How to Keep a Toxic Relationship

Two antelope butting heads

You know those exorcism movies where the possessed person is tied to a bed and they bring a priest in and the demon expert is like, “Whatever you do, do not cross the salt boundary,” and then the possessed person is like, “Ahhh, you like Honey Bunches of Oats, don’t you, father?!” and then the priest leaps across the salt barrier and is like “YOU KNOW I LIKE RAISIN BRAN! YOU SICK FUCK!” and the demon bites his ear off?

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And then they drag the priest out of the room and they leave the mother of the possessed person in the room alone and then the demon is like, “Oh hello, motha! You know your lilacs are not going to bloom this year, don’t you?” and then the mother leaps across the salt boundary and is like, “I BOUGHT THE EXPENSIVE FERTILIZER!” and then there goes one of her ears, you are like, “For gods sake, stop letting this demon manipulate you! Don’t cross the fucking salt boundary, what did he just say?!”

Yeah, I love those movies. I am always so judgmental, shaking my head at these morons taking the bait. I would never cross the salt boundary. Then my mother will call me and say, “You know everyone feels sorry for your husband,” and I will be like “AHHHH!!! FUCK THIS SALT BARRIER, I WILL KILL YOU!”

Today I want to talk about toxic relationships.

No one supports a good edit like I do. I feel like the message to ditch your toxic relationships has become pretty widespread, and I am all about it. What I feel like isn’t available is a good resource on how to keep a toxic relationship.

Simply ending a toxic relationship is an easy answer to a complicated problem. Ditching a connection, a human being, is not always as simple as, “This relationship doesn’t serve me. Bye!” As if we just picked up a narcissist on our way home from work one day like a used dresser on the curb and we really should get rid of it.

The reality is toxic relationships are wrapped in all sort of precious packages. Some are tied up with ribbons of autism, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Some are addressed as mother, sister, son, daughter, or boss. Sometimes our toxic relationships provide us with our paychecks or take care of our children, or need us. So what do you do when you can’t toss the person out with the demon? How do you keep a toxic relationship while holding onto your sanity (and your ears)?

1. Realize that you are the one with the boundary issues

People rarely behave unpredictably. I can say this with full confidence, even after once coming home from high school to find my bedroom completely empty save for a single barnyard chicken.

Chicken Eat GIF by DLGNCE - Find & Share on GIPHY

My mother had thrown away every single one of my belongings and put the chicken in my room to dramatically announce once I came home that “The chicken is more grateful than [me].” That look on her face of total victory, of my complete inability to not “take the bait” haunts me to this day.

She certainly kept things spicy.

As I struggled to digest my newfound lack of literally everything, I realized even this seemingly bizarre twist of fate was pretty much par for the course. My mother has schizophrenia and is pretty fucking creative regardless.

Of course, something like this was going to happen. Sure, I could not have predicted that it would be Henny Penny nesting on what was the last pair of my underwear in an otherwise stripped room, but it was going to be something bizarre to try to push me over that salt boundary and into the glorious chaos of screaming madness.

This was the best lesson I ever learned about boundaries. I squatted down under my mother’s watchful, glassy eyes, told the chicken that those panties were dry clean only and left the house.

Toxic people will behave in the ways they will behave. Chances are your toxic relationship is pretty predictable and it is always your choice to take the bait.

2. When you have chosen to stay, make sure to leave

So, you’ve decided to keep that toxic relationship. Whether that is “until my next paycheck” or “until death do us part,” this is the decision that you are making.

But it doesn’t have to be a 24/7 sentence.

I have a few precious toxic relationships that I have decided to keep, and when the conversation turns to something I am not open to discussing, they get one calm verbal warning to knock it off and if they persist, I flee the fucking scene. “I gots to go” has become a bit of a catchphrase for me; I’ve decided to have it engraved on my tombstone.

I Have To Go Tv Land GIF by YoungerTV - Find & Share on GIPHY

This is no exaggeration (well, maybe the tombstone part… maybe). If some shit starts to go down and that demon starts talking about Raisin Bran, I flee. The. scene. Phones are hung up, cars are exited at stop lights, twenties are thrown down at restaurants. At a waterpark, I once shouted “I gots to goooooooooo” halfway down the slide. True story.

I set my boundaries and I mean it. Practice leaving; It gets easier.

