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How to Leave a Toxic Relationship, With Dignity

How to Leave a Toxic Relationship, With Dignity

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Letting Go Of a Toxic Relationship

We’re approaching a new year, and as such, you may be thinking about changes you want to make in your life. If you’ve been stuck in a relationship with someone who is not treating you well, and who is causing you hurt, anxiety, pain and frustration, now is a wonderful time to consider leaving your toxic relationship behind… and creating a new year full of healing, health and happiness for yourself.

Toxic Relationship Warning Signs

Letting go of a toxic relationship can be one of the hardest things for anyone to do. In my work as a life coach, therapist, and couples counselor, I have had the privilege of walking with many people through the experience of first recognizing that their relationship is toxic, then ending a hurtful relationship, and then healing after the “toxic relationship experience.” Toxic relationships take a toll on you, at every level. And every step of this journey is hard. (Necessary, meaningful, and empowering… but hard). I know, I’ve been there personally too.

Letting of a toxic relationship often starts with people working to improve their relationships.  At this stage they often believe that if only their partner could make changes, then they’d finally get the love, respect, and consideration they deserve. They come in to life coaching or even drag their partner in to couples therapy, hopeful that they can make improvements. (And I will say that almost all the time when two people are both committed to a relationship and willing to make changes, relationships can be transformed).

However, if your relationship is truly toxic, it is unlikely to be healed in marriage counseling or couples therapy. Instead, you’ll continue to feel frustrated, hurt, angry… and then elated when it seems like your partner is finally hearing you and caring about your feelings… only to be crushed when they disappoint you again. [Read: “Are You Addicted To a Toxic Relationship?”]

But in many genuinely toxic relationships, the biggest “warning sign” of all is when your partner routinely shows a lack of interest or follow-through in changing anything about the relationship. Instead, you when you bring up your feelings you get yelled at, blamed, rejected, or made to feel that the problems are all your fault.

Characteristics of a Toxic Relationship

In these situations of course, attempts at couples counseling often end badly. Most of the time, since their partners are unwilling to work on things with them, people in toxic relationships wind up entering empowering life coaching or effective therapy on their own.

Only over time (and often through deep personal growth work) do they then learn how to spot the characteristics of a toxic relationship, and come to terms with the fact that the only way to improve their situation is to take their power back and move on.

But until then, people in toxic relationships often struggle. They struggle with the mixed signals they get from their partner, because sometimes they are loving. They’re told that things will improve, and maybe they do for a little while. Many people believe that if THEY work harder at the relationship, are more loving, are more generous, and more patient that their partner will eventually change. (Because often, their partner is telling them in both overt and covert ways that the relationship problems are their fault).

Over time, a genuinely toxic relationship will destroy your self-esteem, interfere with your other relationships, make it hard to focus on positive areas of your life, and consume all of your time and attention. But through self-reflection, self-love, self-compassion (and sometimes excellent therapy or life coaching) you can begin to see that you have become attached to a profoundly unhealthy partner who is never going to give you the love and respect they deserve.

Then you can work to create positive, empowering changes: Like insisting that you are treated well, and setting firm, clear boundaries with anyone who doesn’t — especially the one who’s supposed to love them the most.

Can a Toxic Relationship Be Healed?

Ending any relationship is hard, and even people who are addicted to profoundly toxic relationships can hold on hope that the relationship can improve, sometimes for years. Many people (understandably) need to know if their toxic relationships can be healed before ending them permanently.

In fact, I get many, many relationship questions on the Growing Self blog about this very subject. Of course the writers of the questions are not labeling their relationships as toxic. They are instead describing extremely frustrating, hurtful, even crazy-making relationship experiences and then asking, what should I do? (Usually phrased as, “How do I get this person I love very much to stop treating me badly?”

If a relationship is truly toxic, it is unlikely to change no matter how hard YOU work at it. Why? Because it lacks the fundamental building blocks of a healthy relationship: Empathy, commitment, personal responsibility, and true love.

Your toxic relationship will finally be changed forever, when YOU decide that you’re not going to participate in it anymore. When you commit to yourself that you are worthy of love and respect, when you recognize your toxic relationship addiction for what it is, and when you learn how to cultivate the type of healing mindset that will set you free, you can end your toxic relationship for once and for all.

