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When You Don’t Like Your Friend’s Friend

A good relationship is worth the risk you may have to take.

What do you do when you don’t like your friend’s friend? This is a tricky but common situation.

And for the record, we aren’t talking about someone in your friend’s life who just rubs you the wrong way. This goes considerably deeper than personality. Still, let’s leave no room for misunderstanding.

First, let’s ask some clarifying questions.

  1. Could it be you? Are you the jealous type? Prone to overreacting? (Sorry. Had to ask.)
  2. Could this person be awful at first impressions? How much have you been around them? (Without being all gossipy, is anyone else in your friend circle picking up on this?)
  3. Is this person truly toxic? A bad influence on your friend? Are you legitimately worried about your friend?

Okay, so number three is on the table. You’re worried about your friend. They seem to have a blind spot about this person, and this “friend” negatively influences them. This obviously isn’t cool.

Second, let’s wrap our heads around what’s going on.

  • This person may be in a bad season of life, and their negativity is affecting your friend.
  • This person may be making lifestyle choices that you know go against your friend’s values, and you see your friend heading that way.
  • He or she may be in a bad relationship, divorcing, or divorced, and they are poisoning your friend’s relationship or view of marriage.
  • This person might be vocal about their views on sex, faithfulness, integrity, and they’re encouraging your friend to move outside their boundaries and character.
  • Your friend may be in a vulnerable position and highly susceptible to influence.
  • You may have already seen changes in your friend that concern you.

If you see any of these things, or something similar, a conversation with your friend is in order.

Research shows that we are wired to catch and spread emotions and behaviors just like we catch and spread a cold or virus. 

Psychologists use the term “social contagion” to describe how individuals or groups influence us. Simple examples include yawns and smiles, but they can also include infidelity and divorce. As much as we want to think we’re our own person, we are all susceptible to the influence of others — both positive and negative. It’s not uncommon to see it happening to our friends while they’re oblivious to it. We have blind spots. 

What do you do when your friend has a toxic friend who is a bad influence on them?

Friends help friends see their blindspots. Sometimes our friend’s immediate response is gratitude. Sometimes it can be anger or resentment. Often, it depends on the rapport you have with your friend and the trust you’ve developed in that relationship. 

Bottom line: You have to use your judgment. Do you have “relationship capital” built up with your friend to call them out on how they’re changing or being influenced? Has the “threat” risen to the level that you are willing to risk your friendship?

You’re a quality friend for caring. You gotta do something about this because that’s what quality friends do. But you’re also aware that this sort of thing can go sideways and, worst-case scenario, you could lose a friend over it.

Know this. Believe this. You’re responsible for bringing your concerns to your friend. 

Be tactful, respectful, and direct. Your friend is responsible for how they respond. Truth. You have to know that you’re doing what good friends do. Your friend is responsible for their reaction, which is entirely out of your control. Are you prepared to lose a friend because of your sense of duty, responsibility, loyalty, and being a quality friend? 

Sadly, this is what it often comes down to in the short term. Sometimes your friend will be grateful after they’ve processed what you’ve said, heard similar things from other friends, or experienced some negativity. But it’s hard on you to lose some standing with a friend or have to watch them learn something the hard way.

Keep your concern about your friend front and center rather than negativity about your friend’s friend who has you concerned. You won’t regret speaking the truth from a caring heart.

Other helpful blogs:

7 Signs You’re a Good Friend

3 Keys to Deeper Friendships

Valuable Relationships Make You a Better Person

My Friends Are Getting Divorced and It’s Affecting My Marriage

You and your spouse are arguing constantly. Maybe there’s a never-ending tension-filled silence at home when you’re around your partner. Or you feel like you can’t ever believe anything your significant other says. 

You’ve heard that marriages can be hard work. But you’re not sure if this is “good” hard work, if you just have problems to work through, or if your marriage is truly a toxic marriage

Here are 10 signs that are often present in a toxic marriage and what you can do about it… 

Destructive communication.

