How To Deal With Toxic Relationships!

Do you have emotional vampires in your life? Do you have friends or family that suck your life energy and leave you feeling depleted, depressed, irritable and antsy?

Here are some simple strategies to help minimize or eliminate toxic people from your life:

1. IDENTIFY THE EMOTIONAL VAMPIRES IN YOUR LIFE. Scan your life and notice what friends, family, colleagues, co-workers or romantic partners sap your energy, clog your life and bring you down.


  • you begin feeling tired and depleted
  • your eyes are droopy
  • your posture starts to collapse (rounded back, hunched shoulders, collapsed middle)
  • you notice yourself getting irritable, anxious, antsy
  • you feel insecure, unsure of yourself, off-kilter and are not sure why
  • you crave carbohydrates, sugary or ‘comfort food’
  • you can’t get a word in edge-wise


  • NARCISSIST: You can’t get a word in edge-wise, everything is about them, even if you tell a story – they spin it back to themselves in relation to their experience, you have been hanging out with this person for hours and they haven’t asked you one question about yourself.
  • VICTIM: Negative Nelly. All blame and “woe-is-’me’”. Down on their luck, nothing is their fault (conspiracy theorists, anyone?!?). You wind up feeling depressed and equally negative. Making those around them feel guilty.
  • CONTROL FREAK: Always dominating, righteous, thinking they know best and trying to fix your problems, inundating, pushy.


  • CLEARLY DEFINE A TIME LIMIT FROM THE BEGINNING. If you must be in contact with a vampire (family or co-worker) – immediately state the time limit that you have. i.e. “I’m running into a meeting in 10 minutes, so our conversation has to be brief.” or “I am on a deadline and have to get back to work…is there a quick question I can help you with?”
  • 3-4 hr. TIME LIMIT WITH FAMILY. If you’re home for a holiday or on an extended trip with a vampire (alcoholic brother-in-law, pushy mother, critical co-worker) limit yourself to no more than 3-4 hours together.
  • USE BODY LANGUAGE. Stand a few feet away from them so you’re not ‘caught up in their space’, cross your arms, wear a hat to seal your energy in, wear shiny objects (jewelry, gem stones, metal) to deflect their energy, lean away from them.
  • KNOW YOUR EXIT STRATEGY. Make up an errand you have to run or a phone call you must take (outside!), go to the store, for a run, do a brief meditation, call a friend or therapist for support. Have a friend call you at a certain time to interrupt. Do whatever you need to do to return to center. Return only when your head and energy field is clear and strong.

Please leave a comment below and share the specific strategies that help you deal with toxic relationships and create healthy boundaries.

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To learn more strategies for EMOTIONAL DETOXING, join my CHAKRA DETOX IMMERSIONJULY 1-6 at Kripalu. Details + sign up here!



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Ashley is a top L.A. yoga teacher and body-mind psychotherapist. Visit her facebook page here.

  • Thank you

    Thank you Ashley.  This is really good advice.  It feels good to know I can give myself the permission to set these boundaries.  I like the idea of wearing a hat and shiny jewelry. I hadn’t thought about that.
    My mother is a bit of a control freak/narcissist and she tends to ask very personal questions and then feels offended when I say I don’t want to go there.  Which leads to extended periods of no talk. No other family member is like that so I can tell from the contrast that its not just me here.  I feel scared of hurting her but equally if I appease I end up feeling diminished.  Its a tough one.  But I have to remind myself I am only responsible for my feelings.  Thanks

  • Anna

    I agree with your list to an exent but their is another deeper level of toxicity. Also, no need for shiny jewelry and hats, just don’t spend your time around them. If you can help it don’t deal with them at all. These people will make you think you’re crazy especially when you call them out on it. Toxic people make it all about them. You have to go to them. You have to support them. You have to understand them. You have to do a favor for them. They don’t reciprocate. What’s more, they seem to think that you’re friends with them, rather than the two of you having a friendship. This is an important distinction because they may approach your friendship as if they are the more important of the two of you, and expect you to jump through hoops for them when they have no intention of reciprocating yet you will have moments when you believe you are friends.

  • Drew

    I LOVED the 3 basic species!!! Narcissist,  Victim, Control Freak… Just perfect! Its great to be able to identify them this way, so I know which I am dealing with. Loved ones, family, co-worker, dates, etc. wow. I even have a friend who is ALL 3!!! How does that happen??!! LOL Anyway thank you Ashley,. just the ID’ing alone helps. Im hoping to make another shift!
    Here is my love

  • I agree that this is all really great advice.  This post could not have come at a better time as I am living in a very toxic world at work.  My boss is absolutely sucking the life out of me.  I am a paralegal and have been working in the law field for 24 years (I started at age 18).  I came into work today with the intent of starting to pack my personal belongings as he will not be in the office today and giving my two-weeks notice tomorrow when he comes back.  I do not have another job lined up -as we all know, the job market is very tough. I do not need to go into his character defects nor mine.  I am at a loss as to what to do.  I cannot set reasonable boundaries as discussed above, I cannot tell him that I have to hurry because I have a meeting, and so forth – he’s my boss and he sets my schedule.  The real kicker here that the actual work environment as a whole is not bad as compared to other jobs I’ve had.  I have been working very hard on trying to figure this out – I am a very spiritual being and I try to keep only love in my heart – but it always comes back to the same issue, he wears me down.  An emotional vampire he is.