Letting Go of a Toxic Relationship

Because so many people have been reaching out for relationship advice on how to deal with these types of toxic relationship situations, I decided to devote an episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast to this subject. On this episode we’re going to be talking all about toxic relationships, including:

  • How to identify toxic relationships. I’ll be sharing the top 5 signs that you’re in a toxic relationship. Listen and give yourself the mini, “toxic relationship quiz” to find out if your relationship is actually toxic, or just temporarily frustrating.
  • Why toxic relationships are so addictive. Instead of beating yourself up for remaining in a bad relationship, learn why you’re biologically predisposed to developing intense attachments to others and why toxic relationships are actually MORE addictive than healthy relationships.
  • The difference between healthy vs toxic relationships. Just because your relationship feels hard and frustrating does not mean it’s toxic and irredeemable. Learn the difference between toxic and healthy relationships, and get access to some relationship resources to help you determine whether you should keep working at this, or move on.
  • How to leave a toxic relationship with your dignity intact. Too many toxic relationships end with, ironically, the person who was caring, trying, and hurting getting broken up with. If you’re in a toxic relationship, don’t continue to dangle on this string, waiting and hoping it will get better until they end it. Take your power back, and decide for yourself to be done. If you’re realizing that it’s time for you to pick up your self respect and move on from a toxic relationship, we’ll talk about how. We’ll discuss how to cultivate  self-compassion, self-respect. and the ability to stop depending on an unreliable, hurtful person to love you, and instead, learn how to love yourself.

 

You might be listening to this podcast at the cusp of a new year (or other major life change) and ready to leave this relationship for good. You might be just starting to explore whether or not the relationship you’re in is salvageable. You might be realizing that your relationship is toxic, but still in love and not sure how to end things. You may be caught in a toxic relationship cycle of breaking up and getting back together again. Or, you might be sitting in the pain, anger and heartbreak of just having been hurt again for the dozenth time, and looking for answers.

This podcast is for YOU.

All the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Ps: One of the tools I mentioned if you’re still in that “can this relationship be saved” space is my relationship quiz that can help you learn whether your relationship is fundamentally strong, or fundamentally toxic. Here’s the sign up box in case you’d like to take it. xo, LMB

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by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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How to Release Control and Let Things Go

How to Release Control and Let Things Go

Rachel Harder, M.A., LMFTC is a therapist, life coach and couples counselor who helps you find passion and joy in yourself and your relationships. She supports you in creating meaning and happiness, and not only facing your challenges — but triumphantly overcoming them.

The Control Crisis

Have you ever found yourself on the receiving end of the advice “Just let it go!” or “There’s nothing you can do about it, so why worry?” How difficult is that to hear!? This is especially true if you’re a proactive person who is good at thinking through different scenarios. Shouldn’t you do everything you can to avoid possible problems, or have things go the way you want them to?

So when people tell you to back off, you might start to wonder; “Don’t they understand what I’m going through?” Maybe you even start to think, “There must be something more I can do.” You probably notice worry, anxiety, and stress start to build, as you rattle over your different options, accounting for all the unknown variables.

The Relationship Between Anxiety and Control

I commonly hear folks discuss intense worry and distress because of circumstances we can’t control ranging from that friend who just won’t take your helpful advice to family members who don’t respect your boundaries. We are constantly being confronted with unpleasant situations that we often have little to no control over. This is especially true in relationships. What do we do with the anxiety this produces?

First, you might start to notice the paradox that takes place: we attempt to control circumstances to alleviate anxiety or stress, but in holding onto control (especially when we try to control what we have no power over) it only serves to increase anxiety and stress.THEN to compound the situation, the circumstances we most deeply desire to control are usually the ones we can’t! What a mess! [More on this: Are You Stuck in a Codependent Relationship?]

Well, here’s the good news: First, you’re not alone and secondly, there are some things you can do about it! I want to share with you three quick tips to let go of control (and in letting go of control, you may actually start to feel more in control… I know it sounds crazy).

