15 Signs of a Toxic Relationship

15 Signs of a Toxic Relationship

Toxic relationships will cause monumental breakage to people, families and workplaces, but they aren’t necessarily the territory of the weak, downtrodden or insecure. Strong, healthy, independent people can find themselves in the white-knuckled grip of a toxic relationship. Similarly, relationships that seem to begin strong because ‘omg we’re soooo in love you guys,’ can dissolve into nothing but ash and legal fees that could have bought a castle on the river Seine, if they weren’t being used to divide half your assets more ‘half-ly’.

Relationships evolve. They change and they grow. Sometimes they crash and they burn. We never know how things will look when each other’s less adorable, kind of awful habits start to show themselves publicly, or under the influence of alcohol or in-laws.

Some relationships are all shades of wrong from the outset (‘Darlin’ you’re so pretty. You’re the image of my ex. See? Here’s her photo. You can keep that one. I have plenty – in my wallet, as my screen saver, on my bedside table, at my mum’s house, on my desk, on my fridge and yeah, all over the place. Sometimes I just, like, hold it in front of me and run backwards and pretend like she’s chasing me. Wanna get some tequila baby?’) Some start off with promise and with all the right ingredients, but somewhere along the way, the right ingredients get replaced with resentment, jealousy, history and hurt.

We love love. Of course we do. Love sends us to joyous, lofty heights that we never want to come down from, but the same heart that can send us into a loved-up euphoria can trip us up and have us falling into something more toxic. The hot pursuit of love can be blinding. Even worse, sometimes it’s not until you’re two kids and a mortgage into the relationship, that you realise something has been missing for a while, and that something is you.

What is a toxic relationship?

A toxic relationship contaminates your self-esteem, your happiness and the way you see yourself and the world. A toxic person will float through life with a trail of broken hearts, broken relationships and broken people behind them, but toxic relationships don’t necessarily end up that way because the person you fell for turned out to be a toxic one. Relationships can start healthy, but bad feelings, bad history, or long-term unmet needs can fester, polluting the relationship and changing the people in it. It can happen easily and quickly, and it can happen to the strongest people.

Can I fix it?

All relationships are worth the fight, until they’re not. In a toxic relationship there will always be fallout:

  • moodiness, anger, unhappiness become the norm;
  • you avoid each other more and more;
  • work and relationships outside the toxic relationship start to suffer.

If the relationship is toxic, it is highly likely that all the fight in the world won’t change anything because one or both people have emotionally moved on. Perhaps they were never really there in the first place, or not in the way you needed them to be anyway. Even worse, if your relationship is toxic, you will be more and more damaged by staying in it.

Fighting to hold on to something that is not fighting to hold on to you will ruin you. Sometimes the only thing left to do is to let go with grace and love and move on.

What are the signs that I’m in a toxic relationship?

Being aware that the relationship is toxic is vital in protecting yourself from breakage. To stay in a toxic relationship is to keep your hand hovering over the self-destruct button. Not all toxic relationships are easy to leave, but being aware of the signs will make it easier to claim back your power and draw a bold heavy line around what’s allowed into your life and what gets closed out.

Toxic behaviour exists on a spectrum. All people and all relationships do some of these things some of the time – but that doesn’t make them toxic. A toxic relationship is defined by the consistency, the intensity and the damage. Here are some of the signs.

  1. It feels bad. All the time.

    You fall asleep hollow and you wake up just as bad. You look at other couples doing their happy couple thing and you feel the sting. Why couldn’t that sort of love happen for you? It can, but first you have to clear the path for it to find you. Leaving a relationship is never easy, but staying for too long in a toxic relationship will make sure any strength, courage and confidence in you are eroded down to nothing. Once that happens, you’re stuck.

  2. You’re constantly braced for the ‘gotcha’.

    Sometimes you can see it coming. Sometimes you wouldn’t see it if it was lit with stadium floodlights. Questions become traps. (‘Well would you rather go out with your friends or stay home with me?’) Statements become traps. (‘You seemed to enjoy talking to your boss tonight.’) The relationship is a jungle and somewhere along the way you’ve turned into a hunted thing in a skin suit. When the ‘gotcha’ comes, there’s no forgiveness, just the glory of catching you out. It’s impossible to move forward from this. Everyone makes mistakes, but yours are used as proof that you’re too uninvested, too wrong, too stupid, too something. The only thing you really are is too good to be treated like this.

