Cutting Cords To Toxic Relationships

Cutting Cords To Toxic Relationships

Cutting Cords To Toxic Relationships

When to Walk Away

As an experienced Denver marriage counselor and therapist, I know first hand: Relationships take work. No one is perfect, no relationship is perfect. No boss, friend, loved one, or partner is perfect.

But how do you know when a relationship has crossed over that tipping point from imperfect to toxic? How do you know when cutting cords to toxic relationships is necessary?

Whether you are struggling with a bullying boss, a caustic friend, or even questioning whether to walk away from a long-term relationship or marriage, no one usually wants to walk away.

Walking away is hard. Change is hard and scary. And there is a natural and healthy desire for things to work out and for everyone to be happy.

But when you’ve found that a relationship is causing you misery, you’re wondering if the bad has started to outweigh the good, and questioning, “should I burn this bridge?” here are a few questions to ask yourself:

How Did We Get Here?

This step is for getting curious about the patterns you notice in this relationship and creating a narrative from the beginning of it until now. In other words, what is the story of your relationship? What is the relationship’s dynamic, or the dance you and this person create together?

Go deeper: When you reflect back to the infancy of your relationship, do you notice red flags you didn’t necessarily see at the time? How has the relationship evolved since – and were there milestones or critical incidences that contributed to these changes? Can you see where negative energy crept in or was always there?

After spending some time here, zoom out again; what story do your reflections tell you?

What Can I Accept?

Instead of focusing on what you CAN’T control (which includes everything about the other person), focus on what you can accept. Acceptance means not trying to change, help or give advice, not judging or fighting against. It means that, even if you don’t like or agree with something, you let go emotionally. You lean into the fact that “it is what it is,” whether you like it or not.

When working with my DTC relationship clients, I like to ask them to think about (or even list on paper!) all aspects of the relationship over which they have no control. This includes the other’s perspective, reactions, and feelings, just to name a few. Be honest with yourself on this one. Can you let go of some of these?

What Can I NOT Accept?

After asking yourself “what can I truly live with?,” you may now know more about what you CANNOT abide. Daily stress? Financial instability? Walking on eggshells? Compromising your values for the sake of the relationship?

These are the pain points that will need to be addressed if you choose to continue your investment in this relationship.

Let’s look at how to address them…

What Have I Tried?

Up to now, our questions have focused on what IS NOT in your control. Let’s shift gears and look at what IS. Your perceptions, feelings, behaviors…

What have you tried so far to improve this relationship? Some key areas to think about include communication, compromise, and education.

Have you tried being appropriately vulnerable? 

Have you gotten curious about and tried to understand the other person’s needs? 

Have you looked for where you and the other’s wants or needs can overlap and lead to compromise? 

Have you asked for help or accessed resources and education (coaching is a great example!)?

Think about all the steps you (and possibly the other person in the relationship) have taken to create positive change.

What Am I Able And Willing To Do That I Haven’t Yet Tried?

Is there anything left? Really challenge yourself here to think outside the box and brainstorm. Is there anything you can do, that’s in your control, you haven’t yet tried?

• Information gathering?

• Learning how to have a different emotional reaction in the relationship?

• Classes or coaching?

This step can be uplifting. Even if your hope for the future of the relationship is dwindling, it can feel empowering to focus on what’s in your control, your options and choices (no matter how sparse), and what you can do to help yourself.

When we focus on what we can change (our own behaviors, tools, and resources), we feel more resilient and we open up possibilities for the relationship to improve and grow. What do you really have to lose here?

Now, of these – what are you interested in, able or willing to actually try out now? It’s okay if the answer is “none of them!” Be honest with yourself, about how you feel, and if you aren’t motivated to work on the relationship…honor these feelings. They are valid. And they must be heard in order to answer the question, “should I burn this bridge?”

What Can Change And How Much?

Now, realistically, knowing what you and the other person have done, or could yet still do, and what you can accept and what you cannot, what is the likelihood of change?

What aspects of the relationship that you know must change for your own wellbeing are actually changeable? And how much, or to what degree, is this change realistic, based on the evidence and past experience, as well as your own ability and willingness to try?

For example, it’s possible someone can become less argumentative, but they might still be that way from time to time.

It’s also important here to view change with a “dimmer switch mindset.” Basically, know that change doesn’t flip like a light switch in a moment, but occurs as a slow, gradual process and this healing process takes time. This relationship can be improving in small increments, not necessarily visible in the moment but easier to see over time.

Keep this realistic view of change in mind when you consider what you can accept if you stay in the relationship and your own ability to grow for the sake of its success. And don’t forget to make note of what the other person has really done to work on things and appreciate it.