3. Do have a path out

On a serious note, whatever sort of toxic relationship you are embroiled in, even if you have committed to staying, please make sure you have a way out. You may never have to take it, but squirrel away some money, know the bus routes, tell your family and friends about your situation, have an overnight bag packed and ready to go. There are times when toxic encounters are unavoidable, in these times bring cash, a fully charged cell phone, pepper spray, the bus schedule, and let someone know where you are.

Prepare Schitts Creek GIF by CBC - Find & Share on GIPHY

4. Bring the mental salt

For the less dire, more mundane toxic encounters, be that a meeting with a shitty boss or a family reunion, bring your mental salt. My favorite is the affirmation. By taking some deep breaths, reminding yourself of what your boundaries are, visualizing an outcome and committing to the type of person you want to be, boundaries will stay clearer to you in fuzzy situations. I like to set little reminders in my phone for every 20 minutes or so to stay calm and carry on.

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What is your policy when it comes to toxic relationships? How are you at setting boundaries? Ever find a barnyard animal in your house?

128 thoughts on “How to Keep a Toxic Relationship

  1. Ah… Mental Salt ~ GENIUS!!!

    I have always been really good at setting boundaries and walking away when needed – which is ironic, because I am typically a “people pleaser”, but I guess the years have taught me what my level of put-up-idness is (and it is kind of low, if I am completely honest).

    But I literally just had this conversation with my mom last night. She was complaining about how my dad treats her (they have been divorced for 25+ years), and how my sister treats her – I told her that they treat her how she allows them to treat her. But, she doesn’t get it! Maybe I can get her to read this, and figure out how to be a little more salty….

    Liked by 7 people

  2. Love, love, love this!

    I’m in a situation requiring copious amounts of mental salt. And because I’m weirdly superstitious, I have actual salt.

    … don’t judge me. lol

    Liked by 5 people

  3. The beginning of this made me laugh out loud, copious times – as per. I’ve had a number of toxic relationships. So toxic were they, in fact, that I began to think that I was the toxic one. Because toxic people screw with your brain. You become embroiled in their fuckwittery. When I reached maturity (I’m 53, but it was only a few years ago) and at the point where my LAST toxic friend announced that she no longer wanted to be friends with me, I just turned and walked away. The relief was immense. At my age I can’t be arsed with drama or heartbreak and am considering selling up, buying a 2-berth camper and travelling round Europe. My boundaries are set.

    I choose to breathe non-toxic air.

    Liked by 10 people

  4. This is so perfectly timed.Thank you for writing this!

    Personal favorite part:
    “Toxic people will behave in the ways they will behave. Chances are your toxic relationship is pretty predictable and it is always your choice to take the bait.”

    Super profound for me. I don’t think I’ve ever mentally ‘verbalized’ that my particular toxic relationship is completely predictable. Which gives me the power to take or leave the bait. Literally writing this down on a sticky note for myself as we speakkkk.

    Also love the Gotta Go rule. Will be using that more. Especially on the phone, where I can truly just GO.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. Wow! Just Wow. This article couldn’t be more fitting for something I’m going through in my life right now, and I so appreciate you broaching the topic! I’m definitely going to keep these things in mind moving forward!

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Thank you! This could not have come at a better time 🙂 We all believe that toxic relationships just require the ole heave ho, but that’s not always possible. I DO need to set my own boundaries and then have the courage to maintain them. I gots to go…perfect 🙂

    Liked by 6 people

  7. Wow. Excellent post as always. I LOVE the introduction…no, I love the whole post in a “why have I never seen this written down before” type way.

    The coming home to find an empty room with a chicken story is a bit loopy though! That sounds madder than anything I have had to deal with ever. I am so impressed with your composure in coping with that!

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Awesome post as always, I so look forward to them!

    “…cars are exited at stop lights..” ~ heehee

    God, I’d LOVE to do that.

    Not sure this might qualify as a toxic relationship but I think my most epic mic drop – was a weekend away with the girls (we’re going back 30 years now).

    We hung out with a complete demon (but she was fun to party with but an utter psycho). We all piled into my car and we drove down to the coast for the weekend.

    “Completely girls only this weekend,” Demon announced, “No boys.” as we checked into our B&B.

    Well, cut a long story short, Demon found her doppelganger-sex-toy for the night and one of the other girls fell in love in a similar way, so I ended up being locked out of the room.

    At first I thought I’d have to sleep in my car, but as it happened on my way down the stairs I found an open, empty hotel room and slept in that.