You react to each other most often with criticism, contempt, defensiveness, or withdrawal/stonewalling. Dr. John Gottman, marriage researcher and therapist, calls these The 4 Horsemen. Each of these communication styles do a lot more to drive you apart than they do to bring you together. Healthy couples respond to each other as equals and approach conflict with respect for one another. They also take responsibility for their role in a conflict. 

Conflict is never resolved or managed. It just grows.

It’s true that there are some things the two of you will never totally agree on. In fact, Dr. Gottman has identified 10 common differences within marriage that couples may not agree on for the duration of their marriage. Issues surrounding parenting, family and in-laws, work/life balance, and sex are all areas you may never see the same way. A marriage isn’t toxic because of these differences. When the relationship is unable to manage the differences and learn how to respect and work with one another, resentment and bitterness creeps in and creates high levels of toxicity. Being different doesn’t mean one of you is deficient. The world and your family needs the differences you both exhibit. 

Intimacy is non-existent.

There’s little to no connection physically, emotionally, or spiritually. It breaks my heart to hear a spouse say, “I’m lonely.” Living with someone you love and feeling unable to feel seen, heard, or valued can leave one feeling lonely. Sharing intimate moments, whether they are times of deep, relational, and emotional connection or sexual experiences may be difficult when the marriage is toxic. 

Secrecy.

It’s not that you should share every detail and every interaction you have with your spouse. However, purposely withholding information, financial information, or heavily censoring interactions you have with other people is a sign that there’s some potentially serious disconnect within your marriage. This can destroy trust and lead to betrayal. A healthy marriage works to build trust. It also works to understand why you’d risk the trust of your spouse for self-gratification. 

Constant criticism.

We can always find something wrong with our spouse. But, if you are constantly criticizing or constantly being criticized, your relationship is not in a good place. The tone of voice and nonverbal communication are significant indicators as to how you communicate and how it will be received.

You consistently seem to bring out the worst in each other.

Whether enabling negative behaviors or provoking one another, a toxic relationship encourages you to be your worst self. You may constantly react to one another with anger, hostility, jealousy or any number of emotions. You may find yourself being manipulative, deceitful, or controlling. In healthy relationships, people look for ways to humbly help one another be their best selves, not from a place of superiority, but one of love and care.

Never fighting the right fight.

This isn’t about being physical. Sometimes couples argue so much they never actually discuss the real issue. She’s frustrated he won’t help with the dishes after eating. He’s always complaining that the family is rushing to this and that event. She wants more sex. He wants more peace and quiet. They’ve argued about the same thing for years and never actually talked about the real issue. The issue may be about valuing family time or lack of intimacy. Sometimes digging into the roots and understanding the real issue takes time and the help of a professional counselor. You want to fight the right fight, the right issue, the real issue.

Control and isolation.

Controlling or being controlled can have severe consequences to one’s mental and emotional health. Dictating where the other goes, what they do, how much money they can spend, what they say and who they spend time with are strong indicators of a toxic marriage or relationship. This is unhealthy behavior. Seek professional help. 

Disrespect and disregard for each other.

This may look like a total lack of care or interest in one another. Dismissing and neglecting one another’s being in the marriage is a deep sign of trouble. Stepping back and appreciating the strengths of your spouse and their contributions to both you as a person and the marriage is a sign of a vibrant relationship.

Neither of you is becoming a better version of yourself.

The relationship is having a negative impact on your character. You’re becoming deceitful, manipulative, or more self-centered. While this may not always be attributed to the marriage, it’s important to look at marriage and determine what type of character the marriage is feeding

★ So, What Can You Do?

Self-Care.

You’re not expected to be perfect, but you can work to take care of yourself, mentally, physically and emotionally. Eating well, getting plenty of rest, setting aside time to meditate/pray and be mindful are all proven ways to help you think better. These things can also help you respond to stress in a productive way. Research by The Institute for Family Studies indicates couples who cultivate mindfulness through activities such as meditation “may experience a feeling of greater connection within their romantic and sexual relationships.” 

