Toxic relationships and friendships are among the biggest challenges I’ve seen women having. It’s also been a personal struggle for me from the moment I created boundaries and got conscious about how I want people to treat me.

My life and work have taught me that it’s hard to get rid of toxic people. And when they do leave, you still have a lot of work remaining as you rebuild your confidence, self-esteem and life.

In the previous article, I talked about creating boundaries. It’s almost impossible to have healthy boundaries if you’re surrounded by toxic people. Such people kill your motivation, drag you down and make it hard for you to achieve your goals. You also spend a lot of time catering to their needs at the expense of your dreams and goals.

Today’s article explores toxic relationships and how you can get out of them. This article is the last one in a 6-part series on how to overcome overwhelm.

Other articles in this series are:

Characteristics of Toxic Relationships

It’s always easy to pinpoint old romantic relationships that were toxic. However, even close friends, family members and colleagues can be toxic in such a smooth way that you don’t realize it until it’s too late.

Most relationships start positive. It’s only after someone has relaxed and gotten to know you well that they show their true colours. It takes months or even years before this happens. By the time you get to see who someone really is they’ll have become a regular part of your life.

You will know when the relationship or friendship is toxic because the person:

  • Constantly puts you down, privately and/or publicly.
  • Never has anything positive to say about you or your life.
  • Rarely supports your initiatives or ideas – they water down your dreams.
  • Keeps turning around the conversation to themselves, even when you’re celebrating something big in your life.
  • Steals your ideas and presents them as their own ideas (especially at work).
  • Monopolizes your time but rarely has time for you.
  • Manipulates you into doing what they want.
  • Makes decisions for you in your absence without contacting you.
  • Tells you a lot of negative things under the cloak of caring for you.
  • Has no respect for your time and personal boundaries.
  • Talks ill of you when you’re not there.
  • Is too needy and clings or depends a lot on you.
  • Is abusive emotionally and/or physically.

In summary, if someone constantly disrespects you, then chances are that you’re in a toxic relationship.

8 Common Toxic Relationships

1. Abusers

Abusers are the worst people to allow in your life because they cause psychological and/or physical harm. Never allow anyone to abuse you verbally or physically.

Abuse is as subtle as someone putting you down all the time or shoving you in an argument. Some people don’t realize that even sexually offensive jokes or someone touching you inappropriately is considered abuse.

Constant exposure to abuse eventually erodes your self-esteem and sense of self-worth.

2. Frenemies

These are friends who are enemies. They’re one thing with you and then turn around and stab you in the back when you’re not there. Frenemies are highly skilled manipulators because they disguise themselves as friends.

They get to know you very well and then use this information against you. Some can go as far as using your secrets to blackmail you into doing what they want. They can also give you the wrong information, and then secretly celebrate your failure.

[Tweet “Don’t let negative and toxic people rent space in your head. Raise the rent and kick them out! ~ Robert Tew”]

3. Narcissists

These people are self-absorbed and care only about themselves. Everything they do is calculated to project a good image of them.

Narcissists will take control of your life as long as you’re good for their reputation or agenda. Once you’re no longer useful, they will drop you coldly and move on.

A narcissist will do anything to get attention. They will lie, violate rules, throw temper tantrums and step over personal boundaries without blinking. They burn hot and cold and can keep you on an emotional roller-coaster by putting you down and criticizing you.

Don’t expect a narcissist to be there for you when you’re down. Also, don’t expect them to celebrate with you when you win. They don’t care because they’re the most important people in their lives!

I think the scariest thing about narcissists is that they can be very charming and persuasive when building a relationship with you. You will not see them coming and will only see the negative aspect of their personality when you’re in deep with them.

If narcissists are so slick, how then can you recognize them? Here are 10 signs that you’re in a relationship with a narcissist.

4. Manipulators

It’s possible for someone to be manipulative without them being a narcissist or frenemy. Manipulators take advantage of your generosity. They take a lot from you and rarely (if ever) give back.

