Why is it hard to walk away from toxic people?
A toxic people will try to control, manipulate, and dominate you while completely disregarding your feelings and needs. They focus entirely on themselves and what they want and only care about what you can do for them. People are nothing but tools to them instead of individual, whole beings. When you look at the traits of a toxic people, it can seem pretty obvious from the outside, but when you are in this situation, it can be hard to recognize the warning signs. Walking away from a toxic person is harder than you might think. In this article, we will look at why it is so hard to walk away from toxic people and give some tips on how to do so.
Toxic People Prey on Those with Low Self Esteem
A toxic people will latch onto someone who has low self-esteem because they have a hard time standing up for themselves and enforcing boundaries. When you have low self-esteem and do not value yourself, you might second guess if you truly should walk away from a toxic person because maybe you do not deserve someone better. You may think you are just being too sensitive, or you did something that is making them treat you like this.
This is what a toxic people thrives on. They do not worry about losing you, confident that no matter what, you will come back for more. Meanwhile, they continue to drain your self-esteem, working to keep you feeling so poorly about yourself that you will keep coming back to them because they “care” about you, and they are all you have.
You’ve Invested Time in the Relationship
Whether you are in a friendship or romantic relationship with a toxic people, in the beginning, their mask is firmly in place. After you have invested time in the relationship, they begin to let the real them show through. By this point, you have both put a lot of time into your relationship, which can make you hesitant to walk away. You may think about how they were not like this before, so maybe you did something that upset them, or they are just having a bad day. What if you walk away from them and never find another friend who is as great as them? What if you never find love again? Should you really throw away years of your life just because they are smothering you?
They Are Family
It can be especially difficult to walk away from a family member who is toxic. We are taught that you have to tolerate your racist uncle or your controlling mother because they are family, and you have to put up with them and drop everything to help them, no matter what.
However, you should not put up with a toxic people any more than you should put up with a toxic friend or partner. It just seems harder to do because you are related to them. You may be thinking that since you only have to see them on holidays a couple of times a year, it is fine; you can just deal, but you should not have to. “But she gave birth to me.” That does not mean that you have to let her dominate and control you while tearing you down for every decision you make.
How to Walk Away from the toxic people in Your Life
Now that you have determined why it can be so hard to walk away from a toxic people let’s take a look at how you can walk away from them.
Tell Them How You Feel
This can be a hard one to do. You do not owe them an explanation, but sometimes, it can help you to get your feelings out. Simply sit them down and tell them that you are going to be cutting contact with them and some of why. They are probably going to try to turn this into a big fight but try not to sink to their level by fighting back. If you think this could get ugly, do it in public and bring some backup with you. You can also do it over the phone, so you can just hang up when they start attacking you.
Create Firm Boundaries
Toxic people do not like boundaries, and they will always try to ignore and stomp on them. Be clear that you are ending your relationship with them, and they do not get a say in this. They will look for any cracks in your armor to let them sneak back in, so you have to set firm boundaries and stick to them, no matter how hard it is. If you are worried that you might give in if they text you a lot or post too many “woe is me” things on social media, block their number and block them on all social media platforms. Mark their emails as spam. You are choosing to be done, and they do not get a choice in this.
When you stand your ground, they are going to try even harder to get back in. Ignore any crisis they may come up with that they “need” you for. If you give them an inch, they will take a mile. Hold your ground, even if they have a family emergency and need a shoulder to cry on.
Put Distance Between You and Them
If you want to step back from them but are not quite ready to sever all contact, at least go low contact with them. Unfollow them on social media, only see them at family gatherings, turn off your notifications for them on your phone, and always have other plans when they try to get together outside of that. If you are going low contact, it might not be the best idea to tell them that is what you are doing since they could lash out.
Talk to Someone
When you are removing someone from your life, it is okay to grieve. They were an important person in your life for a while, so it is only natural that you will miss them, even if you only miss the version of them that you thought existed. To cope with your feelings, consider talking to a mental health professional. They can help you grieve, accept that they were toxic people, and help you stay strong when maintaining your boundaries.
About the Author
Auz Burger is a freelance writer and an expert in mental health. She has a BA from Washington State University and has been writing and editing professionally for over a decade.