Once you’ve determined you’re in a toxic relationship you can take steps to redefine it.
It won’t be easy, changing the dynamic will require you to step outside your comfort zone. You will likely meet with some resistance.
Becoming aware of what feels uncomfortable in the relationship can help you share what you want to be different. It’s always best to share your feelings using “I” language. For example, “When you criticize me, I feel hurt and sad.” or “I would like to spend more time with you talking about the positive things in both of our lives.” Using “I” language can help people hear you without raising their defenses.
For some relationships, sharing your feelings and listening to the other person’s thoughts and feelings will be enough to move your relationship in a healthier direction. Dr. John Gottman, relationship researcher and theorist, talks about learning to repair relationships in this video.
But what if you attempt to share your feelings and the other person becomes angry, even enraged, and refuses to listen?
Some people have great difficulty empathizing with others. For some people, any perceived criticism feels like a full on attack. This is especially true for people with borderline or narcisstic personality traits. If sharing your feelings only leads to more conflict, you may need to reach out for help.
First, find support. Whether it’s a trusted friend, family member or spiritual leader, it’s critical that you have someone to talk with about your feelings and what’s best for you.
Whether your relationship is a romantic one or not, consider counseling for both of you together. A therapist can help facilitate resolution and support you both as you express your feelings and your goals for the relationship.
If the other person in your relationship refuses to go to counseling, consider going alone. A therapist can help you feel supported and encouraged through this challenging time. (S)he can also provide tools for setting clear boundaries and caring for yourself within all of your relationships. You can learn more about finding the right counselor for you here.