Expert shares advice on leaving a toxic relationship

Apr 25, 2022, 5:47 PM
David Schramm, Utah State University Extension family life specialist, has four tips to help you be...
David Schramm, Utah State University Extension family life specialist, has four tips to help you become a better partner or spouse in 2023. (Photo credit: Adobe Stock)
(Photo credit: Adobe Stock)

SALT LAKE CITY — As actor Johnny Depp and ex-wife Amber Heard battle it out in court during their defamation trial in Fairfax, Virginia, an expert shared advice on how to identify a toxic relationship and how to break the cycle if you keep finding yourself in one.

Depp is suing Heard for $50 million after she wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post in 2018. She described herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” Although Depp was not named in the op-ed, he said it cost him acting work.

The doctor is in

BYU psychologist Dr. Tom Golightly shared advice on leaving a toxic relationship with KSL NewsRadio’s Debbie Dujanovic and guest host Scott Simpson.

“What’s the first sign that a relationship is getting toxic before it gets to the door slamming and the name-calling?” Debbie asked.

Golightly said a toxic relationship is defined as one person feeling devalued by the other and is accompanied by a form of abusive behavior.

“Everyone — let’s be clear — brings some issues into any relationship. But it’s the combination of the individuals and their issues that might make that pairing untenable and pretty toxic,” Golightly said.

If you are a people-pleaser kind of person, you may want to think twice about forming a relationship with someone who seeks control, he said.

People pleasers “mix poorly with individuals who want to have control,” Golightly said. “Controllers seek passive types of people that are looking to please others. And they find themselves in these relationships that can turn out to be quite toxic.”

“How does somebody break the cycle of toxicity. How do they get out of it?” Simpson asked.

“Because of that people-pleasing tendency, they have a hard time being assertive and trying to stick to that gut feeling that says, ‘Hey, this isn’t good for me,’ Golightly said.

How do you end a toxic relationship?

“How not to get into [a toxic relationship] is to be genuine, be active, not passive, in decision making in the relationship, especially upfront, noticing how you feel when you’re around them,” Golightly said. “Be assertive, not grabbing for power –that’s aggressive — but being able to say, ‘No, I am worth something. And I am going to get out of this’ and then sticking to it.”

How do you give advice to someone who is trapped?

“Is there a way to approach this subject with somebody that you suspect is in that [toxic] relationship?” Simpson asked.

“Scott, this is a very difficult thing to approach with someone,” Golightly cautioned. “And it’s mainly just to stick to your observations. It’s just important to be factual with these individuals and say, ‘Hey, this is what I’m seeing. This is what I’m noticing. How are you doing and trying to open the conversation … [Do] not give advice … If it’s an immediate danger, obviously, then we need to call police and get first responders there.”

“Give Scott and I the question or the statement that we’re going to make to our friend who we suspect is in that toxic relationship,” Debbie said.

Golightly said to start with your observations about your friend’s relationship and follow with some questions.

” ‘Are you comfortable in that relationship? Are you feeling like you’re able to be you? Is it making you the best version of you?’ I think those are three really, really good questions to kind of start that conversation and see where it goes from there,” he said.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  

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Expert shares advice on leaving a toxic relationship