Not every relationship is a healthy one. Although it would be great if every person in your life made you feel happy and supported all the time, the reality is that many of us have had to figure out how to deal with a toxic relationship at some point, whether it was with a friend, family member, or romantic partner. Often, the hardest part is recognizing that someone is a toxic presence in your life in the first place — but it's crucial to do so, for the sake of your mental and emotional health.
"We are supposed to be a better version of ourselves in our relationships and support each other’s goals," Clarissa Silva, Behavioral Scientist and owner of relationship blog You're Just A Dumbass, tells Bustle. "If that’s not happening, it might be that you are surrounding yourself with toxic people. Over time, surrounding yourself with toxic people not only erodes your self-esteem and sense of self; it creates maladaptive patterns and cycles."
If you've known someone forever, it can be easy to write off their bad behavior as "just the way they are," but sometimes, you need to dig deeper and figure out whether their toxic tendencies are something you need in your life. Here are five types of toxic people you might have encountered — and remember, you should never feel guilty about cutting someone out if their behavior is harmful to you in any way.
1. A Narcissistic Parent
Naturally, we're inclined to love and protect our families, which sometimes makes us blind to their faults and shortcomings. Living with a narcissistic parent is not easy, and it can take years to learn that you don't have to bend to your parent's every whim just because they raised you.
"Have you ever noticed that right when you are about to take a huge risk or leap into a new exciting life moment that the people closest to you are often the most negative?" Todd Mitchem, Speaker and author of YOU, DISRUPTED, tells Bustle. "This happens because subconsciously they MUST have you stay where you are in life to make them feel safe. Parents are often the worst because they are operating on all sorts of emotions, beliefs and an overall sense of loss with their adult children which causes them to over-analyze the situation and impose their beliefs on others."
2. A Manipulative Friend
Realizing that one of your friendships is toxic is never a fun experience — you might need to grieve what once was a healthy, happy close friendship — but if you have a friend who manipulates you to get what they want, you're better off without them.
"Toxic people may look like ordinary people and may be the closest people in your life," Audrey Hope, relationship expert, tells Bustle. "However, you know they are toxic when you are around them because after you are in their presence, you just don’t feel like yourself."
3. A Controlling Significant Other
Being in a relationship with someone who's controlling is a really difficult situation. Often, the controlling partner masks their possessiveness with "love" — as in, I only act this way because I care about you so much. That kind of manipulation can be hard to see through, especially at the beginning of a relationship when things are otherwise "great."
"The rational mind can really mess you up when accessing toxic people," Hope says. "You are in disbelief and denial, and you are uneducated about the truth of toxic people." But the sooner you come to terms with the truth about your partner's behavior, the better: you should never tolerate someone who doesn't view you as an equal partner with valuable insights and opinions.
4. A Calculating Coworker
It's not just our personal relationships that can be sources of toxicity in our lives. "Toxic relationships are both personal and professional," Dr. Froswa' Booker-Drew, founder of Soulstice Consultancy, tells Bustle. "Many people deal with toxic relationships on the job with bosses/supervisors whose behavior destroys morale and productivity."
If you have a boss or coworker who seeps negativity, manipulates you, or tries to control your every move, it can seriously impact your work performance. Although it's tricky, there are ways to cope with a toxic coworker — just tread carefully lest you jeopardize your career.
5. A Jealous Friend
Experiencing small bouts of jealousy in a friendship is totally normal. But when does jealousy cross the line into toxic territory? If someone is constantly envious of even your smallest achievements and uses them as an opportunity to mope and complain about their own life, that's a red flag. A supportive friend will be happy that you're bettering your life, and be able to express dissatisfaction with their own life in a way that doesn't detract from or undermine your success.
How To Recognize And Deal With Toxic People
If you feel like you have someone (or perhaps more than one person) in your life who is a toxic presence, the best thing you can do for yourself is take time to honestly evaluate their behavior and your relationship, and then decide whether they add value to your life, or merely make you feel lower.
"Recognize the signs of a toxic relationship," Justin Lavelle, Chief Communications Officer of online background check platform PeopleLooker, tells Bustle. "Look at how this person fits into your life. Do they drain your energy, criticize you, play a victim, have a negative mindset, exhibit dishonestly, or lack compassion? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it might be time to reassess your relationship."
Once you realize someone is toxic and negatively impacting your own well-being, you have to figure out how you want to proceed. Do you want to simply set more firm boundaries, or would you rather cut them out all together? "Set your own boundaries and don’t be apologetic," Lavelle says. "For your own health and sanity, it’s OK to say 'no' or tell someone they’ve pushed you too far or asked for too much. If you know it’s time to cut the cord, be bold, direct and firm. Toxic people tend to hang around and play the victim. Don’t fall into the trap."
Cutting someone out of your life is easier said than done, but if you're tired of someone being a source of negative energy in your life, you should never feel bad about ousting them — it's for your own good.