Focusing on the friendship within the marriage is focusing on the marriage.

Separating the marital expectations from the growth of a friendship can help the two of you focus on getting to know one another again. Friends talk, listen, support and share. When the marriage itself feels toxic, focus on being a good friend to one another. You’ll be strengthening your marriage.

Communicate.

Numerous studies confirm the number one issue couples experience in marriage is poor communication. Have honest, non-judgmental conversation with your spouse about your concerns. Don’t blame. Don’t speak to your partner with contempt as though you have all the answers. There’s no guarantee your spouse will receive it well or even reciprocate. We can hope, but not expect. Part of being a healthy you is sharing your honest thoughts and emotions.

Schedule your fights.

Many toxic relationships are characterized by incessant arguing. Your mind has become trained to only communicate conflict, disagreement and strong, negative emotions. Set aside a time where you will discuss your disagreements and conflicts. This may give one spouse the security of knowing that issues will not be avoided while giving the other person the space to get their thoughts together. As you develop a pattern of dealing with your issues in a healthy, productive way at a given time, it will become easier to coexist. It will also be easier for you enjoy one another at other times because there’s no fear that you’re ignoring your issues.

Seek Counseling.

As stated earlier, sometimes counseling is necessary. If your spouse isn’t willing, you may choose to seek counseling on your own to help understand the root issues of the toxicity. You may also find out what, if any, contributions you have made to the relationship’s toxic nature. 

Find ways to express gratitude.

There’s something good about your spouse. Otherwise, you would have never been attracted to them. Relationship expert Dr. Jack Ito says, “little acts of love and kindness go a long way (in marriage).” Help your brain see the good in your spouse by showing and expressing gratitude for the good, regardless of how big or small it is.

Talk with healthy couples. Limit interaction with toxic couples.

You can expect to be contaminated with more poison when you continually interact with other toxic couples. During this season when you’re trying to eliminate toxicity, it’s crucial that you interact with couples who are relatively healthy—not perfect, but healthy. You won’t find any perfect couples.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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Toxic people make life very difficult. In one of my former jobs where I worked with teenagers and their parents, I constantly dealt with one mom who could easily be labeled as toxic. Her behavior put everyone on edge. And if you were to say or do anything that appeared as if it was some kind of slight against her, then hang on tight—you were sure to receive her wrath. She was cold, insensitive, and believed the world revolved around her. It got to where, admittedly, whenever I saw her coming, I’d want to turn and run the other direction

It’s one thing to deal with toxic people who are “out there;” to a degree, you can simply turn and run. But what do you do if the person to whom you said “I do,” the person you love the most, is a toxic person? 

☆ Let’s define what I mean by toxic. Toxic people bring you down more than up. And this can be done by a direct action, such as being highly argumentative (everything is a fight); or, it might be more passive such as by constant moodiness, undermining, or withdrawal.  

A toxic person often tries to control, manipulate, and break boundaries. They violate your privacy. Toxic people tend to be hypercritical or contemptuous. Furthermore, they do not take responsibility for their own actions; any volatile behavior on their part is, in their eyes, the fault of someone else. A toxic person can cause you to feel insecure, dehumanized, and possibly even guilty for wanting to be a better version of yourself

When you leave the presence of a toxic person, you feel worse

If this describes the way your spouse behaves or what it’s like to live with your spouse, things might seem pretty desperate. And understandably so.

But… living with a toxic spouse does not mean all hope for a good marriage is gone. There are steps you can take to give yourself the best chance of reclaiming a healthy relationship with your spouse and helping them to “detoxify” themselves: 

First, ask yourself: What is it that could be causing your spouse’s toxicity? 

