Toxic Relationships. We’ve all heard of them and when we find ourselves in one, be it with a lover, friend, family, colleague, or authority figure, its easy to forget all the learned advice received from or experienced by others. When in a toxic relationship we find ourselves doing the very things we said we would NEVER do such as, making excuses for the behavior of the offending party and accepting bad behavior and offending hurts. We tell ourselves we stay because the relationship wasn't and isn’t all bad, when this person stops being our enemy he/she is an asset, or he/she promises to change and have made some effort. But in reality we stay in toxic relationships because there is the underlying fear of some spoken or unspoken unknown that has us wondering at our own ability at how to handle it, or even survive, if things do not work out as we hope. This fear causes us to stay when we really should leave; and convince ourselves that we are salvaging the relationship rather than settling. So if you find yourself on this toxic relationship roller-coaster, whether it be with a lover, friend, family, or job, here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if you are settling or truly in the process of salvaging the relationship.
How are YOU different? Toxic relationships change us not only in how we relate to others but how we relate to ourselves. Therefore as we changed to accommodate the toxicity we must also make personal changes to restore health. There is an old saying that “we want the world to change but do not want to change ourselves”. Thus, if you want to salvage your relationship and not settle you must first ask yourself how are you and what are you doing different. In asking how are you different, in no way is meant to point the finger or blame, however, if you want things to be different then YOU must be DIFFERENT. Take inventory of the areas within your life that need to change and create ways for you to invest in yourself. For example if you are isolated find ways to connect with others, if you lack passionate pursuits try something new. The key is true change starts from within and if you do not change you, you will get what you have always got.
Do you want to save THIS relationship or A relationship? Many of us will find that we are somewhere in between wanting this relationship and a relationship. The big tip off is when we are more interested in maintaining the status quo because its comfortable and less scary than trying something new.
How much effort is being exerted to make changes to the relationship? Some believe that if you to have exert a lot of effort then maybe the relationship is not worth it. I, however, believe that each relationship is different and therefore the effort needed to get the relationship back on track varies. The real question is whether or not you and the other person are putting in a similar amount of effort to get the relationship back on track. Removing toxicity is hard work and if at any point you or the other person works a little bit less then the other, it makes it that much harder to restore the relationship to a point of health and happiness.
Is it change or is it placating? In the beginning we all placate as we don’t want to lose the relationship, so we are willing to make any surface change needed to “stop the bleeding”. However, real change comes from mutual respect, communication, and resolving the root causes that led to the relationship becoming toxic. So, if you or the other person are tiptoeing around or just not addressing the real issues then all effort that is being made is placating and a band-aide.
Relationships in general are tough and toxic relationships are just plain difficult because wrapped in all the negativity is the good. However, when relationships evolve to the point where its not healthy then we all must come to the crossroads of whether to stay or go. If you choose to stay, make sure its because there is something in the relationship worth salvaging, because life is too short and too long to just settle.