post written by: Marc Chernoff

7 Smart Ways to Deal with Toxic People

7 Smart Ways to Deal with Toxic People

Don’t let toxic people rent space in your head.
Raise the rent and get them out of there.

Surviving the ups, downs, and lightning storms of other people’s moodiness can be quite a challenge.  It’s important, though, to remember that some moody, negative people may be going through a difficult stage in their lives.  They may be ill, chronically worried, or lacking what they need in terms of love and emotional support.  Such people need to be listened to, supported, and cared for (although whatever the cause of their moodiness and negativity, you may still need to protect yourself from their behavior at times).

But there’s another type of moody, negative behavior: that of the toxic bully, who will use his or her mood swings to intimidate and manipulate.  It’s this aspect of moodiness that inflicts enduring abuse and misery.  If you observe these people closely, you will notice that their attitude is overly self-referential.  Their relationships are prioritized according to how each one can be used to meet their selfish needs.  This is the kind of toxic behavior I want to look at in this post.

I’m a firm believer that toxic mood swings (like chain letter emails) should not be inflicted on one person by another, under any circumstances.  So how can you best manage the fallout from other people’s relentless toxicity?

1.  Move on without them.

If you know someone who insists on destructively dictating the emotional atmosphere, then be clear: they are toxic.  If you are suffering because of their attitude, and your compassion, patience, advice, and general attentiveness doesn’t seem to help them, and they don’t seem to care one bit, then ask yourself, “Do I need this person in my life?”

When you delete toxic people from your environment it becomes a lot easier to breathe.  If the circumstances warrant it, leave these people behind and move on when you must.  Seriously, be strong and know when enough is enough!  Letting go of toxic people doesn’t mean you hate them, or that you wish them harm; it simply means you care about your own well-being.

A healthy relationship is reciprocal; it should be give and take, but not in the sense that you’re always giving and they’re always taking.  If you must keep a truly toxic person in your life for whatever reason, then consider the remaining points…

2.  Stop pretending their toxic behavior is OK.

If you’re not careful, toxic people can use their moody behavior to get preferential treatment, because… well… it just seems easier to quiet them down than to listen to their grouchy rhetoric.  Don’t be fooled.  Short-term ease equals long-term pain for you in a situation like this.  Toxic people don’t change if they are being rewarded for not changing.  Decide this minute not to be influenced by their behavior.  Stop tiptoeing around them or making special pardons for their continued belligerence.

Constant drama and negativity is never worth putting up with.  If someone over the age 21 can’t be a reasonable, reliable adult on a regular basis, it’s time to…

3.  Speak up!

Stand up for yourself.  Some people will do anything for their own personal gain at the expense of others – cut in line, take money and property, bully and belittle, pass guilt, etc.  Do not accept this behavior.  Most of these people know they’re doing the wrong thing and will back down surprisingly quickly when confronted.  In most social settings people tend to keep quiet until one person speaks up, so SPEAK UP.

Some toxic people may use anger as a way of influencing you, or they may not respond to you when you’re trying to communicate, or interrupt you and suddenly start speaking negatively about something dear to you.  If ever you dare to speak up and respond adversely to their moody behavior, they may be surprised, or even outraged, that you’ve trespassed onto their behavioral territory.  But you must speak up anyway.

Not mentioning someone’s toxic behavior can become the principal reason for being sucked into their mind games.  Challenging this kind of behavior upfront, on the other hand, will sometimes get them to realize the negative impact of their behavior.  For instance, you might say:

  • “I’ve noticed you seem angry.  Is something upsetting you?”
  • “I think you look bored.  Do you think what I’m saying is unimportant?”
  • “Your attitude is upsetting me right now.  Is this what you want?”

Direct statements like these can be disarming if someone truly does use their moody attitude as a means of social manipulation, and these statements can also open a door of opportunity for you to try to help them if they are genuinely facing a serious problem.

Even if they say: “What do you mean?” and deny it, at least you’ve made them aware that their attitude has become a known issue to someone else, rather than just a personal tool they can use to manipulate others whenever they want.  (Read Toxic People.)

And if they persist in denial, it might be time to…

4.  Put your foot down.

Your dignity may be attacked, ravaged and disgracefully mocked, but it can never be taken away unless you willingly surrender it.  It’s all about finding the strength to defend your boundaries.

Demonstrate that you won’t be insulted or belittled.  To be honest, I’ve never had much luck trying to call truly toxic people (the worst of the worst) out when they’ve continuously insulted me.  The best response I’ve received is a snarky, “I’m sorry you took what I said so personally.”  Much more effective has been ending conversations with sickening sweetness or just plain abruptness.  The message is clear:  There is no reward for subtle digs and no games will be played at your end.

Truly toxic people will pollute everyone around them, including you if you allow them.  If you’ve tried reasoning with them and they aren’t budging, don’t hesitate to vacate their space and ignore them until they do.

5.  Don’t take their toxic behavior personally.

It’s them, not you.  KNOW this.

Toxic people will likely try to imply that somehow you’ve done something wrong.  And because the “feeling guilty” button is quite large on many of us, even the implication that we might have done something wrong can hurt our confidence and unsettle our resolve.  Don’t let this happen to you.

Remember, there is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally.  Most toxic people behave negatively not just to you, but to everyone they interact with.  Even when the situation seems personal – even if you feel directly insulted – it usually has nothing to do with you.  What they say and do, and the opinions they have, are based entirely on their own self-reflection.  (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Relationships” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

6.  Practice practical compassion.

Sometimes it makes sense to be sympathetic with toxic people whom you know are going through a difficult time, or those who are suffering from an illness.  There’s no question about it, some toxic people are genuinely distressed, depressed, or even mentally and physically ill, but you still need to separate their legitimate issues from how they behave toward you.  If you let people get away with anything because they are distressed, facing a medical condition, or depressed, even, then you are making it too tempting for them to start unconsciously using their unfortunate circumstance as a means to an end.

Several years ago, I volunteered at a psychiatric hospital for children.  I mentored a boy there named Dennis, a diagnosed Bipolar disorder patient.  Dennis was a handful sometimes, and would often shout obscenities at others when he experienced one of his episodes.  But no one ever challenged his outbursts, and neither had I up to this point.  After all, he’s clinically “crazy” and can’t help it, right?

One day I took Dennis to a local park to play catch.  An hour into our little field trip, Dennis entered one of his episodes and began calling me profane names.  But instead of ignoring his remarks, I said, “Stop bullying me and calling me names.  I know you’re a nice person, and much better than that.”  His jaw literally dropped.  Dennis looked stunned, and then, in a matter of seconds, he collected himself and replied, “I’m sorry I was mean Mr. Marc.”

The lesson here is that you can’t “help” someone by making unwarranted pardons for everything they do simply because they have problems.  There are plenty of people who are going through extreme hardships who are not toxic to everyone around them.  We can only act with genuine compassion when we set boundaries.  Making too many pardons and allowances is not healthy or practical for anyone in the long-term.  (Read Who’s Pulling Your Strings?)

7.  Take time for yourself.

If you are forced to live or work with a toxic person, then make sure you get enough alone time to relax, rest, and recuperate.  Having to play the role of a “focused, rational adult” in the face of toxic moodiness can be exhausting, and if you’re not careful, the toxicity can infect you.  Again, understand that even people with legitimate problems and clinical illnesses can still comprehend that you have needs as well, which means you can politely excuse yourself when you need to.

You deserve this time away.  You deserve to think peacefully, free from external pressure and toxic behavior.  No problems to solve, boundaries to uphold, or personalities to please.  Sometimes you need to make time for yourself, away from the busy world you live in that doesn’t make time for you.

The floor is yours…

What are your experiences with toxic people?  What have you done to cope with their behavior?  Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Photo by: Monkeyc

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  • Thank you for this, Marc! The timing of when I read this post is so spot on. I’ve been having a hard time dealing with someone who’s been so toxic to me for the longest time (worse, she’s part of my immediate family) and this helped shed some light on what I need to do. I’ve been stressing over it for the past 3 days so reading this now helped me a lot. Thanks again! :)

  • I am this toxic person. It’s hard to admit. He finally said enough after 2 1/2 years of my bullying. I went through a tough divorce and he helped me so much at the tail end. I just let him go recently…poor man…as I read this…it is me…I’m sorry to all of you that suffer with a mentally ill mate. I have tried to resolve my issues, but I suffer and so wish I didn’t have this! At times, I am so angry that I just can’t let it go! You have no idea how it feels to not be able to escape an illness. Please know, I seem like a normal person to most. Most likely like your abuser. Until I am denied attention or I feel I was being forgotten. It doesn’t help that I was at times…I’m praying that it’s just the personalities of the men I usually attract…maybe one day I will find a man that will not enable this behavior. Someone that I’m proud of and willing to make the change for…the change to seek maybe a mentor or spiritual guide will take time out weekly to meet with me and center me…I know I’m this way and as any sufferer, I wish so much to be different. Please know some of us do try…

  • Your book has actually helped me eliminate a truly toxic relationship from my life in the past year. One of the points you and Angel make in your book is to evaluate your principles against the company you keep. Understand those principles and live them. In a natural fashion toxicity will gradually fade from your life and if your principles are true to you, the universe will shape positively around you.

    I have found that this principle applies to both friendships and intimate relationships. I’d rather have no friends than have endless toxicity in my life.

    Thank you as always.

  • I love the balanced approach of putting your foot down, but also practicing practical compassion. Like Susan, your book has helped me find this balance. I’ve since made it a point to surround myself with people who inspire me, and also work through some toxic issues with those people who I know are worth it.

    @Cynthia Kerry: The fact that you realize your negative behavior, means you’re gradually growing. Regards for being so open and honest, and for facing your demons and working on defeating them.

  • I relate to so much of what you’ve written as I’ve had to set boundaries and/or remove myself from toxic relationships with both family and friends. I’ve always had the good sense to know that it’s ok that people move in and out of one’s inner most circle but never actually controlled who I did and didn’t want in it myself, until I was older. The relief and peace that comes with choosing to no longer be manipulated and abused (yes, it is a form of abuse) by a toxic person, as difficult as it likely is, is of great reward. Being able to breath again is a very accurate description.

  • I am so glad I divorced my ex. He was an extremely Toxic person. After reading this article I realized that I did the correct decision. He called the divorce last time and I ran to my attorney and get everything together. I wanted to divorce him anyways. Because is toxic personality I got very ill with stress, all this year I was trying to figure out was his problem was but I couldn’t now I know what was wrong. We we’re marry for 11 years, no kids thanks God.

    Thank you for this valuable information about Toxic People.

  • This toxic person happens to be my mother in-law. There is no way around her. I am just tired!

  • Cynthia, I too am this toxic person. I breaks my heart to think I cause so much pain to the ones I love. After 5 years of marrage and 10 years living together my husbsnd has developed his own anger problems….I “infected him” with my uncontrollable negativity. We are working on our marriage, but we are on the verge of divorce if things don’t change.
    I feel like a prisoner. I turn everyone away even when I set out to be nice. The littlest things set me off. I need to save my marraige. I love him with all of my heart, but I can’t stop fighting. I grew up with it. My father is bipolar too. It’s all I know. I’m going to support groups, church groups, a psychologist, a psychiatrist. I’m reading books on staying calm and not becoming unglued. It only helps a tiny bit. I don’t know what else to do.

  • That’s some awesome advice. I believe the people you hang out with can make or break you. I had read somewhere, that a person is always the summation of the five people he spends most time with, and I believe that to be true. My strategy of dealing with toxic people is to get away from them and focus least on them. You’ll soon attract the best people for you.

  • I cannot thank you enough for this post… I’ve dealt with someone close to me for years, who is exactly like this and it is extremely exhausting. I have felt many many times like I need counseling because I can’t get my head right. Just like every other post that has helped me so much, thank you for your insight once again, you guys are blessings. :)

  • Thank you for this enlightening article. I’ve been dealing with someone whose behaviour could be considered toxic. He’s a young adult with high-functioning autism who still has severe tantrums and is extremely self-oriented. Although he’s trying desperately to figure out the world of social interaction the rest of us take for granted, he still can’t seem to put into action what he understands intellectually. This is enormously frustrating and results in his violent and abusive (sometimes physically abusive) outbursts.

    I find myself dragged down into his dark world on a daily basis, often suffering physically from having to listen to the tales of his abuse towards his immediate family and others. I now wonder if I have actually been enabling his effect on me by not stopping it in its tracks. I thought I was being the shoulder he needed to cry on, at my own expense, when what I may have been doing was sanctioning this toxic behaviour by allowing it. Maybe I need to employ a bit of tough love to help both of us have a more normal relationship. And, almost counter-intuitively, maybe help him find his way in our strange world of social interactions that he finds so hard to fathom.

  • I have a toxic person in my life , he is my roommate, and he is always trying to manipulate and dominate me. I hate that. In the past I behaved gently and kindly and tried to be very nice and supportive. I tried to calm him down every time he gets angry but unfortunately all this did not work out; I do not know what to do. I lost my patience! Enough is enough! He went too far beyond limits, surely it is time to finally stop him from hurting me.

  • When you say “I think you look bored. Do you think what I’m saying is unimportant?”

    And they reply “Yes, I am bored. What you are saying is boring, irrelevant and consuming my life for no good reason.” What do you say?

  • I was a toxic person to my most treasured best friend, and eventual he reached his his saturation point and we had a fight over my behavior. I used to believe that we were brothers from different mothers until he cut the ties of our friendship. I accepted and realized my faults and in fact I agree with you when you suggest to move on without toxic people in life, when it makes sense.

    Only one thing I believe though, is that no matter how hard it is to be with somebody, if you treat that person as a best friend, a brother and a family, then you will stay through thick and thin that’s the real friendship, at least for me. I think in many cases there is a way to help the toxic person change.

  • The timing of this post is so relevant for me and has given me guidance in my time of need. I am living with a toxic person at university and all the points are extremely helpful. Thank you.

  • I’ve unfortunately had to do this with a few people in my life after these toxic people simply refused to ‘grow up’ and became pretty negative influences in my life. It was hard to do, but I can honestly say I’m better because of it, and I truly do feel for these people.

  • Working in my garden, over a decade ago, a pure unbidden thought arrived. “You decide which plants to put in your garden, choose which people to put in your life.”

    Eject button, almost the same instant.

    Some family members were included.

    Still feels good, this many years later. I love, adore, appreciate who is in my life now.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  • I was married to a toxic person. My wife was the perennial negative bully. Problem was, she was an expert at making you feel bad utilizing logic and reason. It was not a fair fight, she has a PhD and even used her credential against me when we disagreed on how to help our young son with his homework. We have since separated and the peace and calm in my life and this house is wonderful. Your words, Marc, are spot on. Distancing myself from this individual was the correct decision. She never listened, everything was about her, her ego was fragile, she felt threatened if you disagreed and made you feel stupid for disagreeing. I am free!

  • What can I do if the toxic person in my life is my 90 year old mother? She has always treated me bad and purposely made me feel shame. She disapproved of whatever was good in my life. I’m at my wits end and would love to end this relationship before she hurts me anymore.

  • I’ve had a friend for 32 years that’s like this. Extreme narcissism and a bully. In August they were so cruel that I told them I needed space. I have seen them once to discuss the issue but they walked out on the conversation after 20 minutes. Since then, I have realized that we will never be able to be close friends again and I’m good with that.

    Thank you for your fabulous articles!

  • I wish you could translate this into a children’s book-what a “leg-up” it would be to know these skills at a young age.

  • I find my toxic husband has rubbed off on me… I am, now, the person I never wanted to become. We have poisoned each other and I want out.

  • Dear Chimpy - you say “goodbye.” Then go on and have a happy life without that negative person in your universe.

  • I feel so compelled to leave a comment. My problem is that I am the opposite. I am a genuinely nice person who believes everyone is good and honest. That is where the toxic people come into my life. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and these people pick up on it in an instant. It’s like I am a magnet for toxic people because I am so trusting.

    As a child yes there was abuse, and I always wondered “why me” and even after many decades later, am still asking this question. I realize I will never get the answers that I seek. But am very proud of the fact that as a mom of 2 grown beautiful women, they did not have to put up with the things I did. That was a promise I made many years go. The cycle can be broken.

    I do need to practice all 7 of these points. And I thank you again for putting this right in my face, and to all of the others that leave a comment. Your words have such meaning. Thank you all.

  • Great post!

    If I wrote about my experiences with toxic people, this would be a 2,000 word comment. :)


    I’ve learned that it’s not about me; it’s about them and what is happening in their life. Just because I’ve worked on myself and continue to work on myself, doesn’t mean others are ready to face the fact that they’re responsible for their lives. I send toxic people lots of love and positive vibes and send them on their merry way. :)

  • I can’t thank you enough for this article, it was so spot-on and really did help me see outside the situation and give me some hope.
    Though, I am feeling desperate as the very toxic person is my co-worker (actually a bit above me), in my department, who I have to sit next to. Anyone have any advice as to how to deal with this? I am newer to this workplace. And this colleague is also very concerned with my “liking” her, and lashes out if I do not do even smaller things such as walking with her to the cafeteria (when I am busy!), etc. She’s only 23. Work has become so stressful and anxiety-ridden for me. I can’t actually distance myself, she constantly victimizes herself despite being an aggressor and extremely cruel. She also refers to me as her ‘best friend’ even though I’ve only worked with her for about 2 months..and I very much have my own life with friends I’ve had since I was 8!

  • This is such great timing with the holidays fast approaching. #3 really hit home as I let people walk all over me and guilt me into doing things. Wonderful article. Keep them coming…

  • I had a friend that I played tennis with for about 7 years. One day she called me as last resort to play doubles cause could she not find any one else. I first said no that I was not feeling well, but I let her talk me into it. As the afternoon went on I got sicker and called her one hour to cancel stating I was very sick and could not play. She asked me to find some one else, so I turned it over to another girl who was playing too and she said she would try to find someone. A month went by she did not return my calls and emailed her let’s get together and play some tennis. She sent me back a nasty email stating I was so lucky that I had some friends that put up with my behavior that she only wanted to hang out with dependable people. I emailed her back and said it sounds like you are angry with me let’s get together and talk. She point blank said she wanted nothing to do with me she did not want to talk… that I made her look bad in front of others and her time was precious and so on to not contact her again. It saddens me a lot after that someone I knew could write me off so easily over a tennis game. The worst of it is that she has become closer to a friend of mine who did not stand up to her about this and knew all this took place. As of now I have no interest in this other friend. Still having a hard time letting go.

