When to move on from a toxic situation


Dear Lexis,

When do you know it’s time to move on from a toxic situation?


Wondering in Olympia

Dear Wondering,

That can be a tricky question. There are all kinds of toxic situations, and some require more immediate action than others. Knowing when to cut someone out of your life who’s emotionally abusive is a lot harder to figure out than when you should cut someone out who is physically abusive. Why? Because physical abuse is easier to detect and identify, whereas emotional abuse tends to be slier and less obvious. Additionally, toxic situations, or abusive situations, can differ from person to person. What’s problematic for one may not be problematic for another. 

As a general rule, if you’re experiencing physical abuse, then I encourage you to seek help immediately. You never know when a physical situation can turn deadly and it’s definitely better to find a safe location before trying to work through the emotional baggage left behind. 

The WCSAP website offers local help options for people dealing with abuse or you can call the national domestic violence hotline at 800-799-7233 to get help. 

These same resources are available for emotional abuse help as well if you would like to use them, so feel free to reach out for help at any time.

That being said, if your toxic situation falls more into the emotional abuse type of scenario, the easiest way to start evaluating is to start asking yourself questions:

  • Are you willing to deal with this? 
  • Are you okay if things don’t change? 
  • Have you spoken to the person in an attempt to resolve the conflict? 
  • If so, how long are you willing to give them before you decide you’re unwilling to deal with this issue anymore?

The answers to these questions are going to differ significantly from person to person, especially given their relationship with you. Oftentimes, it’s a lot harder to determine if you should cut a parent out of your life than it is to determine if you should cut a friend out of your life. It’s likely not going to be easy either way. You’re likely to be more tolerant of a parent's behavior than you are for someone else. 

To find further clarity you can also ask yourself these questions:

  • How is this affecting me and my ability to function?
  • Is this harmful to my other family and/or friends?

These two questions are likely to get you thinking more about the big picture and the ramifications of the situation. By considering the impact on other people in your life too, you may find it easier to realize the negativity than when you’re just thinking about how it affects you. We’re generally willing to put up with more when we just consider what we can stand, but when it comes to our spouse or our children, our expectations of others tend to go way up. 

Now, having evaluated is the time to decide what you’re going to do. Are you going to keep hoping for change and keep trying to work through the issue together, or are you unwilling to compromise further? If you’ve already given a second, third, or fourth chance, are you willing to keep offering more? And, if the answer is no, what are you going to do to implement change?

Whether you choose to stay or go is a deeply personal question, but by taking the time to consider these questions, you’ll be well on your way to knowing what the next options are. I think that there is tremendous value in staying and working things out when you can, but there does come a certain point where talk isn’t going to solve anything. Unfortunately, only you can determine where that point is. You can do it, and I believe that you will make the best decision you can. 

I hope this helps.

~ Lexis

Lexis is Alexis Rae Baker. She writes from her home in Olympia.  Got a question about life, relationships, spirit? Visit her at or write to Lexis at 

EDITOR'S NOTE:  The opinions expressed above are those of Alexis Rae Baker and not necessarily of The JOLT or its staff or board of directors. Alexis Rae Baker is not a licensed psychologist or specialist healthcare professional. Her advice does not replace the care of psychologists or other healthcare professionals.


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