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During this powerful session at the Essence Fest Wellness House, we dissected the nature of toxic relationships and ways to guard ourselves against them. Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a Licensed Psychologist and host of Therapy for Black Girls podcast, led the discussion on and gave solid advice on how toxicity shows up in various personal relationships.

The first thing to know is that we all deserve joyful, healthy and reciprocal relationships. But how is it that some of us gravitate to relationships that aren’t any of those things? “Sometimes when we’ve had traumatic experiences or difficult relationships with our parents, it can make it really difficult for us to understand healthy relationships.,” she explains. “Even if that has been your history, it doesn’t have to be your present or future.”

Dr. Harden Bradford says boundaries are what protect us from having our peace of mind and sanity disrupted by toxic relationships. This applies to not only romantic and friendly relationships, but to family as well. “We do each other a disservice when we say things like, ‘you only get one mother or father.’ That may be the truth, but those people aren’t always the healthiest.”

Of course, putting strict boundaries in place to protect our emotional well being can bring about feelings of guilt. By going to therapy and practicing the act of being kind to ourselves Dr. Bradford believes that those feelings can be remedied over time.

Whew! Let the church say amen! Watch the entire “Identifying Toxic Relationships” session at Essence Fest 2019 below.