  • Reared in a highly dysfunctional family, along with having PTSD and Asperger’s, I can see myself on both sides of this fence. These are conditioned RE-actions, not a chosen lifestyle, and I’m saddened that others sometimes consider me the way you described. Yet I find myself trying to escape toxic people like this, as well. I’m constantly in prayer to avoid these “triggered” reactions, and it is a long, slow process that doesn’t happen overnight (it took years to create). And, although I am not Bipolar, I take great offense to your description of people who are, as “clinically crazy”. No clinical diagnosis includes the word “crazy” (check the DSM), and it carries great emotional pain. I’d like to think there’s hope for me to one day be free of this constant inner turmoil, and pray that others have the compassion and insight to not give up on me. Nobody deserves to be an emotional punching bag, regardless of which side you are on.

  • I divorced my husband due to his “moodiness,” negativity, outbursts of anger, and resulting verbal abuse. Dealing with it over almost 10 years was dragging me down into depression and I finally faced the fact that it was not going to change. I’m not sure that “ending conversations with sickening sweetness” would have worked because it seems that would be a form of enablement. Confrontation and setting boundaries didn’t seem to work either and just enraged him more when he turned everything I said back on me, a common technique used by these individuals. Consequences of an unhappy relationship didn’t encourage him to change or seek help either. Frankly, I don’t honestly believe these people can change. They really can’t help themselves because it’s an illness that I don’t think they can control.

    After researching and reading symptoms, I strongly believe that it is either undiagnosed bipolar disorder or high functioning Asperger’s syndrome. Since he refused to face his issues, I had to try to figure it out on my own. I didn’t want to get divorced but realized the negative impact his toxicity was having on me and my health. Getting away was the only answer and, after 5 months, it’s still taking me time to get back to old happy self before depression eventually set in. I’m seeing a therapist to help me through this. Rather than seek help, he is in continuing denial and on an online dating website searching for the next relationship to bring his baggage to. I know I made the right decision although it was difficult. I hope my comments will help those dealing with the same thing and still trying to convince themselves that it might get better. Move on to a life of peace and breath again.

  • Great post. For the those of you who admitted being the toxic person, hats off. At least you see the problem. If you are bi-polar (like me), or suspect you might be, get help. Learn Mindfulness, its easy to find online, Amazon, or your public library.

    I would add these items to your arsenal:

    Control you reaction to the interaction. Own your thoughts, and if the situation escalates…walk, hang up or move. Yes, move.

    Minimize contact. Even if you live with them. So many people stay in relationships because the FEAR of moving outweighs the PAIN of staying. Protect yourself.

    You can say NO ANYTIME YOU WANT without explination.

    Some very strong questions I use when in these situations:

    Does it make you feel better to put me and other people down?

    What hurts you so badly that you have to lash out at me? Is it pain, rage, frustration or fear?

    I have heard and understand everything you said. But I see right through the lies, manipulation and emotional outbursts..and you don’t meet my lowest expectations. You are better than this, but you are choosing not to be.

  • Informative article and great advice. I understand my background and childhood environment that helped me select bullies in my life. Wanting to be accepted and loved, I tolerated abuse from my ex husbands. I walked away from those men and never looked back. It helped my self esteem and I selected someone much more compatible to me, loving and kinder. However, after 20 years of marriage, he too became abusive. I left him and came back when he understood I would not sacrifice my well being for the problems he faced (health, income). We worked it out, and the outbursts are now infrequent (~twice a year). When he forgets, I use the “you’re much better than this” line and he snaps out of it. He knows I will leave. After 30 years, he’s worth hanging in there for.

    My nature is friendly and understanding. Bullies tend to use this type of person. I have learned to assert my needs so I am less vulnerable.

    Each of us is different and so are the bullies and situations. We have to try different methods of getting through to them. Ultimately, moving on works best when all else fails.

  • My mother is a toxic person and as a result I have the most minimal contact with her that I can. She used emotional blackmail throughout the 21 years I lived under her roof. She does love me and did many things right as a parent but the constant controlling and manipulation were just too much. The only reason I see her at all is that my dad is still living. My dad, unfortunately, is very meek and easy-going and he has tolerated her behavior for sixty years and that has only made it worse. She believes she is always right and as a result there is nothing that anyone can say to change her and she refuses to get help for her many mental health issues.

  • I also have toxicity within my immediate family. Naturally you always excuse the behavior because of pre-conceived notions of how family should be. I sm learning ( slow and steady wins the race) to love myself enough to say enough!!

  • Ironically,(or perhaps not) I find I am both abused and abuser at this point in my life. I am sad and depressed when I feel abused and angry and bitter when I abuse others. These confusing feelings take on a kind of chicken and the egg status leaving me unsure who needs to change and where it all began. Your loving comment about being careful to avoid catching the virus really opened up a way for me to understand and forgive both others and myself. I feel better already. Thank you…and it does comfort me to know that I am not alone.

  • I’ve been this toxic person too, and perhaps it is about manipulation, but I think it is more about control. I want the other person to suffer as I have suffered; I want them to feel bad as I feel bad. It may not be right but it is honest - I am conscious of my bullying and insulting ways and in that moment I do not care. I want those around me to feel the way I do. But more so, I just want to feel better and cannot. My “toxicity” got bad when a great love left me 7 years ago, then death in the family and menopause put it over the edge. They call this borderline personality disorder and that is the most accurate term for this type of behaviour. It is true that calling someone out on it does help (you) but only instills more guilt in the person and they get worse. Still, I agree with your strategy above on how to remove oneself from this type of person. I just feel sorry for those of us who are left behind and alone.

  • What do you do when it’s two of your own sons?

  • To those who owned up to their toxic behavior, thank you for your honesty. I know there have been relationships in which I’ve been toxic, and I had to withdraw to examine why. Usually I was filled with fear and pain, like bear with a thorn in her paw. Many people in my life showed me love and compassion through these times, and eventually, I can keep that shadow part of me calm. As someone else said, awareness is the beginning of change and clarity.

    I had to let many toxic people in my life go, lately. My work place was extremely toxic, but rather than get out years ago, I waited until I had a stroke last February to get the message that it was time to put down the poison. This post has articulated so clearly what I’ve been feeling lately about releasing toxic people and behavior patterns from my life.

    My former best friend probably feels I abandoned her, but the pattern of our dramatic and traumatic relationship became clear, and it realized it was making me I’ll. I wish her all good things, but I can’t save her.

    Thank you all for your honesty.

  • My mother is this toxic person. I am 37, and it wasn’t until I was 34 that I finally came to the realization that the problem was her and not me. For 34 years, all her insecurities were thrust upon me and were made to be my insecurities. She has said things that no person should ever say to another, especially a mother to her daughter. And any time I tried to speak up I was reminded that I needed to “listen to your mother” and to “always honor your mother”. I spent the first 34 years of my life believing everything she told me. One day a few years ago, I had reached my breaking point and for the first time ever, I stood up to her and for myself. We didn’t speak for months, and even to this day I’m convinced that she still doesn’t understand what happened… From that day on, I set boundaries that she’s no longer allowed to cross. I’ve come a long way with her, but more importantly with myself. I know I have a long way to go, but at least now I have an understanding that the issues she has are hers, not mine, no matter what she says. It’s difficult when the most toxic person in your life is your own mother, and I’ve tried offering words of encouragement and advice when it’s asked for, but she would rather be miserable. She chooses her behavior because people still enable her and cater to her as outlined in #2 above, but I no longer take part in that. While I can’t change what happened the first 34 years of my life, I can choose to learn from it.

    As always, thank you for this post, Marc. Your words help more than you can ever, ever know.

  • In the last 6 months I have removed two bullies from my life. They are tyrannical. They will have you believing that you are the “crazy” one. It became especially bad when they ganged up with each other. When I saw them for what they are I actually laughed - “she and her lap dog”. Now that I have disallowed them in my life I realized that I had second guessed my own standards and principles and shortchanged myself. I am much happier for making this hard decision to extricate these people from my life. They would have me believing that I was damaged and unhappy when actually it was quite reversed, I am the happy one and they are still searching for it.

    But it has not been the first time I have had to do this. I have not spoken to my family for 20 years and that has been the healthiest decision I have ever made. Do not let people black mail you into thinking blood is thicker than water, it is just an accident of birth. I am not able to change someone’s sick lifestyle and I will surely not support it. So to your 90 year old mother - do not let another day of YOUR life go by in peril and support of her damaging ways. My mother survived my walking out, only for her to go on damaging others. But I can not stop her behavior.

    Now I have surrounded myself with highly functioning individuals that support and yes, at times chastise me for the proper reasons. It’s about learning and growing outward together, not damaging a person’s soul in order to feel good about one’s self.

  • I was in a toxic church and didn’t realize it until I was trampled. These can be used in those situations too, as churches (organizations) take their personality from those in charge (pastors/elders/etc.) and if they are toxic, the organization is toxic.

  • Thank you for discussing this topic now. As readers of my blog know, I have an estranged relationship with a family member. This time of year, these kinds of problems make the season harder. Not even the most compassionate, well-intentioned person can change these types of issues between family members.

    These types of unresolved issues go on all year round. When they are between close family members, please consider that we’ve done our best to fix things. The best thing to do is pray for peace for both parties, not guilt them into playing nice.

  • Thank you for sharing this story with us. However, I do not like what you said in an ableist way. Calling this boy as ‘crazy’. This is definitely not the best description, Marc. Please consider using a better word next time.

    Unfortunately, many able-bodied people unintentionally perpetuate ableism. It’s too painful and toxic for me to tolerate these kinds of offensive words to describe someone who has physical or mental disabilities. Illnesses seem more negative and disabilities are more acceptable today. I solemnly hope that my new e-book that you wrote is free of toxic words or ableism. Thank you for your understanding.

  • I was reading some of the comments where you stated that you were that toxic person. I feel your heart and that pain because I am too. Or, I am if I don’t confess it the first thing in the morning. I have been saved since 1977, but not until I met and married a sociopath, did I realize that I too had some of these toxic attributes in my own life. I have been divorced from him for 4 years now, and in this past 4 years, he has left me, my dad passed away, I almost l ost my home and my sanity, my mom passed away and … I survived!!!

    I don’t know if anyone here is a believer, but I tell you, the first thing every morning I come to God and beg him not to let me be that person today. I realize that I am not perfect, but I also realize I am not a horrible person. Because I know this ‘toxicity’ about myself, I have chosen to remain single. I don’t date because I don’t feel the desire to bring anyone else into my ‘world’. I spend much time with my family and have so many awesome friends that have no idea about that ‘hidden side’ of my life. I talk to God ALL DAY LONG. I ask Him to change me, to not allow me TODAY, to be ‘bad’. 4 years later, I realize I am not ‘bad’, I just tend to get… weird, sometimes. I love the Lord and I would not be where I am today, back in school, running my own small business and living with my 3 dogs and a cat and … Okay.

    I really think we can ALL be alright, if we make it a priority in our lives every day to NOT, if only for this hour, let that take our lives. I pray the each of us, the toxic and the ones that share a life with toxic, try and bring the good out in ourselves or our relationships.


    Whether you were the toxee or the toxer in a relationship, I think it is a good idea to consider the possibility that maybe you guys are allergic to each other. I love peanuts but peanuts might kill YOU. Don’t eat the peanuts, simple :) I was allergic to my ex husband (I felt kinda bad calling him toxic) He was not good for ME…he may be GREAT for somebody else…:)

    Good article - I am a big fan of your stuff!

  • I had to distance myself from my family for years to really find myself and get strong enough to be around them without taking their toxic behavior personally and to make it clear there were boundaries they couldn’t cross, because I couldn’t just let them go and move on. But I did purge a lot of friends out of my life who dragged me back down and prevented me from growing or being myself.

    I had to get in the mindset that I was only going to surround myself with people who lifted me up and encouraged and supported me. It hurt and it was hard and my circle of friends is really, really small now, but it’s made me a much stronger, happier person, and I’m a lot more selective about who I interact with.

    Though some toxic people still manage to get past my guard. It took two different friends telling me I was being bullied and the other person was the negative one for me to actually see the last toxic relationship, and it took me months to realize there wasn’t something wrong with me.

    So a good rule of thumb I actually wrote out and pinned to my eraser board to recognize toxic people whenever I find myself in this situation again is this:

    1) If you feel like you’re walking on eggshells in every conversation, because you’re constantly worried about how this person is going to react to whatever you say, then they’re toxic.

    2) If you find yourself apologizing on a regular basis over every conversation, while they apologize for nothing and show no mercy or forgiveness, then they’re toxic.

    3) If almost every conversation goes in circles with nothing but drama over the most petty things, then they’re toxic.

    4) If “the silent treatment” is a regular occurrence and your communication efforts are ignored, and then you’re blamed for the misunderstandings and communication issues, then they’re toxic.

    5) If they consider it your responsibility to anticipate their reaction to whatever you say, and they expect you to anticipate whatever it is they’re in the mood to hear, and then blame you for not complying, they are toxic.

    6) If they use “the silent treatment,” anger, criticism and being the “rational adult” for the purposes of controlling, manipulating and “changing” you into compliance, then they are toxic.

    7) Emotional abuse that undermines your confidence and steals your mojo is always, always, always toxic. No exceptions and no excuses.

    It’s definitely taught me to lose all tolerance for toxic people, and I’m better at walking away and moving on, but I’m still struggling with getting my confidence back and not blaming myself. And I’ve found it’s better to just distance yourself or walk away completely from these people. The last time I called someone out on their behavior, they proved me right by threatening me, and still blamed me for their behavior. People like this have control and power issues, and it’s not worth it.

  • Thank you for sharing this story with us. I would like to give you constructive criticism. If you have the urge to describe disabled people as physically ill, critically crazy, or mentally ill, please neutralize these toxic words. Try rephrasing “physically disabled” or “mentally disabled” which are more acceptable. I still see people, even extremely wise and smart people, still unconsciously use these toxic, ableist words to describe them. You said that that little boy was hard to handle, try describing him as unruly, rather than “critically ‘crazy’”. Ableism, unfortunately, is overtly everywhere and able-bodied still perpetuate it. Please be mindful of those sensitive people with disabilities. I know it’s hard to admit it, but I’d appreciate it when this message is public to people so that they can learn something vital from this. Thank you for your understanding!


  • I too am a toxic person… :( My wife has one foot out the door, and I’m realizing too late that I may not have any way to salvage the relationship. I’ve suggested counseling (both individual for myself, and couples), and she agrees I need to do counseling, but until I work on my own issues, couples counseling will do no good. (She is a psychologist.) It also doesn’t give me any hope of salvage, because she spends 3-5 nights a week at her boyfriends house…

    I spent 5 years taking her for granted, not appreciating everything she did for me, making her feel guilty if she attempted to call me out, minimizing her feelings, being the beneficiary of the greatest roommates situation ever.

    It appears I have lost the greatest thing to ever happen to me, and I squandered every opportunity afforded to me to correct and adjust my trajectory, and in the meantime contributed to the tearing down of a beautiful woman who has finally made the decision (5 years later) to advocate for herself and do what is right for her.

    i love the woman dearly, but my actions never showed that, and this is the cost.

    Anyone reading this - DON’T MAKE MY SAME MISTAKES!! If you think you might be a toxic person, and you still have people you care about - TELL THEM! Recognize that a selfish, unobservant, defensive life WILL eventually mean you will be ALONE. No, not alone forever - you’ll find someone new, but you’ll have to start over, and you may start the same cycle over. IT ISN’T WORTH IT! Repair/break the cycle you are currently in. Too late for me, but maybe not for you.

  • This is an important topic and you addressed it well! I like your words - ‘Toxic Bully’.

    I removed all toxic people from my life 4 years ago and it made a tremendous difference for my well being. I also continue to stay clear of toxic people and situations completely since then. I have compassion and empathy for people and their question but I have learned my limits and also trust my intuition and instincts with others.

    Thanks again for being so courageous in writing this.

    my very best - Michael

  • I’ve set boundaries and am currently attempting to disengage from a toxic marriage. My husband is in an addicted relationship with an active alcoholic and has been supporting her financially and emotionally, (secretly) for over 10 years of our relationship. It’s been extremely destructive to our marriage. He refuses to acknowledge it or end his addictive relationship. Boundaries are difficult when you still love the person but I love myself more. I am unwilling to play mental mind games and suffer from the silent treatment and emotional withdrawal (a life time of his well rehearsed behavior). It’s taking me over two months to get here but every day I feel stronger - I’m out. I deserve to be respected. This is not love it’s mental abuse and control and very well disguised I might add.

  • I read this posting with great interest; I have a very toxic sister who has caused issues throughout our family for our entire adult life. At one point we didn’t speak for years, all because I told her she needed to stop letting people take advantage of her if these things aggravated her. She didn’t come to my wedding, or my brother’s, I believe because in some way she felt the family slighted her. In fact, she didn’t participate in any family activities for 7 years, until my father had an emergency bypass. Even then, because she couldn’t afford a last minute plane ticket, my husband and I paid for her to fly to California in case the worst happened. While that opened up the door for greater communication with the family again, she was always difficult for us to deal with.

    Gradually, we all got closer, but not without stresses. For instance, when my husband was diagnosed with colon cancer and not up for much activity during a holiday season while she was visiting my parents, she felt that it was very important for her to come over, bringing a dinner, and have the family all at my house. Of course this left me with the cleanup, etc, and the evening didn’t go easily anyway. Her moodiness even corrupted that. My husband did die 5 months later, which also seemed to encourage a renewed relationship. Since that time both of my parents have also passed away, leaving the siblings as the only real family she has, while I am very close to my entire in-law family. Still, it seems like about once a year she has a backslide into her behavior pattern of lashing out, and it always seems to be at me, no one else in the family.

    In reading your post, I realized that the last time this happened, September of this year, I instinctively handled it exactly as you point out. I spoke up, saying the conversation wasn’t going to go anywhere so we should end it. I thought that would help her calm down and realize her actions, but I was wrong. She can never apologize, but instead makes excuses for her behavior; this time she just added to it and said her “verbal filter” had been off. I have distanced myself, and don’t communicate unless I am communicated to. I am cordial, have even given birthday and Chanukah gifts to her this year. By doing limiting our contact I have realized that I am truly more content, less stressed, and able to actively take care of my own problems rather than listen to hers for hours on end whenever she calls.

