Walk Away from Toxic Relationships


by Hayley Doyle

People come. People go.


A first meeting is far removed from how that relationship evolves over time. Not everybody we meet, like, work or fall for with can be an everlasting love. Unfortunately, life is just too complicated. So we need to learn how to walk away from situations that bring us down and pour our energy into those who feed our souls and our dreams.


It sounds easy. Sensible.


In the movies, it’s the moment towards the end - where you air punch from your sofa - as the heroine finally tells that toxic person where to stick it. She tosses her hair over her shoulder, walks away with a fire in her belly, and more importantly, she… Doesn’t. Look. Back. She has protected herself from further hurt. She has grown as a person. She is ready and open for new horizons.


So why is it so difficult to put into practice?


Well, for every person we walk away from, we felt an initial pull towards them in the first place. In reality, you might well have big hair to toss, but there won’t be an uplifting soundtrack blasting out. More courage is needed to walk away from your toxic situation than carefully selected words of dialogue and an artistic vision of a Hollywood director. The reason things have become so toxic could be because it feels easier to stick it out. To stay. It’s a comfort, being miserable. What you know. What you’re used to.


From being bullied by my so-called best friends at 14 years old, to calling it a day on a passionate long-term relationship that brought out the worst in me, to permanently deleting a friend once he revealed he could not be trusted, I’ve walked away from many, and will have to again at some point in the future, I’m sure. It’s not easy. You have to dig deep and be so completely honest with yourself, so open to the unknown, that it can feel safer to just keep things as they are. Put up with it. Accept it. Live with it.

The problem with a toxic relationship though, is that is spreads viciously. One bad apple. You might have a wonderful support network of say, four amazing people. Yet, that one bully or green monster or narcissist or gas lighter can be single-handedly not just destroying you, but your whole group. You can’t see the good for the bad, yet you justify it constantly. And if you don’t get out, you might become toxic to those who love you. And so, it snowballs…

1. Not On the Same Page

When your personal values are not aligned with another’s, it’s time to flee. Of course, don’t sprint off from the friend who believes that the American remake of The Office is not a patch on the original British version. That’s a matter of opinion. And perseverance. The US sitcom has 201 episodes to sit through, compared to a well-rounded 14 with Mr Gervais. But having any kind of relationship with somebody who cannot agree with how and why you choose to live your life will only bring much negativity to the table. This person’s presence is undoubtedly strong, otherwise you wouldn’t notice it, and you will start to question your own judgement. If you are going to remain true to yourself, you must walk away.


2. Take, Take, Take

The one who takes from you might be very nice to you. Especially in the beginning. You might have much in common and share many giggles. You’re kindred spirits! Sisters from another Mister! They’re giving you exactly what you want, whether it be friendship, humour, love, sex, ideas, money… until it stops. Maybe gradually, maybe suddenly. You think it’s you. What have you done? You obsess over old messages; Did I say something wrong? Have I offended them in some way? The answer here is always, NO. You can do no wrong to an opportunist. A slacker. Somebody who disappears because you’re no use to them anymore. Because, they return! Better than ever! Talk of bouncing back, this one is ballooning back with ribbons and teddy bears! All of that joy you felt towards them comes rushing back, not to mention the relief. Then, they ask you for a favour. A pay rise. A sofa to crash on. A much-needed night on the town. Your support network might question this, but you defend them fiercely; “They’re going through a hard time…” or, “Everybody deserves a second chance… again.” So you give. And all you receive is silence, worry, doubt, uncertainty… until they need something from you next time. So when they come running, walk away. And keep walking.


3. Don’t Rain on my Parade

“There is no room for cynicism in the arts,” said Tim Firth, playwright and screenwriter (Calendar Girls). He was addressing a room full of performing arts graduates, about to enter into a professional industry that is competitive and seemingly at times, unfair. He spoke of accepting, applauding and supporting creative vision, rather than crushing it. As uplifting energy vibrated across the auditorium, of course, there was the odd eye-roll or two. A sigh from a cynic. “Easy for him to say,” somebody huffs, “He’s already had his big chance.” But what does that achieve? Nothing, except destroy the positive message. The hope. So think about the people in your life who are wearing your spirit down with their cynicism. Have you ever entered a room with buoyancy only to leave feeling like a dead weight, just because of somebody else’s negative attitude? Feel the good vibes and ride them. Don’t give any of your precious time to those who want to tip you off or worse, drag you down with them.


4. The Bad Magician

You are you. Brilliant, unique you. Then you surround yourself with a person who waves their magic wand and puts thoughts into your head that never existed before you met them. They might tell you that you’re amazing, followed by a back-handed compliment. “You’re rocking working and motherhood,” your magician friend might say, and then quickly add, “I couldn’t handle it, I’d just feel so guilty all the time.” Really, you were just doing your thing, and now you start questioning your actions, your choices, doubting yourself on levels that didn’t exist beforehand. If there is a subject that triggers you - weight, diet, sex, for example - a bad magician might bring this up every time they see you, but disguise it as easy-going chit-chat. Even dumb down the seriousness of your trauma. And, there are bad magicians who say something cruel to your face and then deny it, making you believe that, “You’re crazy, I never said that.” Or, after hurting you badly, “I’d never hurt you.” Trust yourself. Not them. You know the truth. Please understand that you’re worthy of so much more and walk away.


5. Mirror Mirror

Are you creating a toxic environment for yourself? Instead of loving yourself, are you tearing yourself apart with comparison-itis? Instead of looking at what you have, are you obsessed with looking at what you don’t have? The importance of our selves is big news in today’s society. Create a buzz word by inserting SELF before help, esteem, confidence and love, and how to attract more of this in abundance will flood through your social media feeds. As good as the intentions might be, it can be overwhelming to scroll and see an endless stream of confident, inspirational strangers dancing to the latest trending song clips. In some ways, the message - as clear and simple as it can be in 15 seconds - is not being absorbed. It’s diluted. Impersonal. Supportive smiles you’ll never meet in real life. Fingers pointing at suggestions (in perfect time to the music) of how to be happy. The meaning is sincere. But the effect can be toxic. So limit your social media use by putting it to good use only. Ask yourself, are you truly walking away from the bad? Or are you just ‘liking’ other people who share doing it? Walk away from scrolling and into a space where you can be you, without comparison and with all the love you deserve.