  3. You avoid saying what you need because there’s just no point.

    We all have important needs in relationships. Some of the big ones are connection, validation, appreciation, love, sex, affection. When those needs are mocked or ignored, the emptiness of that unmet need will clamour like an old church bell. If your attempts to talk about what you need end in a fight, a(nother) empty promise, accusations of neediness, insecurity, jealousy or madness you’ll either bury the need or resent that it keeps being overlooked. Either way, it’s toxic.

  4. There’s no effort.

    Standing on a dance floor doesn’t make you a dancer, and being physically present in a relationship doesn’t mean there is an investment being made in that relationship. Doing things separately sometimes is healthy, but as with all healthy things, too much is too much. When there is no effort to love you, spend time with you, share the things that are important to you, the relationship stops giving and starts taking too much. There comes a point that the only way to respond to ‘Well I’m here, aren’t I?’ is, ‘Yeah. But maybe better if you weren’t.’

  5. All the work, love, compromise comes from you.

    Nobody can hold a relationship together when they are the only one doing the work. It’s lonely and it’s exhausting. If you’re not able to leave the relationship, give what you need to give but don’t give any more than that. Let go of the fantasy that you can make things better if you try hard enough, work hard enough, say enough, do enough. Stop. Just stop. You’re enough. You always have been.

  6. When ‘no’ is a dirty word.

    ‘No’ is an important word in any relationship. Don’t strike it from your vocabulary, even in the name of love – especially not in the name of love. Healthy relationships need compromise but they also respect the needs and wants of both people. Communicating what you want is as important for you and the relationship as communicating what you don’t want. Find your ‘no’, give it a polish, and know where the release button is. A loving partner will respect that you’re not going to agree with everything they say or do. If you’re only accepted when you’re saying ‘yes’, it’s probably time to say ‘no’ to the relationship. And if you’re worried about the gap you’re leaving, buy your soon-to-be ex some putty. Problem solved.

  7. The score card. Let me show you how wrong you are.

    One of the glorious things about being human is that making mistakes is all part of what we do. It’s how we learn, how we grow, and how we find out the people who don’t deserve us. Even the most loving, committed partners will do hurtful, stupid things sometimes. When those things are brought up over and over, it will slowly kill even the healthiest relationship and keep the ‘guilty’ person small. At some point, there has to be a decision to move on or move out. Having shots continually fired at you based on history is a way to control, shame and manipulate. Healthy relationships nurture your strengths. Toxic ones focus on your weaknesses.

  8. There’s a battle – and you’re on your own. Again.

    You and your partner are a team. You need to know that whatever happens, you have each other’s backs, at least publicly. In healthy relationships, when the world starts throwing stones, the couple comes together and fortifies the wall around each other. Toxic relationships often see one person going it alone when it comes to public put-downs. Similarly, when attempts are made from outside the relationship to divide and conquer, the couple is divided and conquered as easily as if they were never together in the first place.

  9. Physical or verbal abuse. Or both.

    These are deal-breakers. You know they are.

  10. Too much passive-aggressive.

    Passive-aggressive behaviour is an indirect attack and a cowardly move for control. The toxicity lies in stealing your capacity to respond and for issues to be dealt with directly. The attack is subtle and often disguised as something else, such as anger disguised as indifference ‘whatever’ or ‘I’m fine’; manipulation disguised as permission ‘I’ll just stay at home by myself while you go out and have fun,’ and the worst – a villain disguised as a hero, ‘You seem really tired baby. We don’t have to go out tonight. You just stay in and cook yourself some dinner and I’ll have a few drinks with Svetlana by myself hey? She’s been a mess since the cruise was postponed.’ You know the action or the behaviour was designed to manipulate you or hurt you, because you can feel the scrape, but it’s not obvious enough to respond to the real issue. If it’s worth getting upset about, it’s worth talking about, but passive-aggressive behaviour shuts down any possibility of this.

  11. Nothing gets resolved.

    Every relationship will have its issues. In a toxic relationship, nothing gets worked through because any conflict ends in an argument. There is no trust that the other person will have the capacity to deal with the issue in a way that is safe and preserves the connection. When this happens, needs get buried, and in a relationship, unmet needs will always feed resentment.

