3 Toxic Behaviors That Push People Away & How You Can Avoid Doing Them

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A toxic relationship, whether that’s between friends, lovers, or family members, is one in which one person’s needs are met at the expense of, or without consideration for, the needs of the other person.

“With a friend like that, who needs enemies?” We’ve all heard this saying before, and many of us have probably been in a toxic friendship or at least had a friend who was… but what if you’re the toxic one?

Maybe you don’t even know it! Read on to learn how to recognize if you’re creating a toxic relationship and how to stop pushing people away.

What is a toxic relationship?

Sometimes we hear this phrase, or even use it ourselves, without ever having really paused to consider its meaning. A toxic relationship, whether that’s between friends, lovers, or family members, is one in which one person’s needs are met at the expense of, or without consideration for, the needs of the other person. Unequal is the key word.

We all have bad days. And sometimes we take out our anger, sadness, or frustration on those closest to us. It happens. We feel bad, we apologize, and we try not to do it again, though no one’s perfect. But a toxic person brings this negative energy into the relationship time and time again. Instead of making you feel happy, they make you feel stressed, drain your energy, and stifle your personality. Their nastiness may not be overt, at least not all the time, but the negativity lurks, casting a pall on your friendship.

Yikes. Do you want to be that person? Most likely not. But sometimes we engage in these negative behaviors repeatedly without meaning to or without realizing it. Your patterns of interacting with people become your normal and you might not be aware that what you’re doing is toxic. Not all toxic behaviors involve being mean to to others!

Am I toxic? How to know and how to stop

Do any of the following behaviors sound like you? If so, you might be that toxic person. But it doesn’t have to be that way! All behaviors are learned, so with some effort on your part, you can unlearn them. Of course, this doesn’t apply if you are in an abusive relationship – seek help if you are!

1. Inability to control your emotions
We all have our ups and downs, but lashing out unexpectedly or frequently being moody doesn’t make for good relationships. What it does instead is make people nervous to be around you. “Is he going to be in a good mood today?” “I hope she doesn’t shout at her kids in front of me.” A licensed therapist or psychologist should be able to help you understand yourself better. When you know the root cause of your mood swings or toxic outbursts, you will feel more empowered to control them. Your therapist can also help teach you emotion regulation skills so that you can put space between your emotions and reactions and learn to reduce their intensity.

2. Making snap judgements

It’s obvious that you’re the toxic friend when you find yourself saying mean or snarky things to make your friend feel bad and yourself feel better. But sometimes we don’t realize that when we say mean or snarky things to our friends about other people, even strangers, we are showing them our judgmental side. Now our friend is thinking, gosh, what if she said something like that about me? Or even worse, what if the negative thing you said about the stranger who just walked by was something your friend recognized in herself? This is uncomfortable for others to be around. Without realizing it, you’ve started pushing people away by making superficial judgments.

3. Taking everything personally
This is exhausting for others, and for yourself as well! When you attach too much importance to what others think and need constant validation, it wears you down and is tiresome for those around you. To stop feeling this way, remind yourself that most people

What is your relationship attachment style? Take this quiz and find out.

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When you attach too much importance to what others think and need constant validation, it wears you down and is tiresome for those around you.

are too worried about themselves to pay so much attention to you! In fact studies show that 98-99% of our thoughts are about ourselves. When someone around you is particularly judgmental, remember, they are even more judgmental towards themselves.

You can also try taking the perspective of the other person. Perhaps it sounds like they are criticizing you when in fact they are simply speaking in a rushed or matter of fact tone. Perhaps there is some truth in their request/statement. Be willing to own behaviors that are upsetting to others without seeing it as an attack on yourself as a person. Maybe you could be better at picking up after yourself, but this doesn’t mean that you are a bad person. Sometimes it can be difficult to own that we aren’t perfect, but this is a skill that can greatly improve your relationships. Of course, steer clear of name calling and other character attacks.

Ask yourself if you’ve had this feeling before? Perhaps you are feeling left out, inadequate or rejected. Is this an old feeling? Does this feeling tend to repeat itself? If so, then you may be responding to your past more than your present. When we respond to our past, something about the present moment has triggered an old wound and you’re responding to that old wound. When this happens, you have perceived the current situation through your old belief, which means it’s likely not true in the present, but rather your interpretation of the present events.

Why Do I Push People Away?

When our self-worth is based on others, or outside vs. inside ourselves, boundaries are blurred and a greater dependency on other’s reactions develops. We become sensitive to the intonations, fluctuations and moods of others. Inside, you may feel anxious or insecure. The toxic behaviors may be an attempt to relieve anxiety, but end up pushing others away. The antidote is to work on building up your internal resources, sense of self, and establishing healthier boundaries between yourself and others. Therapy is an excellent way to build these skills as you can practice in the context of a safe relationship.

On a deeper level, you might ask yourself how it serves you to push people away. What happens when people get too close? When you’re vulnerable and trusting of others? For some people, particularly those with a history of relationship / attachment trauma, getting too close isn’t safe. Does keeping people at a distance serve a deeper protective function for you?

If you identify with any of the behaviors and are concerned you may be creating toxic relationships, there is hope! Relationship counseling in Houston can help you get to the root of your fears, build self-esteem and a sense of security within yourself. To get started now give us a call to schedule an appointment at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online.

Take our Relationship Attachment Style Quiz to see if you exhibit any behaviors that may be pushing people away.

In addition, read these tips on how to give and receive emotional support from loved ones.

Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP on Twitter
Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP
Rachel’s passion is to help people discover their personal gifts and strengths to achieve self-acceptance, create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body, and find meaning and fulfillment in work and life roles. She helps people create nurturance and healing from within to restore balance and enoughness and overcome binge eating, emotional eating, anxiety, depression and lack of career fulfillment.

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