Am I in a bad relationship? | Handel Group

Radically Loved Podcast ft. Lauren Zander

There are toxic relationships at work, in your family, in your friendships or community of friends. There are ones that everybody knows about, and the OTHER ones: the ones that no one knows about.

Warning Label: This (abridged!) transcript of Rosie Acosta’s Radically Loved Podcast is an impressive read BUT crazily worth it, as if your friendships depended on it. Audio is also available! 

Ready, set, grow:

Rosie Acosta: Welcome to Radically Loved Radio. I am your host, Rosie Acosta, yoga teacher and teacher trainer, mindfulness coach, speaker, and creative writer. On this podcast, we talk to people within our health and wellness community that are creating content through the ritualistic practice of yoga, meditation, or overall mindful living. We hope to create value in your life so that you can achieve your highest potential and live a radically loved life. Today I am joined by literally the best woman on the planet…Lauren Zander is here with us and gracing our presence. We’re really excited to have her on because we’re in the middle of Mercury fucking Retrograde, and we need her help with a couple of questions that you, the listener, have sent in. Everybody welcome Lauren Zander.

Lauren Zander: Hi, everyone. Thanks for having me. You know how I feel about you, Rosie. I would follow you around. I would be like your little lapdog. I’d be happy to do anything you wanted me to do, whenever you wanted me to do it.

Rosie Acosta: Oh, my god. I love you. For the people that don’t know, Lauren is my coach. I’ve been working with her for the last two years, and she has changed my life in more ways than I can count, which I’m always grateful for. One of the topics that has come up in the last couple months, both on my Facebook group and via email, is toxic relationships, and specifically, how to get out of them. Lauren, you and I have done work on this for myself, and I think it’s one of the biggest topics that we tend to avoid because it’s uncomfortable, and depending on who the person is, there’s different ways of, I don’t want to say getting rid of them, but of dissipating those relationships. 

I was hoping that you would be able to talk to us about the different types of toxic relationships, how we know when a relationship is toxic, and how do we get out of them?

Lauren Zander: It’s an expansive topic, right? Because there are toxic relationships at work, in your family, and in your own friendships or community of friends. There are also toxic relationships that everybody knows about, and toxic relationship that no one knows about. So many, in fact, that in your little head I could make you make an Excel spreadsheet. But, unfortunately, most of us never have. 

Why don’t humans make a little Excel spreadsheet? 

Because if you actually knew you had all those issues, you might have to tackle them, one by one. So, first off, I have never met a person that didn’t need to do this assignment. I think it’s incredibly healthy to do…it’s where you really look at the quality of your relationships with your family, friends, coworkers, employees, etc., and then you  place each of those relationships into different tiers. 

So, your besties are tier one. Your tier two includes the people who you’d categorize as, “I wish they would be or could be tier one, but they’re just not.” They are relocatable to tier one, but you’d have to spend a lot more time with them in order for that to happen. In other words, tier two are the people you love, but don’t get enough time with. For example, if you threw a party with 15 people, they probably won’t make the cut. Right? Your first 15 are in tier one. Your next 40 could be in tier two. Then tier three is your relocation package. These are the people who you love and you want to keep in your life, but the relationship itself is not delicious, fun, and enhancing. 

Now, what is a toxic relationship? 

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What creates toxicity in a relationship is a fear of telling the truth. Anything you feel you cannot say to someone else that you wish you could say, or need to say, or feel pent up because you didn’t say is toxic. Any place you can’t tell someone something that you’re upset about or what you are judging them for and, in your world, it’s their fault you can’t tell them, is toxicity. 

Once you’ve separated your friends into their tiers. You then have to think about the degrees of intimacy and what you expect from each of the relationship. What I have people do is distinguish the laws they want to live by for tier one, tier two, and tier three relationships, even if it’s corporate relationships. I really have people figure out all the places they’re uncomfortable, can’t say something, and feel toxic because either they can’t, or they said something once and then it didn’t go well, and now it’s toxic. 


Rosie Acosta:  Ok. So, I have a dear friend, who my opinion really matters to, and they are dating someone who is…shitty. 

Lauren Zander: According to you… 

Rosie Acosta: Yes. According to me, my friend isn’t serving in the best interest of himself, and if I were to say, “Hey, this is how I feel, this is my opinion, that they’re not serving your highest good,” I think that it would be more devastating to me because I know that he would never leave this person.

Lauren Zander: So as the best friend, that’s the power you were entrusted with. Right? I have gotten dumped for telling the truth to best friends…that’s not my best friend. My best friend wants me to tell them the truth. Who would pick ME and hope I didn’t tell them the truth? 


