One of the Biggest Tools in Your Tool Kit: Anticipation
Even under the best circumstances, the holidays can be challenging. Thanksgiving and Christmas are behind us, the New Year and Valentine’s Day are two other times that people with problematic behavior tend to resurface.
While we can’t control them, we can control how we respond, or, at a minimum, we can limit their access to us.
We can do this by preparing ourselves so we aren’t caught off-guard by any unwanted communication from them, well-intended bad advice from others, or the uncomfortable emotions we might experience as a result.
The ending of any relationship can be challenging, no matter how dysfunctional or how angry you are with them. For many, giving up the fantasy of the relationship you want to have with them is the hardest part. The pull of this fantasy can be hard to resist, and it's the main reason why people continue to go back.
Prevent Sliding Back into an Abusive Relationship
In order to prevent sliding back into an abusive relationship, it can help to anticipate "craving" the fantasy and for nostalgia to kick in. This way, if they do contact you and say all the right things, you won’t be so caught off guard.
One way to do this is to write out all of the reasons this relationship isn't good for you, and then read this list if you are tempted to reopen contact with them.
The goal here is to remind yourself of the crazy-making and pain that comes with having them in your life. Try not to slip into minimizing their behavior, or thinking that maybe you could be friends or casual acquaintances with them—especially when their track record is that they have caused you a lot of pain and shown no lasting signs of change. Holding on to hope in a dynamic like this isn't being optimistic; it's being in denial.
To learn more about how to handle “difficult” people, please consider reading my book, The Narcissist’s Playbook: How to Identify, Disarm, and Protect Yourself from Narcissists, Sociopaths, Psychopaths, and Other Types of Manipulative and Abusive People.