There are moments in life when you realize there are certain people in your world that may not necessarily be the best for you. At that point, it's time to ask the 3 important questions:
#1: Is this relationship worth the effort?
#2: Do I value my feelings over theirs?
#3: Do I like who *I* am when I am around this person?
If you answered "No" to these questions, you are in a toxic relationship. I recently read an article on this topic. It struck a chord with me because, as I read through the list, I could picture a couple of situations in my own life where my answers to the above questions needed to be addressed. We all have had that one friend or family member that completely drains us, yet we hold on for reasons only we can understand. Some outsiders may ask “Why do you put up with that?” It isn’t until the one day we wake up and ask ourselves “Why DO I put up with this?” that a change can be made. Relationships that drain you of life and energy are toxic.
I have noticed with myself when the toxicity starts to set in, certain things begin to happen:
- I begin reacting and responding similarly to that person when I am in their presence. Their negativity morphs its way over to me. I feel more accepted by them if I allow them to pull me into their web of toxic behaviors. And I don’t like who I am when this happens.
- I’m working twice as hard to please them, yet somehow moving backward in the direction in which they expect me to go. Nothing I ever say or do is ever quite good enough.
- My guard is always up. I have an underlying fear if I expose my authentic self, I will get crushed. Once again. When stress begins to take it's toll, I appear cold and uncaring to them.
- What you see is an illusion! I may appear cold and uncaring, but deep down, my heart is broken. I feel guilty, angry, frustrated, and defeated. However if I express those feelings in an attempt for resolution, they are immediately dismissed.
- It's always about them, their feelings and opinions. My opinion is only valid if it aligns with theirs.
- I keep trying over and over. Despite if it’s a friend, a romantic relationship, or family, there’s a sense of obligation, i.e. "We've been friends for years. What kind of friend would I be to walk away?" "It's family. I just need to deal with it." Guilt overrides logic.
- I never know what to expect with them. There are times I may go days at a time before I reach out for fear of not knowing what kind of mood will greet me on the receiving end. Which, in turn, will change my own mood. Not calling is 100 percent avoidance on my part…..100 percent unhealthy avoidance.
- I don’t call for days and “society” sneaks up on me reminding me that I am a terrible person for at least not checking in. I let society’s expectations of my part in this relationship become my guilty conscience.
- I finally call and I regret it immediately. Almost EVERY TIME.
- There are good moments, on occasion. They are few and far between, but still a glimmer of hope. These are reminders of why I care about them and have them in my life to begin with. These are also the strings of guilt that pull me back in just as I desperately consider cutting myself loose.
- I start to question the authenticity of other relationships in my life because I am not having to work as hard at maintaining them. These people love me for me....... but do they really? (Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but that's what the toxin eventually does. It poisons your sense of what is "normal".)
You would think by 40 I would know better than to allow myself to be exposed to such toxicity. Unfortunately, toxic relationships have a way of surprising you once you are fully vested. Hence the long laundry list above. There is a constant roller coaster of emotions attached; the desire to "fix it", yet the self-mutilation by staying in it. You're living in a FOG - Fear, Obligation, Guilt.
Toxic relationships can break your spirit. They can separate you from your sense of self and what it is YOU value in relationships. Once realized, it is never too late to make a change for the better in your life. These types of relationships aren't worthy of your time and energy. Value your mental and emotional health over theirs. Life is too short to stress over things such as "I wonder what kind of mood they will be in when I call today?" Remember, they have chosen their own attitude/mindset. It isn't your place to make it better for them.
Be you. Be happy. Be free of toxins.