    Thank you for illustrating that my actions were not simply selfishness on my part, but necessary for my mental health.

  • What an appropriate topic, especially this time of the year. Good advice to pass on. Keep it coming!

  • I live in my own home with my emotionally and mentally ill adult son. Because he also has a chronic physical illness, he qualifies for disability income. He pays only for part of his health insurance and his own car payment. I pay for everything else.

    He constantly argues with me, shouts obscenities and hurtful things, he refuses to respect my right to have peace in my own home. I know he is very toxic to me and others. He knows how to manipulate me to get what he wants. I am a widow on a limited income. He will not accept the boundaries he has agreed upon. I know I must remove him or at least distance myself from him. He would not be able to survive in “the real world” on his small monthly income. That is the Only reason why I do allow him to continue to live in my home. I know I need to put him out AGAIN. He needs professional help. His rage is out of control and he must stop this toxic behavior before someone “out there” intervenes with their own toxic behavior and physical violence toward him.

    It is my own fault that I live like this. I admit that I am not really helping him to grow up (he is almost 34 years old), but there is no one else who loves him or who would put up with this type of negative behavior! Nowhere for him to move, either! It is me who enables him to continue this toxic behavior. I must work on my own issues to become strong enough to give him an ultimatum. Please keep me in your happy and loving thoughts, everyone! Thank you all in advance for your compassion and understanding. “Sunshine” from California

  • Thank you! I needed this today! It’s a very long story, but I’ve been living with a toxic roommate for the past four months. I finally really stood up for myself today. Stumbling upon and reading this was so encouraging. I’m at a fragile point right now and need to keep reminding myself of a lot of the points you made in the article. I had a right to stand up for myself and I did!!

  • Great post - I really like what Dee wrote. The fact is, we can ALL be toxic, at times but what characterizes it as a problem is frequency and the inability to make amends. A trusted doctor friend of mine once described the personality disorders outlined in the DSM (bi-polar, borderline, narcissistic etc.) as ‘constructs created by the psychological realm to categorized difficult people” Sometimes I want to giggle a bit at all our machinations and rush to pinpoint all the trouble we see in the world and each other and simply ask: “Are we surprised?” Is it really a shock that people have personality disorders when right this second …this second…and now this second…there is someone somewhere being killed, abused, raped or beaten.

    Right now as I write this. Is is any wonder we all have some type of pathology? It’s not a surprise. While we must keep on trying to make the world a better place as Marc and Angel certainly seem to be doing, maybe it might be good to give the ‘categorizing’ and finger pointing a rest and focus on what forgiveness actually means and what it does for the person who offers it and how it can actually change the person being condemned who is most likely ‘toxic’.

  • Good read! I too wish I had had this helpful information as a child since my (older) sister has been a toxic person in my life since day one. Since my parents and siblings have enabled this behavior all along and all have been great at pushing the guilt button, my husband suggested that your next column should be: Toxic people, Dealing with their enablers.

  • I’m an RN. The toxic person in my life is a doc, bully, chief of staff. This has been his entire career, to bully and yell and curse others, as well as to target others until they are terminated. The director is aware. The CEO is aware. The board and the entire town is aware. When one or two are terminated, others fill that void. Management will tell you this has nothing to do with his request and complaints, but performance issues. Yes, but a hostile work environment does sometime induce such. With only a short time left to retirement and living in a relatively rural area with little opportunity for another job, I fear I might have become his next target.

    Any good advice would be much appreciated.

  • General Hades Frost
    December 9th, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    Dear Cynthia Kerry, you can do it! You can conquer your demons. Hang in there.

  • Great advice, thank-you. It’s difficult dealing with parents who are toxic - as their children we want to have happy healthy relationships with them and their grandchildren to have with them too, but sadly, the reality is this cannot always be possible. By choosing to distance myself from them I’m sometimes labelled by the rest of the family (who enable them) to be the one who upsets them by not giving in to their demands, which is completely not true. I simply want to live my life with peace and free of the unnecessary drama. It’s hard to sometimes not feel the guilt that the others are always trying to impose upon me. I suppose they’re possibly a bit jealous of my strength to be able to remove myself and refuse to put up with it, but it is also not always the easiest path to travel either.

  • Oh my word! This really hits home with me. I read several posts that I could really relate with as well. I just talked to my counselor today about this very type of relationship that I have had with my soon to be ex-husband who is also and alcoholic which goes along with the toxic aspect. We have been married for 15 years- he came into the marriage with 5 children then we had 6 more, yes,11 children. I have dealt with so much over these years but am finally now trying to find myself and be the best I can for the 6 kids still in the house. He is toxic. I am called every name in the book and always put down. I am the reason for all the negative things that happen to him and am so tired of dealing with this. What’s worse is I am a naturally caring person,so he takes advantage of this and I take everything to heart.

    Thank you so much for this post and the replies of everyone here - I will have to print this off at work and refer back on it often.

  • To Cynthia Kerry,

    It takes courage to admit that you are a toxic person. A friend (that I used to have) would never admit that, and her husband enables her (as I used to, too). The first step is being honest with yourself, as you have.

    Don’t wait for a man to give you the motivation to change. Work on yourself now, and when you are healthier, you will meet a better man.

    I do understand what it’s like to not feel normal. I have many issues that I am working on. People don’t understand how hard it is to have certain types of complicated messed-up brains, like we do.

    Try to do some visualization every day and picture how you want to be. Keep reading books or going to therapy or anything that can help. Congratulate yourself for even slight improvements. Work on appreciating decent, kind men, and know you deserve that.

    I know it’s hard, but you can get better.

  • Years ago I learned a technique called “Fogging Out.” When I find myself in the middle of a non-productive interaction with someone, and getting away from it at that moment isn’t a viable option, I will “fog them out.” In other words, I’ll deliberately saying something that’s kind of vague and ambiguous…something that’s hard to react to. It usually cools the emotional temperature because the person doesn’t know how to respond. Plus, it’s kinda fun! :)

  • Thanks for that, needed it quite badly.

    Have an in-law who’s very toxic who’s already brought my used to be sane brother to her bad ways. 2 faced and rumor mongering. Lies become more believable when they have bits of actual facts in it.

    Recently I’ve taken one of your recommendations to action. I’ve ignored the jibes and do not give her the attention she usually gets. I know I am partly sarcastic but realistic when I say “i pray she gets blessed a hundred fold with what she does” knowing it means she’ll be swept by a tidal wave of b.s. as she’s thrown daily. lol

    Yeah, I need a break. There are toxic people who know what they’re doing and get happy with pulling others down. Best to be aware and not let them win.

  • This has been very enlightening. The toxic person in my life is my ex-husband. We have three young children together and, unfortunately, it’s not that simple. I’ve tried similar responses and would tell him in advance if he cannot be respectful (when discussing our children) that I would hang up and refused to be treated that way. He then tells his lawyer/friends/family that I am keeping our children from him and that I’m incapable of fostering a relationship between our kids and him.

    He does say hurtful things, which they don’t actually hurt me because I know he’s just trying to be mean. How would you suggest I handle his toxicity when frankly, I can’t just walk away because of our children. He’s already taking me back to court accusing me of not encouraging and fostering a relationship between him and our children. He does cause unnecessary drama on a weekly basis and it does get old. I’ve address it with him. Then he turns everything around. Any thoughts? I’d be happy to try something new.

  • Great, timely article. Thank you!

    I recently re-engaged in a toxic relationship because of a death in the family. This woman and I had been quite close in years past, but I had distanced myself a few years ago because I was a miserable, depressed person. In the interim, I had worked hard on my own issues to become healthy, happy, and actively engaged with family and friends and with life.

    Within three months of having this woman back in my life, I am again neurotic, unhappy, constantly explaining myself to people and apologizing for the slightest imperfections in myself. I am finding fault with others and am focused on my disappointments in life. I have lost a significant amount of weight and can’t bring myself to think of eating regularly. I needed the reminder that this isn’t what friendship or love looks like.

    I am truly sorry for her loss, but I have known for the last several days that it is time for me to distance myself again. The guilt I feel over “abandoning” this woman in her time of need has been overwhelming.

    But enabling the destructive behaviors isn’t helping her. It isn’t helping me. It isn’t leaving the world a better place than I found it. With that peace of mind, I can let go again.

  • Such a great article.. I wanted to make some kind of comment here on your page for many many times, but often didn’t have the courage or the will to explain my problem to you. But now I will, I think its the right topic and I really need some help.. I will try to keep the story short;) So.. for the last 7 years I’m dealing with my brother, who is (now I can say it without a doubt) an alcoholic. I’m 29 and he is three years younger. We had a very abusive&hard childhood and our father is still “a drinker”, but we don’t have contacts since I was 7 years old. All the responsibility lies on me and its a huge burden.

    It’s getting worse and worse and he is also suicidal and I guess that’s my biggest concern. If he’d “only” have a drinking problem, I think I would let him out of my life. But with these suicidal drama I cannot :( When he isn’t at home, I worry, cannot go to sleep, he works me up on a regular basis in the middle of a night banging on my window or calling me on my cellphone.. and than dealing with him till a morning.. Its exhausting, I cannot believe its been 7 years. In this time I also completely stopped doing my school - college and I just have to write my diploma. But with his lifestyle I cant do it. Ive tried but it doesn’t work on the long run. I really don’t know what to do anymore, I guess I cant live MY life with this over my head. And yes I know, I’m actually living his life :/ The problem is, when he is sober and I talk to him, he is in such a denial and then he makes me feel guilty and like I’m making it up :/

    What should I do?? Its driving me crazy. I am a very positive person, but this shit is pulling me down. And of course my biggest fear is that if I would let him go, move out, change my phone number. etc, he would do it. End his life. Cause I witnessed it several times and somehow made it in time to rescue him. But I know, I’m not some angel, i cannot always be there and its his life, his choices. I really need some advice, some concrete suggestions what should I do cause its draining the life out of me and I don’t know shat else to do… Thx so much for reading this <3

  • Stop talking about me! Haha. Good article. This toxic behavior you speak of does happen in everyone at one time or another. I guess it becomes a problem when the person constantly does the things you speak of in here to everyone around them but you are right that a lot of times good people just go through hard times.


  • I have been married, for a long time, to a very toxic person. For many years, I was in denial about the situation, but I can’t ignore it any longer. My wife has long-term major health problems, both physical and mental. She refuses to do anything at all to actually help herself; she expects other people, mainly me and her doctor, to make her well and blames us (mainly me) for not making it happen. Leaving the situation is not an option. She literally cannot take care of herself (she is barely mobile at all) and no one in her family is in a position to take care of her, nor is she willing to stay in a nursing home or similar facility. So I am quite stuck.

    I am aching to be able to do something with what’s left of my life beyond listening to her moaning and groaning, and crying and whimpering, and daily verbal abuse, but I don’t know how to get there from here. One of the previous commenters mentioned Borderline Personality Disorder; I’m sure that’s going on here, too.

    I wish I knew the answer to this situation.

    PS — I recently saw an article at PsychCentral on the topic of Energy Vampires which might be of interest to readers:

  • I have had a 30 year journey of dealing with an abusive spouse. It was not until the last year that I realized the damage I was doing to myself by thinking that this was a cross I had to bear in life.

    For all of you, especially men, that are looking for a resource and resource support about abusive relationships and practical advice I strongly suggest you read the following blog:

    This blog has made a significant difference in my life and the scales fell from my eyes in terms of the serious damage and hurt that I was experiencing. Reading the stories on this site not only help me understand I was not alone but practical advice about what do to. If I may suggest - look into the concept of FOG (Fear, Obligation, Guilty) that many abusers deploy when they latch onto an empathetic partner.

    Thank you Marc for this post! It really struck a nerve with me. Also, thank you everyone that has contributed in the comments section.

  • I, too, found that after more than 30 years in a relationship, and 24 years of marriage, I “coped” with a toxic person by adopting some of his negative strategies. I became somewhat toxic right back at him, I think, by wanting him to change.

    How awful for a person to live with someone who wants you to change, never accepting who you really are? I think we both wanted him to change, and we both thought I could change him. My part of this, my responsibility, fed right into his toxicity. I was actually fueling his feelings of inadequacy, his anger, his fear, his bullying behavior. For 30 years.
    Ironically, I had surrendered all my power– finally even quit my job at his insistence (b/c I had developed a severe degenerative condition w chronic pain) just as the kids had left home– and we were on sabbatical alone together in the middle of the Pacific, planting orchids on the acre of land we’d just bought to build a retirement house, when he gave me an ultimatum: pull my own weight financially or we divorce. After 30 years of swearing my career in arts administration was every bit as valuable as his, as a professor. Now that he was raking in well into the six figures, he had simply ‘changed his mind.’

    Within a few months, the cruelty of his actions and words got worse. “Toxic” doesn’t even get close. With a narcissist, the outer persona seems extremely charismatic and pleasing, loveable, even perfect. To all on the outside world, he is Mister Wonderful. Only to the most intimate partner does the narcissist show his inner cruelty, his demons. So the intimate partner, if she shares the truth with others, is deemed ‘crazy’ or vindictive, perhaps jealous or bitter, but almost certainly lying.

    Not only does she lose her partner (and in my case, my home), but most likely all her friends who knew her former mate, his family and anyone acquainted with her former life. For me, my job, career, my home, my body, my kids, everything. It was devastating.

    I am moving on. The toxicity is lasting, like a nuclear bomb. In my 50’s, I will learn how to begin again. My identity as a woman, as a friend, as a mother must re-boot on my own. Somehow, I will have to discover a way to redefine myself anew as a valuable member of society, retrain, with my limitations, to contribute, earn a living, with individual health care and all the things I had invested in for my whole adult life with Mister Wonderful.

    But I am not the first! This post and this article shows how many of us go through trials — And my vow is to not let this series of trials turn ME toxic against others.
    I wish my soon-to-be ex well. First and foremost, I must look after myself. As they say, put on your own oxygen mask first, before reaching out to help those around you.

  • This article was great—as I’m dealing with a toxic person currently and it’s driving me crazy. I’m a college student and being around a toxic person is just—not fun. I’ve been doing personal research, to understand personality types…I encountered the term “toxic people” today—I thought of such people as “manipulative”. All of what has been described is true of what I’ve been going through and it’s good to gain knowledge on the environment you are surrounded with and also people. A toxic person can drive the entire household insane—full of drama. However, I do want to bring into account the impact they can have on your personality.

    I know that I’m not the problem—yet I’m guilty almost all the time. I cry, forget to eat at times and I’ve lost my jolly personality to being a turtle in a shell. But because this toxic person has influence over the entire household, the environment although in my knowledge still has influence on me and my being. I can’t seem to get over with this. The fact that one person has the knowledge but yet is feeling this way. I think it’s because the order of the household has been disturbed. However, being the type of a person who can’t watch something wrong happening esp. to people I love, I assume this may be the cause. I certainly don’t need this person in my life and I bet that person doesn’t need me either, but in a way he does to boost up his own—I don’t know the word.

    But anyway, if any advice on how to cope with this sort of environment, I’d appreciate considering I have no friends (bad experiences; considering that my sister was my best friend but she even turned against me thanks to toxic person). Oh and sometimes speaking up can cost you a lot…I’m the type who always speaks up and that is taken advantage of—to portray me as the evil or the cause of all problems. Manipulative/toxic people are dangerous! Great article. Thanks!

  • Chimpy, you wrote about asking a person, “I think you look bored. Do you think what I’m saying is unimportant?” I don’t have any idea into how to handle that, but if you’re looking for insight into his/her awful, bratty response, I can tell you that when one particular person used to ask me questions that would force me to either say “yes” right then or there or hurt her feelings in a pretty shocking way, I would get mad and change the subject. (I was vaguely aware that she was asking out of anxiety, but in the moment, I just felt coerced, probably because we had so many interactions in which I felt she was trying to forcibly extract or guilt me out something I might not even have. Which made me irritable and stingy.) Does that apply to you at all? No? I’m guessing no. I would like to point out, though, that I think she’s had pretty reasonable relationships with most other people, and I’ve never had any relationship like that. Amend that: my relationship with my mom is a little like that, but a hundred times less maddening for all parties, I think. (Should I call her up and ask her to verify?)

    I want to mention that because one thing this article doesn’t seem to point out, for some reason, is that you don’t actually have to choose between “s/he is a bad person” and s/he is good for me.”

    Another thing: this list might be good for people who are able to be certain that other people are the toxic ones, but I think there are a lot of low-self-esteem/depressed folks who are going to be determined to inappropriately cast themselves as the toxic ones, even if they haven’t talked to anybody but a therapist and maybe a cat since 1999 or whatever. It would be nice to see an intro that notes that some people are toxic to others only in particular relationships, and to see a version of the article that’s a little less “us vs. them” in general. And having recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it’s actually a little rough reading an article that present itself as therapeutic and then presents a world in which the imagined reader is normal, but his/her persecutor could be bipolar or any number of things that are never accompanied by the kind of “of course, not all bipolar people do this, and you might be bipolar yourself, but the manic and especially mixed states associated with the disease” clause you’d expect to see in a piece written by a therapist. I know the authors aren’t presenting themselves as therapists, but I wasn’t expecting the kind of article that reminds me to wonder again whether I should have mentioned my diagnosis to my co-worker, you know?

  • I have a person like this in my life, I’m genuinely very fond of them and so I always forgive them. Other people know how they treat me and say I should just forget them but it’s a hard thing, each little issue chips away a little bit more of the trust I have in them. I think they are a habit I find hard to break. They are manipulative, duplicious and selfish and the thing is it’s all very transparent and I usually do bring it to their attention but they turn it around and say I’m too sensitive, they never change and I don’t believe they ever will. I think they are monumentally unhappy and are jealous of me, when this was suggested to me by someone else I thought it was absurd but now I can see it’s probably true. I know their behaviour towards me is not a reflection on the kind of person I am it’s a reflection of how they feel about themselves but they choose to use me as their personal punchbag! This person has no one close to them and is very emotionally inept and unless they change their ways will live out the rest of their life alone. I know I’m a good friend I have many others that care for me as I do them and we don’t look for anything in return. I can see the day getting closer where I will be free of this person completely.

