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“Bad” relationships.

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear this? Is it that boyfriend or girlfriend that broke your heart? Is it that marriage you stayed in hoping it would get better only to find it became a prison almost impossible to find a way out? Or is it that vicious cycle of an on-again off-again affair that sucks the joy out of your life? Most of us have had our share of one or more of these and can readily admit how hard they are to resolve even though we know they aren’t healthy.

But what about the other UNHEALTHY relationships in our lives? They come in many forms and have the same devastating impact on our mental health and our ability to live fully in the present. They keep us from becoming the person we want to be or are meant to be. Here are a few that come to mind:

1. Toxic Friends

Have you ever had a friend that you truly loved but began to feel depleted over time because of the drama and chaos they bring into the friendship? Maybe you want to try and help them but your time and efforts only make you tired and frustrated. Or do you have a friend that always has a crisis during an important time in your life always diverting your attention to them?

2. Family Members

This is really a tough one for most people. Family is forever, right? We can’t just say “you aren’t my sister, brother, cousin, etc..” because they are and always will be. Most families have disputes that are eventually resolved organically over time. However, there are times when a relationship with a family member becomes so destructive to our well being that there seems no way forward.

3. Work

Being stuck in a career or job that isn’t what we envisioned for ourselves can lead to unhappiness and overall feelings of dread on a daily basis. Maybe you like your career but don’t feel like you are in the right environment to meet your personal goals and needs?

4. Yourself

Here’s a biggie. What if your relationship with yourself is unhealthy? Many of us hold ourselves back by doubting our abilities or filling our heads with self-doubt and negative thoughts. It becomes such a habit that we begin to believe these things and never reach our full potential. Maybe we don’t treat our bodies with respect and this ultimately keeps us from doing things we wish we had the energy or physical capability to accomplish.


Awareness of how many unhealthy relationships we have in our lives is the first step to making some changes that lead us in a direction of a well-lived life. Although there are many ways to break free from people, places, and things that aren’t good for us, here are a few ways I’ve managed to examine and let go or accept relationships that don’t allow me to grow and find joy in my life.


It’s helpful to write down all of the relationships in my life. Of course, I don’t write every person I know or casual friends, but making a list of things that take my energy, time, and resources can enable me to see how many require my attention. When I do this, I usually see that I am spread pretty thin and it can help me understand why I might be physically tired or mentally exhausted. Make sure to include your close friends, significant others, jobs, commitments, hobbies, pets, family, social media, and, of course, yourself.


Next, I examine each item on my list carefully and look to see if it is balanced. Balance to me simply means - it’s worth it. I am a better person because of this relationship and the other side is better off because of me. It’s reciprocal. For example, I’ll use my pets. To be honest, they are a pain in the ass sometimes. I have to get up during the night to look for the source of the annoying barks, the vet bills are astronomical, and I can’t go anywhere without making sure I have a pet-sitter. But the joy they bring into my life more than makes up for any of the stressors and difficulties. When finished with my list, I ask myself if it’s balanced and is it worth it?


This step is so important. When trying to decide whether to put energy into working on a relationship or let it go, I can’t be objective and see things clearly on my own. My mom used to tell me it’s like trying to focus a camera on a picture when I am in the frame. I can’t do it. Many times when I share with someone, I learn that I am the cause of the unbalance. That’s always hard to hear. Blaming others for problems is second-nature for me so I need that nudge and insight from someone else.


Willingness to take action is probably the hardest step for me. I can get stuck in limbo for years and accept a situation because it is familiar. I have done this with a marriage, job, family members, and friends. Fear is usually at the root of my inability to make changes. Pain is always a good motivator to take action but I have found that prayer can work even better! Praying for willingness can clear my mind and enable me to see more clearly the need for change.


When I find a relationship is unbalanced, I have to look at what I am doing to contribute to the chaos or unhappiness. A good example here is a friend that sucks the energy right out of my body. Maybe they call and always complain or never support or seem interested in my life and activities. When this happens, I have to ask myself if I supported their behavior by never being honest with them or do I always try and be the hero by rescuing them. Inadvertently, I taught them how to treat me. What if I’m always complaining about a job or co-workers but don’t try to bring harmony to the work environment? When I make an honest evaluation of myself, I might find that I gossip about co-workers and complain constantly to others instead of changing my attitude. I also might find that I have done everything I could to create a healthy relationship and staying in it only makes things worse.


Once I have a clear picture of the relationships in my life, I can decide what change is needed moving forward. Here’s where the practice of visualization can help. I do this by closing my eyes and visualizing where I would be if I could have the scenario I wanted. If I’m unhappy in my job and I’ve done all I can to make it work, I close my eyes and picture where I would be if I had a job that was satisfying and fulfilling. This can be done with friendships, family members, and also my relationship with myself. It takes practice but it works to let me know how far off the track towards happiness I can be at times. This is when I can begin to set my goals and make small steps towards each of them.


Letting go of something in my life doesn’t mean I don’t care about the person or situation. I’ve had to let go of several people in my life that I truly loved. It means that I love myself and have to make my mental health a priority. What I have found is when I have done everything within my power to bring balance to a relationship and it doesn’t work, letting it go is equivalent to shedding the weight of a heavy backpack. Although it might be painful at first, it frees my mind and heightens my energy levels to be focused in other directions. Most of us have meaningful and irreplaceable relationships in our lives. Letting go of those that aren’t healthy and balanced can bring new joy and meaning to those we have. The only limits I have are those that are self-imposed. Changing careers or telling a loved one “good-bye” takes courage and commitment. When I make those changes, I am set on a new path towards inner peace and serenity.

If you are currently in an abusive relationship, please seek help immediately.


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2 comentários

Beth Hamilton
Beth Hamilton
18 de out. de 2021

Thank you for this post! I can relate to so much of it. Thank you for sharing solutions that've worked for you. I'm thinking that I'll make my list to go over it with my therapist in the coming weeks. I wouldn't have thought to share it with someone without your tip. Although, the longer I stay in the rooms, the more I hear others say, "We just aren't capable of seeing our own stuff." or something like that...

I'm starting to believe they're right! Because I've never regretted following the suggestion of my sponsor or another member of AA. They usually know better for me than I do :) Thank you again!

Carol Lind
Carol Lind
04 de nov. de 2021
Respondendo a

Thanks for the feedback! It took me so long to realize I have tunnel vision and it’s hard to see my stuff. My mama used to say it’s like focusing a camera. It’s hard to see if it’s in focus when you’re in the picture! So true.

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