You may not want to admit it to yourself or another, but you are likely aware if you have been in a toxic relationship at some point. Be that with a romantic partner, friend, family member or colleague. Perhaps, you’re in one now.
There are all different ways relationships can be toxic; physically / sexually, emotionally, verbally, mentally or spiritually toxic. Often, one area affects another.
It is not only important to be able to acknowledge if you are experiencing or in a toxic relationship of any kind. But equally important to be aware if you have a pattern of choosing or attracting these kinds of relationships and/or if you are choosing to stay in a toxic relationship. If you are experiencing a toxic relationship, then knowing how to get the help and guidance you need to take the right action toward the outcome of the greatest good is also essential.
You might want to take a moment here to ask yourself;
Am I in a toxic relationship?
If so, what part or how is it toxic for me?
Is this a pattern of mine or is this a first encounter?
Do I need guidance, help or support?
In order to help yourself first and foremost you need to be honest and truthful. Taking a good look at the relationship or relationships you are in and seeing how you are with them. Is there work that can be done? Are you the one trying to make it happen or make it work? Is it time you both sought help? Or is your highest, conscious-self telling you that you need to make a decision, a change or, leave.
This is part of getting real with yourself and facing the reality of the situation in all its many facets. For there may or may not be options that you need to explore. Once you have created some time and space to gain some perspective and clarity for yourself, you are then ready to look deeper at the other person and the situation as a whole.
This can start with understanding that You can’t change anybody else…
As hard is it can be to wrap our heads around and accept this, the truth is people have to want to change. And then put the work in themselves to do so. To grow, evolve, step up, show up whatever it is. As much as you love someone or want so much for a relationship to work, any relationship takes two. If one is always giving and one is always receiving there is no harmony and balance. A relationship is an exchange. It is relating to one and other. Ideally it is for both your growth as individuals and as a couple, pair etc. To better evolve along your path as you encourage, support, nurture, love, witness, watch, listen, serve each other as individuals and as Souls on a conscious path.
But not all relationships look like this. In my private practice, I have worked with people who have been in a romantic or professional relationship with a narcissist, with partners who are physically, mentally or emotionally abusive, with people who are deeply betrayed by friends who they loved and trusted. Clients who are not seen, heard, held or understood by their parents. Some who are abused and neglected or mistreated even as adults by their parents. There are those who are in marriages with partners who give them nothing other than financial support. Other couples where one partner has aggressive and violent outbursts at times then are sorry and seeking to apologise in any way after to their significant other to smooth the waters and appease. The list goes on.
Toxic relationships look different. What seems normal to one person may be hurtful, harmful, abusive or toxic to another. You may have been there before; with a lover who verbally abused you but thought that was acceptable behaviour; “just arguing as couples do” they think, as they grew up with their parents behaving the same. Maybe you experienced a friend who lied and betrayed you or only comes to you when they want something or you can help them then disappears again. A colleague who climbed over you at all costs to be the one seen and recognised. A parent who has constantly put you down or who just never cares to get to know you or show you the love you have wanted your whole life.
Every story is unique, every story is painful in its own way and, every story that belongs to you likely needs to be explored, processed, healed and supported. At times this is best done by a trusted professional along with your own best effort to help and support yourself too.
While I can’t share and dissect each individual story or case I have worked with, nor can I here give you the personalised support you may well need that only comes with 1:1 Sacred Guidance sessions. For now, I can however give you a couple of key insights to ideally help you make wiser choices for where you are right today in your relationships and where you are wanting to go.
Not everyone can change…
In esoteric psychology we talk about crystallisation. Like a crystallising or a hardening that nothing can penetrate. A hardening to such a point there is no reversing or alchemising this person into something else.
There are two forms if this that we look for;
1: When nothing can make them change
2: When they don’t have the ability to change
The first where nothing can make them change is a form of crystallisation where for someone “things are how they are”. Their view of the world is “this is how I’ve always been and how I always will be.” Or, “this is WHO I am and I like it like this.” They may even tell you so. While you’re hoping, wishing, begging, or doing all in your power to help them see all of who they could be if only they’d be open and willing to change THIS or THAT (insert your high desire, not theirs). But, this person is so set in their ways they have chosen to crystallise and have no intention whatsoever to shift from where they are. Even if where they are is causing harm to themselves or others. They prefer the familiarity of their suffering than the fear of the unknown change. While they have potential in your eyes, they just don’t want to. And that want of theirs, that will, is so strong nothing you say or do can change it.
