Questionable relationships and toxic work environments inevitably lead to stress, stress and more stress. While many situations can be managed and contained, there are others that leave us downright miserable. If you find yourself frustrated more often than not, it may be time to stage an intervention and put a stop to it already. Here’s how to break off the soul-crushing relationships and negative professional connections without losing yourself in the process.
The Going-Nowhere Romance
The emotional trauma that accompanies a failed romance is nothing short of jarring. It signifies a sudden farewell to that special connection only couples share. It’s an intangible loss that manifests itself in very tangible ways. And while the end of a relationship can be bitterly painful, in some circumstances, it can be quite liberating.
After all, behind every fledgling relationship is some underlying cause of distress. It could be as minute as a simple loss of interest or a gradual breakdown in communication, without much desire from either party to improve the situation. But it can also boil down to something far more serious, like domestic violence or a loss of trust. Bottom line: None of these situations will do anything but hold you back.
It’s not easy to just up and leave, though. “The hardest part of leaving,” says Erica Arrechea, matchmaker and CEO of Love Love International, “is the appeal of jumping back into the relationship because the routine provides comfort.” To break out of this comfort zone means resolving to shift from an old, fearful mindset to the new — to face what scares you head on and push through it.
Being stuck in a bad relationship leaves you with no (read zero) free time to pursue a relationship that is better for you. Your heart, soul and emotions are essentially locked up in another person’s bank. It’s no wonder breaking up is such an unnerving experience.
Laurel House, relationship expert and author of Screwing The Rules, stresses the importance of finality when it’s time to actually break up. “Be focused, loving and honest, but to the point…tell him that you’re sorry, but you have to go. And that’s it. Do not call, text, email or stalk him after.”
Dealing with the aftermath of a breakup can still be difficult. You’ve escaped a dreadful past that haunts you, you miss your ex’s goofy jokes, you crave the companionship of a life partner. Whatever your situation, it’s helpful to remember the importance of the role you play. “I realized I was finally in control of my own life,” says Carolyn Hennecy, international survivor speaker and author on domestic violence awareness. “This is your sandbox, and you get to choose who has the right to play here.”
The Toxic Friend
Ask anyone who has been through it: Ending a friendship is almost as painful as ending a romantic partnership. For many, it’s just as difficult, if not more — and with good reason. Friends are the families we build for ourselves. We come to rely on them as our confidantes, our partners in crime, our allies when absolutely everything goes wrong. The loss of this priceless connection can be devastating.
But not every friendship is meant to last forever. Sometimes it’s as simple as two individuals who drift apart due to life changes, whether it’s marriage, having a baby or starting a new job. And there’s nothing wrong with that — in cases like these, the dissolution of the friendship may even be amicable.
Then there are those relationships that turn sour, usually over time. Phone calls cease. Text messages dwindle. Epic shopping expeditions are distant memories. You may begin to recognize certain emotions that indicate you aren’t on the same path. You’re relieved when she cancels a date. You argue with each other regularly. You feel that your needs aren’t being met. Should you really chip away at the remnants of this friendship in an effort to revive it?
“If it’s a toxic relationship and you’ve made multiple attempts to voice your concerns…it’s time to cut ties with that toxic person,” says Nicole Zangara, LCSW and author of Surviving Female Friendships: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. “If she hasn’t been there for you and hasn’t been a good friend, then there’s really nothing left to say. Move on.”
Once the ties are cut, there’s the inevitable emotional fallout to deal with — usually the sort that involves some form of self-torture, be it questioning your decision to end things or reliving all of those arguments. “It’s important to give yourself time to grieve the friendship,” emphasizes Zangara. “Many times we personalize these friendship losses, and it’s hard not to, but we also need to take a step back. If we tried our best, then we need to see that.”
The bottom line: Friendship is a two-way street. It takes mutual respect, patience and understanding to cultivate a meaningful relationship that will actually last. If you’re caught up in one that’s not fulfilling your needs, remind yourself that you are worthy of so much more. Don’t focus so much energy on a lost cause that you forget to focus on yourself.
The Dead-End Job
Many of us have been through the ringer known as the dead-end job. The consequences of leaving a job tend to outweigh staying at something that doesn’t make us happy, though, so we continue to slog through. The dead-end job leaves you indifferent to your surroundings, bleary-eyed at your computer, clocked out by lunch hour. You dread the prospect of yet another day slumped in a cubicle or faced with office politics that rival your high school experience.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way out, short of quitting on the spot. That’s not a practical option for most people, but there are solutions that can help you from going off the deep end and doing something you may regret.
“You need to put as many resources as you can toward finding a new job,” says Donna Flagg, author of Surviving Dreaded Conversations. “That may require some reflection in order to find a more fruitful opportunity, but languishing with too much time on your hands is not good for your head, and it will show during interviews.”
Assuming you’ve lost all motivation and recognize that there is no growth opportunity that contributes to your long-term goals, you’re smart to consider leaving. But don’t make a move until you have some sort of plan in place. Begin a discreet job search while you’re still employed. If you have enough saved, you may even use the free time to focus on that business you’ve long dreamed of starting.
Ultimately, you need to work to sustain your lifestyle, and you’d prefer to do something you genuinely enjoy. Consider this powerful advice: “Confidence and empowerment are the two biggest emotional factors when looking for new career opportunities,” says Eric Lang, owner of personal coaching service Limits Unleashed, LLC. “Invest in yourself by giving through volunteering, community engagement, professional networking and assisting others.” With a clearer goal and a task list clearly mapped out, you’ll feel much more confident when you do finally leave the job that’s leading you nowhere.