Tim is a co-worker whom you try to avoid as much as possible. You know, Tim is that person who seems to be completely unaware of the chaos and negativity he brings to relationships. Most times, we just want to distance ourselves from someone like Tim. Other times, we need strategies to deal with him. Here are a few tips to help you deal with a toxic relationship.

Handling conflict: When conflict arises, you will be labeled the problem, not the issue at hand. The unchecked emotions that surface are so unpleasant that you leave the argument feeling drained and think, “I don’t want to do that again.” People in a toxic relationship don’t live to fight another day, they live to fight! Thus, you have to be able to stand your ground on an issue and not be distracted by all the drama. The best thing to do is minimize conflict, state the facts, and stay as calm as possible. Don’t add to the drama by escalating your emotions and trying to reason with the person.

When the difficult person is a friend or coworker, you can limit your contact or walk away when things become too tense. This is easier to do in a work setting, unless the person is your boss, and harder to do with a family member or friend.

Set boundaries: Boundaries become especially important when you’re in a toxic relationship. You will be taken advantage of if your boundaries are poorly defined and you don’t assert yourself. When you set boundaries and stick to them, you control much of the chaos. The other person will try to encroach upon your boundaries, but be firm, and do not let them. One of the characteristics of a toxic relationship is that people do not take responsibility for their own actions, thoughts and emotions. This means they are going to project their problems on you or blame you. And if they don’t respect your boundaries, you will need to build a wall of protection if things get too bad. This usually means you refuse to engage them unless they respect your wishes.

Forgive but be mindful: If you are hurt in the relationship, forgive, but be smart about moving forward with the person. You don’t need to keep putting yourself in harm’s way with someone if they continue to misbehave in the relationship. Forgive and then watch how they respond in the future. Now, if the difficult person is your spouse, you need to tell them that their behavior is hurting the relationship. And while you will forgive, there needs to be change in order to grow in the relationship.

Bottom line is that you can only control your reaction in a relationship that is toxic, but that can be powerful. Set those boundaries, minimize contact and if the person in the toxic relationship is a family member, get help and support in terms of how to hold boundaries and push for change. Remember, if you change your reactions to another person, this changes the relationship.

Toxic relationships