Toxic relationships involve people who, knowingly or not, are swimming in their own pools of toxic self-pity. I’ve asked myself over and over how I can avoid being hurt by such relationships. I’ve wondered if there’s some do-gooder approach to them, if there’s away I can clean up the toxic waste or put boundaries around it so that it won’t spread any further or compromise my own dignity. There are all kinds of suggestions out there on how to deal with toxic parents, siblings, friends, etc. but what I’ve read so far just doesn’t seem to help. It results in a slightly different frame of mind but a continuation of the pain. When the most recent load of toxic waste was dumped on me by a loved one, I realized something that may save my sanity: the only way to avoid the damage of a toxic relationship is to not jump in it. What does this mean? Contrary to many things I’ve read, it doesn’t mean drawing respectful boundaries with the person, it doesn’t mean trying to understand the person, and it doesn’t mean shutting the person out. It means that when their toxic rain starts pouring down on you, you calmly open your umbrella and keep on walking until it stops. What he or she wants is for you to react to the toxicity, to call out some sort of pity or attention from you. But reacting to him or her would only poison you, which is why you must refuse to jump in the pool of toxic waste in the first place. You recognize it for what it is (toxic nonsense), say, “Huh, that’s no good,” and then you keep walking safe and dry and with your head held high. Because life is too short to be tormented by these people. And they’re not going to get any better either unless people stop paying attention to their games. They cause us problems, but the problems aren’t really even the issue. Problems can be solved in a logical way; we do it all the time. It can sometimes even be satisfying to meet these challenges. But not when we’ve jumped into the toxic waste pool. Then we’re incapacitated, left to drown, just like our toxic loved one. Misery loves company. Don’t join the misery; just let toxic waste lie.