The second kind of crystallisation is where they have no ability to change. The person who, (again no matter the light and potential you see in them for growth, evolution, change for the better or even greater perspective on life), doesn’t have the intellectual / mental or emotional capacity. We all have limits in life. Sometimes people hit those thresholds or peaks early on and plateau, staying there. Often content to do so. Hence “ignorance is bliss” for them. While you may desire to improve, explore your inner and outer world, evolve, get better, adapt and change with experience and time, they are happy doing what they’ve always done. How and when they’ve always done it and, it isn’t going to change. Ever. In this life. It simply can’t. As they can’t.
In relationships, this can be hard. Particularly when the crystallised person can at times have a crack in their behaviour. Like a hint of light that momentarily sines through. It feels like they give you a tiny crumb; a partner or parent who never sees you or gives you the love you’ve hungered for in a seemingly random moment they seem to soften and open. Or they do an act of kindness, or so much as hug you with some ounce of meaning. Then you think “oh my gosh, finally, what I’ve wanted. This is possible! they can change!” And then just like that, that tiny glimmer, that crack seals up and the crumb disintegrates into thin air. It is if in a click of the fingers they are back to that crystallised self again. For original Sex and the City fans you may recall this playing out when Mr Big went in for heart surgery and he seemed to ‘open his heart’ to love interest Carrie who came to care for him. Then Big awoke the next morning his self-absorbed and unaware self again. And again, her hopes were crushed.
It’s classic behaviour that we can see in all relationships. The key is for you to witness yourself, not just them anymore. You know they’ve done it, more than once perhaps. You also know the feeling of joy or elation that comes over you when you think THIS TIME IT’S IT. At this point, in order for you to disconnect from the pain of eternally wanting and waiting for more light and crumbs of love or kindness or even acknowledgment you instead need to identify, acknowledge and accept that they are crystallised. This is their pattern or story that you keep buying into wanting a different ending each time. That there is no sustaining ability for them to give you what you ultimately hunger for; be that deep intimacy, love and support, validation, friendship or seeing you for who you really are in the world etc.
Then the opportunity is there for you to begin to stop allowing that part of you – let’s call it the inner child or hopeful friend or lover – to expect something from this person who has no capacity to give you what you need. It may sound cruel or unkind to yourself, but what is worse; Eternally waiting in hope? Or, acceptance and rising above? I have chosen the later on more than one occasion even though it broke my heart and took me some time to admit it was the only way forward. So yes, it will likely break your heart too. But you then need to remind yourself that that little child inside you or the eternally hopeful lover or friend cannot get the nourishment it wants or needs from this person. Can it get it elsewhere? Yes. Can you also give it the nourishment? Yes. So, we are not depriving or starving that part of you, we are just starving that part of you of expecting it from the wrong sources.
This is a process. It will likely take some time. You may be repeatedly tested with countless crumbs. Lifted up then dropped back down each time it happens. We learn through suffering. We can thank the human condition for that. Sometimes we must suffer great pain in different ways before we finally agree to make the change within ourselves or in our environment. But with wisdom – even of what Buddha speaks of with non-attachment and the Ageless Wisdom that esoteric psychology practices – we gain our strength through greater truth. By living through and experiencing, gaining knowledge and awareness thus moving closer to our Truth. Even when it’s painful at first.
We cannot deny the reality of someone’s capacity or limitations when we have seen it and experienced it played out over and over again. All we can do is change ourselves and our experience of the situation. Sometimes that is reaching acceptance of who they are and still being in their life and them in yours. But you need to remind yourself who they are and who you choose to be along with what you truly need and want from any given relationship. And then when that crack or crumb appears again sometime down the track, eventually you don’t react. You may not give it any attention. For you know it is a fleeting illusion. A false truth. Other times you can’t stay, accept or tolerate how things are. You know then that you must step away and remove yourself from the relationship. With healthy boundaries, healthy distance and healthy choices being implemented. As that is what is right for your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.
So, what to do if you are in a toxic relationship?