    The next morning I went down to breakfast, the demon was already down there bragging about what an epic shag she’d had in the bed I’d paid for and laughing, “Was it cold in your car?”

    I got up, said “enjoy your breakfast” grabbed my bags from the room and drove home, leaving them stranded sixty or so miles from home.

    As I drove past the B&B, there those bitches were, with their overnight bags on the sidewalk, one holding an iron.

    I never felt better.

    Funny, no one ever did that to me again. Although I have two less friends these days. Totally worth it.

    🙂

    xoxox

    Liked by 12 people

  9. I am totally your number 3. I have a way out, a place to go, and enough hidden cash to get me far away. In the meantime I am committed to stay. It’s complicated, but having a way out is a great stress reliever.

    Liked by 5 people

  10. There are so many articles about how to get out of toxic relationships, but there are just some that you just some people you can’t remove from your life. In those cases, I’ve adopted the bare minimum policy. I normally go overboard for people I love, but for those who are toxic, they get the bare minimum from. That includes short visits which always end suddenly with an excuse or just a hi how are you phone call with superficial discussion about the weather. Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 7 people

  11. Thank you! We can’t always get out, but we can try to manage. I’ve decided to deal with a long-distance toxic by killing them with kindness but no info. Say all the sweet things, but never give them any extra information. If they don’t have an inch, they can’t take a mile, and since I’m being so damn nice, they can’t complain about me without seeming like a total jerk 💁

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Great post. Wow. All your stuff gone and replaced by chickens? I cam just picture the room, bare except for the underwear and a few rusty hangers on the yellow wall to wall carpet and the seven mottled chickens clucking about. That’s a lot of crazy to be used to. Good for you. Leaving is definitely a great tactic. I just started saying “We don’t talk about personal things”

      Liked by 3 people

  12. I think my biggest mistake, with Einstein was “putting all my eggs in one basket”, although most of my stuff is out and in boxes at the new place, I feel like I can actually breathe again. I’ve always been a big, “go big or go home” type person, so while I am making boundaries with him, I am testing them with others….. You should see the looks on people’s faces, when I can actually utter the words, No, I’m not good with that……

    Liked by 5 people

  13. Thank you so much for writing this! I feel like this fills a niche which has usually been left empty – like if you’re not prepared to kick someone to the curb you should just be ready to let them ruin your life.
    Two things I would suggest as addenda to the above: know why you’re staying; and read Boundaries by Henry Cloud & John Townsend (also comes in convenient “Boundaries In Marriage, Dating, Kids” etc).

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Hmmmmm… I LOVE #1,3, and 4, and I toooooootally get what you are saying with #2, but with some people you have to be very, very careful when you leave/make a hardcore attempt to enforce boundaries. It can get pretty dangerous

    Once I was visiting my family for Thanksgiving and my dad starting flipping out over something dumb (…I think I left a spoon in the sink overnight?) He was going too far, screaming that I was worthless and ungrateful so I calmly gave him a warning, but he just got angrier so I made a dash for the window. He pulled me back in and I honestly thought he was going to kill me, but he ended up just smacking me around a bit until he got bored.

    I guess what I’m saying is- sometimes its hard to know just how unhinged the person you are dealing with is. With some people, you can only avoid them as much as possible and mentally check out when you can’t. I was reading an article about how most domestic violence deaths happen when the victim tries to leave/escape.

    Please be safe!!! Even if someone hasn’t beat you in a long time (or ever) it doesn’t mean that it is safe to run (immediately).

    Wait until they are asleep or something and ninja your way out to the bus/your friends house/24 hr cafe/anywhere with witnesses. Grays and dark blues are better than blacks for sneakin’, dark hoodies are your friend, and don’t move unless you *know* that you have been spotted, especially if you are behind a bush it is very hard for someone to see you at night- even if it seems like the flashlight is pointed right at you- you’ve got pretty good odds if you don’t move and stay low to the ground.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. You’re such a drug. I’m addicted to you and your effortlessly beautiful writing and just the amount of knowledge and insight you have to share and offer is beyond me! This was seriously just a genius topic! Who CAN’T relate?!?!?! We’ve all been there and either walked away immediately or not know what the fuck to do with the situation!
    Thank you for this! You magical unicorn of words!