So, in regards to your guy friend, you and he need better rules. I don’t need you to go tell him she sucks, I need you two to figure out if you two have that kind of relationship. For example, as your friend, I could ask you: “Rosie, if I hear something or smell something in your life that is not making you happy, do you want me to call it out and come after it for you?”

Rosie Acosta: Yeah. I mean, I would expect nothing else.

Lauren Zander: Well, right. I have not disguised what kind of friend I am, right? You, as a friend of this guy, do not know what your friendship policy is. Can he can say stuff to you about your marriage? Can you say stuff to him about his relationship? 

This is for everyone out there listening: if you haven’t worked out your policies of intimacy, you are going to run into this very problem. Even with your husband or marriage, if I find people fighting or having problems, there’s usually a level to which agreements just haven’t been made, like, “You’re in charge of this. I’m never going to do that. I’ll always do this. You’ll do that. I’ll be mad at you if you do this. That means I’ll never tell you the truth then, etc.” Right? Once you’ve been in a relationship for a few years, you can tell what’s predictable about the two of you.

So, you, Rosie, need to have this kind of conversation with your friend about, “Hey, I love you madly and I want to be able to say things to you that maybe you don’t want to hear from me. Or if I say them to you, they could change our relationship and I don’t know if I feel comfortable saying them right now. So, when it comes to love life, career, anything, do you feel like I should say everything and anything, and you’d be mad at me if I didn’t? Do you not want me to share everything…” You need to ask him. 

Now, you’re like, “Lauren, will he know I’m talking about the girlfriend.” Yeah, he will… 

Rosie Acosta: He will, for sure?

Lauren Zander: Yeah. So, you’re probably not that good a secret keeper. Right? He can see your face. Right? He could tell, maybe. So, if y’all are really that close, you should have that fight. You should have that level of agreement. Right? 

Rosie Acosta: You talk about speaking the truth a lot, and being able to say your truth, and what I’ve found is that truth telling has more to do with the contract or the agreements that we have, or don’t have, with people  At the end of the day, people will walk their own path, but I feel like what’s going to keep the relationship from turning toxic is the fact that you were able to express yourself.

Lauren Zander: Yes, and make agreements. If you’re having trouble in one of your relationships, and you’d even call it toxic, what I hear is, “Wow. There are things in our dynamic together that we’ve never really discussed or resolved with each other on how to handle it.” 


There are many topics and parts to a relationship that need to be teased out, but you can’t tease it out until you go have that conversation with your buddy and go, “Hey, I am awkward or uncomfortable talking about these things. Are there things we’ve never talked about you wish you could tell me?”

The other thing that’s happening is because you won’t tell him what you’re holding against him with his girlfriend, you then don’t get to make a difference in their lives. 


We don’t know what the story really is. You’re making a lot of assumptions.

That’s how you should actually frame the conversation with him. In the Handel Method, we call it a difficult conversation and we have lots of scripts about how to have difficult conversations. The best way is to have the conversation go, “Okay. I think I might be in my head about our relationship. There’s stuff going on in my mind, I don’t even know if it’s true. I don’t even know what you think about it. I don’t even know if I have permission to say it, but let me just have a mind dump, Mom, Dad, best friend, coworker, and let me check what I’m worried about or my theory or what I’m upset about, and you tell me what to think after I tell you what I’m thinking. I’m not attached to what I’m thinking. I’m just letting you know what I’m thinking. Then we’ll figure out how to resolve it.”

When you own your part first, and you ask the question, “What happened? Set me straight. What do you think,” it works every time.

Rosie Acosta: Yeah, yeah. I love that, and I think it’s key to be able to navigate that situation, so I’m definitely going to do that because I feel like that’s the best way to express myself while still setting parameters, and giving him space. Thank you for that. 

Okay. And now a question from Facebook:

“I’ve had a best friend since high school, and I’m 36, and now she has turned into a different person. I feel like I can’t have the same conversations with her because she makes me feel guilty about my own success. She’s currently not where she wants to be in her life, and I feel like I can’t express all the ups in my life without her sounding negative. I feel like I’ve been talking to her a lot less in the last two years, and I don’t even feel like we’re real friends anymore. Not sure what to do.”

Lauren Zander: So, what you just described is you moved someone from first or second tier to third tier. That’s all. Now, you’re like, “Lauren, has that ever happened to you?” I’m like, “yes.” I had a wonderful friend who I loved for many years. I’ve known her since I was in my early 20s, and now I’m heading for 50, and we went through a bout. I had a serious problem with her actually being…the same thing. She got depressed. She got unhappy. She went from being a rockstar in her life to not so much. Right? She got divorced, gained a lot of weight, and started self-medicating. No matter what I did, I couldn’t make a difference with her, and she was Debbie Downer, and even worse, do you think I wanted to tell her any good news? No.