  • Roxyroxanne81

    there are reasons why your attracting these people into your life. why don’t you have a look at your own life and your own thoughts, perhaps these people are reflecting aspects of your own personality…………

    • a.

      Maybe so but this isn’t always the case. Some people are very good at masking their true intentions. Also, I will agree with you if this is all that someone tends to attract. If it’s one or two people in the midst of a majority that you have fulfilling relationships with then it’s not a reflection of one’s own personality. We don’t have to like everything someone does or how they do it but when it’s calculated, then yes, we have to evaluate what made us vulnerable in the first place but it doesn’t clear the other person of their mistreatment.
      I wouldn’t even say to call them on it especially if their behavior is covert and calculated. These are people who will have 100 people say how wonderful they are while they’ve treated a particular few horribly, which makes it extremely difficult to say anything. The best thing to do is to walk away. 

  • Divert conversations, when you know they are going down the same old route (family member/negative friend), don’t get sucked into the conversation. If you have to have contact with them, then make sure others are there – ie. family gathering, work gathering/meeting.

    The sad thing I know I have been one of those people, particularly Narcissist. I often used to come away from meet up with friends thinking, I haven’t asked them anything! Fortunately that has changed. I find them far more interesting than me now! ( ; >

    Good advice, thanks Ashley.

  • Guest

    What if Im the vampire?  How do i stop?

  • Laura

    Hi Ashley
    I just got here by “chance” I read your post, and I have a question.  I have a sister vampire (who I really love bur she doesn’t believe me)  she is really mean, saying bad comments about me, in front of me or everybody.  She likes to think she is the “victim” I’ve been trying for so many years to have a better relationship with her but I can’t.  She pushed me away and she doesn’t want to see me again, but she likes to ask about me like “spy”.  I find out that is a silly and immature game that I’m not gonna play.  What should I do? Should I just leave her alone? Not talk to her anymore? Like forget about her?  Can you please give me some advice? I will appreciate it very much.  Thanks for your time.

    • Wayne Grant

      Hi Laura,

      If you really take the time you will discover that your sister is incapable or real or true love as long as does not recognize that there is a problem.   I know how frustrating it can be, however, the first thing you need to do is establish some boundaries as trying to deal with her can be very draining.   Secondly, get some help for yourself to learn how to deal with her.   More psychologist treat victims or BPD and NPD than the persons suffering from these destructible illnesses.   Read as much as you can especially the book  “The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists” by Eleanor Payson, it is a wonderful resource.

      If you are a religious person then pray for the “renewing of the mind” for your sister and finally.   Forgive, forgive yourself first then your sister and start establishing those boundaries because at the end of the day she is an adult and is capable of making right and wrong decisions – that’s the sad part in all of this.

  • I’ve learned that once you identify an emotional vampire that you can limit the time that you spend with them. When you do spend time with them, you can not emotionally invest in their happiness. If you know that their happiness is their own responsibility, you can disassociate yourself from their outcomes. If you are spending time with someone that doesn’t make you feel good, you have to ask yourself why? What are you getting out of it. Once you identify your unhealthy bond to that person, you can work on healing that. It will transform the relationship and that person will either have to get healthy as well or they will avoid you like the plague once your energy is no longer available to them. 

  • Kebuehn

    Any suggestions when the person is your boss, & your dad, whom you’ve worked with for over 30 years? He means well but Im drained after being near him. I just want to enjoy him again.

  • Iamadoll

    What if you and your partner both exhibit signs of emotional vampirism. How do you stop? Especially when you love each other?

  • Tazchicken

    What about if you’ve been a emotional vampire to someone in the past, and now you have changed, and so you want to heal the relationship with that person you were mistreating or being toxic too? What is the best way to show them that you’ve changed if they don’t want to talk to you very much? 

    I guess the answer is to just let them talk to me whenever they feel comfortable doing so, even if it’s only once a week. But I want to heal our relationship, is there anything I can do to help the healing process or does the person just have to learn to trust me all over again?


  • James

    I have had to cut out a few family members from my life, as they are just too toxic to be around. The thing is, I can still feel their resentment from a distance as if they are now more like psychic vampires. I have set up my home and especially my bedroom to protect myself from them, and for the most part this seems to work. My only other option is to move out-of-state.

  • anonymous

    I struggle with my own mom as a control freak and crazy ass woman- always talking about her vacations. She’s sneaky and bossy- she treats me like a fucking child and I’m 37. She projects her mistakes on to me. Now she’s even wrote a book and making hundreds of dollars off my son who has a disability. I know I’m right because this a pride thing for her in selling books about MY son. Anyway it’s sad and it’s gotten worse the past 3 years. I worry her creepiness will kill me.