I find that so many times, the advice I give to others regarding finances, relationships, parenting, and marriage are things I say as if they are easy to be done. But when it comes to my own life, and applying that advice, I find it really hard to break unhealthy habits. It requires a great deal of discipline to stay true to what you set out to do, especially in areas where no one really holds you accountable. It is a lot easier said than done to save money the way you should. Everyone knows how important a regular exercise routine and healthy diet are, but most people fall short. Likewise, it is easier said than done to stand up for yourself in your relationships, especially when that means eliminating toxic relationships from your life.
Weeding Out Toxic Relationships
We all have known those people in our lives. Maybe a family member, maybe a coworker, maybe a friend. Many times these individuals stay in our lives, continuing their manipulative and abusive cycle, because we are afraid to speak up. We are afraid of the blowback, so we weather the storm.
Think of all the relationships in your life as a garden.
Each relationship is different. It offers something different, grows at its own pace, and requires unique conditions in which to thrive. The brussel sprouts in my garden (my real garden) are planted early and take a long time to grow. They are hardy, able to withstand the extreme heat in summer and a few frosts come fall. They are resilient. To me, this is like the relationship I I have with my sister. Huge yield, can weather any storm, stands strong.
Other relationships in my life have been more like growing herbs in a pot. Requiring attention often or they die.
And of course every garden has its weeds. These are your toxic relationships. For the novice gardener, when you initially plant your seeds in spring, it can be difficult to tell the sprouted seeds from unhealthy weeds. Both are peeking their heads out of the soil in your line. The weed may even look to be thriving more than your vegetables. But left unchecked, weeds will take over the garden, sucking up all the water and preventing your healthy vegetables from getting enough sunlight.
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Humans are innately hopeful, and we like to see a return on our investments.
Isn’t that just the thing? After so much time and energy invested in a relationship, we can’t just simply turn our backs and walk away! So we have no choice but to hope. We believe that things will turn around that tomorrow will be brighter than today. We hope that the negative patterns of behavior for the toxic people in our lives are really just a phase. With enough love, enough forgiveness, enough reaching out, we will be able to erase the toxicity from our relationships. Sometimes that is true. Sometimes an open heart and a giving spirit is all that is needed to break down a person’s walls an allow them to be vulnerable enough to shed their baggage and past hurts. Other times, you find yourself giving relentlessly and unrequitedly for years unending. This is an exhausting place to be. The human soul longs for emotional reciprocity – toxic individuals are not capable of such a thing.
How Can You Tell If You Dealing with a Toxic Individual?
Psychology Today, in a post titled, “8 Things the Most Toxic People in You Life Have in Common,” gives the following traits as indicators of a toxic person.
- Take no responsibility for their own feelings.
- Never apologize.
- They make you prove your affection for them.
- They make you defend yourself.
Sometimes the Best Thing to Do is Walk Away
A toxic relationship may not be characterized by blow out arguments or major events. It may be little things that slowly erode you overtime. But guess what? The poison that stems from a toxic relationship has massive spread potential. It will spill over into your other relationships. It will fill your thoughts with negativity, cause you anxiety, and possibly affect your physically. After being the one who does all of the understanding in a relationship, exhaustion, bitterness, and resentment are quick to take root. None of these things are good for your family. For the family you have built and are responsible for. As I have said so many times before, the best thing you can do for your family is to take care of yourself – be the best version of yourself and make sure your own needs are met. This is difficult, if not impossible, to do when you are plagued by a toxic relationship.
Sometimes the best thing to do is walk away. This is of course especially difficult to do when it comes to family members – parents and siblings especially. It’s hard to draw those lines in the sand and give up on someone that God placed in your life from the very beginning. But often times, this is a prime place to toxic relationships to grow.
So What Do We Do?
How do we overcome that sense of obligation that so often hangs like a cloud over our relationships in order to prioritize our own well-being and emotional health over the needs of someone who continues to tear us down?
In my own life, I have had to draw a few lines for the good of my family. They were tough decisions, but ultimately what was best for us. And as my children continue to grow, I have never regretted it. After all, my job as my mother is to create a safe environment for my babies. Cultivating and pruning the relationships in my own life is part of that responsibility.
If this is where you are, I urge you to shed all sense of obligation to the individual who is causing so much turbulence in your life. Do some reading on toxic relationships, and begin making steps to pruning your own garden of relationships. Remember those little humans are always watching, and will, of course, one day model their own relationships after yours.
Have you seen the effects of negative relationships in your family?
What steps have you taken in guarding your home against negative individuals?