Some people find it easier than others. Some of us can pack our bags and leave, change jobs, stop seeing people. Others, stay waiting for the crack of light to one day become as powerful and warm as the sun beaming upon us. There are relationships you feel you can’t get out of. There are one’s you make excuses for. Other you are sometimes even temporarily stuck with – such as at work, or at family gatherings, or those times where transition is a process and you can’t separate immediately such as when a child or children and a family home or finances are involved etc. But keep in mind that at these times you need to look at ALL your options.
Also keep in mind it is then you who will likely make a choice and you who must take action. As they may not feel a need to change, may not want to change or may not care to. The other person may also be completely ignorant to the fact they have caused you hurt, harm pain or suffering of any nature. Which is often a reality. Do not underestimate the ignorance of people. I share that with love and lived experience. People are more often than not ignorant to their ways, especially how such ways impact others.
Detached empathy – if you are high on the empathetic scale, you may find it hard to not drop into hyper empathic mode and lose yourself for the sake of the relationship or, keep giving second chance after second chance to somehow keep it together. This can be for numerous reasons; from fear of failure and of not giving it your all. To not being kind or nice and then you won’t be liked. Or worse, that you may be talked about. We want you to be empathetic and empathise with others, but not to take responsibility and accountability for others actions. Instead, your role is to be a witness or observer. While also coming back to yourself and your needs.
Clear, Firm, Boundaries – Which includes establishing and sustaining clear boundaries and consequences if these boundaries are not honoured by both you and them. Boundaries are essential for you to feel a sense of control over your own sovereign being in a time of chaos or change, they are thus there to make you feel more safe and secure. While at times also teaching the other accountability and the consequence for certain behaviour.
Self-care is also important – You need to look after yourself best you can physically, emotionally and mentally. I would also add spiritually. Be comfortable with who you are. Work towards creating a sense of calm, of feeling centred. Being responsible for yourself and your actions, not for the other and their actions. Self-care may look like not answering text messages when someone wants your attention immediately (though never otherwise reaches out to you). It may mean saying “no thank you” to an event if you do not want to be around certain people. It may mean speaking about or writing up a list of what is acceptable behaviour in your marriage or partnership and what will not be tolerated. Agreeing to honour it like a sacred contract between you both.
Time and Space – In times of transition, or times where you are not sure what to do next or even how to make a change, you likely need some time and space. This is to sit with all your options. It is something I encourage clients to do and something I’ve done myself in various situations including relationships.
Let’s look at some scenarios for different relationships and how this would look like, starting with;
If this is a romantic relationship you can ask yourself;
What would it be like and how will I feel if I stay?…
And then how will that look and feel like if it’s 6-months from now and nothing has changed?
Or, if I leave now and fast forward 6-months ahead what would it be like and how would I feel?
Are we both open to seeing someone to help us work through the challenges we face?
What if we went to couples counselling, mediation, psychology?
Is there another option?
It’s truly helpful to sit in the “what if?” of all your options and what would each option look like in the future, be that 6 months, a years’ time, five years’ time.
- -What if we stay together and nothing changes?
- -What if we stay together and both work on the relationship?
- -What if we don’t stay together?
The key is to FEEL what each option would truly feel like. To get a better idea of what you truly need, want and are willing or ready to do. Really explore the realities of staying and continuing, leaving or, exploring seeking council together. Perhaps in the form of what I offer individuals and couples with Sacred Guidance sessions. Take this time. Sit in it, be honest, be real, listen to yourself. You may like to write this down also to better process and come back to for reference.
In this process ensure you also sit with the reality of where you are now. Not just what was or what could be in a perfect ideal world. But right here. Where you are now at this point in time.
If it is someone in your family – Can you establish your own healthy boundaries? Times when you are available and times when you aren’t. Unless it is a crisis, if you’ve had a big day or week and aren’t feeling up to hearing from them when they call, are you comfortable texting them later? Saying you will call them when you’re next available. Depending on the situation and your relationship with your family member or members, you may choose to let them know you need your own space, or you may say nothing at all. They may not even notice your new ‘availabilities’. If you are always the “yes” person, or feeling like the relationship is not healthy for you in any way, you do not have to put yourself in harm’s way. Honour your truth. Do what is right for you and for the greater good. That may mean less one on one time or no one on one time with someone in your family. But perhaps you make an effort to be kind and compassionate or even just polite at family gatherings for a set time then you may choose to carry on with your other commitments or what you would rather be doing that is more conducive to a healthy way of spending your time.
