Some of the most difficult decisions David and I have had to make as a couple in our eighteen years together has been breaking off unhealthy relationships. We are both wired to try to live at peace with other people. We strongly dislike conflict. Conflict is like physical poison to me.
David and I have probably erred several times on giving people the benefit of the doubt too long. But eventually we got to the point where we realized that the stress created by the unhealthy relationships was not worth whatever positive they might have potentially been providing.
- Unhealthy relationships suck the life out of you.
- They steal the joy out of what should be happy events.
- They cause dread to rise up in you whenever you think about being around that person.
- Unhealthy relationships are destructive, stressful, and need to be ended.
We had to say – enough. And draw the boundaries.
Unhealthy Relationships versus Abusive Relationships
Please note that I am talking about unhealthy relationships, not abusive relationships. Mental, physical, and/or spiritual abuse is something completely different and is serious.
- If you are in an abusive relationship, please get help right now. Call a local helpline, the police, or a woman’s shelter immediately.
- If you are in an abusive church, get out. Don’t go back and don’t let them manipulate you into staying.
- Spiritually abusive church leadership is completely and totally contrary to the model given by Jesus when He loved His sheep as a shepherd. Search the internet for information on spiritual abuse and you will be able to find help.
- Abuse is never acceptable.
So what do you do if you have an unhealthy relationship in your life? How do you handle it? Here are five points I would encourage you to consider.
Pray About the Unhealthy Relationship
Pray about it. Pray for healing. Pray for the Lord to intervene. Pray for any indication that you should continue the relationship. If none is clearly given, move forward confidently with distancing yourself.
If you put it before the Lord and He does not give you clear direction to stay in the relationship for some reason unknown to you at that moment, then you are free to end it.
Be an Example to Your Children
How you handle the situation will speak volumes to your children. Be an example to your children of how to manage challenging relationships. If they see you allowing an unhealthy relationship to continually impact your life in a negative way, what are you teaching them?
Be Prepared for Backlash and Loss
Some people will resent your decision. They might resent your courage. They might resent being cut off. They might resent how your choice directly or indirectly impacts their life. Be prepared for pushback and backlash. Be firmly convinced in your own mind that it is for the best and then stand your ground.
Be prepared for loss. Making the choice might mean being alone on holidays. It might mean getting dropped from a social circle. Prepare yourself ahead of time for the worst. No one likes to think it will happen, but think through the worst case scenario and be willing to live with it.
How to Get Out of an Unhealthy Relationship
This may very well be one of those situations where the less said the better. Some unhealthy relationships can be ended by just fading away. You never really need to say anything. It will die by neglect on your part.
Sometimes you do have to say something to make a break. If a letter is easier for you, it might be best to express your thoughts that way.
Perhaps it has to be a face to face situation. If so, meet in a public place and bring a neutral witness for support. The neutral witness who isn’t a part of the negative relationship will be able to act as a buffer and also remind you of what was said if you forget in the overwhelming emotions that might develop.
Be Careful What You Say to Others
Be careful how you explain your decision to others. As best you can, say nothing negative about the other person. Make it clear it was a choice about your well-being or the well-being of your family.
It may be very difficult not to speak to others about the issues and problems that led to your decision, especially when asked. But you really won’t gain anything by speaking negatively about the other person. If your goal was to break off the relationship and you’ve accomplished that then you have done enough.
Life is Too Short for Unhealthy Relationships
Life is too short to spend it in unhealthy relationships that add stress to your life. Make the most of your time by investing it in people who love you, understand you, and build you up. While it might be a difficult decision, it is a decision worth making.
This post is part of my 5 Days of Saying “No” series.