  12. Whatever you’re going through, I’m going through worse.

    In a healthy relationship, both people need their turn at being the supported and the supporter. In a toxic relationship, even if you’re the one in need of support, the focus will always be on the other person. ‘Babe like I know you’re really sick and can’t get out of bed but it’s soooo stressful for me because now I have to go to the party by myself. Next Saturday I get to choose what we do. K? [sad emoji, balloon emoji, heart emoji, another heart emoji, lips emoji].’

  13. Privacy? What privacy?

    Unless you’ve done something to your partner that you shouldn’t have, like, you know, forgot you had one on ‘Singles Saturday’, then you deserve to be trusted. Everybody deserves some level of privacy and healthy relationships can trust that this won’t be misused. If your partner constantly goes through your receipts, phone bills, text messages this shows a toxic level of control. It’s demeaning. You’re an adult and don’t need constant supervision.

  14. The lies. Oh the lies!

    Lying and cheating will dissolve trust as if it was never there to begin with. Once trust is so far gone, it’s hard to get it back. It might come back in moments or days, but it’s likely that it will always feel fragile – just waiting for the wrong move. A relationship without trust can turn strong, healthy people into something they aren’t naturally – insecure, jealous and suspicious. The toxicity of this lies in the slow erosion of confidence. Sometimes all the fight in the world can’t repair trust when it’s badly broken. Know when enough is enough. It’s not your fault that the trust was broken, but it’s up to you to make sure that you’re not broken next.

  15. Big decisions are for important people. And clearly, you’re not one of them.

    If you’re sharing your life with someone, it’s critical that you have a say in the decisions that will affect you. Your partner’s opinions and feelings will always be important, and so are yours. Your voice is an important one. A loving partner in the context of a healthy relationship will value your thoughts and opinions, not pretend that they don’t exist or assume theirs are more important.

I think I might be in a toxic relationship. What now?

If it’s toxic, it’s changing you and it’s time to leave or put up a very big wall. (See here for how.) Be clear about where the relationship starts and where you begin. Keep your distance emotionally and think of it as something to be managed, rather than something to be beaten or understood. Look for the patterns and look for the triggers. Then, be mindful about what is okay and what isn’t. Above all else, know that you are strong, complete and vital. Don’t buy into any tiny-hearted, close-minded push that would have you believe otherwise. You’re amazing.

And finally …

There are plenty of reasons you might end up in a toxic relationship, none of which have nothing to do with strength of character or courage.

Sometimes the toxicity grows and blindsides you and by the time you realise, it’s too late – the cost of leaving might feel too high or there may be limited options.

Toxicity in any relationship doesn’t make sense. In an attempt to make it make sense, you might blame history, circumstance or your own behaviour. The truth is that none of this matters. It doesn’t matter where the toxicity comes from or the reason for it being there.

Love and happiness don’t always go together. The world would run so much smoother if they did, but it just doesn’t happen like that. Love can be a dirty little liar sometimes. So can commitment. Staying in a relationship should never have losing yourself as one of the conditions. You’re far too important for that.

It’s important to make sacrifices in relationships but your happiness, self-esteem and self-respect should always be on the list – always. If a relationship is built on love, it nurtures, restores, replenishes and revives. It doesn’t diminish. It isn’t cruel and it doesn’t ever violate a warm, open heart. Everything you need to be happy is in you. When you are with someone who suffocates those precious parts of you, be alive to the damage they are doing. You owe them nothing, you owe yourself everything. You deserve to thrive and to feel safe, and you deserve to be happy.

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

278 Comments

terry c

my dad big mean. he insulted me, called me an old man and then called me a pig. and then he told me to look in the mirror to see how srupid look. and then when i siad no, he tried to smash my phone. he smashed it twice on the ground and then the screen protector came off. and then my mom came and siad it was wrong. and then my dad started fighting with my mom and insulting us and yelling at us. and now he siad that we need to wake up at 5 in the morning to workout for an hour and then eat. :(((((((
i have no idea what to do

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Mariela

Um hey so me and my bf had broken up last night after 6 months because he accused me of cheating which i clearly didnt cheat i just texted one of my old friends to see how theyve been so I would want to know what i can do in this case because i really do want a future with him and i also want to clear things up so i dont know what to do

