How to deal with Toxic Relationships

Dan Pierce from Mentally Fit and Dr. Sherrie Campbell, PhD talk about toxic relationships. Experts share their thoughts on the video below!

TOXIC Relationship Experts respond

​Dr. John Moore

I'm a licensed psychotherapist in Chicago and Editor of Guy Counseling, a website dedicated towards men's wellness and the people who live them. I work with mostly a male client base. 

I agree with Dr. Campbell and think the biggest sign of a toxic friendship is feeling emotionally drained by the relationship. Giving more than we receive on a regular basis is a major warning sign. I would add that regularly minimizing our own self-care in an attempt to comfort a friend can also be a warning sign.

For highly sensitive people (HSP) or folks who are in the helping profession, it is critically important to be aware of how much we give of ourselves to another. This is easier said than done because the signs of over-giving (supporting) another can be insidious.

​Dawn Burnett

Hi my name is Dawn Burnett and I am a Transformational Divorce Coach and Wellness Strategist. I was trapped in a 15 year toxic marriage. My miracle boy at the age of 2 had a compromised immune system due to vaccinations and was very sick. I raced back to college to get my degree in Alternative Medicine. In the process I reversed his condition and saved my own life as I escaped the marriage and moved 1750 miles to a place where I knew nobody so I could deal and heal. 

The past 10 years of my life have been the best years of my life and leaving was the best decision I ever made. Healing was a journey and now I coach others on how to take the dirty out of divorce so they can remove the barriers that are holding them back, living a life of thriving instead of surviving. I could not agree more with what Dr. Sherrie Campbell, PHD said in the YouTube interview.

TRUE, "You cannot heal in an environment that is poisoning you.. You are constantly being manipulated and trapped in self-doubt and anxiety" I had limiting beliefs while I was stuck in the marriage. Once I learned mind/body/spirit connection in college it's then that I started seeing clearly and made my break. I was stuck in a shame cycle, living as a victim, in and out of hospitals all the time.

Once I got past the self-doubt and anxiety by leaving the toxic relationship I was able to heal and live a rock star life far beyond my dreams. Dr. Sherrie says, "there is never closure in the relationship" and that is true. I found closure by finding myself and connecting within.

toni coleman, lcsw

I am a psychotherapist, relationship coach and divorce mediator who has had over 30 years of experience working with individuals, couples, and families in both inpatient settings and in my outpatient private practice. I specialize in working with couples, but often work with individuals who are dealing with issues that stem from growing up in toxic families and too often continuing that dysfunction in their present relationships.

I actually completely agree with Dr. Sherrie. She makes many important points about the difference between being a toxic person and having toxic traits. Figuring this out is much of the work we do with clients.

Once they have answered that question, the work turns to looking for ways to engage with or relate to, any healthy part of toxic family member(s). If no healthy common ground exists, then the work turns to following the necessary steps of disengaging and cutting ties.

Clients do need a lot of support with this because they grew up believing the problem was them,and our larger culture tends to judge and vilify anyone who cuts off close family relationships, seeing these people as damaged and wrong in taking this step.

I especially loved her comment about “loving but not liking” her family members. This is a distinction I often make about my relationship with my parents and one I make with clients. Bitterness, anger, and hatred only hurt the person feeling them,as Dr. Sherrie rightly points out. We can feel compassion for them, after all,who would want to live inside of them? We can also wish the best for them as we keep our distance.

Lastly, Dr. Sherrie points out that cutting ties should be the last resort, after evaluating the relationships, looking for common ground, and for any healthy part in them that they can relate to. If none can be found, and the relationship is harmful to the individual, cutting ties is the next and best step.

​April Kirkwood, LPC

Dr. Sherrie’s credentials speak highly of her cognitive knowledge of the subject matter. In fact, I agreed with many descriptions of the frustration and never ending drama that becomes part of the daily schema in relationships with toxic people. However, as a therapist, I found her black and white matter of fact advice to be frightening. I personally felt a coldness from her presence in the interview that would not have been intrusive to the my personal therapy when I worked through my toxic relationships. I would have ended up bitter, shut down, and judgmental. None of which I want for my life or those I work with. 

Walking away from a relationship without a deeper understanding of the complexity of the dynamics of those involved can leave open wounds and hearts left broken. As a therapist the decision to emotionally divorce from another must be accomplished with healing therapies. It is imperative to do self-introspection to find out why and how the relationship came about and what remnants of it still linger in the client’s behaviors and beliefs. This is necessary to help alleviate the potential of repeating the involvement with new toxic relationships in the future.

As a side note, I also found it interesting that Dr. Sherrie included comments about disciplining her daughter which had nothing to do with toxic relationships.

Dr. Sherrie contradicts herself when at the beginning of the segment stating that you must cut ties but later comments that cutting ties is a last resort. It is a last resort and can only be accomplished when a client can do this without intense feelings of guilt and remorse. If not, the problems only change names which can include inability to forgive, anger, depression, and isolation.

Dr. Sherrie continues to make a blanket statements that “real sick people never get treatment.” I understand on some level where she is coming from but, once again, this seems rash and too clearcut to be considered one hundred percent accurate..

Another concern is her process of lumping all personality disorders together. This is a detriment to individual treatment though, of course, many symptoms overlap.

I don’t always agree that truly toxic people don’t value relationships. Some personality disorders ‘over’ value relationships and consider them their lifeline. They devour other’s attention as though it is the air they need to survive. Their selfish actions are more methods of filling their own feelings of emptiness and low self-worth. They need people to reinforce what they are lacking from within that is a major detriment to actually focusing on anyone other than themselves.

I loved her explanation of hovering. Those in toxic relationships to be aware of their calculated use of intermittent gestures of positive reinforcement that make understanding, creating boundaries, and maintaining self-worth difficult to maintain.

As a spiritual, holistic counselor, I recognize that there are souls that are damaged and it often becomes necessary to step back. However, it is best to do it with insight, forgiveness, and a willingness to see them as individuals that are not grounded in the kind of emotional foundation needed to have healthy relationships. Caring for someone can mean letting go and letting those we care for find their own way home so that you on to continue your adventure with joy and peace about yourself and your decisions.