Has it always been there, or is this something new? If your spouse’s toxicity is something that has come up recently, consider what might have been the starting point for their toxic behavior. Could it be stress from work, a painful loss, the onset of anxiety, health or hormonal changes? You may not be able to determine with complete accuracy the cause of their toxic behavior, but considering the question can help you to understand things from your spouse’s point of view a little more. 

On the other hand, your spouse’s toxicity may have been there as long as you’ve known them. Toxic behavior rarely goes away on its own, and if it’s deep-seated from the distant past, it could very well call for more professional help

Do not accept responsibility for your spouse’s toxic behavior. 

Let me say this loud and clear: you are not the reason your spouse is toxic. People are not toxic because of other people, no matter how much blame or shame they may put on you. Toxic people are toxic because of something that is going on inside of them. If you feel any hint of guilt for your spouse’s toxicity, it’s time to let that go.

Keep in mind that, while people make their own decisions about their own toxic behavior, we can certainly influence that behavior if we behave or react toward them in unhealthy ways. If we are abrasive, insulting, or condescending, this does nothing but fuel toxic attitudes back and forth between spouses. In many instances, helping our toxic spouse means also being willing to change.

Understand that you can only control what you can control. 

You cannot change another person, even if it’s the one you are married to. A toxic person must decide on their own that they want to “detox” and behave in ways that bring you up and not down. However, it’s possible to influence their decision to do so by doing that which is within your control. Therefore…

…Lead the Dance.

Often, marriages turn around because one person chooses to take the lead and do something different. Exemplify what it means to be a healthy spouse. You can lead that dance by making the prioritization of your marriage known. Support your spouse in the way they feel loved, whether it’s affirming words, hugs throughout the day, being kind, or spending intentional time with them. Make it a point to connect with your spouse, and find opportunities to express gratitude for them. 🔎 This may feel very counterintuitive since the gestures may not always, if ever, be reciprocated. But leading the dance can, in time, spark a difference in the way your spouse engages with you. 

Schedule a time to address your concerns. 

It’s important to express to your spouse the negative impact their toxic behavior has on you. Scheduling a time helps you to carefully consider what you are going to say in the healthiest, most productive way possible, rather than reacting in the heat of a tense moment. Be sure to use “I feel” and “I need” statements. Communicate boundaries respectfully but firmly that will protect your emotional well-being. Be prepared that this may not be received positively. That’s okay; remember that you cannot control your spouse’s reaction. Toxic people often do not have the capacity to calmly accept things that are hard for them to hear, and they need time to let it sink in. Also, if they share something with you that you are doing that is creating toxicity in your relationship, avoid being defensive. ☆ Be willing to look at yourself and make necessary changes.

As you balance reinforcing your boundaries and leading the dance to connect and support your spouse over time, the chances are greater that the message will get through more clearly that their toxic behavior needs to disappear. 

Finally, seek help and support if it persists.

If your spouse’s toxic conduct shows no signs of letting up even after covering these steps, and especially if their toxicity threatens your emotional, mental, or physical health, seek out the help of a professional therapist. If your spouse is willing to attend couples counseling with you, that is most ideal. Again, if not, lead the dance and seek help on your own. 

★ It isn’t easy living with a toxic person. But hope is not lost and despair hasn’t won. You possess the power to control what you control, to lead the dance and possibly influence your spouse to detox their behavior. 

**If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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Have you ever noticed that every time you leave a certain family member’s presence, you feel worse than you did before you saw them?

Have you ever noticed that your aunt gossips all the time? 

Or that your in-laws criticize your every move?

Or that your own parents are more controlling now than ever?

And what about that uncle who doesn’t care what you’re doing—he thinks it’s okay to show up whenever he wants.

Toxic family members make your head hurt. They are poisonous to your health. They can drain you emotionally every time they are around.

How do you recognize toxic family members?