They can also keep you from growing because they don’t want to you outgrow the relationship with them. Healthy relationships are a mix of giving and take. If you’re the one that’s always giving, then it’s time to run away…very fast!

5. Clingers

This person clings to you and can’t seem to live without you. You’ll find that you’re always putting aside your plans for them. They seem to have no life and follow you around even when you don’t want or need them.

Clingers literally place their wellbeing on you and move with your moods or plans. If you’re up, they’re up; if you’re down, they’re down. If you’re busy, they’re busy with you. Some may go as far as blaming you for the times when they’re down because it’s your role to keep them up.

At the beginning of such a relationship, you may feel great because of the attention you receive. With time, you will feel the burden of being responsible for them because they will suck you dry. Clingers are hard to get rid of and they can turn nasty when you finally detach yourself.

6. Negative Nancies

These people criticize everything and never have anything nice to say. 5 minutes with them will leave you feeling as if your energy was sucked out.

When you have goals, they are the ones that will point out all the things that could go wrong. They also take up a lot of your time with their complaints and bring down your self-esteem.

Interestingly, they will be there for you when you’re down and add to your pity party while silently working on keeping you down. Don’t try to be a positive light in their lives because they will wear you down.

Negative Nancies love positive people, but they’re best left alone in their negativity.

7. Victims

These people point fingers at other people and never take responsibility for the results they’re experiencing in life. They will wear you down with their complaints about how life and other people are unfair to them.

Victims can easily turn against you and complain about you when it’s convenient for them. They’re very toxic and you need to remove them from your life immediately. Toxicity is catching and you’ll also adopt a victim mentality if you keep hanging around them.

8. Gossips

Gossip is a cancer that spreads very fast and hurts other people. While some gossips simply want to be the first to spread information, others thrive on twisting the truth or spreading lies.

Being among gossips will mess up your life because you’ll break a lot of friendships. People will avoid you because they no longer trust you.

Gossips also tend to hang out in cliques and they can be malicious when someone steps outside the clique. Expect negative backlash when you do away with them.

[Tweet “Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others. Paramahansa Yogananda.”]


Human beings exist in relation to other people. It’s not possible to go through life on your own. Positive relationships build us and have the potential to bring out the best of us.

Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to identify toxic behaviour and relationships. Some toxic people are able to disguise their behaviour under the guise of caring for you. This also makes it hard to break off with them.

However, you cannot thrive when you’re in toxic friendships or relationships as they will kill your joy, motivation and energy. They’ll keep you busy mentally, emotionally and physically and you’ll not have time to work on goals that are important to you.

It is in your best interest to remove toxic people from your life. It’s also advisable to seek the help of a counsellor or someone you trust if you’re unable to get out of toxic relationships. Seek the help of the police if the relationship has turned abusive or if you fear for your life.

While it won’t be easy to break off from toxic people, once you do, you’ll finally have space in your life for positive and empowering relationships. You will be happier, freer, more fulfilled, and have the energy to work on your most desired goals.

Over to you now…

Have you managed to break away from toxic relationships? How did you do it and what were the results? Please share your experience in the Comments below.

(Images courtesy of Pixabay)

    4 replies to "8 Toxic Relationships You Need to Detox From"

    • Anjali

      Great read Caroline. I can from the top of my head categorically put at least two names from the people i came come across into each of these types. There are obviously many more. That makes me venerable i guess, but at least i know.
      PS. Keep writing 🙂

      • Caroline Gikonyo

        Knowledge is the first step to change, Anjali. All the best as you start the detox process. It’s not easy when you do it, but the results are amazing. Thank you for the comment and motivation to keep on writing.

    • Mary

      What an empowering read, and as you so nicely put it, knowledge is a crucial first step – thanks for the insights! I recall reading somewhere that it’s better to be alone for a season rather than around wrong people..i guess what keeps us stuck is that in-between ‘desert’ stage

      • Caroline Gikonyo

        Thanks for sharing this tip, Mary. Being in the desert can be lonely and it’s easy to get tempted to go back.

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