3 coping strategies for dealing with toxic relationships


If you’ve encountered gaslighting or coercive control in a relationship, these tips could help you cope.

It is an unpleasant fact of life that we will all have to deal with toxic people at some point or another.

They could take the form of a bullying boss, who is quick to point out flaws but slow to deliver praise (70% of people have worked in a toxic workplace, according to an Instantprint study). 

They could be an overbearing relative who doesn’t understand your boundaries. They could even take the form of a friend or a partner, and it might be difficult to recognise when the relationship has become toxic or controlling, or when you are being gaslit. 

It can be hard to know how to handle things when a situation becomes toxic. However, a psychologist has shared a series of coping strategies that can help to reset your boundaries – and your frame of mind – when dealing with such a relationship.

In Psychology Today, psychotherapist Amy Morin, who also wrote 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, explained that toxic people can take “a serious toll on your mental wellbeing”. 

She went on to list the coping strategies that she recommends to her own clients in order to help them deal with a toxic influence in their life.

How to cope with gaslighting in relationships: set emotional boundaries

Unfortunately, you can’t always avoid toxic people; they could be in your workplace, your home, your family or your social circle. This means that seeing them might be unavoidable, making it impossible to set physical boundaries against spending time with them.

However, Morin points out that you can set emotional boundaries against a toxic person. This means deliberately not letting them affect your day or your mind frame, effectively preventing them from draining your emotional energy.

“Don’t complain about them in your spare time, refuse to allow them to dictate the type of day you’re going to have, and remind yourself you can regulate your feelings,” she writes.

How to cope with gaslighting in relationships: don’t try to control a toxic person

When dealing with a toxic person in your life, it can be tempting to try and change their behaviour. For example, you might try and elicit praise from your boss by repeatedly showing them your work, which will lead to further disappointment if you don’t get what you’re looking for.

As Morin states: “investing energy into wishing other people were different only wastes your time.”

Instead, switch your focus to control how you respond to that person. “Whether you speak up or walk away, you have choices in how you deal with the situation,” Morin points out.

How to cope with gaslighting in relationships: set limits – and stick to them

One of the most important things to remember when dealing with a toxic person is that you need to stay true to your word. For example, if you want to limit the time you spend with someone, or even cut them out of your life completely, then you should.

“If you are going to set limits with someone, be a person of your word,” Morin says. “Otherwise, you’ll be contributing to the dysfunction in your relationship.”

This feature was originally published in December 2018

Image: Getty

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