you.


Cheryl please run away from this man. I promise you will be so happy on your own, living a beautiful new life, with friends and having your own wonderful voice and thoughts and opinions. No more worrying about him and how he torments you. And that is what he does, is torment. You have a whole life to live. Please don’t waste it on someone who is holding you underwater. Open this new door and walk through it. You have a great new life right at your fingertips I promise. Don’t be afraid. I hate to say it but I find us women are far more powerful and complex than what most men can understand or tolerate. We evolve and are amazing natural beings. We have souls deeper than anything in existence. And for a man to treat you like this? It shows where they rank evolution wise. Please make yourself number one. Because you are. You can do this. All you need is you self love. And you do love yourself, otherwise you wouldn’t feel that this is wrong.


This seems like my mother’s mother who I hate very much. She doesn’t deserve the title she was given. Some of these traits are what she portrays daily and the sad part about it is that I can’t tell anyone like I don’t have anyone to tell and my mother says I complain too much so I just keep it to myself and sometimes I just feel so depressed and she calls me all sorts of names like she and I are the same age. I mean you received the title grandmother when I was born so why don’t you act like one instead of comparing and favoring your other grandchildren to me? Huh?! Smh. I’m honestly so sick and tired of her and the way she behaves towards me.🙄 and the worst part about it is when she berates or chastises me she always wants me to do something for her. Smh.


No family member has any right to call you a hurtful name and get away with it. I recommend avoiding the people who hurt you as much as you can.

I Mercer

I’ve always been a magnet for those type of people. I was in a bad way when I was a young teen. I opened up to (still to this day) the most toxic person I’ve had the pleassure of meeting.

For whatever reason I accepted their obvious behaviour; i guess I was young and easy to manipulate.

Through over 8 years we learned allot about eachother and I learned a little of what it’s like to be toxic from their point of view. I loved them back then and love them now.

Those who are hardest to love, need it the most.


My husband ( not the biological grandfather ) picks a fight any time I ask (yes, I have to ask) for my grandkids to come over. Its been 3 months, but they were coming Saturday so my husband picked a fight and then was like its out of concern for my health and that he was being nice considering me. I go to work in a School w 406 kids everyday but my 2 grandkids 13 and 9 are a concern, so I’ve asked my daughter to let me keep them at her house to keep the peace as I don’t want him around them because he’ll pick at everything I do when they are there. I have no friends anymore and I don’t want to tell my kids what’s going on, do anyone have any advice they might give me?


If this person is vilifying you behind your back, it’s best to keep your grandkids away from him.

K. L

Your husband’s a jerk and A-hole. Tell him to shut up. You have the right to see those kids if you want. Just be strong and stand up to him.


I’ve been searching about “how to deal with him when he is not saying sorry after he disappoints you”. But yeah, most of here relates to me. I can’t believe after what I’ve done just to save this relationship turns out that I become toxic. I always initiate things, forgives him after being caught cheating, embracing this 1% of chance that he will do his part someday. And now I am ending up being a toxic person in the relationship.


Hey Sigmund.

Wanted to share my story in the hope it might inspire or assure others.

Was in a toxic/abusive relationship for most of last year. Finally out of it and have met someone new.
It bowls me over at how relaxing and safe a healthy relationship feels.
They reply to your messages, they will do everything in their power to make sure your emotional needs are taken care of, and I haven’t once questioned my sense of self or sanity.

What I hadn’t realised was that I as I let go of toxic partnerships and family members, I also let go of toxic friends and toxic professionals, i.e. doctors and psychologists.

I feel as though I am starting a new, and there is still grief and trauma I am working through, but I finally love and trust myself.


I have a toxic sister that has had really bad life and she takes out her issue on me – her older brother. Since I am Medical and Durable POA for our Mom she mocks my responsibility like saying things like hey Mr.POA, she is extremely bitchy to me, smart alecy, does things on her own w/ our Mom property with out asking, always wants “transparency” so she can beat me up about some detail she doesn’t like, etc. etc. Our Mom is 92 and I dred having to plan a funeral & burial and execute my Moms will with this person (my younger sister) involved. Thanks


You seem like a more responsible person than your sister. When the time comes, do what you believe would satisfy your mother.


Thanks, some great advice on dealing with toxic people. About a year ago I gave away most of my possessions and moved to a different country, partly because of unfulfilling relationships.
A lot of people do not treat relationships as works in progress, when mine stopped working, I left.
I got so tired of giving, and receiving little or nothing in return. With all respect and love for Neil Young, I offer this, from Thrasher:

It was then that I knew I’d had enough
Burned my credit card for fuel
Headed out to where the pavement turns to sand
With a one way ticket to the land of truth
And my suitcase in my hand
How I lost my friends, I still don’t understand
They had the best selection
They were poisoned with protection
There was nothing that they needed
Nothing left to find
They were lost in rock formations
Or became park bench mutations
On the sidewalks and in the stations
They were waiting, waiting
So I got bored and left them there
They were just dead weight to me
Better down the road without that load


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We have to change the way we talk about anxiety. If we talk about it as a disorder, this is how it feels.

Yes anxiety can be so crushing, and yes it can intrude into every part of their everyday. But the more we talk about anxiety as a disorder, the more we drive ‘anxiety about the anxiety’. Even for big anxiety, there is nothing to be served in talking about it as a disorder. 

There is another option. We change the face of it - from an intruder or deficiency, to an ally. We change the story - from ‘There’s something wrong with me’ to, ‘I’m doing something hard.’ I’ve seen the difference this makes, over and over.

This doesn’t mean we ignore anxiety. Actually we do the opposite. We acknowledge it. We explain it for what it is: the healthy, powerful response of a magnificent brain that is doing exactly what brains are meant to do - protect us. This is why I wrote Hey Warrior.

