10 Tips for Dealing with Toxic Relationships

1. Understand Toxicity:
Recognize that the term "toxic" can encompass various behaviors, including emotional, verbal, or physical abuse, and addiction. Toxic individuals are often unhealed and may not acknowledge their need for help. It's important to remember that their toxic behaviors and reactions are rarely about you, it's typically about that person's pain and shame.

2. Practice Self-Validation:
Learn to validate your own feelings and experiences. Toxic relationships can make you doubt yourself, so it's essential to trust your instincts and perceptions. A good place to start is by practicing being a curious observer in your own life. Watch what happens when you hear the person's name, see a car like theirs, or anticipate an interaction. Grab a pen and paper. Write it down: "My palms are sweaty. I can't control my racing heart. I want to punch a wall. I want to scream. I am angry at them. I am angry at myself."

3. Manage Emotional Responses:
Understand that being in a toxic relationship can lead to heightened emotional and physical responses. Practice grounding techniques like deep breathing, physical activity, or journaling to manage these automatic reactions.
After the dust has settled, scribble out a quick list. Your list should acknowledge what happened, how you felt, what you thought, how you responded, and what the consequences were for your response. Then, make a plan. Make a list of how you'd rather feel, what you'd prefer to think, how you would like to respond instead and what you imagine those consequences would be. When do you this you will begin to see a pattern for your triggers, emotions, and behaviors.

4. Be Patient with Yourself:
Recognize that healing takes time. Practice new ways of responding and managing triggers both in and outside of difficult interactions.

5. Practice Physical Self-Care:
Pay attention to your body's signals. Engage in physical activities that help release tension, such as exercising, deep breathing, or screaming into a pillow. There's no right or wrong way in conten;ous moments to practice self-care.

6. Focus on the Truth:
Write down what the truth really is-the truth about you. A little notecard will do.
Some things you might tell yourself include: "I am the best mother I can be. I love my children unconditionally. I will aways do the next right thing. Being right is not as important as my peace." Whatever resonates with you personally. Place your notecard in your car, make a copy for your office at work, on your bathroom mirror. Remind yourself of these truths when you know you are facing a difficult interaction or anytime you find yourself becoming unanchored.

7. Prepare Responses:
Anticipate critical or blaming messages from the toxic person. Develop thoughtful, low-engagement responses that allow you to maintain boundaries and avoid escalating conflicts. Keep these responses in your Notes app on your phone for easy reference:
"I do not wish to have conflict with you and I am concerned that responding to these questions might create conflict between us."
"Thank you for letting me know your thoughts. I will consider them."
"I am not willing to do that, thanks for asking."
"What you're saying here is untrue, but I don't want to engage in an argument."
"I have received your response. Thank you for sharing your opinion."

8. Create a Pause:
Before responding to triggering messages, take a moment to pause. Consider whether the message requires an immediate response or if you can reply later after calming down. If you need to pause, one response to buy some time might be: "I am not sure about the answer to this, let me get back with you."

9. Seek Community:
Connect with support groups or friends who understand your situation. Building a community of understanding individuals can provide emotional support and reduce feelings of isolation. Consider joining a Solo Parent group or downloading the Solo Parent App to chat with other single parents who get it.

10. Model Self-Care for Children:
Use challenging situations as an opportunity to model self-care for your children.
Verbalize your feelings and actions to show them healthy ways to cope with difficulties.
This can look like, Wow, I can feel that my body isn't matching the situation. I am feeling anxious, and my chest is tight right now. I am going to have a cold glass of water and take some deep breaths until I feel better." "I am feeling overwhelmed. I am going to go in my room for a little while and l'lI come out when I'm feeling better."
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