Have you ever had to end a toxic relationship? I have. More than once. One of the most difficult occasions to do so happened yesterday with a person I still see on a regular basis, someone I care about.

Extricating oneself from any meaningful relationship is hard. To leave a friend clueless because she can’t see her own behavior was hard. Yesterday, when events precipitated the decision, I knew it was the right thing to do. All day today, I’m second guessing myself, even though I know the behavior would continue if I hadn’t made the break.

People have different opinions regarding what makes a relationship toxic. In this case it was a lot of negativity, gossip and badmouthing someone she claimed was her friend, namely, me.

What is a toxic relationship? Toxic, as an adjective used to describe a relationship, is defined by the dictionary as, “bad, unpleasant or harmful.”

For me, the situation was toxic because I not only allowed behavior I normally wouldn’t, but found myself gossiping and complaining too! I became someone I used to be, activating old character defects I’ve worked very hard to change.

It’s toxic because I have to become “less than,” to have the relationship.

Still, I love this person. The last thing I wanted to do was be a source of pain for her. This is the reason for my second-guessing my decision. Right or wrong, I feel guilty, but it doesn’t change the outcome.

The negative relationship was hurting my teenage daughter too, who was often with my friend. I had to stand up for her sake as well. She needed to see what a strong, responsible woman with healthy boundaries looks like.

If you think you might be in a toxic relationship, but aren’t sure, the following criteria may help you gain clarity.

  1. Is your relationship is lopsided, meaning one of you gives or takes much more than the other?
  2. Does the person gossip? If she talks about everyone else to you, she does the same about you to others. You may find yourself in the situation I did. I became a gossip too, something I wasn’t before.
  3. Is the relationship very negative in tone and energy? Is one of you always seeing the bad in things?
  4. Does a “poor me,” or victim mentality show up often in your friendship?
  5. Are people, places and things never good enough?

These are just a few questions you can ask yourself if you are unsure of your relationship status. If you indeed find your friendship or romantic partnership toxic, you have choices.

  1. Pray for guidance and for healing.
  2. In certain situations, you might talk to the other person involved. However, this is NOT always possible.
  3. Find a good therapist who specializes in helping people heal toxicity.
  4. Seek counsel from your mentor or pastor.
  5. You can end the relationship.

We don’t have control over other people, their mindset nor their actions. We can’t “change” someone else.

We only have power over our own thoughts, words and deeds. In a situation like my toxic friendship, the other person couldn’t see herself as she is. It was obvious to make a change, I would have to be the one driving it.

We can love others and still detach from them. Sometimes it’s the end of the relationship, but not always. Regardless of what we think the outcome might be, taking the action to keep ourselves healthy and balanced helps everyone.

Originally published at medium.com