  • This is a brilliant article and so right on…having said that, one must be very, very brave to actually do the seven things mentioned. Toxic people are typically emotional vampires; they are very hypnotic and beguiling because they have usually been abused and or addicted so they have had to learn so those skills in spades to delude and survive everyone around them. You may fancy yourself as a very strong, focused and rational adult but those are the ones that toxic folk prey upon because they need what those people have so badly, they are willing to “kill” for it. I believe that until I identified these 7 items, (by default) having to deal with an entire family of toxic people, I was feeling pretty much out on a limb-as though no one else understood the brave activity it takes to rid oneself of these people from your life. You actually start believing (just like they want you to) that you are the one with the issue. Be brave – walk away – DETACH-DETACH-DETACH - move on without them – cherish and uphold your free-will and self-esteem. No one can take those things from you unless you allow them.

  • 8. Take them out? :D

    Great tips once again, though it’s sad that these days so many people are being negative, and negativity is actually overwhelming positivity. I hope more people would read that amazing article and understand that they need to be more positive.

  • Life is short and my life has not always been good to me, but i am always positive and i try to avoid “toxic” people, as i said: Life is to short for negativity.

  • Amanda,

    You make a good point about people only being toxic in certain relationships. I think someone said it best with the peanut allergy analogy. Besides being funny and creative, it was right on target in describing how some people just clash and bring out the worst in each other. It was like that with my ex-fiance. We were horrible when we were together, but became very good friends once we were apart. And I genuinely like and get along well with his current wife, and they have a strong, stable relationship with each other.

    As far as your question at the end, I’ve found being open and honest and direct with people you interact with, and being as authentic as possible works best. People will surprise you with how supportive and understanding they can be when you least expect it, and they’ll bend over backwards to work WITH you for the best results to avoid clashes. Just from my own personal experience, it was the vagueness and confusion of KNOWING something was off, but not knowing what the hell the problem was that was the hardest to deal with.

    I don’t know if it’s too late for you and your coworker, but explaining this to her and allowing her to work through this with you might salvage it. And I think it would help you in future relationships. I’ve dealt with mental illness and addiction in my immediate family, and I know it’s a hard thing to share with people, and some people will be jerks for sure, but most people want to understand and get to know the real you without judgement. But you have to take the risk and trust them enough to meet them halfway on it.

  • My sister in law has always been very controlling and intimidating. About 3 years ago, my husband of 21 years had an affair that lasted about 3 months with her best friend. We have since reconciled and have come to terms with what happened and both of us have taken our responsibilities for the affair on and are in a really great place and moving forward. My SIL still associates with her friend which is her choice, always posting pictures and what a great time they have together. We have finally realized that I have a choice too. The weight that has been lifted off of our shoulders since we decided that we didn’t need this toxic relationship in our lives is unbelievable. She knows how painful it is for us to see and hear about her (thankfully they live 1,000 miles away) but does not seem to care about our feelings so we have let her go. The only part I still struggle with is that I have never had the chance to tell her why I stopped contact with her and I really don’t know if she understands why, but that is not my problem. We are moving on to a future with each other and with people that care about us and that we care about.

  • Here is an interesting observation on my toxic mate: He has the ability to turn off and turn on his acerbic temperament in and out of the public eye. I believe what he is doing is referred to as “gas lighting”. When we’re out and about he is the most soft spoken, kind, lends a helping hand, looks the person in the eye while speaking, and overly displays hugging and affection…and then at some point when our door closes he becomes another person. When I call him out on it he tells me I’m imagining and “taking things personally”. We’ve been together for over twelve years and this behavior has steadily kept increasing…one critical note in the above column was the comment “self-referential”; spot on, something I couldn’t put into my own words so that I might understand - thank you for a great post and your words give me great encouragement to find a way to build up the courage and walk out - though it will likely be penniless, homeless and jobless I’ll take the chance. I do believe that if I stay in this relationship I will not survive.

  • You did it again. Thanks for this. I am currently dealing with a toxic person. I’ve known her for 4 years now and she has always been blaming me for things that happened without any good reason. Stopped talking to me and then started talking to me again and I accepted everything she has ever done. The constant blaming for nothing and for things I knew I had not done. But I’ve always treated her nicely. Knowing me, I get easily depressed my guilt and such. So it has effected me negatively. This time I know I am not guilty and know I have to start taking some distance from her. Or at least when I somehow still give her another chance into my life, I know to stand up for myself and approach her behavior differently. Thanks ;)
    Ps. I know that it’s harder to do in real life, but I’ll try. I’ll try to be strong. Oh, and in case you were wondering about my age, I’m 21 and the toxic person is 20.

  • “Several years ago, I volunteered at a psychiatric hospital for children. I mentored a boy there named Dennis, a diagnosed Bipolar disorder patient. Dennis was a handful sometimes, and would often shout obscenities at others when he experienced one of his episodes. But no one ever challenged his outbursts, and neither had I up to this point. After all, he’s clinically ‘crazy’ and can’t help it, right?”

    I am a compassionate person. I understand the pain that people with an emotional illness experience. But what can you do with a toxic person that uses their diagnosis as leverage for controlling you?

    There are some people that will never stop being toxic, no matter what you do. You owe it to yourself to separate yourself from them. Thank you, Marc, for sharing this post

  • @All: Thank you so much for all the thoughtful and insightful comments and emails regarding this post. I’m glad so many of you found this information helpful.

    Since many of your comments and emails require in-depth responses, Angel and I are going to sit down this weekend and address them when we have time to give each response our full attention. We’ll be in touch. :)

  • I was fortunate to have married a wonderful man, a true southern gentleman. We had two great children, who are now adults with children of their own. I also had a super boss for many years and worked in a law office where we all got along. That is why I was so upset when my sister began bullying me during our mother’s final illness. I never knew when she would put me down for no reason. She was a totally different person talking to her friends on the phone or to my mother’s neighbors. Apparently, these bullies do actually pick their victims. I finally lost it on the phone with her after being the butt of her bullying for several years. I was so upset by her constant negativity and vicious verbal attacks that I have had no contact with her for almost a year. Thankfully, I have been able to put the stressful relationship behind me. Thank you for the great article and thanks, too, to everyone who so generously shared their experiences. Peace to all of us, Judy

  • To Melissa Webster–I copied the list of signs of a toxic person you outlined. I’m curious where it came from. Marc, do you know?

  • @Amandah: Regarding: “Chimpy, you wrote about asking a person, “I think you look bored. Do you think what I’m saying is unimportant?” … Does that apply to you at all?”

    Amanda, I think there are two bits to this. One is that it isn’t their fault so much – I really AM boring them and they are deciding not to tolerate it. The other, the main one, is that if you ask some people if they are bored by what you say, they are so totally contemptuous of you that they decide to use it to make a statement about exactly how poorly they regard you. And you can’t always walk away from them. I can walk away from my boss – just not any time soon, not if I want a roof over my family’s head.

  • Great information! I had to cut a person from my life who was consistently negative and destructive to herself and it bled over into my life. Setting boundaries with those type of people is so important! You can still care for them, while caring for yourself as well. I highly recommend “Boundaries” by Cloud & Townsend.

  • @CarolK, the list came from my own personal experience with some toxic people in my life and a recent experience that left me lost and devastated for months, questioning my instincts, my self-worth and my confidence, and took friends uninvolved in the situation to point out to me and help me get over it and move on. I’m still getting over it and struggling with moving on.

    I used to do volunteer work for a domestic violence shelter that trained in this sort of thing, but even as I was aware of the signs, I still got sucked in because I cared about these people and didn’t want to *see* what was going on. It can happen to anyone. If it helps you and others with awareness and prevention, then I’m happy. Thank you.

  • Thank you so much for this article. The following quote: “The lesson here is that you can’t “help” someone by making unwarranted pardons for everything they do simply because they have problems.” “You deserve to think peacefully, free from external pressure and toxic behavior. No problems to solve, boundaries to uphold, or personalities to please. Sometimes you need to make time for yourself, away from the busy world you live in that doesn’t make time for you.”

    I’ve been struggling with a person who has a mental illness who shows signs of being bi polar… However, he says he’s been diagnosed with Aspergers, hypochondria, and a whole list of other issues. He never took responsibility for his actions unless he wanted to change the conversation topic. I learned the hard way that he never respected people’s boundaries the second that I decided to put some boundaries up. These were simple boundaries, such as “Please don’t talk about your issues with me.” The only time that he’d try to respect them is when I would refuse to talk to him. Then our friendship was clearly about only meeting his needs, so after working with him on that for over a year and getting no where. I had to tell him that I didn’t think it was a good idea if we emailed each other, then I blocked him.

    Thank you so much for your post. It really hit home that “You deserve to think peacefully, free from external pressure and toxic behavior.”

  • I used to be part of a group of friends who were very toxic. In college, I spent close to 3 years with them just thinking it was ‘OK’ and ‘normal’ for people to exhibit this kind of behavior. Towards the end I started standing up to them more and speaking up more. Although I was respected more, I realized that the only reason I spent time with them over the years was because of a fear that I had about being the unpopular kid with no friends. These days, I have a zero tolerance policy towards people who like to play ‘mind games’. I just never let them into my life.

    The problem with these toxic people is that the bullying is never direct. It is usually indirect in the form of a joke. Although you laugh since it’s a joke, it actually hurts. And when you talk to them about it, of course, they can come up with the excuse, “I didn’t know you would take it so personally’. Such ‘toxic’ jokes are the warning signs that your friend is really toxic.

  • @All: We’ve emailed several of you in reply to your comments here (hopefully you left us your correct email address). If you haven’t received a response from us yet, we will be emailing a few more replies tomorrow morning.

    Thanks again for all the support, and for adding your priceless insight to this important topic.

  • Thank you very much for your advice and the words you write here.

    I worked on myself for many years, focusing on self-growth and development, learning to deal with my weaknesses and with how to take full advantage of my strengths, and have often been considered by others to be a kind and compassionate person, with kindness and wisdom in the way I approach people. Which is why I have found it so hard to see myself lose these qualities, as I have been pressured by two toxic relationships in my close vicinity, and it has weakened me considerably over the past couple of years. One is my sister-in-law, the other is my former boyfriend.

    I do believe it is true that if we allow ourselves to stay too long in these relationships,we start becoming toxic ourselves, because our self-confidence, our strength and our positivity wane and the toxic people in our lives begin to invade our minds - we can begin to participate and play according to their rules because our strength deserts us to continue being the better stronger person. If these relationships are maintained, they are a form of brainwashing and can weaken even the strongest of people. I began to be very afraid of what was happening to me, when the unreasonably jealous one in the relationship became me (a behaviour he had manifested before). This happened because he had broken my ability to trust, my openness, my honesty - but it was me who had decided to stay even after he showed himself incapable of real compassion and consistency in what he promised and what he did. The mind games had gone on for so long that I had begun to participate in them. And since I was generally going through a rougher period in my life, I was sucked in deeper. The truth is that I allowed this to continue. I let him use the silent treatment on me and it did work, because people who are open, honest and loving, are hurt and try to reach out when someone is ignoring them. I learned to say mean and spiteful things back because it felt unfair to be the only one hurt by words. I learned to come up with ideas for mind games to counter his. I am so glad that I have finally decided to let him disappear from my life and to regain myself.

    But I do believe that it is worthwhile to remain open and honest. And I am lucky, because if I try hard I can maybe go back to being the person I used to be, and learn once again to be trusting and loving, and open my heart to someone. I know I have to let him go, forgive him and accept that I enabled him, but with someone else there will be love in place of manipulation… and I can let down my guard again. I know that to an extent I did help him, I did make some changes in him, but I paid a very high price for my love, my patience, my understanding and my guiding hand. A loved one should never only play the role of someone who fixes his broken soul.

    Now I am pregnant with his child and he’s left me or perhaps I threw him out - I think it was a bit of both, because as usual he was playing his mind games and I felt hurt and I told him to leave. It hurts but I think continuing on with him would have hurt even more. And I know somehow I will manage.

    Thank you again. Reading your words helps me get through the darker moments, though most of the time I am stronger because I know I would not regain myself if I remained with him.

  • Such a great time to receive this article. For such a long time I have lived with a toxic person, and along the way made excuses for him, covered up for him tried to improve things. No more - I finally had the moment where I realised I am I’m in danger and must save myself. Moving forward slowly…

  • Great read. I have been involved with someone for almost two years. After much research I feel him to be bi-polar and a PTSD sufferer. I have talked to him over and over about getting help. He fluctuates from denying the fact that he needs help to promising that he will seek help. I care about him; however, I told him that it was get help or the relationship was over. I always try to understand behavior; however, it doesn’t mean it’s acceptable.

  • For anyone whose life is affected by alcoholism in family or friends, there is the Al-Anon 12 Step program. You will find help and understanding from those who have lived with the problem.

    The trouble with being in toxic relationships is that I find myself becoming like them. My last partner was a narcissistic bully. yes, he had a horrible childhood but so did I. I made him leave when i realized that he couldn’t love or respect me and I was hating myself for becoming like him.

    When I let go of a toxic friend who dumped me when my brother was dying my world opened up to kinder, more gentle women friends. I want to be like them.

  • “Melissa Webster
    December 11th, 2013 at 4:32 pm”

    Some people are toxic their whole life, dump them.

    “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
    ― Steve Jobs

  • “Priss
    December 11th, 2013 at 7:59 pm”

    Dump her! You are worth more.

  • Oh wow, I especially love #2.
    Sometimes, mostly at work, I feel like such a minority around everyone else who is so toxic that I start to see myself as being the one who is ‘wrong’ and ‘weak’ instead of others who are being so cruel.

    Thank you for this good reminder to keep seeing myself as good.

  • Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    I grew up in a toxic home….and was rarely validated and supported….I accepted the toxic behavior as normal and learned to adjust or acquiesce to their needs. Even when I did search for my own identity…I was accused of being a martyr, attention seeker, and too sensitive. It took ensuring the loss of three children and a horrible divorce for me to see that the support I should be receiving from my family was toxic…and I’ve chosen to maintain those relationships on my terms. Not their’s. Standing up for myself is a new process…and I’m always searching for comments that I can rehearse so that it becomes my natural voice.

  • I was once married to a toxic person for 13 years, if he didn’t get his way, he’d shout in my ear and yell rotten names at me insulting my woman hood if you get my drift, He’d flip out all the time, especially if you woke him up from one of his 4 naps per day! We’ve been divorced now for over a decade, and I’ve dated around but I’m still very gun shy, when a man yells at me and calls me rotten names I want to cry! My Dad yelled at me on Christmas eve, and I cried for 3 days. I found this blog and read it cover to cover, and I’m hopeful I’ll get these negative feelings out of my head soon.

  • What do you do when this toxic person is your boss? I would like to “delete” this person from my life but finding another job is not an easy task these days.

  • So many of these comments ring true with me. Alcoholism (and potential personality disorder or mental issues) has affected my family for most of my life, though the drinking itself was hidden from me and my siblings until very recently, and I am now approaching middle age, with issues I didn’t even know I had.

    A recent comment here about a partner hiding ascerbic behaviour and switching it on and off at will is definitely true in my case. Which is how I often grew up thinking it must be me, that I was to blame, and believing that people outside the family must think me a bad person or poor daughter, even though I ‘had’ to outperform at school and college to gain achievement (the Trophy daughter). I was sure everyone thought our lives were perfect which was/is so very far from the truth. Yet my toxic parents still believe they raised us perfectly! The lies continue.

    I have only in the past year began to find my real identity and put a stop to the guilt-pushing, manipulation and mind games. I was miserable and lacking in confidence, isolating myself, suffering low self-esteem and unable to stop dwelling on the past, nor make sense of it. I was also unable to identify my own feelings, nor be confident to speak up for myself.

    I am keen not to cut away my mother, nor my father (poisoned by years of living with such negativity and criticism) but they are definitely toxic and I am not happy or comfortable being around them. I realise it is my own behaviour and reactions I need to address and I am in the tough process of doing so. I have attended Al-Anon for a few years now, had private counselling, started to surround myself with positive influences and new friends, and have started some new hobbies to find some peace and enjoyment in life outside of this unfortunate upbringing which I know I have let ruin my life so far.

    It is a comfort to hear of people in similar circumstances, many finding ways of dealing with this situation. I have yet to learn to love myself but I know I need to find courage to find my own voice first of all.

    These sorts of blogs are a lifesaver. Thank you for posting and sharing.

    Love, hope and courage to all.

  • Ran across your blog on Reddit. I have to agree 100%. Toxic people don’t necessarily have to be an ex, but sadly in my situation it’s a family member who I tried EVERYTHING under the sun to “make it work” and finally had to cut ties completely for my own good. Thanks for writing. I’m bookmarking your blog.


  • Thank you for this timely post and also all the good responses from everyone. I have been involved with an unavailable person for the last 4 years in a mostly distance relationship - everything has always been on his terms, has caused a lot of hurt and has affected my already low self esteem. Last Xmas he dumped me by email as he had found someone else. I reacted very badly to this and became a very toxic person as I tried to hurt him back. I know this was from all the anger I had repressed and a number of other issues that were triggered by his neglect. But I still kept in touch with him (the new relationship did not last) and started seeing him again a few months ago - but only every 6-8 weeks in a neutral location.

    I still have anger over what he did but realize I also have an addiction issue when it comes to him and need to accept some responsibility for what happened. I have just spent a week with him and felt it went OK but obviously he did not feel the same. He picks up on every little thing and uses it against me which I find very difficult. I also opened up on some personal issues with him and he also used this against me in the airport departure lounge. This was when I was saying that I was not prepared to hook up every few months unless he committed to making things more workable. From the way he spoke to me I realize I am just being used (even though he denies this) until the next one comes along. maybe he is even getting his own back on me. I was left crying in the departure lounge and on the trip back to where I am based. I have put my hand back into the fire too many times. I am sick of his destructive behavior. The day has come to leave him far behind and to deal with my loneliness more effectively.

  • Cynthia, I am much like you and applaud you for taking a stand. I too have been doing a lot of introspection and seeing several psychologists/psychiatrists, getting medication and brain scans to see why, how and if I can change these patterns of anger, blame and highly opinionated truths that I tend to hold onto so tightly as if I’m a high paid lawyer in a defense case, when I have to poke holes in a story and find my truth. I’m known as a pit-bull and tenacious. I will fight until my last breath and probably die trying to fight for my cause, which now that I’m almost 38, I don’t know what my cause is anymore. I have always been self-sufficient and able to get myself up after countless times if being knocked down. I too would like to believe that prayer, empathy and hope are answers. I keep reading and hoping I read something that will trigger me and help me uncover the truth that lies within. I am trying.