    Liked by 4 people

  16. I definitely use the walk away technique! As yummy as it always seems to unleash rage at the toxic one, I usually am the one left feeling empty and sick. I love the “gots to go,” I need my own catch phrase! I think “Bye, Felicia” is too final… maybe “See you tomorrow, Felicia?” Ergh. I’ll keep working on it.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. “Toxic people will behave in the ways they will behave. Chances are your toxic relationship is pretty predictable and it is always your choice to take the bait.” Naillllled it! I think when it comes to toxic relationships, a lot of it boils down to not taking that bait – not losing our shit. But, it’s hard. When they’re making you mental. And, you know, we have to really care/love this person to go through that much mental and emotional strain.

    I think, as judgemental as we REALLY REALLY want to be, it’s important to let people make that decision – to continue to entertain this toxicity against our “better judgement”, and perhaps, try to offer other words of encouragement/strategies to cope/deal. Again, I pretty much yelled “yasss” at the screen while sliding out of my chair. Have a great weekend, DGGYST!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks Jocelyn! We are deeply embroiled in our relationships, and I think that is ultimately a healthy thing. But yea, they can really make you work for it! I really have the not taking the bait thing down to a science lol. I can calculate that about 40 minutes in, the hook is going to be baited lol!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. This was beyond genius and fabulous! Every post I read of yours always makes me smile! You really have a great way with words and sharing your incredible thoughts! It really is pretty impossible to get rid of the toxic in relationships and so many relationships have so much toxicity to them. I am starting to think I need to try some salt! I hope you have a great evening and enjoy the upcoming weekend!

    Liked by 3 people

  19. How do you know my life. Loving someone with a severe mental illness is draining as fuck. My coping mechanism is lots of prayer and getting out of dodge, then telling myself I shouldn’t feel guilty for bailing. If I stayed closer to the person I’d feel compelled to clean up more of their messes while being accused of never being there for people. Nope. I love people, toxic as they may be, but I love my sanity more. And now I feel guilty for saying that because it sounds super selfish. Ughh!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I think I need to do a post on the guilt. My brother, mother and dad all have schizophrenia and personality disorders run in my family all the way back to the beginning of time lol It is not selfish to value your sanity, you need twice as much of it to make up for the lack of it!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Wow!!! Just wow!!! This was an amazing piece!!
    So much great information written in an interesting format, I have tried to read similar ideas in other places but get to the blah blah blah and I quit….I read every word of this!!
    Ugh on the barnyard animals, I totally would have lost my shit!

    Liked by 5 people

  21. I dealt with my own abusive mother for years and oh boy… I’m not good at not taking the bait. So I started getting up and just straight up walking out on her without a word any time she started her bullshit up. No “I’m not ok with that” or “it’s not acceptable to treat people that way” verbal fight. No words. Nothing. Just worldessly picking up my purse, grabbing my keys, exiting the house, and fucking right off. She never got the point, so I just stopped talking to her and cut her out of my life entirely- and I can’t tell you how hilarious it is to find out from a new person every other day about how she’s running around town crying about it.

    Even if you don’t want to keep a toxic relationship… Learning how to set boundaries for yourself is so incredibly important. Not only for your own sanity, but in breaking the cycle of their abuse in the first place. Abuse requires power, after all. And the second you set a boundary, you empower yourself by stripping them of their ability to exercise that power at least in some minute regard. And that can go such a long way in helping you either be healthy, or leave the relationship altogether when you’re ready.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. “the second you set a boundary, you empower yourself by stripping them of their ability to exercise that power” That was so brilliantly stated!!! Boundary setting is so incredibly empowering. I still maintain a relationship with my mom, but the boundaries are firm. We play pickleball once a week, and she is not allowed to speak lol!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Amen to that! I completely agree that abuse requires power whether it be emotional, physical or mental abuse. And when it comes to boundaries the ones who have abused them in the past love to get upset when you finally do stand up for yourself and set some much needed boundaries. So you have to be prepared for them giving you backlash at first, but then they start to understand that you are just not for certain behaviors.

      I have learned that you have to set boundaries with anyone quick, and right from the start so that it is always clear where you stand with things!

      Liked by 4 people

  22. I didn’t realise this edit was needed till you wrote about it. I have toxic relationships in my life, and my goal is to shut up and put up. Let them show their bad behaviour, but I find if I dont react their toxicity fizzles out. I then have supportive friends who I bitch to about said bad behaviour.

    Liked by 6 people

  23. 😂😂 you have lived my friend. As far as toxic relationships go I usually deal in avoidance which does not actually work so now I’m practicing openly talking about my expectations, boundaries and when needed, just simply saying “I Gots tah Gooooo!” great spin and advice.

