January offers the chance to start fresh and head in new directions of personal growth. That also means clearing out the toxic relationships that are keeping you down.
Is there a person in your life you desperately wish would change? Shelley Lewin, a counsellor, coach and ‘relationship architect’ based in Cape Town, says this is a sure sign that the two of you aren’t a good match for each other. And this applies to any relationship, from friendships to romance. Shelley believes a relationship is measured by how it makes you feel. ‘If you are sacrificing self-respect, dignity, ambitions or the essence of who you are in order to maintain or remain in a relationship, that relationship is destined for failure,’ she says. ‘The resentment and frustration of not being yourself will take its toll on your emotional and physical well-being. At some point, you will begin to resent yourself or the other person for trying to change you.’
How to let go
When it’s time to close the door on a bad relationship, do you slam it and run away, or let the other person know what’s going on? That will depend on how connected you two are. ‘Each situation is different, but if you’ve told the other person of your unhappiness and both of you have made an effort to right the problem (it takes two to tango) and it’s still not working, then that person deserves to know your reason for leaving,’ advises Shelley. If the other person has made zero effort to accommodate the healing process after several requests, Shelley says walking away without an explanation is warranted.
Make a clean break
If you’re going to give someone your reasons for ending the relationship, Shelley says you must be upfront, direct and clear in your communication. ‘From that point onward, however, do not engage, negotiate or bargain in any way.’ Severing a toxic bond requires discipline and an unwavering focus on moving forward. ‘Any engagement will be misconstrued and provide the other person hope for reconnection.’ Shelley adds that this includes mixed messages, such as sending a happy birthday text. ‘This sort of thing can easily be interpreted as an invitation to reconnect.’
Sometimes, disconnecting from someone else may seem easier said than done, especially when it involves family. ‘In this situation, the best you can do is manage your exposure to them. Make sure it happens in small doses, and only when you are in a place of physical and emotional strength,’ says Shelley. She adds that when it comes to situations like family and work connections – relationships that may be difficult to simply walk away from – you need to pick your battles carefully. ‘Give up your need to be right. Detaching is a weaning-off process to become less engaged and involved in the drama. As for toxic work relationships that are unbearable, it may be time to move on.
Words by Kay Jones