  • I am 56 years old, and had encountered many “toxic people” in my life. I have recently gone through a ending of a long term relationship, and the betrayal of two people I thought were my friends. It left me depressed, confused and extremely lonely, and it took the love of people in my life to pull me back from the edge. I am embarrassed to admit that I was in such a dark place. But, now I need to begin again. My problem is that I now realize I have never learned to establish boundaries in relationships.

    I am a kind, loving, compassionate woman, and so I am an easy target for “toxic people”. How at 56 do I learn to establish boundaries, and enforce them? A part of me wants to never let a man get too close again. But, hiding from life isn’t the real me. I have just begun therapy, and hope that I can learn the tools that I have never learned. I have spent my whole life pleasing people.
    Being the good daughter, the good sister, the good wife….and so on. There are times when I hate myself for accepting so little from people to whom I give so much.

    I find your articles to be so timely, they arrive just when I seem to need them most. Thank you for the gift you constantly give to your readers.

  • Thanks for this! I have a situation where the person is my attorney! I am joined at the hip with this guy until my case is over. Firing your attorney mid-case is a terrible idea, he has all this paper work that’s essential and he knows it and he is very abusive. He has yelled at me for asking questions more than once, doesn’t answer my questions, take s a week to answer e-mail, if he does at all, he’s insulted me for decisions he disagreed with, diminished my values, made comments about my decisions about finances probably wreaking my marriage and more! He is just a horrible person who I believe would sabotage my case if I left him as my lawyer. He was kind and supportive, until I was in too deep to easily change lawyers. I see how women can get involved with a guy who seems nice and once they live together, have money shared, etc. that the guy turns mean and they are stuck and afraid to leave. I can’t wait to be rid of him. Your article was helpful. Thanks!

  • My father is a toxic person. I don’t currently live with him, but I’m so afraid of him being upset that I’ve stopped living my life. I don’t know how to get past the fear.

  • This toxic person is my older sister. I have spent thousands of dollars (to foolishly try to buy her happiness, love and approval) as well as decades to try to reach an even ground with her. Alas, just when you think everything is going fine, she’ll pull up a memory of decades ago — something she thought you did or said that hurt her — and the gauntlet has been laid before you to go on the defense. E-mail is her favorite tool to deliver punishment. I finally had to say “enough” last September, and we have not spoken since. I am truly sorry to say — my life has been FAR BETTER without her, and I am indeed much much happier every day. It has included avoiding her at family gatherings (meaning, my wife and I did not go) like TG, Christmas, our own Mother’s Birthday, etc. … but it is the only way I have been able to avoid having her pull me into another verbal altercation.

    All of this is sad, yes, but true.

  • I had this boyfriend who turned out to be my son’s father. We were together for 2 years and 8 months. Within that 2 years and 8 months all I ever had was a hope that he would change. He was really a toxic in my life that it happened I lost my friends, unplanned pregnancy, debts, stress and sickness ate up my whole life in that 2 years and 8 months. He made me feel nothing but a gay not a woman, I feel so ugly and worthless. He doesn’t speak to me what he wants but he just show me his toxic actions. I wanted communication for all the pain he’s causing but he doesn’t want to talk about it. I can’t say what’s on my mind he doesn’t care about my opinions and what I feel. Until one day I realized he’s not the only one hurting me… I am hurting myself too. I have the choice of leaving him but I was so hopeful that he would change… so I decided to leave him. I didn’t realize there are so many things on Earth to smile about until I decided to step away from his toxic shadow. I started loving myself and found out how beautiful I am, I found my worth and I feel so free and happy. I didn’t realize I was keeping a toxic waste that’s making me sick each and every moment of the 2 years and 8 months when I was with him hoping he can still be recycled. Now I am a happy single mom with a big smile feeling so beautiful and happy with all the good vibes all the way. :)

  • I spent a year trapped with a toxic person who was my foster sister. I moved in with her because I was about to be evicted from my apartment, and I was terrified about living on the streets. She told me, “You’re family, and we want you to live with us.”

    Well, I did. Now I realize that maybe living in a shelter would have been better. The honeymoon lasted two months. I came in paying rent, bringing in food orders (I worked at a food pantry at the time), and doing chores around the house. I feel foolish now, but I actually believed this person was battling terminal breast cancer. Turns out she wanted me to move in because she wanted another source of income, a live-in babysitter (for the little girl and the bi-polar adult daughter in the house), and someone to do chores that the daughter refused to do. That covered just about everything. The daughter sat on her fat butt all day long and watched cable and played Wii games.

    I was lied to before I moved in, and lied on after I moved it. My so-called sister threw her imaginary cancer up in my face every chance she got when I objected to being the only one assigned housework after work and on my days off. The adult daughter attended adult day care, and she believed she didn’t need her meds (Zoloft and Abilify). She frequently became violent and verbally abusive. When they first moved into the house the daughter went off her meds, tried to beat up her parents, then called the police when she lost the fight. She’s Hulked out like that at every house they’ve ever lived in, and Diane thought that was okay. She even told the girl, “The next time you feel that way, don’t call the police.” Notice, she never said “You need to take your meds.”

    I’m convinced now they thought I was trapped and I’d have to toe the line. I was blamed for everything that went wrong in that household, and what really bothered me was there was no accountability with these people. They blamed everyone else. They did not take responsibility for their actions.

    Didn’t take me long to figure out what was really going on. She didn’t have cancer. She also told so many lies she forgot which one she told the last time. Her cancer went from terminal to second stage and back to third stage because she wasn’t able to guilt me anymore, and she always became loud and rageful and totally unreasonable when I tried talked to her. Her own family told me what was really going on with her: she had severe emotional issues and telling people she had cancer was her way of getting admiration, attention and manipulating people into doing what she wanted them to. Even her own family didn’t believe her. When she found out I was moving Diane pulled out all the stops: she had 6 months to live. She was terminal. She was exhausted. She really needed my help. I knew better. I kept right on packing.

    The adult daughter continually ran to her mother telling her what she’d overhead during my so-called private phone conversations. She’d stir up trouble and then sit back and watch. She told me once that she didn’t understand why people got mad at her when she acted that way, and she couldn’t be blamed because she was bi-polar. They also held my mail and tried to get my social security number.

    The last week I was there Diane told me that her cancer was in remission. How convenient. I told her that. When she became angry and threatened to put my stuff out while I was at work I reminded her that their (rented) house was on the city’s nuisance property list, and that her best bet was to let me move out all at once, and in peace, otherwise every time I came back to get my stuff I’d have the police with me. That meant the city would soon evict her and her family. They’re cracking down on nuisance properties here.

    I still paid her rent, but I wasn’t about to give her any more than the agreed upon amount, especially after I found out that her husband gave his long-time girlfriend nearly 850 dollars. Diane expected me to “pitch in” and help financially. I didn’t. She also told me that we have to stick together (that’s a joke!) and that she might have to ask me to babysit for her, if she got really sick, after I moved out.

    I moved out, and I didn’t tell her where I was moving to.

    Didn’t mean to make this thing as long as War and Peace. Much love and courage to everyone out here who has to deal with toxic people.

  • The inferiority complex is the mother of the superiority complex (to use a couple of dated terms). I have a friend who is basically good, but brings out the worst in me. I feel en-”toxicated” when around him and a lot better when apart. I hated for our friendship to go south, but we’re both better for it! I can’t fix him and I’m tired of feeling un-fixed around him. Weird, huh?

  • Hi, this article really resonated with me. This past september I dealt with toxicity from two of my former best friends. I am slowly trying to become aware of the fact that their toxicity is their problem and that the way they treat me, especially one of them, has nothing to do with me. However, I am finding it difficult to do so, considering the insults and indirect namecalling this person has thrown at me. I keep blaming myself for their attitude. How can I let go from their friendship and move on towards healthier relationships with other potential friends? Thanks very much.

  • Thank you SOOOO much.

    The toxicity was starting to affect me but I am not going to let it happen. I am going to print this out and keep it on me at all times so I don’t forget.
    Thank you.

    You deserve high praises for putting this on to help people.
    Thank you. x Infinity

  • I let someone toxic into my life last year. I am still recovering from the destruction he caused. I let him. I fully participated. It amazed me how quickly I became as sick as him. It took a lot to recognize what was happening and remove myself from the situation. Sadly, the clean up continues five months later and will probably continue for some time. The only thing that I can do is continue to love myself through the process and wish him well in my prayers. This has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do…and I’ve had to do some hard things.

  • Thank you for this insightful article and the supportive, enlightening comments, readers.

    Today I was insulted and accused of being mentally ill for making a little joke in an email to someone, then this person continued the attack by calling me idiotic and saying that I was not following the serious conversation of getting to know each other…. adding that he would walk out if I said any such ‘idiotic’ things in his presence.

    Part of me absorbs this poison instantly and actually tries to relate it to my being, which hurts terribly. I know that it is good to know right away that this is a toxic person, but the fact that it happens burrows into my heart and self-esteem.

    I don’t want it to- I don’t even want to be feeling this or trying to decide on the best response, when there is none. I feel very angry that I feel hurt and that there is really nothing to say that would, yes, hurt them as much as they hurt me.

    This whole dance of attack and victim that comes with toxicity is so draining.

  • Thanks for a great article, and so many suggestions and also the honest, down to earth statements. You have really clarified the issues surrounding toxic friends/people. I had a toxic “friend”, who put me down in front of others, flaked out at the last minute, was a “no show’ at times with no apology, and no explanation, and other things also.

    I tried to overlook these actions, to forgive her and to go on being her good friend; but eventually I had enough. I finally realized she would never change for the better, and I let her go. she kept trying to reach me , but I had had way more than enough. I guess she needed someone to put down, who knows.

    I have felt so much lighter, and happier and so much more self confident since I let her go. What a relief.

    Thank you again for such an honest, and very helpful article.

  • My roommate is toxic. A month ago had a huge blowout and that was the end of it for me. I’m done. I want her out of my life and have said so. She’s refusing to Feb I gave her until June. Nope, she ‘needs’ to stay until Aug. I invited a mediator to be with us to discuss this yesterday. I said I’ll accept postponing the end of her staying with me, but I do not accept her lashing out behavior. She says that’s how she is, emotional; that I am making myself out to be perfect/an angel; that she is not like me - calm and smooth. She asked for examples of the behavior I’m referring to, when I gave a couple of examples, she said I’m digging into the past.

    A few days after the blowout in Feb, she wrote me a letter where she apologized and reflected on her behavior. Thing is, it’s too late. That day in Feb was the end for me. I am done and I don’t trust her apology and reflection….too much has happened and so I even see the letter as a manipulation to push the reset button. It may be a true apology and reflection, but it’s too late. I want her and her emotional outbursts out of my life.

  • I think that this article was spot on. Based on my personal experience, toxic people are not any fun to be around. Just like the article states, they drain you emotionally as if they are parasites. There was this guy that I went to high school that I used to be friends with, but over the years there were several things that happened that led to the demise of our friendship. This was a guy who had been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and depression, but before any of you make any brash judgements, please read on and consider everything that I have to say. The following is a list of behaviors and incidents that occurred that led to the demise of our friendship:

    1. He would always try to contact me mainly through text messages just to dump his emotional problems on me and try to make me his therapist. It felt like he was trying to make it my responsibility to make him feel better and cheer him up. I honestly can’t recall a conversation that I had with him that was not negative or emotionally draining. He would send me a plethora of text messages that said the same thing over and over again such as, “I hate my life”, or “I wish I was never born”. While I did feel bad, this really got on my nerves. One particular text message that he kept sending me over and over again that absolutely pissed me off because of how annoying he was said, “I think you accidentally removed a weed from the garden”. Him doing this made me think that he was just looking for attention. When I actually called him out on it, he claimed that he wasn’t actually looking for attention and that he was just trying to have a conversation with me. I feel that if he wasn’t looking for attention, then why would he send the same text message over and over again? He still texts me to this day, but I don’t really respond to him anymore because I’ve had enough and I can honestly say it feels good to do that.

    2. If I resorted to ignoring his text messages, he would try calling me. In the time that I’ve known him, I probably only talked to him on the phone like 3 times maximum. That is how much I dreaded talking to him on the phone because like I said before, it is emotionally draining to be around someone like him. He eventually got the message and gave up on calling me because he knew I didn’t want to talk to him on the phone. Just like with his text messages, it also felt good to ignore his calls.

    3. He attended the same university as a childhood friend of mine with whom he struck up a friendship courtesy of me introducing them to each other. That friendship did not last long at all. He eventually developed feelings for her. There were three separate incidents that led to the demise of his friendship with her. One incident involved him verbally abusing her for no apparent reason other than the fact that he did not want to go to an Asian student organization that my friend happened to be a part of all because he was afraid that he would be the only white person there. She stopped talking to him for a while, but eventually forgave him after he apologized for his behavior. The second incident involved him going with her to a college Halloween party to have some fun. While there, she struck up a conversation with two guys who happened to be there. This pissed him off because she wasn’t paying any attention to him. He was acting like a jealous boyfriend when he wasn’t even dating her. He took off his Halloween costume, left her at the party, and went home. She told me that she felt smothered by him and felt like she had to babysit him instead of him letting loose and having fun. After this incident, she started keeping her distance with him and wouldn’t talk to him as much. The third incident involved him going to lunch with her after not having seen her for quite some time. At the end of it, she made a sarcastic/joking comment saying, “See you in three years”. Apparently, he took this comment out of context and told me to tell her that if she really didn’t want to eat with him, then it was messed up of her to invite him in the first place. I asked her about what happened and she told me that everything was fine. I told her what he wanted me to tell her. She got very upset and stopped talking to him altogether and that was the end of the friendship. This was emotionally draining because I often played the role of the messenger and would act a go-between for both of them. This just caused me more drama because he nearly destroyed my friendship with my childhood friend. He made me regret introducing him to her in the first place.

    4. He was a liability to hang out with in a group setting because he doesn’t know how to behave. I made the mistake of introducing him to my other friends because of he would always act out and make my other friends feel very uncomfortable not to mention embarrass the hell out of me. One example of this was when he and I went to my other friend’s house and he tried to drink all the alcohol my other friend had at his house which resulted in my other friend having to literally wrestle the alcoholic beverages out of his hands. After this, I eventually stopped inviting him to hang out with other friends because of his behavior.

    5. Hanging out with him alone was never a pleasant experience. I would try to engage him in a friendly conversation multiple times and he would just ignore what I said and stare at the ceiling or the wall or the sky. He was just a very awkward and creepy person to be around. This made me question not only how I became friends with him in the first place, but why I became friends with him in the first place.

    6. He would try to make me feel guilty and make me feel like I wasn’t doing my job as a friend even though I went out of my way more than once to try to do something nice for him, but he would always manage to find a way to screw everything up. If I refused to give him advice, he would accuse me of not being helpful. But if I actually gave him advice and called him out for not listening to me, he would claim that he was just trying to have a conversation with me and wasn’t actually looking for advice. It was as if I was trapped in an endless “Damned if I do, damned if I don’t” type of friendship with him.

    7. He showed up drunk and uninvited to my brother’s house during my brother’s engagement announcement. Prior to him showing up, he had been trying to call me and I had no interest in hanging out with him at all so I just ignored his calls. I had invited a few of my other friends to the engagement announcement but begged them not to tell him about it, but obviously that didn’t stop him from showing up anyway. Him showing up really scared me and my friends and we didn’t feel comfortable being in the same house as him. He even threatened to commit suicide which prompted me to call the police. The police arrested him and took him to a local hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. This was final straw for me.

    All in all, this friendship I had with him caused me nothing but misery and drama. Nothing good ever came out of this friendship. As a result of cutting him out of my life, I have been able to form new, better, and healthier friendships with other people which needless to say feels very good. Take it from me, ladies and gentlemen, toxic people will do nothing but cause you misery and drama in your life. Friends are supposed to make you feel good about yourself and make you happy, not cause misery and drama and make you upset. As I eventually learned, it is possible to be a good friend to someone, but not if it’s at the expense of your own emotional well-being and sanity. Just like the garden analogy, you choose which plants to put in your garden just as you choose which people to include in your life, so choose wisely!

  • I was raised in a family filled with this. I have four siblings and 3 of them continue this behavior. I have at times even behaved this way to people that I love. But mostly I have been on the receiving end. Growing up in this way I have learned so unfortunately to allow others, bosses, partners, friends, and strangers even to treat me this way. I have allowed it telling myself that I need these people- that I depend on them so I must endure their toxic abuse or they will desert me. I am just now at 44 years old learning how to say “no!” And let go of my fear of losing these people in my life. I am realizing that by allowing all of these bully’s I denied myself the space to exist, to breathe, to have a voice, to have value! Compassion is a beautiful, warm emotion and I believe that it comes from a place of wisdom- our hearts! Compassion must begin with ourselves and emanate out to others. I am so thankful that I am now aware that it is possible to love these people just as much but to stand up for ourselves and just say- “NO MORE- this is your baggage-not mine”. “I love you but I love myself and I will no longer allow this in my life!” This realization is incredibly empowering because I realize the choice, the space, the decision is in my own hands! Deep love to YOU ALL- both those who struggle with being hurt by these people and those of you who are hurting self and others! Remember one thing- the more you learn to fill your heart with love and compassion for self and others- the less space in there for the negativity, pain, anger and self absorption. Namaste!

  • I’ve had a situation where I shared something personal with someone whom I hold high esteem for and this person keeps bringing it up at social gatherings in front of others. I love this person very much which makes belittlement even more sad.

    I did invite my friend over and asked her if I had upset her in any way for her to bring up such a personal topic. Her response was flippant as if I was making a big deal out of it. I let it go but found that I am in control of the situations I place myself in. I’ve distanced myself and learned a valuable lesson, be very careful with personal information, not everyone who is nice to you is your friend.

  • I am still working out on how to manage a family member who is toxic toward me. Thank you for the insights! I have learned a few practical ways to deal with her, but I would like a few more, if anyone has suggestions. Here are a couple of methods I use already:

    I arrange never to be in the same room alone with this person. This requires the cooperation of my supportive spouse, but it could be any other person close to you who understands what is happening. I’ve found that only under certain conditions is this toxic person willing to treat me in this way, which is part of the sneaky, undermining behavior many toxic people use to try to control. I don’t think this would work for everyone, but for the sneaky types who like to corner a victim before striking, it can be very effective.