    Liked by 3 people

  24. Oh, man. It’s like you wrote this post just for me. I am navigating two very toxic relationships in my life, and they are ones that I just can’t simply walk away from. I am stuck with them. The ‘I gots to go.’ philosophy is one I have implemented in the past 6 months, and it has helped, but I struggle with guilt. But that’s from years and years of being a fucking doormat and making everyone happy. Now that I am putting my happiness first, it’s disrupted the balance. Baby steps. Slowly but surely I am getting there. And Tiara, I am sorry about the chicken. You are amazing! xoxo​

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Its ok, I have plenty of nice things now, ( but my sister owns a bunch of chickens) ( I went to her place the other day and she was yelling at one of them “damn you Gerdy! You might just meet your maker today” I just wanted to share that with you because I knew it would make you laugh) Anyway! The guilt thing! I really think the guilt alleviates with practice. I used to feel the same way, but leaving frequently ultimately allowed me to return more frequently, and the guilt lessened.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Now I know why people keep throwing down twenties around me and leaving restaurants. 😉

    DG, what I love about you is you don’t do anything the normal way. This could have been a trite post about toxicity and getting it the hell out yo life, but instead you turned it around, gave it depth, infused it with humor, and told us something we can really use. You ought to have a talk show. You already affect thousands, you could affect millions.

    Seriously.

    Hugs. 🤗

    Liked by 6 people

  26. I found this really interesting, as I think I may have a toxic relationship with my job! There are bits I enjoy, but there’s a huge heap of it which gets me down. However, it pays the bills for now, plus my student debts. I do have a plan, albeit long term. Clear my debts and then reduce my working hours so I have more time for me and my husband. Maybe in a few years with more experience under my belt I can go in a different direction in terms of my career. These things are keeping me where I am for the time being…there is a way out. I could actually just find something else, but it’s convenient and will ultimately get me to a better place 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Toxic relationships with a job are so common! Yet hard to indentify because its easy to just assume everyones job is like that! I was actually going to do a whole post on this exact topic!

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Yessss I talked about toxic environments you can’t escape right away too on my blog! It’s really not that easy to always just leave somebody or a situation–esp right away. I love your point about the bait. It’s so true that most toxic people in life try to bait the other person. It’s so hard to resist or not bite after a while.. I should work on that, but I do hope to

    Liked by 4 people

  28. Escaping in the past has been called “quitting” or “running out”. Either way it’s a good idea. I was verbally bullied by a schizoid boss who only showed his demon side to me. I think I reminded him of his mother and that was a toxic situation. Still, was NOT his mother and I was accused of ridiculous things and going to be written up at a job I loved and was really, really good at. Although others heard him screaming at me, none would come to my defense because they needed their jobs. I get it, but wow. I left the screaming-and-spitting-in-my-face meeting, went back to my desk, discretely packed up all of my shit and left. For good. Never stepped foot in the building again. But I needed my job, too and asked HR (different building) to transfer me. Nope. Not their policy. File a complaint if you want, but you have to stay there and he CAN’T take it out on you. Really? What planet do you live on? I took a huge financial hit. Huge! Lost a lot of money. But I didn’t lose ME! Great post! (PS-I wrote a letter listing his incompetence. Less than two years later he was “removed”. Karma?)

    Liked by 3 people

  29. So true that sometimes you can’t just walk away from a toxic relationship. My biggest gamechanger came with learning that you can’t change what people have done or said, but you CAN change how you let it make you feel. And also just acceptance that the person is unlikely to change, so stop expecting a different behaviour. Pretty mean leaving you with just a barnyard animal where your stuff was. Felt sorry for the chicken too, to be used as a pawn in such a poisonous mindgame. It’s a wonder how you’ve managed to move on from all that with such a wise, grounded and compassionate outlook.

    Liked by 4 people

  30. This is brilliance. I get so tired of being encouraged to just walk away, as if toxic relationships exist in only one form. It seems to me that you are talking here about self preservation in a realistic (and of course fucking hysterical) way, and I love it. I have found that a lot of my toxic relationships stay in a loop because of my own expectations. It is human nature for us to want people to be exactly who we need them to be, but if we can find a way to drop those expectations (really fucking hard to do), patterns in relationships can begin to shift and change. Life is way too complicated to think there is a one size fixes all and you always always get that. You are a wise and wonderful force, beautiful lady!

    Liked by 3 people

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