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Is Someone Toxic in Your Life?

A guide to identifying soul-sapping relationships

Do you have a friend that constantly costs you? Do you typically leave conversations feeling drained and discouraged? If your people are dragging you down instead of raising you up, it's time to detoxify. Here are a few signs your relationship is infecting you with something other than love and support.

Poisonous pessimist
This toxic personality continually "reminds" you of what you haven't accomplished and what isn't feasible. A good friend will give you an honest opinion, but they'll also be inclined to believe in you. The pessimist always has a discouraging word ready, because tearing other people down is the only way they can come to terms with their own unhappiness.

Reliably unreliable
This breed of toxicity infects through absence and passive neglect, rather than active sabotage. The unreliable relationship repeatedly disappoints. Promises are made to be broken, and secrets are public domain. If a friend or family member talks big, but always backs out at the last minute and consistently has more pressing concerns when you're in need, you may have a destructively unreliable relationship on your hands. Rely on the fact that promises should be made to be honored, and patterns are made to be repeated. If he wasn't there in the past, don't give him a chance to let you down in the future.

Oh, the drama!
It's one thing to help a friend through a difficult time or a string of bad luck. It's another when their relationship and life management patterns lead them into one disaster after another. If someone in your life always needs handholding through their latest catastrophe but is never there for you, you may be the real victim of the drama. Healthy relationships involve both give and take. It's only natural that one person will be doing most of the taking at one time or another, but if your relationship is continually one-sided, somebody isn't pulling their weight.

Much like the "unreliables" in your life, the merry-go-round makes beautiful promises. But as soon as they regain your trust from the last letdown, it's time for a flashback to old hurts and destructive behavior. The merry-go-round is particularly damaging because they leave you feeling like you should have known better. They are a world-class apologizer and they know what they're doing. If that sounds familiar, acknowledge that they've taken you for a ride and don't be fooled again!

The antidote
You don't want to ditch every friend who leaves you in a bad mood. Our friends who are both candid and supportive are our truest allies, and there will always be times when your loved ones need you more than you need them. If a particular relationship is a constant drain on your emotional and spiritual resources, however, you need a new plan of action.

Positive people
Whenever you can, surround yourself with honestly positive people who aim to make their own lives (and yours!) better. When you're feeling the emotional drain of a taxing friendship, or you're dealing with family members or co-workers you can't simply dismiss, learn to take time for yourself and to say no. Make time for your needy friend when you know your emotional resources are plentiful, but don't forget to recharge with positive influences like meditation, reading, journaling and plenty of time with positive people who inspire you.

If the negativity you're sensing is consistently and destructively directed at you, it's probably time to jump ship. Open communication is a good first and second resort, but should that fail, you're not obligated to be dragged down with anyone else. You deserve relationships that give back everything you put into them.

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