It's nice to think that people deserve a second chance - and many of us give a third and fourth and more ... Most of us have been in situations where we give someone more chances than we should. Whether it's because you can't accept that this person is toxic or they manage to convince you that they won't do it again, the truth is you're only delaying the inevitable.
We all know the importance of breaking up a romantic relationship with a toxic person. But what if that person is a family member or close friend? Just because you’re related, does that mean you have to endure an abusive relationship for the rest of your life?
You have probably been struggling with the strained connection for a long time, but actually ending the relationship brings on feelings of guilt, abandonment, failure and grief – not only from within yourself but from everyone else. No matter how abusive and horrible the relationship is, it's a tough decision to make and follow through on.
Ask yourself the following questions to help get clarity on how many chances are enough, and to figure out if they are truly a toxic person and it’s time end the relationship.
Have you told this person if they do it again, that's it, you're done?
If so, no more chances for them. If you give them another chance, you're showing them that their behaviour is okay and you will continue to accept it. People respect people who respect themselves, and by accepting bad behaviour, you are not respecting yourself. Sometimes giving someone a second chance is like giving them an extra bullet for their gun because they missed you the first time.
Are they always disregarding your boundaries?
If you’re constantly telling someone to stop behaving a certain way and they continue, that person is most likely toxic. Respecting peoples boundaries comes easily to a well-balanced adult whereas a toxic person gets off on defying your boundaries. If you have told someone that what they've done is not okay and they have continued to do it, their chances are up.
Are they always trying to control you?
People who don’t feel in control of their own lives have a tendency to want to control yours. Toxic people look for ways to control the people around them, either through subtle manipulation, criticism, anger or openly telling you no.
Are they 'always right'?
Toxic people will never admit they are wrong even when it's obvious that they are. They rarely, (if ever) acknowledge when they’ve messed up or said something hurtful.
Are they continually dishonest?
I’m not talking about little white lies or exaggerations. I’m talking about deliberate and repeated dishonesty.
Are they always the victim and never take responsibility?
Toxic, abusive people love to play the victim. This might take the form of blaming everyone else and making excuses. The victim mentality is a way to avoid responsibility. If everything bad is someone else’s fault, the victim is free of any responsibility for the impact of their actions.
Is the only contact you have with them negative?
Is the contact you have with them always bringing you down? Are they always criticising you, making you feel guilty for not doing enough for them, and making you feel you’re not good enough? If you have told them not that it is not okay to behave this way more than once and they continue to do it, it’s time to end the relationship as this is a toxic person who is abusing you.
When the relationship has a continued theme of abuse – emotional, verbal, mental, physical, or sexual – it’s not okay no matter who the person is. If you are living in constant worry never knowing or able to predict how any contact is going to turn out, it’s important to love yourself enough to let the relationship go.
The best prediction of future behaviour is past behaviour and if this person has always been abusive, they will normally continue this dynamic until the relationship ends. If they haven't shown that they're capable of changing, then why would you believe otherwise? Do yourself a favour and stop giving them the benefit of the doubt, because odds are you're going to be disappointed again ...
How to cut out toxic people
Just to warn you - cutting toxic people out of your life can be incredibly stressful. Most likely they will try to do everything possible to make your life hell, but it sounds like your life is already hell with them in it - which is why it’s essential to remove these people from your life.
So how do you remove these toxic people from your life and move on healthier and happier than before?
- Understand that it may be a process. Getting rid of toxic people isn’t always trouble-free. They don’t acknowledge your boundaries now, so they probably won’t respect them later. They will likely keep coming back even after you have told them to go away. So keep in mind that ending the relationship can be a gradual process.
- Know that you don’t owe them a massive explanation. Tell them how you feel, which is a topic that’s not open for debate. Tell them calmly and kindly that due to your past history and hurt, you don’t want them in your life anymore. How much or how little you say is up to you.
- Tell them in a public place, send them a letter or do it over the phone. It’s up to you with what you feel comfortable with. Abusive people can get argumentative, say hurtful things and even get violent. Talking to them publicly or in other ways where you feel safe will reduce the chance of this happening. If they start to get belligerent, you can just get up and leave or hang up the phone.
- Block them on your phone and social media. Technology can make ending contact more difficult, so don’t leave a way for them to bully you. You’ve told them you’re done, now stick to it. Blocking their email and other lines of communication may be necessary.
- Don’t bicker with them. It’s easy to fall into the same pattern by arguing or fighting about the same old stuff — and that’s exactly what they want. If they do contact you again, promise yourself that you will not engage with them. Repeat to them that you have chosen to end the relationship and stop communicating with them.
This isn’t a negotiation and you can’t debate a toxic, abusive person into leaving you alone. Do not get sucked back in by continuing to engage with them. Removing toxic people out of your life can be one of the most challenging things you can do (especially family members!) However, it is also one of the most healing and empowering things you can ever do.
Cutting out toxic people from your life sends an important message to yourself. One that says "I love and respect myself and my happiness is more important than someone else’s dysfunction." Toxic people will try to take away your self-worth, so don’t allow them in your life.
DO YOU NEED HELP?
If you're in danger now:
• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours or friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people.
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
• Take the children with you.
• Don't stop to get anything else.
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay
Where to go for help or more information:
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz
Caroline Cranshaw is a hypnotherapist, founder and trainer at the New Zealand Integrative Hypnotherapy Training Institute and the author of The Smoking Cure. Find out more about her at nzhypnotherapy.co.nz. Listen to Caroline's new podcast WTF Stories & Advice.