How to Let Go Of Things You Can’t Control

Tip 1: Identify Situations Where You Have Control… and Where You Don’t

The What: An easy rule of thumb is: you are in control of yourself. It may also be helpful to create the distinction between what you can control and what you may be able to impact.

For example, you can’t control if your coworker is willing to be a team player, but you may be able to impact this behavior by voicing your needs (i.e. you are in control of how you want to respond and how you want to manage the stress your coworker’s behavior causes you). [More about Emotional Intelligence in the workplace].

The How: You might try doing a check-in with yourself when you notice stress is on the rise. Ask yourself what am I in control of right now? I sometimes encourage folks to actually write out an exhaustive list of their concerns and go through each item and identify what they can control. Once you identify the “uncontrollables,” you can start to practice the next tip!

Tip 2: Give Yourself Permission to Let Go

The What: Sometimes we feel worrying is one way we can control for the uncontrollable. (As in, “If I worry about it enough, I’ll be prepared,” or “Worrying is better than doing nothing.”) Instead of churning in worry, try giving yourself permission to let go. Let go of the need to hold on to the unknown. Remind yourself that you will know what to do if a crisis arises. Trust yourself. You’ve got this! Even in moments where that feels impossible.

The How: Try reciting mantras such as:

“It’s okay for me to let this go.”

“I don’t need to hold onto this.”

“I have done everything I can do.”

You can also ask a loved one for support with this. Sometimes we might need reassurance, that we have indeed, done everything we can do, until we’re able to provide this reassurance to ourselves.

Tip 3: Radical Acceptance

The What: When we are unable to reframe or change the experience, we may need to rely on radical acceptance. This concept tells us there may be times we need to accept circumstances that we don’t like. (I know, yuck!).

The key with this is knowing that acceptance does not mean approval or giving up. Simply put, it means we can see the circumstances for what they are. In doing this; we reduce the suffering we experience. (I get that this sounds counterintuitive).

The How: Try slowing down (for example: deep breathing) and creating room for the reality of the situation to exist as well as the idea that accepting that situation is uncomfortable (there’s room for both of these things to exist).

Think of it this way: If you’re stuck in traffic maybe you start to feel angry, and you notice yourself questioning “Why isn’t that car moving!?” Or perhaps you try switching lanes or honking. You might notice your pulse is quickening and the frustration is surging through you.

OR if you embrace Radical Acceptance you could try saying to yourself, “I’m doing everything I can do, I can’t control the car in front of me, and I’m stuck in traffic right now and that stinks.”

Which experience results in less emotional stress? (Pssst…it’s the one where we accept what is, while simultaneously acknowledging it’s not enjoyable).

Managing Anxiety + Releasing Control = Inner Peace

The key with all of these tips is to practice, practice, practice and go slow. It can be incredibly challenging to let go, especially in situations that aren’t comfortable. Take your time, and give yourself credit for what you’re already doing. I hope through using these strategies you may find yourself regaining control by relinquishing it.

Remember- everyone is doing the best they can in the moment (this includes you!).

All the best,
Rachel Harder, M.A., LMFT-C

The Art of Self Care

The Art of Self Care

Self Care Ideas: How to Take Care of You

Let’s check in with you: What is overwhelming you at this moment? Who or what is occupying all the space in your
head throughout the day? Is it one person or thing? Are there multiple people and things vying
for your attention? Do you ever feel that you’ll never be able to slow down and just enjoy life? Maybe a
relationship went south and you’re going through a breakup. You’re in a high-stress career with a job that is inundating you with to-do lists. Perhaps your child may have special needs. The list can go on and on. You may feel more like a human-doing instead of a human being.

Many of us feel like our value and worth comes from the titles we hold, relationships we have, and the events on our calendars. Our seasons of life are measured by these things and let’s face it, some seasons are better than others. You may be in one of those “off seasons” right now.

When we feel overwhelmed, disconnection from the people and things we love often follows.
This is where self-care comes into play. Have you ever thought about what the word self-care
means to you? My definition of self-care is the discipline of actions that help me stay true to
myself. Now, your definition may be different from mine but take a moment to think about what
it means to you. When working with therapy and life coaching clients dealing with challenging situations I find that the
vast majority of them are greatly lacking in self-care. They can’t identify the things they love to
do and their relationships are not in the healthiest of places.

