We’ve all heard versions of a phrase talking about bad apples ruining (or not) the bunch of apples. But have we ever stopped to reflect on what that might mean personally?

Take a minute to consider the phrase (or song): “One bad apple does not ruin (or spoil) the whole bunch.” When applied to relationships, we might think about it in terms of “other fish in the sea.” In general, we’re encouraged to throw out the bad apple, so that we can experience something good again. The idea is that the bad apple hurt us, but that doesn’t mean others in the same category will also cause us pain.

But what if we neglected to throw out the bad apple? What if we actively decided to hold onto it? Think about this in your relationships. Are you holding onto bad apples?

What do Bad Apples Look Like in Relationships?

In this scenario, we’re going to call this not just holding onto, but eating (or ingesting) the bad apple. The idea of eating a rotten apple is gross, right? But that’s exactly what we do when we hold onto these toxic relationships. When we actively hold onto something toxic, eventually it’s going to infect us, it’s going to infiltrate our being. Eventually, we’re not going to be able to get that mess off our hands. We’re not going to be able to get the taste out of our mouths.

When we are so thoroughly infected, what naturally happens to our other relationships? Eventually, the toxicity we hold onto will also infect those relationships until all our relationships leave us feeling gross or unwanted. Stop to consider if those feelings are generated from you or from somewhere else.

How to Identify Toxic Relationships

The toxic relationships I’m referring to could look like anything in our lives that we allow to hold negative power over us. It could be a personal relationship, whether a friend or “lover,” who treats us badly. Even if we’re treated “good” part of the time, what is the emotional impact these people leave us with most of the time? Is your “love” only kind to you when they want something and act like a turd the rest of the time? The toxic relationship could be a job that doesn’t respect or appreciate you. Do they see your value, or just treat you like an insignificant cog in their machine? There could be

more than one bad apple taking up space in your life. Bad apples are any person or thing that we allow into our lives whose negativity influences our thoughts, emotions, or actions.

Who Didn’t Choose You?

I watched a TikTok video recently that talked about this concept. TherapyJeff described a reason why someone would hold onto toxic relationships. He said, maybe your parents didn’t choose you as a child (there are many reasons this could be true). In your child-brain, you thought that your parents not choosing you meant that there was something wrong with you. When you got older, this idea translated into your grown-up relationships. So, the fact that anyone is choosing you now means everything to you. Maybe the idea of someone else not choosing you is so difficult to consider, that you decide to stay, even though you know how toxic that relationship is for you.

If this is you, I cannot describe how badly I want to reach through the screen to give you a hug. To remind you or tell you how very special and important you are. Even if the idea that something is “wrong” with you generated from your parents, it doesn’t mean there was ever anything wrong with you. In fact, I can almost guarantee that the “problem,” or bad programming you are experiencing started long before you were on the scene. This is where generational trauma comes from. Layer upon layer of bad apples infecting the next generation.

The good news is you can decide to make a change in your life. The bad news is, that it’s not going to be an easy process. In fact, this could be the hardest thing you do. The only way you’ll begin to see any relief in these situations is by throwing away the bad apples in your life. Start by choosing you.

Links in post include “One Bad Apple” by The Osmonds, and TherapyJeff on TikTok.