Sit with your truth.
What is RIGHT and What is for your BEST WELLBEING; mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually.
- Are you able to be around this person or people in your family just at set times or special occasions and do your best to not take anything said/done personally? Can a friend or partner be with you at these occasions to support you?
- Can you work through a challenging interaction with a family member and not carry it into your other relationships? Or do you see it effecting other areas of your life and other personal relationships?
You need to be honest with yourself and what is ok with you. What are you comfortable with? What makes you feel safe; physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually? While we may or may not choose our family members, depending on what you believe, you can choose how and when you interact. Along with what you accept and what you do not accept. As an adult, as a human being with sovereign rights and, as a soul with free will you are entitled to make the right choices for you.
If it is a friendship – It doesn’t have to be too dissimilar with friends. Some may even say you have less obligation. If someone was a friend and now they aren’t there for you, and instead it’s all about them. Or, they have been cruel, lied, betrayed your trust, hurt you in any way you can choose to bring this to their attention. You can see if they are open to talking about it. You can also choose to let it go. Or, if it continues, you can then again ask yourself what is right for you here? Is this a true friendship? Is there give and take? Is there kindness? Compassion? Selflessness? Trust? Loyalty? Love? Do I feel valued, seen, heard, respected? If the answer is “no” to any of these, you may need to reassess your relationship and choose whether to again speak about it or to let it fade and die out naturally. As often these relationships do when you are no longer putting in the effort and they are focusing or getting attention elsewhere – and the takers always find someone else to get their needs met from so do not worry about them. But regardless, it can hurt just as much to feel like you are losing a friend. Especially if you have shared special moments, big moments, life milestones, ups and downs of life. But everything has an end point. Some sooner than others. Remind yourself, when you create space to let someone leave or yourself to let go, there is an opening for new beginnings. A friendship that is true, real, honest and loving that can blossom. Perhaps a more compatible, relatable, more like-minded, like-hearted friendship. Even in the most unexpected of places as well.
If it is a colleague or work relationship – When it comes to work there is a spectrum you need to assess.
- Is this something you can appropriately speak about with them?
- Is it something you can work on yourself and create as much distance as possible, learn not to take things personal and move on?
- Or, do you need to involve upper manager, HR, your boss or a fellow colleague for advice or intervention?
There may be people you don’t get along with in all walks of life. People who have different opinion, views, beliefs. Personality dispositions especially – such as if you are a very agreeable person and they are extremely disagreeable.
All of this is one thing. But if sexual harassment, abuse, inappropriate or any form of toxic behaviour is going on in your place of work it needs to be addressed. For your wellbeing and likely the well-being of others. If you are feeling or experiencing something toxic with another, chances are others may have witnessed or experience it too. All the more reason to bring this to the attention of the right people to help create the right change.
- What is right for you here?
- What do you need to do to reach resolve, get help, move elsewhere, or create positive change?
Often when we have reached the point we know a relationship is toxic it can be truly challenging, painful and hard to end that relationship. We don’t often embrace change. Especially when we have invested our hearts and souls, time, money, effort etc. into building and nurturing something. When there is history, or good times, when there were moments of joy, it can make you question your decision. Even make you re-think if you are doing the right thing. I cannot encourage you enough to take time, create space, sit with your truth, ask yourself big, hard questions and be honest with yourself in the here and now. You do know what is right for you and right for the greater good – be that both your wellbeing, the wellbeing of your child or children, for others involved, etc.
Life is not often easy. It is hiking into dark valleys and climbing up enormous mountains. Embracing this journey is how you learn and grow. Knowing that often from the greatest hurt, pain and suffering can come truth that leads to great re-birth, renewed love, joy and possibilities you may have not even dreamt of yet.
In order for there to be change in a relationship either both of you choose to commit to change and continue to work on the relationship, or you change. As you cannot make anyone change who doesn’t want to or can’t.
If you are in a toxic relationship of any nature, please know there is guidance, help and support available wherever you are. You are welcome to reach out to me email@example.com to see how best I can serve you or find the right, trusted, professional support for you.
If you are in danger or harm please also know you do not have to navigate this alone. Reach out, even to a trusted loved one to help you and seek out the support you need.
Here’s to Good, Beautiful and True relationships.
In Light and Love of the Soul, Elise | S*M