    Another method is not making eye contact unless necessary, and then only with a tight (not unfriendly, just not open) smile on my face, as if to say, “You can’t get through to me.” And then I stick to unemotional, non-personal topics like the weather if I have to converse at all. However, I have found that the clever toxic person I know will find a way to make almost any topic personal (and negative about me). At that point, it’s time to decide I have a headache and leave the room. This is really difficult, though. I agree it’s better to call toxic people on their behavior, but when I do, this person gets very angry. Sometimes I just don’t have the energy. Walking away is also hard, because I feel angrier. There’s the dilemma of toxic people: no matter what you do, they suck your energy.

    I would like to know if others have good ways of keeping this type of person out of your head. This is what I struggle with the most, as I’m a sensitive type and pick up on other people’s nuances very easily. This makes it harder for me to ignore the bad stuff. I have thought about having a physical project to do, such as knitting, so I can avoid interacting more easily. Regular meditation helps me, too, but doesn’t quite calm me enough for this particular person. Any other practical suggestions? I can’t avoid this person without missing out on the rest of my family.

  • I have read these articles and totally relate to Theresa post in December 2013. I also have a mom that has poisoned my family into thinking i am a bully etc…

    After seeing these articles i am relieved that it’s not just me and people all over the world are experiencing the same as me. Now its time to move on with my immediate family which i love and respect immensely.

  • I wish I could have known all this years ago! I found myself married to a highly toxic man. I finally left him a few months ago, happily, I might add. I also found that when you become accustomed to being around someone like this, it becomes easier to be around more of the same until you snap out of it. I surrounded myself with people that continued that behavior to a milder degree. My ex and I started talking a little off and on, and he admitted to me that if I hadn’t left, he never would have seen himself for what he was. It will take a long time before I believe the change to be permanent. But I do believe that some people do have the ability to change their attitude and behavior, but it will never happen as long as they think you will tolerate it. Stand up for yourself, often no one else will. If they ruin themselves and die alone, it’s on them. If we allow their behavior to infect us, it’s on us. I now have zero tolerance for toxic relationships, and I am so much happier than I have been my whole life it is amazing. it doesn’t mean you don’t love those people anymore, or that you always have to abandon them. But you can call them on it, and if that has no effect, you can leave the situation or deny them any “reward” for the behavior. Accepting it is their r eward.

  • Lorianne Catherine
    March 26th, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    I stumbled on this article by accident. What a happy accident! I am currently dealing with a harsh relationship. I am 49. As a child, I was in an abusive home. My Aunt took me, my brother and my sister into her home to raise us with her four children. She is dearer than life to me and my best friend as well as my “Mother”. She has always had a strong personality and can say some pretty straightforward things, but she is also generous and loving. She can be stubborn and difficult and the older she gets the harder she is to live with. The generosity and loving spirit are gradually giving way to her bitterness over increasingly trivial things. It’s almost like she searches for things to be unhappy about.

    She is active and healthy considering she is 74. She has quarreled with several people, and as a result, refuses to ever speak to them again. In the last few years she has “cut off” both my brother and sister and two of her own children as well as their entire families. My family had a social event last fall and we invited the whole family. Now I’M cut off for inviting my brother, sister and “disgraced” cousins to our event (my daughter’s wedding). She refused to come because THEY were coming and made the whole thing a nightmare with ultimatums and terrible behavior. My husband, my daughter and her husband, and my grown son are cut off as well, because they were at the wedding with THEM. One of her other children got cut off for this, as well as his children. She refused to see me at Christmas. My dearest wish is to reconcile with her, but she will not speak to me on the phone and returns cards and letters unopened. I know it is bad for my mind, body and spirit to allow this negativity into my life right now, but I’m SO GRIEVED that she has chosen to shut me out. It is so hard to close the door on her and her toxic behavior when I love her so much.

  • How they treat you is their karma….
    How you react is yours.

    If your life is not your own, you are owned.
    Re-claim ownership……you owe it to yourself.

  • I wish I had this info a long time ago when I was “friends” with an extremely toxic person. I did not realize i was putting myself in such a terrible situation until recently and I was able to terminate the relationship.

  • I have gone through this with my husband with the added complication of him having worked in the family business.

    He was fired because of his parents did not want him to have his lawful rights and said some really terrible things that can never be unsaid. They have since tried to make contact through letters and other people but we just aren’t going to fall for the manipulation.

    It has been strict no contact for two months now and we took the step of changing phone numbers so that we do not have to interact with such virulently toxic people.

    My husband’s health is improving and he is feeling stronger everyday because he now realizes who ruthlessly he has been manipulated for years and knows he can’t ever have contact with them again because they will try to continue with their toxic behaviours including untruths that are now being circulated.

    They will be left to their own destructive devices and we can get on with our lives and not waste any more energy on people who have no interest in our welfare.

  • Goodness, this sounds so familiar. I seem to have surrounded myself with toxic people as friends. One was having a difficult time for various reasons to do with their family. But they blamed their depression on me, started self-harming and came close to suicide and later told me this was my fault. I was terrified about what they might do and always tried to find ways of helping them, but they would not accept professional help, and would continue to insult me, manipulate me and use me for my kindness.

    Another friend I had known since the age of four and had then been good friends with. The trouble was, their maturity level did not develop with mine. I grew up, and now an adult their parents do everything for them; they cannot even fold clothes. Their interests are completely different to mine, and I really don’t enjoy spending time with them, even when they’re in a good mood. They have been constantly negative for years, as nothing and nobody is good enough for them and they are never happy. This incessant negativity has made them depressed, since few people will put up with their tantrums and whining, all day long. They are also insulting towards me, and I am expected to listen to them moan moan moan and if I dare to breathe I get shouted at and abused and told I’m an awful friend. Yet they will not give me any space and follow me wherever I go. Any hint I drop that I’d prefer to be alone is not picked up upon. Even if I say sternly that I’d like them to leave me alone, they’re still back the next day. I don’t feel as though I can be too harsh because of their depression, but the whining like a child is very wearing for me.

    These situations have culminated in me myself contracting mental health problems, as I am made to feel guilty and responsible for their problems, and I have little happiness left in the day for myself.

    My third close friend is also toxic. They’re the only one who I can actually have a laugh and enjoy spending time with, but recently I have become more of a convenience to them than a friend - e.g. I’m only useful when they need a favour. When I’m feeling low and want to talk (which isn’t often), I get told to shut up and enjoy life, yet I have helped them through tough times of their own, done them a lot of favours and treated them always with kindness. I really do love this person like a sibling, but recently they have just become so rude and nasty. Worse, they have taken both of the others mentioned above and told me I don’t treat THEM well enough. He almost rewards them when they attack me verbally. I am told I am a heartless b****, that I am worthless, not worth caring about etc. I have never treated any of these three maliciously, and have been incredibly patient and understanding, and put up with most of the malice without getting angry. But seeing as they’re in my classes (in a small school) I really can’t avoid or escape these people completely. Also, the seemingly unfounded comments about me being a nasty person seem to have been told to most of the school.

    It seems so unfair that people I’ve tried my best to help and be positive towards have treated me so badly. But unfortunately it looks like I’m stuck with it for the time being. I’m lonely, drained and depressed, and although I’m the only who here who has done something about that and got counseling, I’m not going to get any better until the negative influences go away. I really wish I could find a way to escape this.

  • Thanks so much for this article. It will help me deal with a toxic relationship in my life. One that I must endure for at least a couple of more months - unless the person has undergone treatment for cancer. I am her primary care-giver.

    I wanted to add one thing in the context of this article and the very sincere responses. Some of us tend to attract toxic people, maybe because our compassion makes us vulnerable. When I saw Gem’s response above, it brought to my mind the related concept of codependency. I encourage people to understand this concept (from the Internet) to recognize some deep-seated traits that we have, and then change them.

    Love to all of you trying to achieve a balance between compassion and sanity.

  • Hello

    This was an illuminating article for me - thank you.

    It perfectly describes my wife.

    I’m extremely worried about the state of our marriage, and our children. This obviously affects my performance in every aspect of my life. Most of the time I don’t think I can continue, and I make resolutions on a weekly basis to move out. I know that by staying I’m hurting myself and our children. But I know that leaving will be just as or even more disruptive.

    I just don’t know if I can be strong enough anymore.

  • I had to move out of state to get away from my toxic siblings, and it was the best thing I ever did. Staying in or allowing toxic people to control your life, that in itself is a toxic way of thinking. Being around these types of pe0ple, you start becoming angry, bitter and resentful. When your gut feeling keeps telling you it’s time to move on, well it’s just that, move on!

  • This is a wonderful article and brings to mind several situations I’ve dealt with. I have always preferred to phase toxic people out of my life as it is just too time consuming and emotionally exhausting to try to make them realize their faults. I have also realized that I have enabled people by supporting them despite their toxic nature and I actually decided just this month that enough was enough. I have supported a friend through a strange relationship with her ex, a divorced guy that ended up remarrying ( someone other than her) and yet still hangs out with her giving my friend false hope that they will be together. She continues to hang on, even after he has had a baby with his new wife, they continue to go out together on what I would refer to as dates, however she labels it as friendship. I have always been open with her and supportive as I felt she was being open with me, but recently she told me she couldn’t share news about this guy because of confidentiality reasons. This really upset me. Where was the confidentiality when she was divulging things to me in the past? After the baby arrived, I examined the situation and realized that my friend is in total denial and I just don’t want to be a part of that. If things are to remain confidential then there is no point to our relationship as I’m not going to support a friend who keeps me around on a “need to know basis”. I don’t work for the government and I’ve decided that I don’t need to know anything about her life either. She will tolerate no ill words against her ex-divorced-remarried-father of new baby and I’ve decided that I don’t want to be a part of this toxic story. At some point you need to decide that enough is enough and just phase them out.

  • Honestly, this is the first comment I have probably ever left online, ever. I just want to say Thank you… Reading this made me feel as if a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders for years, pertaining to the relationship I have always had with my mother, and now unfortunately seeing signs of toxic moodiness with my first and current, long term boyfriend. I needed this.

  • This has helped a great deal in understanding these relationships but I still at this moment feel trapped and changed by one. I have known my girlfriend for about 10 yrs but have been a couple for 3. As a friend for years she was amazing and I loved her for many years before acting on it. Despite both feeling as happy as we ever had in our lives the change came shockingly fast when we became a couple. For me even in that amazing honeymoon period it was worryingly obvious that some kind of boundary or barrier (on her part) had been removed by becoming more than friends. In short that’s when all the behaviours this post speaks of came out and its been a living hell since. My love for the person I thought I knew and the now dead hope of change has kept this going but I am fully aware I was in love with (and fooled by) what I call her “public face”. I am at an utter loss as to what to do, I have been telling her its over for a full year becoming more like her in the process as the anger and sheer frustration of having everything you know that is right and true flipped back at you with a healthy dose of guilt.

    Before we were a couple I felt as comfortable with myself as I ever have and secure in a place of my own which for me was a happy home. Her relentless pursuit of us living together led me to weaken and give in which in return has led to losing my home and moving a total of 6 times between us in 3 yrs . We have been at current address for a year, the relationship for me has been over all this time and nothing will get her to go. I have this place rented in my name and although she earns a lot more than me she barely contributes to any bills or rent. I have struggled to keep up with costs but have managed no thanks to her. Still she says I should go and leave her the house and this is where I am really seeking advice. Am I right to feel that the bringer of chaos and negativity should be the one to leave? I could end this quickly by moving out but if i am to retain any of my damaged self respect and some sense of stability then i don’t feel i should. The financial aspects i mention are not the most important but they do play a part in why i feel like uprooting my life again surrenders all the boundaries and self belief i badly need.

    Apologies for the self indulgent rant, i feel like I’m losing my grasp on reality and even as i write this i am second guessing all the negative ways this could be viewed against me or twisted round. I know it’s her not me i just need some impartial advice and would be so grateful of any.

  • I used to work with someone like this… Every Sunday I would start to lock down and panic about what kind of day I was going to have on Monday based on their mood swings. I lost sleep over it, had incredible anxiety over it, and felt like if I ever tried to sympathize with her it became a competition on who’s life is worse. I am not much of a “sharer” but found myself trying to make her feel better because I literally couldn’t deal with her being down in the dumps. I understand completely that people have their days, me included, but when it begins to affect other peoples lives it becomes way more than the regular amount of stress that most people feel. I wish you wrote this years ago because I would have quit a long time before I did. It took me 3 or 4 years in my industry to gain back the confidence and self-esteem I deserved because this woman made work such a toxic place, I felt unmotivated and completely uninterested in my work!!

    Great article. Learning how to read people comes with time, but once you meet someone in the work place that is toxic, it will take over your life. If you are reading this and find yourself in this position…. RUN. The more time you waste trying to fix their problem, the less time you are focusing on bettering yourself and your career.

  • it’s true that you do need to confront them when they are being toxic and their behavior is just plain unacceptable.

  • I came from a toxic home. I used all my money to move out…into a new toxic home. It hit me that you can’t avoid toxic people because they’re everywhere. Sometimes I feel like they’re little bombs waiting for me. My new roommates are toxic and they’d always try to integrate me into their groups. It’s frustrating because I feel as if they wait outside my door, waiting for the opportunity to pressure me into hanging out with them. I don’t get why they don’t just leave me alone; why they’re persistent in trying to be my friend when it’s clear I don’t like them. I wondered if toxic people knew they were toxic - I learned that some do and some don’t. Toxic people are defective, they can’t change… it’s in their nature to be hurtful and they’re doomed. Most of us don’t want to be hurtful or hateful but with toxic people, you have to. The way you deal with such people is to be a bully yourself - it is the truth, hence I call myself a bully of bullies.

  • I agree, these techniques to handle toxic bullying behaviors in others are really good and I too like the combination of being firmly assertive about stating your boundaries, but with compassion. However, I think these techniques will only work in chosen relationships between those of equal status. Or in situations where you are being disrespected by someone who has less power than you (as you mentioned with the young bipolar patient who was misbehaving.) But if the toxic bully in your life is your parent, your teacher or some other adult, or an older, bigger child, or your boss/supervisor or your client, you’re in a tough situation..

    My mother was an emotionally and physically abusive, moody, volatile, unstable, personality-disordered individual, and if I’d ever tried any of those techniques on her it would have gotten me treated even worse, perhaps even beaten, particularly when I was still a dependent minor.

    But I think I’m going to print out this article and keep it handy; I think these will work in most situations.

  • I have a brother (45 yrs) who I believe is toxic. I (40) live with my husband (42) and daughter (5 yrs). My mother (67 yrs) also lives with me. My mom is paralyzed on one side and needs help in almost everything. My brother does not live with us. He is unable to take care of my mom and also unwilling. Our life has become quite confined into the house for the last 5 yrs taking care of my mom. My brother is mentally ill (but not willing to see a doctor) but able to take care of himself. No one can live with him as he is extremely abusive and controlling. My brother used to visit us once in 2-3 months and calls up everyday- sometimes 3-4 times. Over the phone he tries to control - from what my daughter eats for breakfast to where we should go for vacation - to whom we should not keep in touch with … etc. etc. He does not like my husband at all, whereas my relation with my husband is very healthy. When my brother visits us we tip toe around him trying to avoid an unpleasant situation. We had been giving in to his whims and demands. Behind my husband he abuses me, says extremely harsh things about my husband, belittles all of us. Recently he came and insulted my husband and also said things to my daughter which indirectly belittles my husband. I am scared I will not be able to bring up daughter properly with my brother around.

    With my daughter my brother keeps a smiling face and takes her out when he comes. So my daughter thinks he is fun.

    I cannot take this abuse and controlling behavior any longer. I am sympathetic that he is not mentally healthy. So I take all kinds of responsibility (Health, well being, finance, property matters) for my mom. I don’t leave anything to be done by my brother. I just want a peaceful atmosphere to live in and a happy family. With my brother round I cannot have that. So I asked him not to visit us. He of course did not like that and abused me on the phone several times. I stopped taking his calls. My mother is still in touch with him as he calls up my mom everyday 2-4 times.

    I have one confusion though. I am keeping my daughter away from my brother and my brother keeps sending gifts to her. I cannot tell the 5 yr old little girl that I have asked her uncle not to visit us, because I dont know how to explain her the reasons. She might get disturbed mentally. But my brother calls up and asks for my daughter. My mom keeps telling him lies to avoid contact between my daughter and him.

    It has become a game playing sort of a situation now… and makes me extremely anxious and short tempered. I fear it will affect my family.

    I need advice on how to cope with this situation, how to be peaceful inside.

  • Well just went through a rough time the last few months. My friend of 20 years had been putting me down in front of people more and more often. Finally, I had to say something and she replied even more rudely when I nicely confronted her. Long story short, I finally realized that after every time I spent time with her I felt bad. She had been making me the butt of her jokes for a long time and I put up with it because I just figured it was her personality and she was trying to be funny. After speaking to others about it the first thing they said was that she was very jealous of me and had been for years. I always try to see the good in people so I guess that is why I put up with it. I helped her start a new business and did a lot to get her where she is.she couldn’t admit it when asked and even made a joke about me to put me down about my business. That was the last straw! She still tried to friend me on Facebook and I accepted but then blocked her. With the help from my sister who had to remind me what a ungrateful woman she is. Well, that’s my story. I’m glad I finally stood up for myself and cut her out of my life. :)

  • My husband of ten years has not one, but two, toxic ex wives. His children are 18 and 27. His parents believe that Ex #1 has the Golden Uterus because she bore their first grandchild. She manipulates them and, in return, they will do anything she demands of them–including telling them personal things about myself that are none of her business. We’ve been married ten years and despite my husband’s repeated pleas for them to stop talking to Ex #1, my mother-in-law can’t seem to put the phone down.

    I’m ready to walk away from the marriage because I swore I’d never make my husband choose between me and his family.

  • Mr. Chernoff,

    Great article and thank you, very much, for offering your informed perspective. You managed to summarize and encapsulate the challenges I’m having in my relationship. I have, for quite some time, indulged my spouse’s misbehavior because we have two wonderful children. While I’m not sure I could (or should) absent myself from the situation, I’m going to try your strategies for shutting down the negativity, criticism, thinly-veiled threats, barely concealed insults, and gut-wrenching passive aggressive behavior I’ve experienced for far too long.

