How To Let Go Of Unhealthy Relationships That Are Holding You Back

Are you a giver, taker, or an adapter?

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I bet you’ve noticed people who tend to be givers or takers in relationships. Certain behaviors show up and are repeated in personal as well as professional situations.

Then there are individuals who consciously adjust their natural tendencies to suit situations. They attend to their values at the same time that they encourage appropriate balance in relationships for themselves ─ and possibly for others.


RELATED: How To Practice Daily Self-Care (Even When It Seems Like Life Is Way Too Hectic)

This is an article on how to take care of yourself first, and it is designed primarily for readers who know what’s good for themselves and for others who want to move in that direction.

To avoid thinking in either/or categories or labeling people rigidly, imagine a dynamic spectrum with givers on one end and takers on the other. Then imagine yourself moving comfortably along it as you adjust your behaviors and choices toward whatever directions support your concerns and interests.

Natural givers can be distracted, taken over, and exploited by self-absorbed, overly dependent takers focused on their own needs, preferences, and concerns.


To their own detriment, these givers are caught in a draining cycle of primarily caring about and for others. As a result, they often feel tired and stressed — cues that they typically put others’ needs before their own.

This happens because the more they give, usually the greater the demand becomes. As generous-spirited souls, their identity seems glued to giving to others. Unfortunately, they tend to create and choose connections with people from whom little is or can be offered (or even requested!). The givers become used up by the users.

Takers lack a good quality of life as well; their tendencies bind them in rigid, repetitive behaviors that preclude their own growth.

Some are bottomless pits of neediness and manipulation with various mental health issues. Ironically, they can become just as dependent on the giver as the giver is on them. In many ways, they too, are trapped in the same web of co-dependency.


Regardless of the tendency you have or notice, there are more choices than you think.

Use your curiosity and courage to try new behaviors, taking small steps to see what works for you. Experience improved quality of life as you adjust and improve the value of your relationships. Progress is not necessarily linear nor automatic, but thoughtful, responsible action is available.


Whether a giver or taker, some people are just stuck in their patterns and may benefit from professional assistance to make lasting progress. For chemical, familial, and other reasons, they are afraid or possibly incapable of shifting their habits entirely on their own. That becomes apparent when destructive or uncontrolled choices result in consistently negative or dangerous outcomes. Use this article to get a sense of where you or people important to your life may stand.

Better yet, let’s assume you are ready or curious enough about some different ways of acting for your own benefit and potentially for others whose limiting behavior you reinforce. Release the trap of mutual limitations by considering any of the suggestions in the rest of this article that make sense to you. Use your critical thinking and intuition to take what’s useful, adapt whatever you wish, and leave the rest.

These suggestions are geared to creating safe, authentic havens from behaviors that can limit or hurt you, especially in these complex times of accelerating change over which you have less influence.

They are safe because they emerge from within you where your actual power, common sense, and intuition lie. And, of course, they are authentic because they reflect who you are and what you truly want.


They recognize the reality that lost time cannot be regained. But your precious time can be used well when you take care of yourself first. That’s often a prelude to supporting others’ welfare in mutually healthy ways.

First, make the most of your current situation  however challenging this may seem. Try taking these steps:

1. Ask yourself, "What is working well?"

 This can relate to regular saving and judicious use of resources, how you're developing personally and professionally, or doing secure and interesting work, however you define it.


2. Gently ask, "What needs incremental attention?"

How are you allocating time and energies? Are your strengths apparent to the appropriate people, groups, and organizations? Are you choosing satisfying, healthy relationships?

3. Before you engage others, identify opportunities for your own action to show your due diligence and credibility.

What are your two top professional goals now? Which main resources can you count on, which are iffy? What two significant personal habits would benefit from improvement and how specifically will you proceed to do that?

Gather reliable, worthwhile information on a continuing basis for clarity, learning, and effective choices. To keep the process as simple as possible, identify two or three sources of pertinent, interesting information you can receive, skim, or visit regularly. They may include newsletters, listservs, blogs, social networking sites, and RSS feeds from noteworthy writers.

Perhaps look into newspapers such as The Financial Times and Wall Street Journal along with other credible ones. Explore future-oriented magazines such as Fast Company and Business Week.


4. Identify which two or three trusted people will provide useful inspiration, support, or guidance.

This is anyone without a vested interest, such as a trusted financial advisor, lawyer, or career consultant. Equally valuable are knowledgeable, caring colleagues, friends, or family members who understand and appreciate the true you.

In today’s world of accelerating change, your willingness to learn and stretch a bit will keep you vibrant, self-sufficient, and safer.

You will benefit from a range of viewpoints. To continue keeping an open, resilient mind and brave heart, make sure sources and contacts represent perspectives beyond what's predictable and comfortable. As with yourself, most all of them have points of view and often an underlying ideology.

Continue building inspiration for your future and confidence.


The keys for this are often incremental action and honesty with yourself. Staying aware and clear will add to your confidence for smart, satisfying living. Avoid action founded in fear or anxiety, or at least have a useful struggle with them by naming and working through them. 

Keep in mind that individuals, groups, and organizations — as well as financial markets and deals — are influenced by emotion that benefits from being named and understood. Some of the emotions are well-founded and motivating, others distracting or impulsive.

In addition to your own ideas, consider these ways to take care of yourself as you keep being who you want to be and doing what you want to do (instead of falling into a codependency cycle):

  • Decide on what you can reasonably influence. Focus on manageable action while avoiding using end results as your only criterion for judging progress.
  • Enjoy yourself in various ways on your own and with people who are mentally and physically healthy as well as self-sufficient.
  • Reward yourself for good outcomes, however modest.

For health and balance, make time to rest and play, as well. Maybe collaborate with someone you enjoy to develop a doable schedule of specific, regular action.


As you move forward into your new experiences, be realistic about what’s possible to do while staying open for engaging with your important goals, purposes, and dreams. Revisit your main priorities every few months to make sure they still relate to what you truly want and need in the present and foreseeable future.

RELATED: 10 Easy Ways To Show Yourself The Unconditional Love You DESERVE

Ruth Schimel, Ph.D., is a career and life management consultant and author who writes about personal and professional development in original, practical ways that help you care for yourself first. See her Choose Courage series on Amazon: Choose Courage: Step Into the Life You Want and Related Handbooks and blogs at her new website: Contact her at or 202.659.1772


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