So, I had a very honest conversation with her, but the reason I had an honest conversation with her was because I wanted to save her, and I wanted to love her, and I wanted to tell her how it’s been for me, like, “I love you. I love you madly. You and I are going to be friends forever, but I can’t have you at dinner because you’re sour, and no one wants to tell you good news. You’re pretty depressing. I don’t consider you depressed, I consider you depressing, because I’ve seen you really be great, but now you’re eating like crap, etc. I’m sorry. I’m going to keep you forever, but I’m not inviting you to this party. I’m not going to have you here unless you’re happy. I can’t have you around, unless you’re dealing with your life powerfully. I don’t care if you’re 300 pounds sitting over there, if you’re happy. But you’re sitting over there and sulking and eating a bag of potato chips…that’s like, against my religion. So, what should we do, because these are my problems with you. You tell me how to deal.” 

So, again, she rose to the occasion, owned it, stopped coming around, and went to a therapist and started to get help and really started to deal with herself. And she knew I loved her, and she knew it was me to tell her. That was a good story. Now, I meet a lot of people, and I make a lot of friends, but I have some real deal breakers in my relationships of intimacy, and stories like this don’t always turn out that well. 

One of my dealbreakers is: I can ask you any questions, you can ask me any questions, and if there are things that are off limits, we’re probably not meant to be friends.

It took me a long time to understand what a freak I was. 


I don’t care what your answer is. I care that you’ll answer. It’s really important to me that you know how to tell the truth, and you’re not embarrassed. Even if you hate what you’re talking about, you’re still proud to share the truth about you. 

If you can’t talk about your deal breaker, it’s toxic. 

How toxic? The person that asked this FB question already moved her friend to tier three, but if she would like to love her, or commit to her, or get her back to a tier two or one, she’ll have to tell her the truth. Or, if she wants to get rid of her altogether, she would tell her the truth anyway, because now she’s withholding that information.

The quality of your life depends on what you expect in your relationships, and then demand of yourself.

If you’re hating someone in your head, they don’t know it.  If you don’t like their boyfriend, they don’t know it. If you’re blowing them off because of it, they blame how workaholic you are. They don’t go, “She doesn’t like me so much anymore because I’m such a complainer.” I promise that’s not what your friend is saying. But if she knew that’s what you were thinking then she might really do something about it.

Rosie Acosta: So, in a way, we’re not serving our own highest good when we’re not telling the truth. It all just comes down to telling the truth, doesn’t it? All roads lead to the truth. 

Lauren Zander: Yes, but people are always worried about being confrontational. I don’t need you to be confrontational. I need you to figure out a way to say it so you’re telling the truth without being confrontational. Right? It’s called intimacy and honesty, not confrontation.

Rosie Acosta: So for the people watching this or listening, can you tell us about how they can find these tools within Inner.U?

Lauren Zander: One of my greatest dreams was to get all of my method into a funny, digestible platform with examples of the content. Thank God for technology because there is this epic ability to build a killer automated program and fulfill my dream! 

Inner.U is 12 sessions and it’s interactive. I even teach a masterclass to help you through the program. We offer regular coaching. We put people together as buddies. You’re like, “Why do I want a buddy?” I’m like, “Can you imagine if you could practice difficult conversations with someone new from Texas?” Right? It’s so good for anyone who’s actually serious about changing their actual life, not read a book and hope it’ll change. Those are not my people.

Rosie Acosta: Yeah, and I really feel like the process is super helpful, and the homework is really manageable. It’s not like it’s out of control. So, for the people watching this or listening, I highly recommend the program. Obviously, I think Lauren is an incredible coach. She’s also an incredibly gifted teacher, and all the information in there is totally created in a way that’s understandable, the concepts and the examples. 

I have to say that for me it wasn’t until I actually started to do the homework that things actually started to change, and it depends on the type of learner you are, but I feel like the program is extremely relatable. It’s easy to do, and it’s structured in a way where you can go at your own pace. Having the community is a huge plus because I feel like that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to shift and elevate consciousness on a communal level so that we can continue to do this work in a supportive way, and some of this work can actually be really hard, and I know that for me, having Lauren, and having the whole community, and her whole tribe that she has created has been so helpful. 

Lauren is a truth teller, that’s it, and that’s why I love her, and that’s why I respect her, and that’s why I’m honored to be working with her. Get at her. She’s ready for you. She’s ready for all your questions!

Lauren & Rosie Acosta 

P.S. Inner.U is a 12 session online course that gives you the tools to hack into your own life, hone your dreams, and have every last thing you want in the areas that matter most to you: CAREER, MONEY, LOVE, TIME, FAMILY, and HEALTH. Do this life thing better from wherever, whenever.