    Thanks again.

  • I read this a while back and bookmarked it as a reminder for myself. I have a loved one with Borderline Personality Disorder. To say this person is “toxic” is an understatement, yet I am guilted until getting pulled back into the web of emotional manipulation time and time again. I have to remember to take care of myself. Thank you for writing this. It’s apparent I am not the only person it’s helped.

  • After losing my career and not being able to find a job, I eventually lost everything. I was threatened that if I didn’t move to my parents home that serious problems would be made for me. My car had been repossessed, so I couldn’t even drive off into the sunset. Living on the streets wasn’t an option either because I would not put my life in danger. When I went to my parents I lost my dog too. She was 15 and loosing her sight and I’d already planned how to care for her as she did. Leaving her behind that day was so deeply painful.

    At my parents I was re-abused. Being abused as an adult is harder in some ways because you have intact dignity, self respect…you’ve earned your way. To have your parents defecate on your entire life like you’re a gutter rat, is repulsive. To have them then-all while actively destroying your life and all family relationships - tell everyone that its you who is abusing them, is evil. It is evil. But that’s what mine did to me. And they did it because I was vulnerable with nowhere to turn. Sick vultures. (When you read that toxic people are predatory, believe it).

    They called me ugly, lazy, loser, bitch, mentally ill, and violent, among other hateful degrading things. All while telling my siblings that’s what I was doing to them and while being threatened by my father that his deepest wish was to be able to beat me up. And with my mother throwing dishes at me, choking me punching me in the head, slamming doors on me. Both parents also incited my three times imprisoned brother (domestic violence), repeatedly to commit acts of violence against me.

    Then there was the morning my father told a Comcast tech at their house, see that lady, that’s my lazy useless 53 year daughter and she claims to have a paralyzed arm but I’ve never seen evidence of it. In 1981 I was run down by a drunk driver. I was brought back to life 4 times and left with hep c and a partially paralyzed arm. My arm looks like a toothpick due to atrophy; children stare at it when wear short sleeves. But why am I defending that when there’s no need. For my father to say that was a level of repulsion I don’t know how to describe. Its got to be real clear though just how sick it was. There’s so much more sickness to tell that its mind boggling.

    To Kathy, Jennifer, Cait, Chole, hello. To Brenda, get past your mistaken idea that it is negative to want to reveal the evil things that others do to us. Why should we keep abusers evil crimes against us secret, which is exactly what they want.

    This is the first time I’ve said these things to anyone.
    Great article. Keep on talking. Its the only way to recover our lives.


  • This article really lands with me. I lived with someone who was committed to anger and blaming as a way of life … as I was committed to the idea that “we can work it out,” and staying in the relationship because I made a commitment. Plus, he was a good man, with many fine qualities which led to the initial attraction.

    I kept buying into his blaming as a way of “proving” that I was sincere & committed.

    When I finally got to the “I’m done” point, he opened up in a more vulnerable way - and when I didn’t change my mind in response to this, he slammed the door shut. Later he sent me an angry letter over 25-pages long, writing out in detail all the ways I had failed to be a good person.

    I cried, and then I burned it, relieved to have that chapter behind me.

    Growing up with so much toxicity in my childhood, this became my “normal” - yet I knew that my family cared about me, so there was confusion too.

    Now I choose to spend my time with people who are a contribution, who practice non-judgment, as do I - even as I am aware of how I feel in the moment and “take no shit.”

    It is a practice and I am grateful for the awareness. How great would it be for children to be taught these lessons as part of a communication class, all the way through school, in an age-appropriate manner? Wouldn’t that be awesome?

  • Having a toxic mother and a toxic brother that I finally had to cut ties with, I have learned that is wise to look at people as a ROI (return on investment).

    What I mean by that is I ask myself what does any person give me in return for my time, my generosity, or my friendship. Do they return favors ? Do they encourage me when I am down ? Do they make me laugh ? If the answer to any of those questions is “no” then the person is not a good return on investment.

  • My entire family on both my maternal and paternal sides are toxic, unfortunately. Well, to be fair, not all of them, but enough of them to control the entire family dynamic.

    I just one day had enough and disowned the lot of them. Went my own way.

    Unfortunately, I can see how some of their influence still has an effect in my own relationships…so even though I left them behind, they did not leave me.

    Being self-aware is really critical to creating and maintaining healthy change in your life, I’ve found. So learning how to recognize patterns you are repeating and then figuring out how to stop them is very helpful.

  • The truth is, I have fantasized about freeing the world of my toxic wife, but that’s not an option. Last year I suffered an emotional break-down and was diagnosed with burn-out. I was not able to work full-time for half a year. My toxic wife said I have depression and have been like this all my life. Of course, because of the break-down I had to see a therapist. This strengthened my wife’s belief that it is me who is psychologically ill, and not her. She refuses to take any responsibility for what happened to me. After this traumatic time, I was emotionally destroyed and had absolutely no energy left for dealing with my wife. When she would enter a room I was in, I would automatically be quiet and stare at the floor, hoping she would get on with it and go away quickly. This just fueled her anger and she started a new offensive saying that I am playing mind games with her, terrorizing her with body language. Of course she spread the word that her life is so difficult having to live with a depressive partner. She is absolutely convinced that she is the victim and many of her friends believe this and have developed a negative attitude towards me. My friends absolutely avoid any contact with my wife and so mostly keep their distance, leaving me isolated.

    In the meantime I have found many useful tips online and found a way of communicating with her which reduces the rage attacks substantially. It is, however, extremely strenuous because you always have to be on your toes. One wrong word and the fireworks go off for weeks on end. Yesterday my therapist discussed this strategy with me and found that I finally have things under control and will survive this ordeal. I discussed the possibility of a separation or even divorce with my therapist, to get some input from a professional point of view. After a year in therapy, describing my situation at home, my therapist had to concede that there is no hope of improvement. She will never change. The one question he asked which helped me make up my mind finally was: “If you did not live together, would you choose to spend time with her voluntarily?”. I had to think for a few seconds and then, imagining being free and then voluntarily spending time with a known terrorist, who is acting the part of a loving girlfriend, gave me the answer: definitely not!

    My therapist then gave me some tips on preparing for separation and especially, divorce. It’s not going to be easy but after what I’ve already been thru, I just want to get out of this situation, and no price is too high.
    Good luck to all of you good guys out there. You deserve better!

  • I once attended a call ceremony for a new lawyer. The judge commented on professionalism and civility and he said, when you have to deal with a really toxic person, to follow the ‘pig rules’. The pig rules are: (1) Never wrestle with a pig. You’ll just get dirty and the pig will enjoy it! and (2) Never try to teach a pig to dance. It can’t be done and you’ll just annoy the pig!
    I’ve found this very helpful in dealing with toxic people! The only way to do that is to wear them down with civility, but not allow them to ‘get to you’. It can be really hard though.

  • I too am writing a book on toxic people. This is a good article. This is important work/education.

    There is a distinction that I make that has one see if one is difficult or impossible (and not worth any of your time or effort). That distinction is that they never ever admit fault or responsibility. When you meet up with someone who will admit some responsibility, they’re just difficult and not impossible or what I would call truly toxic.

    A toxic person will not accept healthy ways of speaking up for yourself. A difficult person will.

    To those of you who say you’re one of those toxic people, I appreciate your humility, but beg to differ. My suspicion is that you are getting triggered into childhood wounds and it is having you react from your fight/flight brain. It’s an automatic blind reaction. It can appear you are incorrigible, but if you knew how to navigate your childhood pain, you would be able to free yourself. This is what I help people do. If you see a therapist that doesn’t address childhood, I would find one who does.

  • I work with an extremely toxic person. She sits right next to me and brings the entire attitude/energy in the room down day-in and day-out. What’s worse is she has sucked in another woman in the office so they gang up/bully myself and one other woman in the office. Making snide comments, complaining from the second they walk in, being hurtful/hateful to almost everyone that comes into the office (mostly behind people’s backs), and just generally being miserable people. I needed this article so much! I have saved it so that when their attitudes get to be overwhelming I can look back to it and help myself get through the day!
    Thank you!

  • Kimberly white
    July 1st, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    Thank you for yet another inspirational post Marc!

    Having been surrounded by a number of toxic people throughout my life — everything you write resonates with me. After many years of personal growth and development I have finally done the healthy thing and removed myself from an extraordinarily TOXIC relationship with my mother. I have found peace in my life and am void of the tumultuous, negative toxicity that existed for the majority of my life.

  • I work with a toxic person, this girl has turned the whole town against her. It’s super hard dealing with her because I have a mental illness and I feel like years of progress just goes down the drain whenever she’s around. She tried to break my boyfriend and I up, she tried to get me fired.

    After reading this, I really feel like I’m on my way to regaining that control. It’s sad that she has to destroy everything around her, but I won’t let her destroy me.

  • Reading the comments above, I think we need a toxic people support group. The toxic people in my life are my mother, brother, sister, step-daughter, step-son, step-daughter in law, and my husband’s ex wife. I was explaining to a friend of mine that this year my New Year’s resolution was to get rid of all the people in my life that were aggressive, arrogant, and abusive and she asked me “is there anyone left?” I told her “not that many, but the ones that are left are the ones I want to spend time with that don’t bring stress, anxiety and unhappiness.” Most of the people I mentioned have been in and out of my life, they leave when they don’t get their way or if I call them on their abusive behaviors, and they leave as a means to attempt to control me, the message being “you will take my abuse or I will abandon you.” The last time they left, I decided they would not be allowed back, and I am so much happier without them. Age doesn’t matter, blood does not matter, if they abuse you they have got to go. Don’t waste one more minute.

  • Patti you are a little confused about gas lighting. Gas lighting is when someone is trying to change or create another reality for you. My mother has done it for years. In short, it’s a lie that they create that makes them look good or not guilty and makes YOU look crazy. For example, if I bring up an incident from that past that was abusive, my mother will say “oh I don’t remember that” and what she really means is it did not happen. Or if she does remember the incident, she will remember it differently, where there was no abuse. The doubt this creates in their victims makes them believe they can’t trust their own thoughts and feelings. Because she paints this picture of herself as honest and Christian and holy, she expects no one to ever challenge her, and if they do, she will never, ever, admit to the truth. However, you do have reasons to be concerned. We all wear a mask in public, but those of us that are emotionally healthy, our mask in public is not much different than our private selves and who we are at home. Mentally unhealthy people, like my mom, have a fake phony mask they wear in public that is nothing like the vicious predator they are in private.

  • @Kim: Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic. I really appreciate your words of wisdom. I grew up in house holds where gas-lighting and other types of abuse were the order of the day. I like both of your above-noted comments on gas-lighting and on being very practical regarding toxic people. Thanks, again.

  • I just so happen to be a victim of such abuse. And whats worse is my mother is as well. I have a sister who is a single mother, and has “anger/control” issues. Long story short, she holds my nephew hostage against us when she is on the “defense” as to her treatment from us. We all work, they work days, I work nights. Its not uncommon for me to assist during the day in helping them out with their needs, i.e. picking up my nephew from school, meeting someone at her house for ac or electrical repairs. During my sleep schedule BOTH will call or text to see what I am doing because they want to talk, or need something. Yet both forget my needs.

    Both my sister and I are in the medical field, and to be honest I am in a position where I work in a high intensity environment, and she is a 9-5 “educator”. That said, she feels she knows more than I do. Which is fine, to each their own. But the fact that she goes from a family get together to toxic avenger in a split second, grabs my nephew and leaves is putting blame on my mother. And she defends her and her actions. Then I get blamed for the incident. He is at an age where he should be taught positive things, but instead he enjoys hitting and punching, mainly me, and everyone else laughs it off. But I am the bad guy, always. I live with my mother to help her. My “rent” is taking care of her house, cooking, cleaning, tending to her pets. I don’t go out, hardly see friends, and feel life is just as a “servant” to my family. The people I work with see how I talk about my nephew and love him… But also see the treatment from my family when I come to work with little to no sleep to help their needs.

    I don’t ask for anything. I make no requests, no scheduling of events, nothing, because I know that will all be done by them, or if I do have an idea, its an inconvenience because they have other things to do. I know it sounds like a whine session, but its been like this for yrs now, even before my nephew. And I am to the point where I feel I need to move out, and put distance between myself and them. As much as I hate the thought, especially for my mother caught in the middle of this. Its all I have left of my sanity. Its bad enough I take medication for depression and insomnia. But to be on the ass end of everything that goes wrong has made me feel like “don’t speak unless spoken to, don’t ask, don’t talk, don’t schedule, don’t don’t don’t” for fear of backlash from either one of them. And the biggest loser in all this is my nephew, who like I said, is the “hostage” in this situation.

  • Thank you for sharing this perspective. Unfortunately, I have a boyfriend with a toxic ex-wife. By boyfriend, I mean a man who I have spent the last 5 years with, a man whose 3 teenage daughters are an important part of my life. We spend every day together. I am in the process of selling my home to move in with him.

    I just wonder…what can I do to be better able to handle my feelings in terms of this toxic ex-wife? The ex-wife could care less what I think so I dont see any ability to set boundaries. She’s so adept at manipulation that my partner and I struggle with setting boundaries. Initially, I tried being sympathetic to her, but that didn’t lead to anything positive. You see…she’s always willing to put her needs ahead of the needs of her daughters. Therefore…she’s always able to “win”. I’ll spare you all the details.

    My question is…if I don’t want to leave my boyfriend, I clearly cannot remove his ex-wife from his (or my) life, and I know that I cannot reason with the ex-wife….what are some coping mechanisms that will allow my to not be hurt by the toxic behavior?

  • The fear is the worst part for me. My toxic person is a “best friend”. Obviously best friend and toxic person are polar opposites, which makes the walking away that much harder. I am very familiar with toxic people as I seem to have attracted them my whole life. Many of them I have been able to weed out due to convenience - one of us moved or got married or busy with work or school and conveniently our relationship sort of went with it. I always waited for these sort of instances to arrive because the fear of ending the relationship or standing up or putting my foot down was paralyzing.

    Two things I could use some advice on: 1. How do you get it out of your head? and 2. What do you do when the toxic person is the only person you have?

    I find myself having to know each and every day where my relationship stands with this best friend. If I don’t hear from her, I reach out, and wait until she does respond. In the time between chatting I agonize about where the relationship stands. I am in constant fear that she is mad at me. If the interaction goes well, I am happy, stress free. If the conversation is her being miserable, I find I am too when I hang up the phone. She has complete control over me and I can’t get it out of my head. Why can’t I just deep breathe and be happy that she hasn’t chosen today to wake up and sting me with her negativity? Why do I reach out to her when I know she isn’t good for me, and when I know she doesn’t deserve me?

    How do I move on once I cut her out? She is the person I am closest to, she knows all my secrets, my fears, my struggles. She could really damage me and my life if she wanted to. Why can’t I just be okay with being alone? I have my husband and children, but beyond that I don’t have time for friends. I am doing everything I can just to try and work on my health and being a good mom and doing well at my job. I don’t NEED her, yet I am afraid of the void of her being gone from my life.

    More than anything I want to be able to take this advice, apply it and BE OKAY with the outcome. I dread conflict and do everything I can to avoid upsetting people or hurting others the way I have been. I am frustrated in myself for this. How do I get past this?

    Thank you everyone for all your comments and suggestions.

  • I read this article when at the end of the rope with my “toxic” brother who is diagnosed with bipolarism and narcissism. He has drained me with his negative and hurtful behavior. Because he has been in financial distress and suffers with health conditions, I cannot avoid him indefinitely. His behavior has caused much depression in me and I absolutely dread having to deal with him. He blames me for everything that has gone wrong in his life and tries to make me look bad to our relatives, saying I have abandoned him. With prayer and examining the suggestions that you make, I will try to deal with him in a positive manner.

  • I too have dealt with toxic people. I am a young woman who hasn’t experienced much of the world since I have a disability.

    When I was 22, I came across guy I thought was nice and maybe might like to go out with me. We had a good two months together then he just stopped talking to me shortly after my birthday.

    I didn’t find out until that fall why he did… he only liked me for my body. I showed him some pictures of me without clothes before but only because I thought he actually liked me. But he didn’t. I felt sick.

    It was a similar case with another guy and my first boyfriend. But anyway, I have let them go, the years have passed and I’m smarter and happier, especially since I have someone now that I love dearly. :)

  • The toxic person in my life is my 24 year old stepdaughter. For nine years, she has tried to bully me and I will never let it show how much it hurts. I’ve taken myself away from her for the past four years now, but she still does it because my husband has contact with her. So although I’ve tried to distance myself from her, I van never fully whilst he sees her, and that will not stop as our three year old granddaughter is also in the equation. Little one needs time with us to dilute the atmosphere in her own home. Step daughter is hell bent on trying to discredit me amongst family members, and I just have to keep my head down and carry on through it all. I’m tired, and the anxiety of it all and the effort of being ‘ the better person’ is beginning to take it’s toll. She constantly uses these words by way of describing me- obsessive, controlling, jealous- whereas we believe it is those traits which are dominating her own life. It’s so sad and draining.

  • Thank you for such an excellent article. I’ve been going through sort of a fed up with being a doormat phase and I have been letting people know I’m done. This is a great feeling, but it is difficult with family members. I don’t think toxic people have half a clue how much damage they cause. I don’t understand others who get their jollies off on hurting and bullying others, belittling others, etc., etc.. They will pay for what they do in the long run. I’ve been finding it’s much better to be assertive, without letting then control you enough to stoop to their level and yes, cutting ties is definitely necessary sometimes.

  • I am married to a toxic person. We went to marriage counseling to get help, but when the focus became him, he quit. I continued to go weekly, so I could be reaffirmed that I wasn’t crazy. We have since moved to another state, separated for 3 months, gotten back together for 2 months, just to separate again. Since he left the night of October 5th, hours before my birthday, I have been able to breathe and feel peace. I have prayed for a long time for peace. My prayers have been answered. Unfortunately, dealing with a toxic person day in and day out, 24/7 can turn you into a toxic person. I can see where I have been toxic towards him in dealing with his behavior. I am glad to finally have peace and can work towards getting myself back and healing.

  • This is a wonderful article. I have kept a smile my entire life and just “blew off” all the rude comments my own family has made. My older brother is better now. My younger sister has MS and at several different times has smiled that she made me cry with hurtful words. She gets so worked up in her anger at me (I’m on disability for lung issues and she’s angry that I am on disability and can walk), that she sets her husband’s short temper and he will call me and yell and I’ve actually been threatened by him….while the rest of my family stood by and said nothing (except my son who always stands by me).

