If a person is really toxic for you, just leave. Get up, get your stuff (if you have any) and leave. That’s it. If, after careful analysis, after weeks, months, or years of attempts to make things right, to balance out the exchange, nothing happened, then walk away. Slowly, no drama, no arguing, no rationalization, no nothing. Just leave.
Also, try to be polite, you will get extra karma points for that, believe me. And, if you can, go no contact immediately. By “if you can”, I mean if you don’t have shared commitments, like children or common properties or businesses. If you do have shared commitments, try to reduce the interaction surface to a scarce minimum. But most of the time you don’t have shared commitments, so stay no contact.
I wish I’d say now “this is it, that’s how to remove toxic people from your life”.
Alas, that’s just one part of the task.
The Unseen Part Of The Iceberg
The other, way more important part of the task, hidden underneath like the invisible part of an iceberg, is to understand which part of you was pulled toward that person. Which part of you found that interaction useful, necessary, pleasant – or whatever way you felt about the whole thing that validated it. Which part of you tolerated the abuse, and in the name of what principles.
Because if you don’t work on this part too, you will keep encountering toxic people in your life, over and over. If you don’t understand the subtle inner workings of the dynamic that sucked you in, you will just remove the symptom, not the underlying illness cause.
And this is a much longer, deeper and complicated process. Leaving an abuser (being it just a mild emotional abuser) is relatively easy: you just go. But understanding, and eventually undoing the patterns that led you to that abusive person, well, that will take some serious work.
The Simple Question That Can Save Your Life
Truth is other people cannot save us, and we cannot save other people either. But we can do something better. We can ask a very simple, and at the same time, incredibly important question, every time we found ourselves caught in the carousel of toxic interactions.
Are you ready?
Here we go: what is the only thing that ALL your relationships have in common?
Take your time. Think very carefully at all your failed interactions, at all your failed attempts to connect, to be seen, understood, accepted and loved, and I guarantee, provided you’ve been really thorough and honest, the answer will be this one: you.
You are the only thing that ALL your relationships have in common.
Remember how they use to say that truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off? That’s one of those moments, right? I know. I’ve been there many times.
And it was only when I deeply and wholeheartedly accepted that I was the only thing all my relationships had in common that I started to work towards changing things around. And that was also when things started to change in my relationships too.
For the record, I didn’t say “my relationships changed suddenly”. I said “started to change”.
Because this too, is a process. It has ups and downs, relapses and breakthroughs, good days and bad days. You may still get caught in old toxic patterns. Mine, for instance, was “saving damsels in distress”, or being the supportive partner and, guess what, I was attracting partners who not only begged to be supported, but abused my support every step of the way. Being it emotional, financial or you name it. And they did that for a very simple reason: because I offered my support first.
So yes, having an abusive behavior, taking advantage of your overly supporting partner is their karma.
But enabling their abusing behavior is mine. That’s my work to be done, not theirs.
The good news is that once you understand you have work to do too, you will be in a much more empowering position than the usual: “you’re bad for me, I’m leaving”.
By saying instead: “I think you’re bad for me and I have to understand why was I attracted to that bad in you, and I’m also taking some distance in this process” you’re getting out of the victim seat. You acknowledge your part of the deal, your contribution to the context. Things never happen in isolation, your reaction is always contributing, no matter how much you want to believe you’ve been “played”.
Remember you wanted in too, so no need to play the blame game.