Toxic Ties: How To Protect Yourself From Negative Family & Friends

Toxic Ties: How To Protect Yourself From Negative Family & Friends ©iStock/soup__studio

Not all toxic relationships come in the form of a significant other. Sometimes, it’s the people we expect to be there for us no matter what who end up draining us the most. It’s hard to deal with a close friend or family member who brings only negativity into your life. You love them and want to support them, but you don’t want to be dragged down with them, either. If you find that a loved one is a toxic force in your life, here are 10 great ways to protect yourself and love them from a distance.

  1. Figure out what causes the conflict and don’t be a trigger.If there’s one critical area that causes a lot of trouble, then do your best to avoid that area at all costs. This may mean refusing to talk about your love life with your sister or keeping your mother in the dark about your financial situation. If your loved one insists on causing problems, ask that they please refrain from discussing that part of your life.
  2. Limit the amount of face-time you spend with them.If someone is a negative force in your life, then you’re not obligated to be around them all the time, no matter how close your ties. Keep your visits to major holidays and other special occasions. You can still maintain the relationship without feeling like you’re being dragged down on a daily basis.
  3. Learn how to say no.There’s no need for you to continually subject yourself to a loved one’s negativity. If your best friend has decided that you’re going to be her impromptu punching bag for the umpteenth time, then it’s time to start establish some boundaries. Let your loved one know that you won’t allow them to walk all over you by saying “no” every now and then.
  4. Suggest other sources of help.If your loved one is heavily relying on you to be an outlet for their anxiety, anger or resentment, turn them towards other resources they can use to get help. There are hordes of inspirational books, self-help programs, groups and trained professionals that can give them the expertise, insight and support they need. Let them know that you will be there to assist them in finding and getting help, but that you cannot be their only emotional release.
  5. Establish your own support network.It can be devastating to realize that our loved ones – those we are supposed to turn to in our time of need – can be the cause of many of our problems. The solution is to find a new group of people who can provide us with love and care. If your parents don’t offer the support you need, then find someone who is willing to be a mentor and build up that surrogate relationship. Reach out to extended family members if you have them. Get involved in local groups and new activities to find a solid group of people you can count on.
  6. Focus on your goals and dreams.When you’re busy, you hardly have the time to worry about anyone else’s problems but your own. The people who are trying to hold you back and drag you down may give up when they see you steady continuing on your chosen path. Focus on where you want to be in life and ignore the haters.
  7. Recognize that they won’t change if they don’t want to.You have to recognize that true change doesn’t happen unless it comes from within. Once you understand that there is little you can do to help your loved one if they’re not willing to help themselves, then you won’t feel so invested that you allow yourself to be dragged down with them.
  8. Be the bigger woman.Sometimes it’s easy to succumb to anger, resentment and rage, but doing so won’t help the situation. In fact, it may even further that negative feedback loop, and neither you nor your loved one will be able to get out of it. If someone has wronged you, learn to turn the other cheek. You can go a long way by simply not allowing yourself to be affected by their negativity.
  9. Send them love from afar.You don’t have to physically be there every step of the way to support someone. Whether you text them everyday, email them once a week or send positive thoughts and prayers their way, you can let your loved one know that you are there if they need you, but in a way that won’t hurt you any further.
  10. Practice some self-love.Find something that can help you take your mind off of everything, whether that’s exercise, meditation or a new hobby. Being in that positive space will make you more capable of dealing with your loved one’s toxic behavior when you do encounter it.

There is a difference between a toxic relationship and an abusive one. If you are being mentally, physically, emotionally and/or financially hurt or damaged to a point where it is difficult or impossible for you to function on a daily basis, then the relationship is a serious issue that needs to be evaluated with the help of a trained professional.