  • When you leave their presence, you often feel worse than you did before. 
  • They want to control your life. They tell you the decisions you should make, how you should spend your money, and the people you should be friends with.
  • You feel that they seem to always criticize you—your parenting, your cooking, your house management, anything and everything.
  • They may be physically, verbally, or emotionally abusive.
  • They always “need” you to come to their rescue.

Totally removing a toxic family member from your life may not be an option. However, you can manage the relationship to minimize its negative effects on you.

  • Overcome any fear you have of hurting your family member’s feelings. Your mental and emotional health comes first. Sometimes we’ve not addressed the situation directly because we don’t want to hurt their feelings. So instead, we end up hurt, frustrated, or angry every time we have to see them.
  • Set clear boundaries. People will often treat you the way you allow them to treat you. Toxic family members will often become accustomed to treating you in a certain kind of way. Until you set boundaries, it may not change. (And even then, there may be resistance because change is hard.) Standing firm on those boundaries says that you will not tolerate not being respected, valued, and treated with the dignity you deserve.
  • Learn to disengage. There are some conversations you may learn not to have with certain family members. Other times, you will learn to limit the amount of time you spend with them. The key is learning how to end interactions with toxic family members when you begin to feel your emotions triggered and when to avoid interactions altogether.
  • Seek help for support. Toxic family members can lead to stress, trauma, and mental health issues that may be best discussed with a counselor. 

It’s important to deal with the toxicity. Your mental and emotional health—and maybe even your physical health—can depend on it. Most importantly though, you’re worth it. Your very being is worth being treated with respect. You’re the one who should have control of your life.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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YOUR STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS

5 PROVEN STEPS TO TRANSFORM YOUR CONNECTION WITH OTHERS

RELATIONSHIPS CAN BE TOUGH.

Whether you’re dating, engaged, married, a parent, an empty-nester, or a co-worker, relationships are everywhere. And they’re not easy! But here are 5 research-proven steps you can take to strengthen your relationships and transform your life!

What do you do when your friend is in a toxic relationship? Can you spot it? But what about you? Do you know when you’re in a toxic relationship? Most people want to be in healthy and satisfying partnerships, but sometimes we settle for less just so we can feel wanted, appreciated, or loved.

We ignore the red flags an individual reveals and we pretend like we don’t notice their toxic traits. We might straight up just not see them because, let’s be real: love has the ability to make us blind to all of the negative qualities a person might possess.

When you’re in a healthy relationship, there is healthy communication.

You are energized by being together. You feel comfortable around one another. There is trust. You all have a clear understanding of the expectations and boundaries you have set in place, so you feel secure. Most of all, they build you up and you feel respected.

In a toxic relationship, you don’t feel some or any of those things.

You constantly worry if you’re being lied to, feel distraught and tired just being with this other person, and feel drained when you are together. It breaks you down and contaminates your self-esteem, and makes you second guess your worth at times. There is constant tension and you feel like you have to walk on eggshells. Happiness doesn’t always come naturally, all the time, but it doesn’t come often when you are with one another.

A toxic relationship not only puts a strain on your relationship, but it also puts a strain on the other relationships you have in your life – friends, family, even co-workers wonder if you are ok. If you still aren’t sure about the “toxicity status” of your relationship, let me give you some clear examples.

Maybe this will help you out a little bit…

  1. You stop communicating your needs because there is no point. We all have needs when it comes to a relationship. If you feel uncomfortable expressing yours, or you simply just don’t see the point of it because you know they will be ignored, then that is a big red flag. Healthy people should always be able to ask for what they need.
  2. It’s a one-sided relationship. If you are the only one showing effort and affection then cut it. Endearment and work are supposed to come from both parties. Also, both people should feel empowered in a relationship – not just one.
  3. There is never any compromise. It is normal to argue and disagree. In a toxic relationship, you will argue and disagree, but you either always lose or disagreements NEVER get settled. (Then you can look forward to a big explosion soon. All of those unspoken feelings and expectations will express themselves one day, but it won’t be very pretty.)
  4. Physical or Verbal Abuse. No one, and I mean, NO ONE should ever make you feel inferior by physically intimidating you or screaming and yelling at you. If someone needs to do those things to you to get their point across, then that is not the person for you! (Or anyone for that matter.)
  5. There’s no such thing as privacy. If your partner is constantly asking for your passwords, asking you where you’re going, and is always asking who you are texting & talking to, then get away, fast! Being in a relationship should not mean that you lose your right to privacy. Trust is important for a reason.
  6. They continually lie to you. It’s really hard to regain trust once you have lost it, but how can you trust someone who always lies to you? Well, if you have to ask yourself that question, maybe that’s not the person you should trust.