    My older sister, who seems to think that she’s the best one in the family, is extremely judgmental and critical of me - most of the time …. from saying things like “your hair is getting long you need to cut it”, “I would never decorate like this”, “dad used to call you a son of a bitch” “we grew up hating you because you were always sick and never had to do anything (I was born with asthma)”, “you shouldn’t be on disability you should go back to work” and on and on …. as I get older it seems to hurt more and I’m having a hard time just ignoring it and smiling on. I gave up saying anything to my younger sister since she seems to enjoy hurting me. When I finally confronted my older sister she did exactly what you said … except with the “I’m sorry” left out - stating I take things too personally and being mean and once again I was supposed to just smile and be okay. I can’t do that anymore but it seems to do no good to say anything to either sister - one who is suffering doesn’t seem to care if she hurts me and at times takes joy in it and the other acts like there is something wrong with me and she’s justified. I hope I can use some of your recommendations here to help myself find a way to silence those comments and have a “real” smile again.

  • @Amanda - I am in so agreement with your question - how do I get my mind off of this.

  • Thank you for this article. I have a daughter, 46, that I have tiptoed around for the past 7 years. I have moved her in with me (she has had no job really in 7 years), moved her out because of her hateful behaviors, moved her it again trying to do the “right thing” and help her. Over and over this has replayed, and whenever I ask for anything (she lives rent/utilities free) like even help with housework, I am met with nasty words and hateful actions. Then she will move out, and write me the most awful, vile emails about how I am a selfish bitch, only wanting what I want, etc., etc. I have tried to explain to her that I do the things I do for her willingly, but at the same time, there are times I want/need something from her and that no relationship can be one person always giving and the other always taking. We are off again right now, and I got the usual email last night that she never wanted to ever see me again. This latest was because she owed a close relative money, and got some money, and I asked her to pay the debt because my relative would never have done for her except that she and I are very close. That started WWIII. Even though she is my daughter, I think after 7 years of this hell, that I need to dissolve this relationship. I will always love her, and never want anything bad to happen to her, but I cannot continue to be disrespected and abused in the ways she treats me. It makes me very sad but I need to let her go and stop trying to help her out when she has no money, no place to live, no job, etc. When it is your child, it is very difficult to do however.

  • Fantastic article, spot on. I have someone in my friendship group who fits the description of a toxic person to the letter.

    Constant snide comments to lower your confidence, then out of no where will act friendly.

    Uses relationships with people for personal gain, and only interested in moving up the social ladder… a bit pathetic really.

  • Lord have mercy! You have hit it spot on with the manipulator! I have been living with a relative by marriage for a while now who is so self centered and toxic. I f she doesn’t get her way or someone tells her like it is she starts screaming and stomping instead of having a rational conversation. Everything is always about “me” with her. I was raised to be loving and respectful but this person makes it virtually impossible. I told my significant other that we either discontinue living with her or we are done. We considered moving in the past only for her to beg us not to. So we can take care of her when she gets to where she can’t take care of herself. Well hell will freeze over before that happens. It is to the point now that in Jan my cats and I are going to go live in a tractor trailer just to be rid of her ass. This woman is truly a barnacle on the back side of of life. What a miserable human she must be. The whole situation sucks. She treats her husband like a piece of shit and he rolls over and just apologizes for being screamed at and belittled. I don’t know how he has stood it for the past 20yrs. She also wants to bitch about what others are eating but if she gets mad she goes on a sweets blowout. Ate a whole message cookie, a bag of marshmallows, a chocolate bar and chips in the course of a night. While diabetic. When my significant other has tried talking to her about her problem with sweets, he gets screamed at of course and told he no right to care or worry about her. That then starts a firestorm. This is just a scrape on the ice burg of the madness around here. The negativity is draining me. Wish me luck folks. I wish the others on here that comment the best with their toxic person.

  • i married a toxic person. albeit brief, the time leading up to it was, in retrospect - toxic. we (humans) sometimes convince ourselves that these people love us because they are so passionate for us, but these toxic people are hijacking our brains via our hearts and our compassion. after much insisting post-marriage (should have done prior, yes, i know), he finally now has a clinical diagnosis that he is in fact: bi-polar. wanting to be a supportive and caring wife, proving to him (why??? oh yeah, bc i was actually trying to convince myself) that i could actually support and love a man who wasn’t mentally healthy, but could be with the right therapy and medication…realized quite abrupt and tragically a short 6 weeks later when he almost killed me during a psychotic emotional outrage and blackout, that this was quite frankly NOT MY JOB! thankfully i wised up quickly, and was able to get an annulment, but the damage was done. i was in fact, affected. and now, after drudging thru a year and a half of ptsd over the entire relationship experience, i feel that some horrible ‘thing’ has attached itself to me, and i’m realizing that i’m projecting my fears onto potential partners, and making sure i squash the opportunity by with holding emotional integrity and behaving at least 3 to 4 ticks below my pay grade. :/ not happy about this!! i’m exhibiting toxic behaviors, and i don’t know why. well, i suppose i do, but it’s not conscious, and i haven’t figured out a way to correct it quite yet.

    marc & angel: i truly appreciate your articles and your philanthropic heart to share your knowledge via these community boards, books, snippets, and otherwise. funny how we fall upon these resources at just the right time in our lives……….or is it?? ;) thank you!

  • So glad I found this article. Thank you.
    I have recently cut ties with my best friend, and yes it hurt deeply !
    People are shocked that I chose to do so because we were basically “Tied at the hip” We were extremely close, but what people don’t know is that we’ve been having problems for awhile before I ended the friendship.
    I’m 17 and I have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression(not looking for pity) I found out a few years back.
    I often feel like my ex bestie used this against me to humiliate me at times. For example. We were at a party one night with her boyfriend(yes I became a third wheel lol) and we were drinking, out of the blue I began having a panic attack and I wanted to go home and she was belittling me and complaining about me the whole night. She leant over and whispered in her boyfriend’s ear “She does this everytime” and he said “She can’t help it” and looked at me sympathetically and this must have triggered jealousy because she ketpt death glaring me and refusing to help me and it made me feel that uncomfortable that I had to immediately go home, she didn’t even ask if I was okay. I get that having a friend with a mental illness is hard but we all have problems. This isn’t something I ask for.
    She even said she feels like she has to mother me all the time. I didn’t ask her to mother me, all I ask is that she could try not to make me feel like a freak and uncomfortable when I happen to have a panic attack or when I’m down.
    I help her with all her problems, hell I sat on her bed holding her while she cried over her ex that she keeps on going back out with. I reply immediately when she inboxes me on Facebook. But suddenly when I need support, where is she? She diverts the attention away from me. If she sees someone giving me an once of attention she does something to sabotage it. Basically the typical “Wanting the limelight”.
    She also copys what I do or something I say like a quote or motto, I’ve heard this is a form of flattery.
    She also dicthes me when we are hanging out to go see her ex. And I remember on Halloween night we had plans and I was sitting with her, next minute her ex calls wanting to hang out with her and I’m assuming he asked her what shs was doing and she replied “Nothing much” I just wantex to burst out saying ‘Do I mean nothing to you’
    She’s a very vindictive person and isn’t really kind and tending towards people’s feelings.
    Finally the biggest issue in our friendship was that she was a bully. She threatened my ex and called him nasty names. At first I thought she was just being protective and a good friend cause I will admit I was angry at him too and said a few nasty things but apologized for it, she never did. I had to apologize on her behalf. She would constantly ask why I dated “Such an ugly person” and she would even compare her type to mine(as in guys) Who cares if someone is less attractive. I’d rather date a guy who is “ugly” and sweet rather than a hot douche, which apparently is her type.
    She still aren’t talking and I continue to keep it that way. I told her just because I decided this doesn’t mean I hate her. She’s sent me a few messages over Facebook but I just deleted them.
    Moral of the story: If you are in a toxic friendship, no matter how guilty you may feel. LEAVE it as soon as possible. It only causes harm and degrades you over time.

  • I’ve been married to my toxic wife for about 5 years now, and it’s been 5 years of mental and emotional torment. I really don’t know how I managed to endure the emotional and mental abuse this long, but I’ve reached the point where I absolutey cannot tolerate it anymore. I’ve read up so many articles about dealing with narcisstic spouses, and nothing seems to work. It’s very difficult to not get riled up and fight fire with fire when your own wife is always trying to tear down your integrity. I seem to fail at this every time. I have a perfect 5 year old daughter who is the love of my life. Even at that early age, she tries so hard to keep us together. It pains me to see her parents argue, because she deserves so much better from us. I wish I could just pack up and leave, but I worry about my daughter’s well being, and I also worry about how I would support myself with all the money involved with divorce and child support. All I know something needs to give. Life can’t keep continuing on like this. I’m exausted

  • I too have been dealing with someone whom I absolutely hate with every inch of my being. My significant other has been diagnosed with bipolar nhs which makes him give excuses or blames the things he does on this disorde giving him free reign to make my life a living hell, this is no exaggeration. He is abusive and I have attempted to leave many times but he has controlled all finances and does not allow me to have my own phone due to the fact fears of me actually finding someone who cares for me and helps me get out of this relationship before someone ends up dead. In the 5 years we have been together he has not done one thing for me while I sat by and gave him the best part of me. I have treated this man like gold and all I have ever gotten in return was a Teddy bear from his mom on valentines day how romantic haha makes me lol! I wish I had a family member or just one friend to get me to a shelter where I can start over and feel like I’m worth being loved.

  • I can relate to everyone’s hurt, but no need to tell my painful story. Here’s a few resources that have been helpful:

    “Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder“ You don’t have to have a toxic person who has BPD specifically to get value from this book. It brings so much clarity to the chaos that we experience with our toxic loved ones. It gives concrete recommendations on how to deal with being emotionally blackmailed (whereby the toxic person FOG’s you). FOG is an acronym which describes the techniques of using Fear, Obligation, Guilt to get what they want .

    “When Things Fall Apart” Pema Chondron Helpful for both the toxic person and their loved ones.

    “Freedom from Self-Sabotage” by Peter Michaelson

    DBT Therapy is excellent for building emotional regulation skills. Unfortunately, there is a spectrum of therapists practicing it…some qualified, some not. Pursue someone who is credentialed.

    Hope this helps!

  • My husband of 11 years is so toxic, but I love him so much. I have tried every emotional response to his attacks that are so often lies. Most of my time with him, has been spent trying to figure out how to deal with his anger/moodiness/negativity. We have had good times in between, but I’m always waiting for the next craziness. I have shown him I care, even when I don’t have anything left to care with, and I hate giving up on anyone, but this is destroying me. Not to mention what our kids have had to deal with all this time. They never know what to say that’s acceptable. I think people that act this way must not realize the damage they cause. He still doesn’t, even after all this time, and trouble he’s gotten into because of it.

  • Wow, this article really has struck a nerve with me, and by the looks of it, a LOT of other people!

    I’ve been in this abuse cycle my whole life - first my dad, then the father of my child, and now I just freed myself from a real doozy - my ex AND his mother, both of which are toxic persons, and each other´s best friend and support. In my mind´s eye, they are intertwined like a messy tangle of vines, without a chance of discerning where one ends and the other begins.

    Not having the ex around is making me realize how much he (and his mother, indirectly) was destroying my peace of mind and self-worth, and how infuriatingly they’ve been treating me. Real masters of manipulation and passing guilt. Until I met them, I never knew that there was such a thing as belittling praise.

    Reading this I get mad, because having struggled with this my whole life you’d think I’d know the warning signs by now. It is very frustrating to once again become utterly disappointed in a person who you thought was decent.

    This time it only took two years, though. Finally I can pay attention to myself.

  • Amazing! Your article has really helped me understand better about dealing with toxic people.

    I have a friend who’s had this ‘toxic’ boyfriend for a year now, and he gets jealous of many of the boys around her. Since the beginning of their relationship, he has tried to put me down by calling me a ‘misogynistic pig’ or ‘hairy gorilla’. He has even manipulated her into thinking that my actions (eg. putting my arm around her or hugging her) are wrong. When I first met her and for the first month of their relationship, she was fine with these sorts of actions. He speaks ill of my long hair and fitness which I have worked hard for. At one point I was talking to her alone while he wasn’t there and he came up to us, looked at us and said ‘are you f***ing serious?’ in a loud voice and stormed off.

    All these things give me reason to believe that he is a toxic person as Chernoff has described toxic people, and also that this boy is extremely protective of his girlfriend and insecure about himself.

    I was taking advice from my parents and older siblings about how to deal with him which has helped enormously, but this article has definitely helped me in dealing with this belligerent boyfriend. An extremely helpful article. Thank you very much.


  • Thank you for this article.
    I do not believe many of these toxic people are ‘mentally ill’. They have personality disorders for one reason or another. My identical twin sister was one of these toxic people. I last saw her 8 years ago when we were 36 after a lifetime of dealing with her toxicity. I thought it would kill me and break my heart - after all identical twins are supposed to be soul mates and close, right? What actually happened - it has been like a massive weight has gone from my shoulders. No more emotional manipulation and no more constant drama. She no longer speaks to anyone in our family as one by one she moved on to the next person and burned them too.

    I am now in the process of leaving a toxic boyfriend whom I have been seeing for most of the past year. It is a hurtful process, but all the compassion and love etc over the past few months of trying to make things work between us has not changed the manipulation and anger outbursts. He’s truly nasty when he is angry about any subject that pops into his head and makes stuff up to push my buttons. The last straw was a threat of actual physical violence on Boxing Day - he threatened to smash my face in because I said I felt that he was taking advantage of me (treating all my stuff as his own and running off with my car for hours on end without permission etc, etc..) - his response was that I am moody and unreasonable and then the tirade of abuse started. This time it was in front of my kids and father. I cut him off immediately.

    I do feel sad and hurt right now, but I know this will pass and I will be just fine. You just have to cut these people loose. The changes they need to make to their behaviour are profound and they need serious internal motivation to do it. They usually don’t even acknowledge they are the one with the problem (they are the ‘victim’) despite the fact it happens over and over in their life with different people / relationships.

  • Toxic relationships come in so many forms. Five years ago I consciously made the decision to try to improve the quality of a number of long term friendships. The time I spent with these people seemed to make them feel good, but rarely me. What really surprised me at the time was discovering that these friendships not only appeared to be one sided, they actually were. Once I decided to stop being the dumping ground for problems and tried to create a more positive relationship, it seemed that I was no longer of use to these people anyway. It was a little lonely at first, however removing those that drained my time and energy and left me feeling so flat and negative was one of the best things I ever did. Nature hates a void, so by freeing up room in my life and eliminating the toxic waste, I found myself open to meet new people that could bring much more joy to my life.

  • Thank you for posting this. I really enjoyed it. However, it’s interesting. I, too, am dealing with an immediate family member. I also have a mood disorder, and coincidentally, so does the family member. At times I do and say things I really shouldn’t. But I am not going to sit here and feel bad about it, because that won’t get me anywhere. I don’t “have” to live with this person, but right now, it’s the best thing to do financially. I honestly feel that two people with mood swings shouldn’t live together, if at all possible. I feel that talking to God really helps me. There have been nights that I talk to Jesus at night until I fall asleep, and that really helps me. Long story short, if you are living with someone that constantly bashes you and wants to start drama, ask yourself, “Do I really “have to” live here? Do I really “have to” be involved in this drama?” If your answer is no, please move out and move on with your life. If your answer for the time being is yes, make plans to eventually become more independent and move out eventually. :)

  • I try not to have any serious conversations with my mother. She loves confrontation. She’s bipolar. She doesn’t work. She has a dysfunctional marriage. She was told not to come back to several church groups because of her behavior. She doesn’t take correction from our pastor. I don’t think its worth it to confront her. I think she is a hypocrite and needs a different psychiatrist to adjust her antipsychotic medication. I don’t like being around her. I’m an adult but I have younger sisters who I want to have relationships with so I can’t completely avoid my parents. What should I do? If anything?

  • This is timely to what I am experiencing right now, and there’s nothing more I wouldn’t wish to do but to throw [them] in the deepest pits of Tartarus. Dealing with toxic people is a matter of showing who is in control. I agree that they have the power to manipulate and affect you, but only if you let them change you.

    They would do everything to feed their selfish motives, one of the worst things would be:
    “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” - Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

    So one of the best ways to do is to live your happy life without them. Who are they to tell you what to do, anyway?

  • I am so relieved to have found this. All the points that you have mentioned are accurate. I have to deal with an employer who is so toxic that I have become more anxious and depressed since being associated with him. After working with him for a year and 9 months, I finally told him off. He was quite surprised at my reaction. He tried to smile afterwards, but I did not return the smile. I felt good for standing up for myself. And after reading your advise, I feel more empowered as to how to handle my work life. Although getting another job is the best answer, as my boss is toxic to everyone he comes into contact with, even his wife, who always comes across as though she’s had enough but can’t leave him either.
    I think the best ways to deal with toxic people is to stand up to them and not take their behaviour personally. Its easier said than done, but if we, the non-toxic people can step out of the equation emotionally and mentally, that means that we have more courage to overcome and that positive feeling can keep us motivated to overcome all odds. Remember too that people are in our lives for a reason, and once they leave or we allow them to leave - their purpose has been fulfilled and they are no longer meant to be in our lives.

  • My question is, how do you avoid a toxic person you have a child with them? We are no longer together and she manipulates everyone. She even FORCED her mother to get a different e-mail because we were talking about how bad the situation is for my son and what we can do to improve the situation. I dont know who is the parents in her life…her or her “parents”…it seems they give in because if they dont she’ll go nuts….

  • When dealing with toxic people you need to strengthen your self image and confidence, distance yourself emotionally from them, whilst examining their actions scientifically. Bullies tend to attack weaker people.

    Don’t show any emotional reactions to their toxic behaviour as they relish your anxiety and suffering. And perhaps put as much distance as possible from them, if they prove they are never going to change.

  • I have the misfortune of living with one of these god-awful people. We were in a relationship for over 10 years, however we broke up after our child was born. We’ve done some pretty bad things to each other; I’ll give the short version. Basically, I’ve changed but it doesn’t seem like she has or ever will. I’ve actually done everything on this list, but having a child together makes it hard. Am I just letting her get to me?

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