Single Living: The Trouble with Toxic People

Single Living – The Trouble with Toxic People


They stuff their unresolved anger in “leak proof” containers, but it’s just a matter of time before it seeps out and destroys any hope of a healthy relationship.

Single Living: The Trouble with Toxic People

Everyone knows the story of activist Erin Brockovich, the divorced mom raising two kids on her own who took on Pacific Gas & Electric in Hinkley, California, for burying toxic chromium-6 in the ground over the course of 30 years — waste that leaked into the water table, making nearby residents sick. In the beginning, PG & E likely didn’t realize that concealing the toxic material would have such a devastating effect. Burying it seemed like a good idea at the time. Yet when the consequences were discovered, instead of facing it, company officials denied there was ever a problem at all.

PG & E’s behavior provides a good metaphor for how some people try to bury their own toxic waste — their anger, resentment, bitterness — hoping it will stay sealed up inside. But just as the buried chromium-6 eventually surfaced, unresolved emotions will ultimately emerge, and when they do, those nearby are the first to suffer.

More than once, I’ve been involved with someone who allowed their old resentments to contaminate their relationship with me. I fooled myself into thinking that my love was powerful enough to neutralize their pain, but the fact is, I couldn’t fix it. Only they had the power to remove the poison by letting go of their old anger and hurt.

“Toxic Waste” by Steve Greenberg.

“Toxic Waste” by Steve Greenberg.

I’ve also met people who seem to relish their toxic bitterness, allowing it to become part of their identity. They carry it around everywhere they go, they see it as a medal of honor, a kind of Purple Heart. In reality, no one is impressed and it destroys any hope of intimacy with others. No one wants to get close to a person, no matter how charming they can be, who allows their toxic anger to rise to the surface, over and over again.

For those of us who are in dating mode, how many times have you started a relationship with someone only to discover the rage they have for their ex husband or ex wife? They watch us with a suspicious eye, waiting for any sign that proves we’re just like the person who hurt them in the past.

For some, it goes back even further — to a parent that abandoned them, abused them, ignored them — and as any therapist will tell you, that kind of pain will continue to manifest for as long as it remains unresolved.

As hopeless as it sounds, there is a simple solution: forgiveness. Forgive the source of the pain no matter how much they hurt you five, ten or twenty years ago. Learn to forgive, not for our sake, but for yours.

Copyright © Kim Calvert /2012 Singular Communications, LLC.

Kim CalvertKim Calvert is the editor of Singular magazine and the founder of the SingularCity social networking community. An outspoken champion of people who are living their lives as a “me” instead of a “we,” Kim oversees the creative direction and editorial content of the magazine and online social networking community. She secures contributors and is responsible for maintaining the fun, upbeat, inspirational and often-humorous tone of Singular, a lifestyle guide for successful single living.

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7 thoughts on “Single Living – The Trouble with Toxic People

  1. The toxic waste metaphor can also be seen as past unhealed wounds. Neglecting past unhealed wounds and not allowing the full healing process to occur can result in proxy conflicts. Dysfunctional behavior within a relationship then becomes a facade to the true internal battle: the unhealed wound festering and oozing its venom. Forgiveness is part of the solution but if not genuine can also be part of the problem. Skin wounds have distinct healing stages, so do emotional injuries… denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. All stages must see the light of day before true healing can occur. As Carl Jung said : Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.
    Thanks Kim for reminding me of a lesson I learned a while ago.

  2. Congratulations, Kim, on an outstaning and extremely meaningful post. Everyone should read this, print it and digest it and apply it to old friends, new ones and business associates.

    I spent more than 40 years in an extremely toxic friendship. It was so difficult to finally admit that I had some sort of desperation to keep this person in my life despite the fact that she consistently “rained” on any happiness or success I received.

  3. Wow, this is so poignant! Very well written.
    I have had not just lovers and boyfriends, but friends who behave in this manner. As open and tolerant as I am at first, I find it hard to sustain any relationship with a persistently toxic person. As a result I distance myself. Every individual has work to do, first to identify the sources of anger and hurt, then to simply try to be a better human each and every day!

  4. It took me a long time to figure out that I was trying to fix my relationship with my dad by hooking up with men just like him and then trying to have the relationship I always wanted with my dad. I’m not talking sexual, of course. But my dad was very remote and cold, so I was attracted to men like that and then tried to make them intimate and warm, thinking, on a subconscious level, that it would finally heal all the hurt from my childhood. What did heal the hurt, was finally realizing what was going on and forgiving my dad for not being the father I always wanted.

  5. I’ve had this happen a LOT! I wish women would stop taking out their anger at their ex on me. I”m not the enemy. He might have been – but I’m not him.

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