Now I need to be clear…

You are not a weak individual if you find yourself in a toxic relationship. It happens to the best of us, and it can be a real learning experience. You may not have known what you were in for with someone at first. It happens.

Sometimes people don’t show us their true colors for months, then some external factors reveal who they really are. Sometimes conflict in the relationship reveals the real “them.”

Whether it started out toxic or it became toxic, it is just important to recognize toxicity when it begins so you can take care of yourself. Some relationships are worth fighting for, but others are best left exactly where we found them. Love and respect yourself enough so you don’t have to go through toxicity a minute longer than needed. You don’t deserve the stress or heartache.

Looking for more relationship resources? Click here!

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In 2014, there was enormous outcry over video footage of pro football player Ray Rice knocking his wife Janay unconscious, then dragging her off an elevator. In the midst of the coverage, the Rices appeared together at a press conference. She clearly seemed to have no intention of leaving him. This set off a whole new barrage on social media asking why in the world she would stay.

In the U.S., it’s estimated that every nine seconds a woman is beaten. Moreover, research indicates that 85 percent of reported cases of domestic violence are by men against women. These relationships usually involve intense jealousy, controlling behavior, denial and blame, intimidation, coercion and threats, and isolation.

  • Approximately 50 percent of men who assault their partners also assault their children.
  • As many as 10 million children witness domestic violence annually.
  • Men and women engage in comparable levels of abuse and control, though women are more likely to use emotional manipulation. In contrast, men are more likely to use sexual coercion and physical dominance. (Statistics from Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network)

Dr. David M. Allen, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, says it’s important to realize that not all abusers were abused as children. And, that many—if not most—people who are abused do not become abusers. However, child abuse is most likely the single largest risk factor—biological, psychological or sociocultural—for later adult abusive behavior.

According to Allen, significant family dysfunction is almost always present in a repetitive abuser’s background. Unfortunately, these dysfunctional patterns rarely stop when abused children grow up.

Why do people stay in abusive relationships?

Fear, reliance on the abusive partner, pressure and conflicting emotions are all reasons why someone would stay in an abusive relationship.

“The reason many of these victims stay is because they are brainwashed to believe that the violence is their fault. They may think they cannot survive without their abuser and that they are too stupid, too ugly or too unfit to be a good employee, wife, friend or mother,” says Dr. Charlotte Boatwright, President of the Chattanooga Area Domestic Violence Coalition.

So, what can you do if you have a friend who is in an abusive situation?

  • Recognize the abuse. Help your friend see that what is happening is not normal. Healthy relationships revolve around mutual respect, trust and consideration for the other person. Intense jealousy and controlling behavior, which could include physical, emotional or sexual abuse, all indicate an unhealthy relationship.
  • Support your friend’s strength. Acknowledge the things she does to take care of herself.
  • Help your friend with a safety plan. There are resources available in our community to help victims of domestic violence. Express your concern for your friend’s safety and the safety of her children. Encourage her to get help as soon as possible. Give her the phone number to the National Domestic Violence hotline, 1-800-799-7233. Assure her that when she is ready to leave, you’ll be there for her.
  • Be a good listener. Empower her through listening. Be nonjudgmental.

“Never underestimate the power and encouragement of a friend,” Boatwright says. “Sometimes all a victim needs is permission to seek help.”