Sometimes the devil you know feels safer than the big, scary unknown. This, and the knowledge that no relationship is perfect and they all take work, can make it hard to know when it’s time to stop giving it your all and walk away from a toxic relationship. I hope these questions help you explore with your own intuition of what is best for you.

And, remember, it’s okay to take care of yourself!

Kathleen C Stutts, M.Ed., LPC, NCC 

P.S. Share your thoughts with me in the comments section below!

 

Kathleen Stutts, M.Ed., NCC, LPC helps clients build self-esteem and create strong, meaningful relationships in a non-judgmental, productive space where you will feel safe, comfortable and understood.

Talk with a Coach or Counselor Today!

Read More by Kathleen 

Cutting Cords To Toxic Relationships

Cutting Cords To Toxic Relationships

If you’re asking yourself if you’re in a toxic relationship (personal or professional) then this article is for you. Denver Therapist and Relationship Expert, Kathleen Stutts, M.Ed., LPC, NCC shares how to tell if it’s time to move on. Read now on The Love, Happiness and Success Blog

How to Harness a Strengths-Based Approach to Reach Your Goals in the New Year

How to Harness a Strengths-Based Approach to Reach Your Goals in the New Year

How to Harness a Strengths-Based Approach to Reach Your Goals in the New Year

Using The Strengths-Based Approach

The start of a new year can be full of hope and promise, and the idea of starting over — particularly in a new decade — can fill some with excitement and others with dread. If you’ve ever experienced the act of overpromising to yourself and underdelivering on your goals, you’re certainly not alone.

While New Year’s resolutions are intended to motivate us and improve our lives, they can also make us focus on all the things we are not. Let’s face it, eating healthier, losing 15 pounds, joining a book club, going back to school, and having a REAL savings account (Hello new home, 2025!) sure sounds exciting but how do you actually do it all? Is it even possible to start chasing after new goals with your already busy work/social/family life schedule?

The thing is, we often wait and wait and wait to get started on our goals or give up early on our New Year’s resolutions because we get lost focusing on what we consider to be our “downfalls”. We hinder our progress before even starting. 

I have some good news for you today. This year, 2020, is YOUR year. Here’s why! In my work as a life coach and individual therapist, I like to take a Strengths-Based Approach to help my clients reach their personal goals and I’m sharing it with you today! In this article I am going to be talking about:

  1. What is the Strengths-Based Approach?
  2. Why is the Strengths-Based Approach successful time and time again?
  3. Who is the Strengths-Based Approach For (hint: YOU! And here’s why…)?
  4. How you can start using the Strengths-Based Approach today, and practical tips for getting started!

Everything You Need To Know About The Strengths-Based Approach

What is the Strengths-Based Approach?

Focusing on one’s strengths falls under the Positive Psychology umbrella, and essentially entails focusing on your internal strengths and resourcefulness. This inherently begins building a more positive mindset and can help increase resilience.

How often do you sit and think of your positive qualities? In the hustle and bustle of daily life, my guess is…NEVER. Our brains are wired to watch out for danger and to identify patterns, and our brains tend to pay more attention to negative information than positive information. We might not notice every time we do something successfully, but we sure do notice if we mess up. 

Many people might feel like focusing on your good qualities is being self-centered or arrogant, but I’m going to call BS on that one. It is extremely important to be able to articulate what we like about ourselves. This is a key component of self-worth and self-love, and is something we are pushed to think about as children but not as much as adults. 

Here is where the Strength-Based Approach comes into play. Thinking about our strengths involves considering what we are good at or what is already going well in our lives.

I like using a Strengths-Based Approach with my coaching and therapy clients because it starts a dialogue around how we feel about ourselves and our self-esteem. If you find yourself struggling to think of anything you do well or like about yourself, this is a huge indication that your self-esteem is in need of a tune-up. Focusing on the positive aspects of ourselves has the potential to be transformational, starting with how we feel about ourselves. 

Why is the Strengths-Based Approach Successful Time and Time Again?

When we are solely focused on the ‘problem’ or what we want to change, we can self-sabotage ourselves by failing to recognize what we are already good at, and how that can help us! 

Every time we remind ourselves of our good qualities and the ways we feel we excel, we get a little boost of those feel-good hormones and brain reactions. It sounds simple, but it’s true. Being positive and focusing on the good can make us happier. Focusing on what is going wrong or on our negative qualities can make change seem impossible and overwhelming. Instead, start focusing on your inner strengths, resourcefulness, and resilience. This way of thinking can create hope and confidence to push on, especially when the going gets tough. Another reason the Strengths-Based Approach is successful is because it can generate long-standing change in how you think about yourself, others, and life events. Looking for the positives and strengths within yourself and others turns into a habit, and eventually won’t need conscious effort.