So how do you fit self-care into your life again? Here are some simple self-care ideas:

1. Think about the things you used to love to do (i.e. write, read, exercise, hang-out with
friends). Write them down.

2. Identify some new activities, things, or places you’ve always wanted to try or visit. Write those
down.

3. Master the 5 minutes. This is my tool for helping clients get on a routine schedule of self-
care. When choosing things you want to add to your life on a daily basis like reading, meditation, or exercise you start with a goal of 5 minutes per day. This may sound too simple but if you’re able to commit to 5 minutes you’re more likely to complete it than say
setting aside an hour every day. If you do more than 5 minutes, great! If not, at least you’re
getting in the habit. When you’ve consistently hit your 5-minute habit for one week progress
to 10 minutes. Slowly adding 5 minutes every week until you’ve hit a goal time (i.e. 1 hour
of exercise a day). Choose from the activities you listed in Step 1.

4. Research the class availability or schedule that relates to the activities you listed from Step 2.

5. Add one event/class/place from your list from Step 2 on your calendar for this month.

6. Make it fun! If you want to exercise but you hate the Stair Stepper, sign up for a dance
class. If you want to read more, choose a genre that you enjoy.

7. Get support and accountability! As we all know, it’s harder to keep commitments to yourself than it is to others. Enlisting the support of an accountability partner can help you follow through.

These are just a few self care ideas to get started on your journey. As you get in the discipline
of practicing the steps you’ve chosen you’ll find you may want to take on more. If you find it difficult to follow through, consider enlisting the support of a great mentor or life coach to help keep you on track, keep you creative, and keep you aware of sticking points or unrealistic
expectations that may limit you.

Blessings!

Sonya Jensen, M.A., LMFTA

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Stop Self-Sabotage This Year

Stop Self-Sabotage This Year

Are You Unintentionally Sabotaging Your Success?

Do you ever feel like your own worst enemy? Or feel frustrated that, despite having the best of intentions, you can’t seem to actualize your goals?

What I’ve learned from many years as a life coach and therapist is that when people fail it is NOT because of lack of motivation, or determination, or willpower. Most of the time it is because people are unintentionally sabotaging their own success… from day one.The worst part is that they usually have no idea that they’re even doing it.

The antidote is having awareness about the subtle forces that will pull you off track every time, and the practices that will help you stay on course.

Using the six strategies I’ll be teaching you about on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast will help you stop unintentionally sabotaging your success, and set you up to achieve your most important goals in 2018.

xoxo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Are You Sabotaging Your Success?

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: Jane Weaver, “Modern Kosmology”

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How To Deal With The Winter Blues

How To Deal With The Winter Blues

What to Do, When The Dark Season Brings Dark Emotions

In the months leading up to the holidays, and in the months after, many people struggle with “dark emotions” such as depression, grief, and sadness. There are many reasons for this, including the reality of Seasonal Affective Disorder, changes to many people’s health and nutrition habits in the wintertime, and the fact that for many people the holiday season often brings with it unique stressors and emotional triggers. Many people dealing with hard life transitions like a breakup or divorce struggle during their first holiday alone. For others, bittersweet memories of years past and lost loved ones infuse the season with feelings of grief and loss.

All these experiences are normal, and natural. Many, many people are dealing with these feelings privately as they go through the motions of making merry. However, because these extremely common feelings are not often discussed publicly, many people experiencing them can feel isolated as a result.

On this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, we’re breaking the silence and talking openly about this common experience, and how to move past it. We’ll be discussing how to deal with dark emotions in a healthy way: when to lean into painful feelings, and how to work through them productively. We’ll talk about the difference between situational depression and the symptoms of major depressive disorder, how to get a handle on seasonal affective disorder, how to work through the stages of grief, and the natural remedies for depression that can help you feel healthier and happier.

Wishing you all the best on your journey of growth and healing,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

How to Deal With the Winter Blues

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: R.E.M., “Low”

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