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Sw

Hi, I don’t usually do this but I’m starting to get concerned and scared of my partner. Let’s start from the begining, about 3 months ago I went for a job interview and the boss interviewed me and he came off as very flirty, then me and him a couple hours after the interview went back to his and he cooked me dinner, I know it sounds corny but I believed it was love at first sight for many reasons. But everything was going good, until a week into the relationship, i found out he’s 24 not 20 as he told me. That was one barrier that he lied to me, then about on the 2month into the relationship he said “your mine now, you do what I say when I say, you leave when I say and we go when I say…” And at first I was very concerned as I’m only 19 years old and he’s 24?? Some people will say it sounds bad, but that’s there opinion. But then as soon as we hit 3 months yesturday he said to me “you will listen to me” and I said “and what If I don’t” and he said “then I will be beat you up” I asked him repeatingly if he was serious, and he was dead hand on heart serious.. no laughter nothing.. he acted like beating his girlfriend was normal, he’s never abused me or anything but he gets mad at small things. Like if I shake my head, he shouts at me saying “I don’t you not to do that, listen to me” and I am scared that one day he will actually hit me, I feel like it’s a ticking time bomb, and you all will say why don’t you leave, but it’s not that simple.. I’m carrying his child as we speak, I’m 2 months pregnant.. and he doesn’t know. I’m scared to tell him…. He’s a Turkish man, he believes in different things, all the time we are constantly loving and laughing around with eachother, sex life is good.. love is good… It’s just he gets aggressive for no reason, I can see it’s turning into a toxic relationship. Any advice please. Thank you

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Tessie

I don’t know if its me or him. He says things like this to me: you let little things get you all hung up. why are you so dramatic… He used to call me names.. Well about 3 weeks ago he called me a Lush. I am sure I play a part in all this. I had an abusive father and I know I can get triggered easily. I have been told all my life I am too sensitive. I’ve seen therapists and I am a therapist. I have worked really hard to clear all this old stuff out. I just repeat the scenarios over and over in my head that it is so confusing. Then I get depressed and lonely.

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Andrea

I really don’t have anyone to talk to. I’m hoping maybe someone can see this soon and have some encouraging words for me, to say I’ve got this – because I am in serious need of it.

I’ve been with my boyfriend on and off for 4 years, he did a lot of damage to me. It was only off ever because he’d leave me for his baby’s mama and tell me how much he doesn’t want me, can’t stand me, just wants me to go away and leave him alone.

Unfortunately, I was head over heels in love and wasn’t ready to give up. I stuck it out and fought for “us”. Severely out of character for myself. I’m very much a flighty person, the first sign of major red flags and I’m gone so fast.

When things were on, it was SO good. That’s what kept me hanging on, I think. I had this crazy idea in my head that we could make it through every rough patch and eventually be “ok”. Live happily ever after.

The baby’s mama has been gone for over a year but I recently found out he had been trying to get their family back together, again.

It has been so disheartening because I thought we really had it together finally. He was loving me, spoiling me, doting on me. Everything I’d ever wanted – finally after 4 years of hell. He was even telling people that he’s going to ask me to marry him. Which was a shock since he’d been telling me for years he’d never marry me, which was also very hard to go through.

Every once in a while, something reminds me of the past – it really does haunt me. I admit, I’m the toxic one when it comes to the forgiving forgetting and moving on. I don’t think I’m capable of it anymore honestly. I pick fights when something is bothering me about it. I think I’ve been conditioned over the years that I have to be angry to be able to speak my mind.

Tonight, I took a new approach and brought up what was bothering me point blank. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a very non issue but it has a major issue that festers below it.

For a long while, he had an internet romance with a girl almost two years ago. It was pretty progressed by the time I caught on to it. I got a fake profile onto her social media and let me tell you – it was devastating.

Everything I wanted him to be – she had.

He was loving all of her pics, giving her sweet nothings, promising her everything he knew I wanted from him.

Fast forward to today and embarrassingly – I still check her social media from time to time. Mostly waiting for karma to catch up to her. When I told her that he is in fact NOT single and living with me, she really did tell me I’m his crazy ex and obsessed with him and kept on doing her thing with him.

Today id checked on it, I hadn’t in a long time and I happened to catch a phrase that was familiar within her comments on a post.

One of her friends had quoted one of his compliments to her and they were both making fun of him, calling him thirsty and having a good laugh at his expense.

Remember, this was close to two years ago and his stint with her had that big of an affect on her. I couldn’t help but think “I wish he would say those incredible things to me so I could remember them for forever, too.”