What we focus on is what becomes powerful. If we focus on the anxiety, it will big itself up to unbearable.

What we need to do is focus on both sides - the anxiety and the brave. Anxiety, courage, strength - they all exist together. 

Anxiety isn’t the absence of brave, it’s the calling of brave. It’s there because you’re about to do something hard, brave, meaningful - not because there’s something wrong with you.

First, acknowledge the anxiety. Without this validation, anxiety will continue to do its job and prepare the body for fight or flight, and drive big feelings to recruit the safety of another human.

Then, we speak to the brave. We know it’s there, so we usher it into the light:

‘Yes I know this is big. It’s hard [being away from the people you love] isn’t it. And I know you can do this. We can do hard things can’t we.

You are one of the bravest, strongest people I know. Being brave feels scary and hard sometimes doesn’t it. It feels like brave isn’t there, but it’s always there. Always. And you know what else I know? It gets easier every time. I’ve know this because I’ve seen you do hard things, and because I’ve felt like this too, so many times. I know that you and me, even when we feel anxious, we can do brave. It’s always in you. I know that for certain.’♥️
Our job as parents isn’t to remove their distress around boundaries, but to give them the experiences to recognise they can handle boundaries - holding theirs and respecting the boundaries others. 

Every time we hold a boundary, we are giving our kids the precious opportunity to learn how to hold their own.

If we don’t have boundaries, the risk is that our children won’t either. We can talk all we want about the importance of boundaries, but if we don’t show them, how can they learn? Inadvertently, by avoiding boundary collisions with them, we are teaching them to avoid conflict at all costs. 

In practice, this might look like learning to put themselves, their needs, and their feelings away for the sake of peace. Alternatively, they might feel the need to control other people and situations even more. If they haven’t had the experience of surviving a collision of needs or wants, and feeling loved and accepted through that, conflicting needs will feel scary and intolerable.

Similarly, if we hold our boundaries too harshly and meet their boundary collisions with shame, yelling, punishment or harsh consequences, this is how we’re teaching them to respond to disagreement, or diverse needs and wants. We’re teaching them to yell, fight dirty, punish, or overbear those who disagree. 

They might also go the other way. If boundaries are associated with feeling shamed, lonely, ‘bad’, they might instead surrender boundaries and again put themselves away to preserve the relationship and the comfort of others. This is because any boundary they hold might feel too much, too cruel, or too rejecting, so ‘no boundary’ will be the safest option. 

If we want our children to hold their boundaries respectfully and kindly, and with strength, we will have to go first.

It’s easy to think there are only two options. Either:
- We focus on the boundary at the expense of the relationship and staying connected to them.
- We focus on the connection at the expense of the boundary. 

But there is a third option, and that is to do both - at the same time. We hold the boundary, while at the same time we attend to the relationship. We hold the boundary, but with warmth.♥️
Sometimes finding the right words is hard. When their words are angry and out of control, it’s because that’s how they feel. 

Eventually we want to grow them into people who can feel all their feelings and lasso them into words that won’t break people, but this will take time.

In the meantime, they’ll need us to model the words and hold the boundaries firmly and lovingly. This might sound like:

‘It’s okay to be angry, and it’s okay not to like my decision. It’s not okay to speak to me like that. I know you know that. My answer is still no.’

Then, when they’re back to calm, have the conversation: 

‘I wonder if sometimes when you say you don’t like me, what you really mean is that you don’t like what I’ve done. It’s okay to be angry at me. It’s okay to tell me you’re angry at me. It’s not okay to be disrespectful.

What’s important is that you don’t let what someone has done turn you into someone you’re not. You’re such a great kid. You’re fun, funny, kind, honest, respectful. I know you know that yelling mean things isn’t okay. What might be a better way to tell me that you’re angry, or annoyed at what I’ve said?’♥️
We humans feel safest when we know where the edges are. Without boundaries it can feel like walking along the edge of a mountain without guard rails.

Boundaries must come with two things - love and leadership. They shouldn’t feel hollow, and they don’t need to feel like brick walls. They can be held firmly and lovingly.

Boundaries without the ‘loving’ will feel shaming, lonely, harsh. Understandably children will want to shield from this. This ‘shielding’ looks like keeping their messes from us. We drive them into the secretive and the forbidden because we squander precious opportunities to guide them.

Harsh consequences don’t teach them to avoid bad decisions. They teach them to avoid us.

They need both: boundaries, held lovingly.

First, decide on the boundary. Boundaries aren’t about what we want them to do. We can’t control that. Boundaries are about what we’ll do when the rules are broken.

If the rule is, ‘Be respectful’ - they’re in charge of what they do, you’re in charge of the boundary.

Attend to boundaries AND relationship. ‘It’s okay to be angry at me. (Rel’ship) No, I won’t let you speak to me like that. (Boundary). I want to hear what you have to say. (R). I won’t listen while you’re speaking like that. (B). I’m  going to wait until you can speak in a way I can hear. I’m right here. (R).

If the ‘leadership’ part is hard, think about what boundaries meant for you when you were young. If they felt cruel or shaming, it’s understandable that that’s how boundaries feel for you now. You don’t have to do boundaries the way your parents did. Don’t get rid of the boundary. Add in a loving way to hold them.

If the ‘loving’ part is hard, and if their behaviour enrages you, what was it like for you when you had big feelings as a child? If nobody supported you through feelings or behaviour, it’s understandable that their big feelings and behaviour will drive anger in you.

Anger exists as a shield for other more vulnerable feelings. What might your anger be shielding - loneliness? Anxiety? Feeling unseen? See through the behaviour to the need or feeling behind it: This is a great kid who is struggling right now. Reject the behaviour, support the child.♥️

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