Emotional Distancing - How To Protect Yourself From An Unhealthy Relationship



There’s a lot of talk going around about social distancing. In fact, it’s probably the top trending new phrase for the last year and a half.


There are signs plastered on almost every public door you walk through and even stickers and arrows on floors to show you the EXACT spot you need to stand/wait.


Some of the rules have been relaxed (although I’m afraid we are in for a revisitation shortly.) But the idea is simple: keep your physical distance from those around you in a public/social setting.


This barrier serves as a protective field. For you from someone else. And for someone else from you. You each have a safe space.


Today I’m not here to debate the pros/cons of social distancing, but I do want to talk about the benefits of protecting yourself from toxic people in your life. The need to put up a barrier with those who are harmful to your inner peace.


I want to talk about Emotional Distancing.


It Is Ok To Walk Away


Are you a people pleaser? Do you have co-dependency issues? Are you afraid to be alone?


Those are some of the reasons people choose to stay with or around individuals who threaten their self-esteem and overall peace. It is difficult to pull the plug on a relationship where you have become invested. But what is the ultimate cost of that investment?


There are absolutely some relationships worth fighting for. A marriage for one. Or lifelong friends. A disagreement or difference of opinion should not be the catalyst for walking away. There will be ups and downs whenever there are humans involved.


You have to be mature and tuned in enough to recognize a blip on the relationship radar and work through the turbulence.


That being said, there are still times when you must make the hard choice to distance yourself from an ongoing negative force in your life.


Anyone who routinely and purposefully robs you of security and peace does not deserve a place at your table.


But, you may ask, what if they are struggling with issues themselves? Shouldn’t I be supportive of them?


Absolutely. You can support someone who is actively pursuing treatment or healing, but not at the risk of becoming another casualty yourself.

What if they say they love you? Well, they might. In their mind, with their capacity, maybe they do think it’s love. But love doesn’t contaminate. It doesn’t manipulate. It doesn’t tear down. It doesn’t keep score.


But, you may ask, what if they are family?


Well, that’s a very tricky (and sad) question. We are all encouraged and even compelled to stick with family no matter what. And I agree with that statement in most cases. Just remember that love and loyalty go hand in hand in healthy relationships, but sometimes they can’t co-exist.


There are still times when your emotional or physical well-being is in such jeopardy that it is in your best interest to cut even those family ties. This will probably be the hardest thing you ever do. But please understand that there is no justification for abuse, neglect, or being taken advantage of. Don’t let a sense of loyalty diminish who you were meant to be.


There is a famous quote that says people treat you the way you allow them to. And this is true. You teach someone what you are willing to put up with. So when the burden becomes too heavy, walk away.


How To Walk Away


Making the decision to walk away from a toxic person is one thing. Actually taking those first few steps is a different story.


Step One - Be honest. WIth yourself and them. I don’t suggest ghosting them or completely disappearing (unless they are being violent, then of course yes run away fast).


But otherwise, tell them that you need a break from the relationship. Let them know you still care about them (if that is true), but you have decided to make your well-being a priority. Be firm.


Step Two - Define your terms. You get to decide if you walk away completely, or if you are ok with small doses. You can dictate the time/place/type of relationship as you move forward. You must find the strength to follow through. A toxic person is motivated by control. Take theirs away.