As we explore loving ourselves more in our Self-Love Challenge, its important to take stock of our external relationships as well. The two are deeply connected.
I believe people come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. We don’t always know how long they will be around or how big of a role they will play in our lives. And we don’t really need to know.
What we do need to be able to recognize is when a relationship no longer works for us. When it’s continuing can only occur at the expense of our well-being. And then it needs to shift or end. This can be a painful process…there’s a grieving process that needs to occur…but it can also be a wonderful process because what’s on the other side…a stronger sense of self, room for healthier relationships to come in, attracting different energy in all aspects of life – it’s worth it.
Twenty years ago, when my oldest daughter was eight and my youngest had just arrived, I started doing what I could to have a better relationship with the man who had raised me…my adoptive father/step-father. It hadn’t been great (not that there were no good moments, don’t get me wrong) for most of my growing up. I remember many many hurtful comments that still ring in my brain now and then. I remember behaviors that seemed so incredibly selfish and unloving. I remember how he spoke to my mom, one of the kindest and most giving people in the world, and how much it hurt my heart.
I certainly didn’t have the same skills at 28 as I have now but I did my best to establish some new healthier boundaries and I desperately wanted an acknowledgment that he recognized some of his hurtful ways and was willing to commit moving forward in a different space. He wasn’t willing to discuss anything…to look at anything. He told me his perception was much different (3 of us in that house had one perception and he had a different one) and that was all he would ever say.
I was concerned for my well-being and the well-being of my oldest daughter who had had a close relationship but I was seeing shifts…she was having issues and I didn’t want her to go through what I went through. And I had this new child to care for as well.
I ended the relationship with my step-father when my youngest was six months old. I’ve grieved that relationship and, while I occasionally see him at family functions my brother hosts, I feel very little for him. It’s as if there never was a relationship. It’s very neutral. I’ve had people tell me I need to repair that relationship…that I need to step up and fix things…and, believe me, I’ve given it all a lot of thought. But twenty years later, he is still the same man with deep emotional scars he is not willing to look at and that affects his ability to relate to other people. I’m not willing to let someone in my space who I can’t have a loving and kind relationship with.
And I don’t believe just because someone is family they need to be in our lives. They don’t. Resolve the lesson, finish the karma…whatever you want to call it…and move on if that’s what you need to do. Take care of yourself first.
Here are some signs your relationship may be toxic:
- They are angry a lot. When people aren’t in a good place, they often lash out to keep others at bay.
- They put you down. It may feel like you just can’t do anything right when you are around them.
- You can’t be yourself. This includes feeling like you are walking on eggshells.
- They won’t talk about issues or even acknowledge that there are any.
- The focus is on them…always. They don’t seem to care about your needs and desires at all.
- You feel guilty about your relationship…either you hide it from others because you know they don’t approve or you feel bad for feeling the way you do about the other person.
- Scorecards…you find yourself keeping score (or they do) of the bad things they do to justify why you are angry or the good things because you are trying to justify staying.
If you notice any of these identifiers in your relationships, it’s time to take stock and make decisions about how you will choose to move forward. You may be able to have conversations and heal the damaged parts of the relationship so you can move forward in a healthier and more loving space or it may be time to say goodbye.
Have you experienced a toxic relationship in your life? How did you handle it?