I decided to bring it up to him. To let him know I would love that same treatment. Except I wouldn’t make fun of him years later, instead I would still be cherishing it. I told him that if he’d lay it on thick like that for me – I could heal myself. I’d be so happy. Instead I’m wishing that the love of my life would give me the same type of romance he’s given everyone but me.

I thought he’d hear me out and listen and want to fix that. I was dead wrong.

Instead he hit me with a barrage of insults – I’m jealous, insecure, needy, shelfish, manipulative, etc. – granted it probably wasn’t the RIGHT time to bring it up (he has court tomorrow for threatening his baby’s mama – whole different long story) and he made sure to let me know what an awful person I am for that. But I really can’t hold things in otherwise I do go crazy (I’m an anxiety ridden over thinker).

Maybe I am those things, who knows – but he really did dump me instead of wanting to uplift me and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

I’m really am past the point of the bottom of the erosion of my self esteem and confidence which is probably why I’m being toxic as well.

I just hurt and I can’t stop bleeding all over everything all of the time. I want to leave so badly. I feel relief when we’re “not together” but I also feel like I can’t breathe when we’re “not together”. This really is the worst place I’ve ever been mentally or emotionally.

I just need for someone to tell me I’m right for wanting to run and I’m validated in it, or to please tell me I’m the toxic one and I need to fix myself for him.

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April

You don’t need to “fix yourself for him.”
You’re not toxic as far as I can tell, I’m afraid you’ve become the victim of a toxic person instead. Truly, this is not just a toxic relationship, he seems to be a problematic person and you shouldn’t spend any more of your life suffering along side that.

You are right to want to run away. I hope you do, I hope you did, because you do not need him.
What you need is some time to heal.
What you need to do is sever ties. Completely.

And I promise that eventually you’ll find the person who never hesitates to whisper sweet everything’s to you. Someone who will always find you interesting, and worthy, and strong, and loving, and everything else you are.

Take some time for yourself, but stop giving time to this person. Please.

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Dakota

I need some advise. I feel trapped, but I don’t know why. Some days I just don’t want to come home to anyone and an empty apartment where I can decorate and have my own. My S/O and I have good days and bad days, but I’m always doing something wrong or annoying her. I can do anything right. Everything is always my fault and I over think everything. Which I know I can do, but not with everything. In her eyes I do everything in the most round about way or I take the long way to find out an answer. I’m always the first to apologize and give in to make her happy. I do all the cleaning, cooking, pay all the bills, laundry, and take care of the animals. I work 2 full-time jobs, gave up on college, while she says home as full-time college student. I feel burnt out. She doesn’t do anything for herself and I’m always picking up after her. Every time I say something about how I’m feeling she comes off that I’m making her a victim, and that she can’t anything b/c of her depression/anxiety/PTSD. I’ve encouraged her to medicate and go to therapy. She can’t do anything by herself so I can never have a day just to myself b/c I’ll get texts all the time wanting to just talk b/c she can’t leave me alone. If I’m out an about and she texts me she expects an answer right away, or “i’m ignoring her.” Some days I just want to have a me day, but I can’t. I work at a place where I can’t have my phone, so we use google chat to speak. Sometimes I can’t get to my computer in time for her and she gets so annoyed and mad at me for not answering right away. I’m also hard of hearing that annoyed her to no end, but she speaks so soft. I’ve been very patient, but I just don’t know what to do anymore. We are set to get married in a few years and she has a dress and we have a venue. I’m afraid to leave everything we have. Also over the past month or two she’s told me that she doesn’t like her engagement ring (i’m still paying on it). She had huge “requirements” for a ring to be 2.5-3+ carats. I can’t afford that. So we went together and customized a gemstone ring at 4.16 carats within my budget. Now she doesn’t like it, “b/c it doesn’t sparkle enough.” My family also isn’t the best (story for another day) so I would have no one. Her family has been ever so accepting of me and loves me (which I’ve never had). She has a back up plan too if we where to separate, I’ve never had that or thought about one. I just don’t know what to do. I know some days I’m hard to love b/c I have anxiety/depression and my family isn’t the greatest.

