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    Are You Stuck in a Toxic Relationship?

    By Dinorah Blackman

    Friendship is all about looking out for each other and helping each other blossom. Learn to identify toxic relationships and walk away from them because you can only thrive when you march with the right people.

    So how can you tell if you are stuck in a toxic relationship? Let me share some thoughts with you:

    1. Toxic relationships are based on manipulation. A person who uses tears, tantrums, threats or bribery to bully you into doing what he or she wants is not a good companion.

    2. Toxic friends are usually unavailable when your hard times come. There is nothing like difficulties to show you who your real friends are. Some people might use the liberating-sounding excuse that they do not have time for other people's dramas, but the truth is that real friends hang around even when your cup is empty. And then they help you to fill it up again.

    3. Toxic people are always raining on your parade. Everybody has dreams - you are entitled to them. Because your true friends care about you, they offer honest advice, but they still support your wild ambitions. Stay away from people who are quick to point out all the reasons why your idea is going to fail.

    4. Toxic conversations leave you feeling empty. About a year ago I decided that I was spending too much time on the phone in pointless chitchat. So I simply stopped calling people. It was a drastic measure, I know, but after a few months I was able to figure out that my true friends were the ones that stayed in touch simply because they had something enriching to say. Although I make a good amount of calls for many different reasons, I only take time to chat with the few who bring out the best in me and who allow me to inspire them.

    5. Toxic relationships can be exhausting. Walking on eggshells can really wear you out. A true friend permits you to be yourself without taking everything too personally. I once had a friend who was constantly getting offended by the things I did, whether real or imaginary. She would start pouting and I would berate myself trying to figure out what I had done wrong this time. Usually when she pointed out to me what my misdeed had been, it was something silly like laughing too loudly, or not smiling enough or not calling her all week. It was tiring and unfair.

    6. Toxic people think it is their duty to improve you. Avoid people who are constantly criticizing everything you do and are intent on changing you. Although I am all for friends helping each other to grow, that process cannot be forced - it comes naturally.

    7. Toxic relationships isolate you from friends and family. Beware of any association that consumes so much of your time and energy that you barely have a moment left for other friends and family. Toxic people tend to engulf you to the point that you feel like you are suffocating. Friends who have each other's best interest at heart know that everybody needs space sometimes, and they are willing to step back and allow you to adjust at your own pace knowing well that this does not mean that the friendship is over.

    You cannot partner with someone who does not share your goals and dreams simply because no matter how hard you try, you cannot teach people to care about you. This lack of appreciation for your true self will contaminate your environment and rob you of the ability to be the person you were meant to be.

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