Abuse and Self Care, Healthy Relationships

Is Reconciliation Possible with Toxic People?

Is it ever okay to let toxic people back in your life? 

Some people can shut the door on an unhealthy relationship and seal it like a tomb, never looking back. Others wonder: Is there ever going to be a time for restoration?

First, thank you to those who posed this question to me privately, requesting that I write about precisely this subject. I appreciate suggestions and requests. Then I know I’m really helping someone and addressing a topic that’s important to them. And chances are, if I’m helping that one person, I’m helping two or three or 100.

Let’s break this theoretical situation down a bit: You previously had a relationship with someone, be it a friend, romantic partner, family member, coworker. At some point, the relationship became toxic…or maybe it was all along.

But eventually, you had your fill of the other person’s behavior and became strong. You exercised your self-respect and your power, and you set up healthy boundaries.  You let that person(s) know in the best way possible that you don’t feel respected/treated well/appreciated and if he or she doesn’t stop the behavior, they’re going to have to stop seeing you.

I’m guessing if you’re asking if reconciliation is a possibility, that since you enforced your boundaries, there’s been little to no communication with said person. Maybe you miss them. Maybe you simply just wonder if there’s anything worth exploring or if you can simply achieve closure on that relationship.

I think the answer to whether or not you can consider letting the person(s) back in with safety and health, is easy:

Has their behavior and attitude towards you changed and improved?

If you’ve had enough time for a cooling-off period and for both of you to reconsider the relationship and what went wrong, then maybe (best-case), they’ve already come to you with an apology, willing to be mature and own up to their behavior and change it. Or maybe you’ve experienced radio silence and are mulling over the idea of reaching out to see if there’s anything worth pursuing.

Let’s be clear: disrespect, bullying, rudeness, cheating, gossiping, overall treating you badly are abusive and unhealthy actions. These behaviors are pretty obvious and not usually up for debate. One or a mix of them might have been chronic in this relationship. Then you set up your boundaries (yay for you!). And they didn’t like it.

That’s usually how it works. People who aren’t used to boundaries and don’t have any in their own lives, usually rebel against them being set up by others. Get used to that.

But, back to business…if their behavior hasn’t changed…if they’re bad-mouthing you (and you know this firsthand, not through gossip), then you have your answer. They’re not interested in seeking reconciliation. People who hope to rebuild a relationship with you will act in ways that works toward that goal, not against it. In this situation, I’m afraid any attempts on your behalf to reconcile will be futile.

Move on, at least for now.  And while you may be sad for a moment that the relationship is gone, do not feel guilty for using your healthy boundaries. The old adage is true: you teach people how to treat you. And that’s what you’ve done here.

Maybe the person(s) will show up one day with a repentant heart and want to do what it takes to move towards healing. Only when they’re in agreement their prior behavior was unacceptable and that it won’t continue, can you move on safely with them. Be cautious, of course, and test the waters with eyes wide open and be realistic about where it may lead. Protect yourself and be strong. You deserve healthy relationships and don’t forget it. Demand it.

Now…it’s my turn for a question: Have you ever let a toxic person back into your life once you parted ways? How did it (or didn’t it) work out for you? Comment and share your experience or, as always, you can privately message me and share your story.

Boundaries rule!

signature Melanie in aqua color

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  • Reply Traci@tracesoffaith November 2, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    It means a lot when we as writers can help a reader walk through a question. Your answer was thoughtful and sound. We have to guard our hearts!

  • Reply Brittany Allen November 2, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    I think you nailed it. We should be willing and ready for reconciliation and hopefully the person will repent.

    • Reply melaniespickett@gmail.com November 8, 2016 at 9:42 pm

      Thank you, Brittany! I agree, watch how they act. I think it’s okay to keep your distance if their behavior hasn’t changed. Act in love, I say. 🙂

  • Reply Kelly R Smith November 3, 2016 at 7:10 am

    We talked about this very thing in my small group last night. Forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same things. You can be released from the chains of unforgiveness without entering back into a toxic relationship. But, “as much as it depends on YOU, live in peace with one another” (Ro 12:18). Reconciliation requires repentance, restitution, and rebuilding trust. If you can enter back into that relationship after that, all the better!

    • Reply melaniespickett@gmail.com November 8, 2016 at 9:41 pm

      I agree, Kelly. They’re not mutually exclusive. You can forgive the person without forgetting how they hurt you if they’re not changing their behavior. I think that’s teaching us AND them how to love better. I love what you’ve said!

  • Reply Leah November 7, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    Oh YES! Sometimes the case is good people come with toxic habits. I’ve had to take the “toxic person” out of my life and let them back in within my own boundaries but honestly, I wouldn’t call him toxic. He’s a good person with very very bad habits. My husband’s addiction taught him toxic behaviour and God really needed to show him how to behave otherwise. He did 🙂 So yes, reconciliation is possible!

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