Toxic relationships. I’ve had a few. Have you?

It brings to mind the saying, “Hurting people, hurt people.” I try to recall this when poisonous behaviors enter my world.
Grace, yes  I can give that.
But… how do I avoid being personally affected? To be honest–that’s a challenge. I am a people-pleaser. I don’t like conflict. I like people to like me.
The Lord has placed me in God-Pleaser Bootcamp so I can recover from my people-pleasing tenancies. (I have not yet graduated. I’ve been in training quite awhile.)
He’s teaching me to discern between personal correction and issues that actually belong to another’s personal struggle.
I’m learning toxic relationships create feelings of insecurity, fear, and stress. These relationships can become enmeshed and co-dependent. I don’t want them for myself or for my kids.
First I need to identify the behaviors. Next, I need to resolve not to use them. Then I need to know how to respond to them,
Here are ten behaviors and patterns God has been revealing to me. And these are not just other people’s issues. They can be common to all of us, common to me. Looking over the list, I confess I have tried on a few of these hats over the years. Thankfully, I have a husband who loves me enough to call me on it.:
1. Mr. Right or Mrs. Right. Never wrong. The blamer. Denies he said or did things he did do. The receiver of this behavior experiences feelings of  low self-worth and confusion.
2. Stone-cold : Withholds affection and emotion. Ignores. Avoids. Gives the silent treatment. Refuses to have eye contact. The recipient becomes insecure.
3. Energy-Guzzler: Sucks the life right out of the other person. It’s all about him or her all the time. Dominates the conversation. Feelings of anxiety prior to seeing this individual result.
4. Circus Wheel: Mood swings. One minute things are wonderful, the next the worst of the worst. The unpredictability creates a walking on egg shells environment.

5. The Intimidator. A tantrum thrower, foot stomper, door slammer. This is manipulation to gain control by using anger and bully tactics. This creates a fight or flight scenario.

6. A People-Pitter. Someone who subtly divides people with seemingly innocuous statements in order to maintain power and control in relationships. “I think she might be bi-polar…” 
7. The Victim: Uses guilt and blame to get what they want. Some even create a spiritual twist to it by blaming natural consequences they are experiencing as, “It’s the devil’s doing or this is a spiritual attack.” This individual may even say, “I need to be protected from…” 
8. Cruella-Deville: This person rejoices in another’s pain and suffering. “Good.. they deserved that.” She smirks with delight when she hears of another person’s difficulty or misfortune.
9. Drama Addict: This person loves a fight. She needs to be in a conflict to get attention and to rally others around her. (similar to the people-pitter)
10. Image-bearer:This person is very charismatic and unable to share the lime-light. He wants to be viewed as perfect and as the hero. Adoration fuels this fire and he cannot accept any form of criticism or correction because that bursts his own  perfection illusion.
So how do we, how do our kids, navigate life when these behaviors or personalities intersect ours? 
Here are 4 ways to navigate toxic relationships or poisonous behaviors:
1. Have clear vision. Have an awareness that hurting people really do  hurt people. Have empathy for that person. He has been deeply wounded somewhere along the way.
2. Chart your course. Put up appropriate and necessary boundaries. Don’t accept blame–unless you really are responsible. Stop the rants, energy sucking, and the drama by removing yourself, “We can talk or be together when you can treat me with respect.” 
3. State your perspective with confidence, “I don’t see it that way…”
4. Adjust the rudder. Make choices. Know we can’t change another but we can change ourselves. We can choose how much, how little, when, or where we see a person. If we choose to continue to be around and in relationship we must understand the behaviors will not go away until healing of past wounds takes place.
How can we avoid participating in these poisonous behaviors?

We dig into the Word and then apply it. We learn some good conflict resolution skills where we can disagree agreeably. We are kind and firm in the midst of challenging moments. We accept correction from those we love and trust. We are accountable for our behavior. We pray. Ultimately, we seek to be more like Jesus and less like ourselves. 

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, 
I reasoned like a child. 
When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 
1 Corinthians 13:11

I would love to hear your ideas regarding how to deal with difficult people or relationships. 


If you found this post helpful you may want to read the related articles: 

12 Dating Red Flags to Share with Your Son

10 Warning Signs to Heed when Dating

Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash


© LoriWildenberg. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Lori Wildenberg is a licensed parent and family educator, parent coach, and co-founder of 1Corinthians13 She has written 6 books including Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home; The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connections; and her most recent book, Messy Hope: Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety, Depression, or Suicidal Ideation. Contact Lori for your next event or for parent consulting or parent training courses. Lori can also be found mentoring over at the MOMS Together Group on Facebook.

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