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Mike A

I enjoyed this article, although I have definitely noticed a bit of gender bias in the comments section. I’m male, and I am the first to admit that, I, for the longest time, was the toxic individual. I didn’t do a lot of the the things on here out of being selfish or toxic. I never have been one to open up about feelings after I messed up with the love of my life. I locked up my heart and did everything I could to keep anyone away from it. I still do that. I do it honestly now though. I let my girlfriends know at the very start that I am a damaged individual that may never let anyone near to me as I did A*****a. So far, I have not. But, If I choose to suffer, that’s my choice. I feel that after what I put her through I deserve every bit of sh!t that rains down on me. I don’t put anyone else through the ropes now. It is going to work or it isn’t and most likely, it won’t because my old heart will only belong to one person. My body is another thing entirely. There are no head games and there are no lies. I grant myself no delusions that I will ever be as happy as I once was. I don’t want to be that happy with anyone else as it is not fair to her. Her happiness, to this day, is now I all I care about. She’s gone, and I hope every day that she is happy. That’s what matters. More guys need to catch on to that before they crush the delicate flower that is only blooming for them. You stop giving her the things she so needs, and she will have to fight or or leave to get them as they are necessary for her survival. Not physically, of course. But emotionally, certainly. You guys that read this: They need a love story, they need the real deal and not a novelty distributed to get into their pants. They are living and breathing things of beauty that need care and delicate way of being handled at times. They are not things to be harvested, but only to be nurtured. You take care of an apple tree and for the rest of your life, you can can have sweet delicious apples. So don’t cut it down to make room for more driveway space…..I know that if this is ever read, that I will probably catch some guff, but so be it. I know where I went wrong and I will never do that to anyone else just as I know that I will never be in love with anyone else. 16 years later and no one has ever come close. But I am not empty, because I find much truth in the old saying that “It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all”. Some people never take the time to even think about it. I do, all of the time, and it doesn’t bring me pain because the love I do have, although it belongs only to me, brings me light, even in the darkest of times.

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When things feel hard or the world feels big, children will be looking to their important adults for signs of safety. They will be asking, ‘Do you think I'm safe?' 'Do you think I can do this?' With everything in us, we have to send the message, ‘Yes! Yes love, this is hard and you are safe. You can do hard things.'

Even if we believe they are up to the challenge, it can be difficult to communicate this with absolute confidence. We love them, and when they're distressed, we're going to feel it. Inadvertently, we can align with their fear and send signals of danger, especially through nonverbals. 

What they need is for us to align with their 'brave' - that part of them that wants to do hard things and has the courage to do them. It might be small but it will be there. Like a muscle, courage strengthens with use - little by little, but the potential is always there.

First, let them feel you inside their world, not outside of it. This lets their anxious brain know that support is here - that you see what they see and you get it. This happens through validation. It doesn't mean you agree. It means that you see what they see, and feel what they feel. Meet the intensity of their emotion, so they can feel you with them. It can come off as insincere if your nonverbals are overly calm in the face of their distress. (Think a zen-like low, monotone voice and neutral face - both can be read as threat by an anxious brain). Try:

'This is big for you isn't it!' 
'It's awful having to do things you haven't done before. What you are feeling makes so much sense. I'd feel the same!

Once they really feel you there with them, then they can trust what comes next, which is your felt belief that they will be safe, and that they can do hard things. 

Even if things don't go to plan, you know they will cope. This can be hard, especially because it is so easy to 'catch' their anxiety. When it feels like anxiety is drawing you both in, take a moment, breathe, and ask, 'Do I believe in them, or their anxiety?' Let your answer guide you, because you know your young one was built for big, beautiful things. It's in them. Anxiety is part of their move towards brave, not the end of it.
Sometimes we all just need space to talk to someone who will listen without giving advice, or problem solving, or lecturing. Someone who will let us talk, and who can handle our experiences and words and feelings without having to smooth out the wrinkles or tidy the frayed edges. 

Our kids need this too, but as their important adults, it can be hard to hush without needing to fix things, or gather up their experience and bundle it into a learning that will grow them. We do this because we love them, but it can also mean that they choose not to let us in for the wrong reasons. 

We can’t help them if we don’t know what’s happening in their world, and entry will be on their terms - even more as they get older. As they grow, they won’t trust us with the big things if we don’t give them the opportunity to learn that we can handle the little things (which might feel seismic to them). They won’t let us in to their world unless we make it safe for them to.

