No contact: How to protect yourself from toxic people

no contact, toxic people, boundaries

Have you ever had to go no contact with someone? Or wished you could?

Maybe you’re stuck in a relationship right now that’s causing you a great deal of pain. The person treats you in emotionally damaging ways.

Every interaction leaves you feeling ashamed and confused. They behave in bizarre ways, then hold you accountable for your normal reaction to that behavior.

You may be dealing with what we call a toxic person or relationship.

Here are three ways to deal with toxic people.

1. Tell them how you feel.

Let them know you come away from them feeling bad about yourself. Give recent examples of things they have said that hurt you.

Ask them what they meant when they said those things. It’s possible the person will respond positively to your query.

They may not have known how their words hurt you. Or they may be willing to do some work to understand why they behave the way they do.

Your courage to confront can be a great catalyst for personal growth for both of you. Yay, you!

Unfortunately, this scenario is rare when difficult people feel challenged. Bringing your concerns to the person, no matter how lightly you tread, may not work.

Truly toxic people have no interest in changing. They point the finger at others and never at themselves.

Truly toxic people have no interest in changing. They point the finger at others and never at themselves. Click To Tweet

They will say you are too sensitive, imagining things, or lying about what they have said or done.

A toxic person turns around and unfriends you because you had the gall to stand up for yourself. She slings mud about you to mutual friends or family.

This brings us to the second way to deal with toxic people.

2. Go no contact.

You’ve done your part by making the brave move of confronting the person. They’ve refused to acknowledge your feelings. Or the chance they could have done anything wrong.

It’s clear they care more about holding onto a false image of themselves than their relationship with you. The obvious answer is to leave the person.

You may decide to tell them of your decision to end the relationship. But based on their response to your truth-telling, you my choose not to.

Why expose yourself to more of their negativity and blame?

This will be excruciating if you’ve become enmeshed or codependent. You will need support to follow through with your decision.

Stop phoning, texting or emailing them. When they contact you, refuse to reply. It might be easier on you if you block their emails and phone numbers on your devices.

There’s no need to tell anyone of your decision. But if you have trusted friends or family that would understand, enlist them to help you stay strong.

Resist the urge to explain. You’ve done nothing wrong and don’t need to defend yourself. Focus on moving forward rather than revisiting this dead relationship over and over.

But what if it’s a close family member bringing the toxicity? Getting up and leaving may not be the optimal solution. In this case, no contact feels extreme or impossible.

You want to leave the door open to a possible reconciliation. Or avoid a family crisis over the issue.

Caveat: if someone is threatening you physically or emotionally, then it’s time to get help or make plans to leave. This post deals with situations that don’t have you in immediate danger.

3. Limit contact.

An alternative to estrangement can come in the form of a psychic adjustment. It means relating to a friend or family member in a new way.

Rather than deal with the fallout of a severed tie, would you be willing to spend one or two hours with this person in a controlled environment?

Perhaps meet them in a coffee shop and make small talk. This might sound superficial. But it keeps alive a relationship that’s not so simple to dissolve.

It also buys you time to decide whether to continue the relationship for the long haul. You get space to arrive at a healthy conclusion about whether you can tolerate this person in your life.

If you’re dealing with the pain of a toxic relationship, I’ve created a free resource to help. Simply enter your email below and I’ll send the 4-step guide to your inbox.

How to practice acceptance and gratitude without staying stuck

acceptance

Acceptance is important for avoiding frustration and impulsive decisions in our lives. But it’s okay to acknowledge when things aren’t okay.

If your husband ignores you and you say you’re grateful he doesn’t beat you, that’s unhelpful.

Acceptance taken too far will start to look like settling. Rather than acknowledging legitimate grievances and taking actions to change them, you avoid doing the work.

Acceptance taken too far will start to look like settling. Click To Tweet

When I first stopped drinking alcohol, for instance, acceptance helped me climb out of a self-pity party and appreciate all that I had.

But there came a point when I had to deal with the things I could no longer accept. Like the toxic people in my life.

What is healthy acceptance?

When acceptance crosses the line into passivity, it’s no longer serving you. Nothing changes when we keep telling ourselves to be happy where we are.

Here are three ways to avoid feeling stuck while continuing to practice healthy acceptance and gratitude.

1. Envision your future

Rather than saying “when x happens, then I’ll y”, act as if x has already happened. Take on the habits and routines of the person you want to become.

For example, you could say “when I get a job, then I’ll start waking up early.” But, setting the alarm before you get the job forms a good habit that makes you more like the person who already has the job. That mindset sets you up to snag the position.

Take on the habits and routines of the person you want to become. Click To Tweet

Or: “Once I get published I’ll call myself a writer and commit to a daily writing practice.” Truth is, sitting down to write every day makes you a writer.

And that discipline, often practiced in obscurity for years, is the only way to get the book deal and title of published author in the first place.

Acting like the person you want to be is the best way to invite change into your life.

Who is your future self and what do you need to do now to make that vision a reality?

2. Learn from your past

It takes humility to acknowledge past mistakes and learn from them. Before I knew God, I avoided thinking about my past. I stuffed it down or made excuses for bad behavior.

I had to justify myself because there was no one else to justify me. Thinking about my past transgressions made me cringe.

So, I avoided looking at them and, therefore, missed the lessons.

When I started drinking at 16 to deal with my problems instead of facing them head on, I stunted my growth.

When I finally recovered, my emotional age was stuck in the teens because I had never dealt with or processed anything in a healthy way.

I had to acknowledge and even write down my past mistakes. I learned quickly the importance of taking responsibility for your part in any conflict.

I grew more in a year than I had in the previous twenty. Learning from past mistakes keeps us grounded, humble and, moving forward with a growth mentality.

3. Focus on things inside your control

The serenity prayer says to accept the things you cannot change and change the things you can. But how to know the difference?

We only have the power to change things under our control. Trying to change things outside our control, like people, is futile. It leads to frustration, anger, and hopelessness.

We only have the power to change things under our control. Click To Tweet

What you do have the power to change is yourself and your attitude. If you’re tired of hearing someone complain about the same problem over and over and refusing to do anything about it, you can stop listening.

Or, better, you can let go of any expectation that they will change and listen without prejudice. Or you can pray for them.

When I discovered the power of prayer, a whole world got lifted from my shoulders. Give it to God. He can handle it.