Focusing on your strengths is about cultivating a positive mindset, and recognizing the resources and resilience you already possess within. Honing in on what you do well can open up possibilities and new strategies that may never have occurred to you if you’re steeped in ‘the problem’, and can open your mind to creative new solutions to try.

Creating a more positive mindset can empower you to push through the difficult times, and even increase your confidence. This occurs as a key part of the Strengths-Based Approach in the idea of resilience, or being able to “bounce back” from difficult times. Resilience also includes being able to overcome obstacles and cope with them, and realizing your own resilience that you possess is extremely powerful. 

You might not believe that you are a resilient person, but you absolutely are and I have proof! You have survived and made it through the difficulties of life thus far. You are here. Now take a moment to reflect on how you did that. Were you able to handle stress well to see a problem through? Were you able to access resources or help from family and friends? Maybe it was your drive and determination that helped you get through those long hours at work and school without giving up. Either way, this aspect of your strengths is essential for building up self-esteem and confidence.

Utilizing your strengths can better connect you to your identity and remind you of who you are, while also building up your self-worth. 

Realizing your self-worth and recognizing your strengths helps your relationships too, such as through enforcing boundaries when needed and helping others realize their strengths as well.

Who is the Strengths-Based Approach For (hint: YOU! And here’s why…)?

Whether your goal is to create healthier habits, improve your relationships, or move up in your job, your strengths can help you get there! No matter the goal and even if your strengths don’t seem related to it, it is all connected and the common denominator here is you.

Since a common New Year’s resolution is weight loss, let’s use that as an example to see how this approach works. If someone feels that a strength of theirs is being kind, we can use that to help them be successful in their weight loss goals. I know what you’re thinking, how can being nice or kind help someone lose weight? Well first, what is being kind? A part of it is being nice, but other parts of kindness might be being considerate, thoughtful, and supportive. 

Instead of using negative self-talk to bully oneself into not eating certain foods or using other “punishing” tactics, why not use kindness to lift yourself up? Kindness in this scenario might be giving yourself grace or compassion if you slip up, but also setting yourself up for success through creating realistic expectations for yourself

Setting yourself up for success might be meal planning for the week, preparing healthy meals or snacks before the work week starts, and going to bed at a reasonable time so you have energy to exercise. You wouldn’t expect someone to jump into a new task without proper preparation and do it perfectly, so why put that on yourself?

Kindness might be having daily mantras of gratitude for how hard our body works and what it does for us every day, and letting that guide our thoughts and behaviors rather than focusing on what our body isn’t or what we want it to be. Kindness could be changing our view on food and nourishment, and wanting to be kind to our bodies through nourishing it with the food it needs and is good for us. 

How you can start using the Strengths-Based Approach today, and practical tips for getting started!

Okay dear reader, here is my advice to you on how to get started harnessing your strengths for success in the New Year! 

Start by sitting with a notepad and paper, and really think a minute about the things you love and value about yourself. Think about the things that have helped you in life thus far, what you think is a strength and sets you apart from others. Write these things down, and then also write out a goal. If you have multiple goals, do one at a time so as not to overwhelm yourself. 

Now look at your strengths and goal together and see where there is overlap, and put your creative thinking cap on to see how you can use your strengths to help you reach that goal! 

If one of your strengths is being friendly and you want to advance in your career, consider reaching out to a mentor or supervisor about grabbing lunch or offer to buy them a coffee to pick their brain about an idea you have. Connect with this person and tell them about your goal, and how you would appreciate some extra support from them in that. I think you see where I am going with this, and the goal and strength combos could be endless. Don’t be afraid to be creative, as you possess the tools and power to create the life that you want! 

Five Practical Tips to the Strengths-Based Approach

#1 Make a gratitude list of things you are grateful for about yourself

#2 Start practicing self-compassion

#3 Set yourself up for success: create a plan, write it down, and leave it somewhere you can see it

#4 Create realistic expectations

#5 When you slip up (yes I said when, because it is only a matter of time before we slip up or miss a goal and that is OKAY people) do not engage in negative self-talk, and remember all the things you successfully did that day or week. There will be times we slip up, the point is to not let that make us give up but to keep going.

Here’s to a happy and successful new year!
Josephine Marin M.S., MFTC

 

 

Josephine Marin, M.S., MFTC is a warm, kind, and direct therapist and couples counselor who specializes in communication, compassion and connection. She can help you reach your goals and create positive change in yourself and your relationships.

Let’s  Talk

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