When my own kids were small, we had a rule that when I picked them up from school they could tell me anything, and when we drove into the driveway, the conversation would be finished if they wanted it to be. They only put this rule into play a few times, but it was enough for them to learn that it was safe to talk about anything, and for me to hear what was happening in that part of their world that happened without me. My gosh though, there were times that the end of the conversation would be jarring and breathtaking and so unfinished for me, but every time they would come back when they were ready and we would finish the chat. As it turned out, I had to trust them as much as I wanted them to trust me. But that’s how parenting is really isn’t it.

Of course there will always be lessons in their experiences we will want to hear straight up, but we also need them to learn that we are safe to come to.  We need them to know that there isn’t anything about them or their life we can’t handle, and when the world feels hard or uncertain, it’s safe here. By building safety, we build our connection and influence. It’s just how it seems to work.♥️
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#parenting #parenthood #mindfulparenting
Words can be hard sometimes. The right words can be orbital and unconquerable and hard to grab hold of. Feelings though - they’ll always make themselves known, with or without the ‘why’. 

Kids and teens are no different to the rest of us. Their feelings can feel bigger than words - unfathomable and messy and too much to be lassoed into language. If we tap into our own experience, we can sometimes (not all the time) get an idea of what they might need. 

It’s completely understandable that new things or hard things (such as going back to school) might drive thoughts of falls and fails and missteps. When this happens, it’s not so much the hard thing or the new thing that drives avoidance, but thoughts of failing or not being good enough. The more meaningful the ‘thing’ is, the more this is likely to happen. If you can look behind the words, and through to the intention - to avoid failure more than the new or difficult experience, it can be easier to give them what they need. 

Often, ‘I can’t’ means, ‘What if I can’t?’ or, ‘Do you think I can?’, or, ‘Will you still think I’m brave, strong, and capable of I fail?’ They need to know that the outcome won’t make any difference at all to how much you adore them, and how capable and exceptional you think they are. By focusing on process, (the courage to give it a go), we clear the runway so they can feel safer to crawl, then walk, then run, then fly. 

It takes time to reach full flight in anything, but in the meantime the stumbling can make even the strongest of hearts feel vulnerable. The more we focus on process over outcome (their courage to try over the result), and who they are over what they do (their courage, tenacity, curiosity over the outcome), the safer they will feel to try new things or hard things. We know they can do hard things, and the beauty and expansion comes first in the willingness to try. 
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#parenting #mindfulparenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparent
Never in the history of forever has there been such a  lavish opportunity for a year to be better than the last. Not to be grabby, but you know what I’d love this year? Less opportunities that come in the name of ‘resilience’. I’m ready for joy, or adventure, or connection, or gratitude, or courage - anything else but resilience really. Opportunities for resilience have a place, but 2020 has been relentless with its servings, and it’s time for an out breath. Here’s hoping 2021 will be a year that wraps its loving arms around us. I’m ready for that. x
The holidays are a wonderland of everything that can lead to hyped up, exhausted, cranky, excited, happy kids (and adults). Sometimes they’ll cycle through all of these within ten minutes. Sugar will constantly pry their little mouths wide open and jump inside, routines will laugh at you from a distance, there will be gatherings and parties, and everything will feel a little bit different to usual. And a bit like magic. 

Know that whatever happens, it’s all part of what the holidays are meant to look like. They aren’t meant to be pristine and orderly and exactly as planned. They were never meant to be that. Christmas is about people, your favourite ones, not tasks. If focusing on the people means some of the tasks fall down, let that be okay, because that’s what Christmas is. It’s about you and your people. It’s not about proving your parenting stamina, or that you’ve raised perfectly well-behaved humans, or that your family can polish up like the catalog ones any day of the week, or that you can create restaurant quality meals and decorate the table like you were born doing it. Christmas is messy and ridiculous and exhausting and there will be plenty of frayed edges. And plenty of magic. The magic will happen the way it always happens. Not with the decorations or the trimmings or the food or the polish, but by being with the ones you love, and the ones who love you right back.

When it all starts to feel too important, too necessary and too ‘un-let-go-able’, be guided by the bigger truth, which is that more than anything, you will all remember how you all felt – as in how happy they felt, how loved they felt were, how noticed they felt. They won’t care about the instagram-worthy meals on the table, the cleanliness of the floors, how many relatives they visited, or how impressed other grown-ups were with their clean faces and darling smiles. It’s easy to forget sometimes, that what matters most at Christmas isn’t the tasks, but the people – the ones who would give up pretty much anything just to have the day with you.

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