A favorite quote of mine is “Before you diagnosis yourself with depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem, make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes,” -Sigmund Freud. Now I don’t know if Freud actually said this or not because it’s, shall we say, out of character and too damn hilarious? Nonetheless, it is a quote that gave me that “Aha!” moment in my life.
I always say, “Please God let the second half of my life be full of all the right people because I sure met all the wrong ones this first half!” And all the wrong ones did I meet! I was the girl surrounded by assholes and spent most of the time believing something had to be wrong with me. Addict parents. Narcissistic and abusive men. That one best friend who makes you play counselor all the time. Dysfunctional family members who couldn’t get along. You name it, I had it. There were moments I’d beg on my knees for normalcy.
It took me quite a while to assess the toxicity in my life and realizing that I had to make some changes. I tend to be an all or nothing person – I give my all or none at all – so establishing boundaries was a challenge for me, but necessary! It took me a while to work through toxic relationships, but with self-awareness and reflection, you can easily pick out which relationships drain you and which nourish you.
First we have to decide if we want to repair the relationship, or move forward from the relationship. In my opinion, there is no healthy way to resume a toxic relationship (as is) because most toxic relationships occur with a person who is emotionally unaware, narcissistic, or continuously shifts blame to you. Toxic people don’t know they’re toxic.
There are really only 3 ways to deal with a toxic relationship:
1.) Set Boundaries
2.) Remove the relationship
3.) Repair the relationship
Boundaries: I have been unsuccessful in repairing any toxic relationship, unfortunately. The one I most attempted to repair was with my mother so I gave every bit of me to try. At the end of the day, we couldn’t make it work. Because she is my mother, I didn’t have the heart to cut her out of my children’s’ lives so I learned the power of boundaries.
Setting boundaries is one of the most powerful ways to assure you have control over the negative impact a relationship can have over your emotions. For example, we are not close with my mother but we have her for holidays, special occasions and special events with the kids. This makes it possible for me not to negatively be triggered but because this is a mother relationship, I chose to set boundaries and not remove the relationship.
Remove the relationship: Relationships, they say, are a give and take. They should be mutually beneficial and should bring you joy. If they are continuously negative or draining, it may be time to reassess. In another example, my longtime best friend was a woman I typically played counselor to. She would call me only to either ask for advise or complain about her life.
It didn’t matter what advise I gave her because she would continuously go back to the lame guy she was dating over and over again. I started to notice her trend, probably too many years later, and realized that what she needs is self-work and there was nothing I could offer her as a friend. I also realized that 1.) I could no longer sit back and watch a friend destroy her life and 2.) This was no friendship at all if I was her speed-dial therapist. This was a relationship that I chose to walk away from completely.
We will all experience toxic relationships at one point or another. I think that in helping you deal with them accordingly, first distinguish if you want to repair the relationship, remove the relationship, or set boundaries. I’m not saying I’m perfect. I call myself out on my own shit daily. But girl, it’s so important to acknowledge what is your cause and what is the cause of those around you? Reflect on how the people around you make you feel. Energy doesn’t lie.
In this week’s newsletter at The I’m Loving Me Project, we talk about relationships, the healthy and unhealthy and how to deal with them as the holidays approach. Subscribe to our newsletter for more girl talk.
Written by: Laura Flynn