We all struggle with certain relationships in our lives. Whether it’s our boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend, sibling, or even a parent, some of our closest relationships grow into our most toxic ones. It can be extremely challenging to see what is best for us when we are emotionally invested in another human being. No matter how trying and dysfunctional things may become, for the most part, we feel that it is less difficult to stay and endure the pain than to potentially lose the person that we care about forever. Further, it is extraordinarily hard to face the idea that some people cannot and will not change, grow, or “get better.”
Why are these concepts so difficult to accept? Through the romanticizing of mainstream media and an evolving sense of obligation to those in our lives, we have been conditioned to believe that it is unacceptable to “give up” on relationships…even those that are damaging to us. However, it is actually the most loving thing we can do for ourselves, and those we care about, to take the space we need—be it for an hour or forever. This does not mean that we have to hold hatred or unforgiveness in our hearts, but rather that we choose to separate ourselves from others out of pure compassion, love, and respect for all, toward the greatest good of everyone involved. For those of you who aren’t sure if you are in a toxic relationship, consider this list of 10 signs that it’s time to leave an unhealthy situation.
1. When you have to act like someone you aren’t
If you feel like you have to put on a mask and pretend to be someone else just to please somebody, it is time to let that connection go. That is a game you will most certainly lose, and if by some chance you do succeed, you will never be happy. You will spend your life sacrificing a fulfilling and intimate knowledge of who you are, so that someone else can believe that they know and appreciate you. In reality, you are not only lying to yourself and others, but you are preventing anyone from knowing and loving all of the beauty that is your unique self. The Universe does not create “extra people.” You are YOU for a reason. Pretending to be someone else is waste of your life, and you are wasting the time of those who think they know you.
2. When you have to walk on egg shells
This refers to the kind of relationship where you fear “rocking the boat” by expressing any sort of discontent or asking for what you need. Any relationship that doesn’t leave room for authentic expression is definitely not serving your highest good. It takes a LOT of energy to try and tip toe around someone’s temper, feelings, or reactions…energy that you could be spending in much more effective ways. Living in fear is not a part of a healthy relationship.
3. When you can’t seem to live up to their expectations
If someone makes you feel like you can literally NEVER get it right in their eyes, then the only thing you are doing “wrong” is spending time with them! We all deserve to feel like we are capable and competent of maneuvering through life. Being constantly belittled or told that you are not up-to-snuff will only erode your self-esteem over time and undermine your sense of self. Further, you will lose sight of who you are and how you want to show up in the world. If you are living someone else’s dreams, what’s the point?
4. When you don’t have trust in the relationship
This runs both ways…and betrayal runs deep. If you feel as though someone has broken your trust, you have the choice to allow them time to repair that bond. However, you have an equal and justified choice to opt not to give them a chance to repeat history. By the same token, if someone treats you as though you can’t be trusted (without cause), odds are that they are projecting some of their own lack of honesty or integrity onto you.
5. When you can’t be openly happy
Perhaps when something good happens to you, or you are just having a great day, the person you care about is less than thrilled to see you so happy. For some, their default reaction to the successes and joys of others is jealousy, envy, and resentment. If you feel uncomfortable or self-conscious about sharing any positive news or happenings in your life, that is a clear sign that your loved one is not actually a part of your support system, and therefore not a constructive part of your life.
6. When you only hear from them during the good times
Conversely, you may notice that your loved one is only present in your life during the “high points.” This is what some refer to as a “fair-weather friend.” If you feel as though you can only turn to this person when you have good news to report and everything in your life is hunky-dory, or that they run at the first sign of actual emotion or difficulty, then they are not truly invested in your well-being. Close relationships are what buoy us during our times of adversity, and finding people to share a mutual sense of reliance with is crucial to our ability to overcome hardships.
7. When you aren’t being heard
We all have that friend that constantly comes to us for help and advice….but what about when they can’t really hear a thing that is said to them? For instance, your loved one calls you day after day, and tells you the same or similar stories for hours on end. You then pour your heart, soul, and energy into helping them find solutions and peace, only be ignored and hear the same story two days later. Here is why that happens—that person can’t really hear you…and truthfully, they may not see you as anything more than a sounding board on which to splatter and spew their discontent. That is not healthy or helpful to you. Your energy is valuable and your love deserves to be received.
8. When you have grown…and they have not
Many people have this experience in romantic relationships, but it can most definitely manifest in friendships and family relations as well. Although we hope to grow and progress side by side with those we care about, it doesn’t always happen that way. As humans, we advance at different rates, and respond to our growth in different ways. You may feel that you are reaching your potential, but notice that the person you care about seems stuck in the same place they have always been, lamenting their circumstances. You are not being served by that connection, but rather deserve to be celebrated as you progress on your path to your purpose!
9. When you focus on trying to change them, or they wish to change you
Whether you want to “fix” someone you experience as broken from their past, wish to convert someone to your way of thinking, or simply want them dress a different way, if you find yourself focusing on trying to change your loved one, then you do not truly love them. If you are not willing to take this person as they are, you have no business attempting to build or maintain a close relationship to them, and vice versa. Intimacy and trust rely on unconditional acceptance. If you are trying to change someone or they are trying to change you, the basis of your relationship is judgement, because some part of one of you is being deemed “unacceptable.” This also applies to the idea of “saving” someone. You can’t help someone out of a well if you are in there with them.
10. When you are not your best self
If you are in a situation where someone else consistently encourages you to make decisions that makes you feel bad about yourself, then they don’t belong in your life. You may notice that you are giving up on your goals, disagreeing with other important people in your life, or are succumbing to a negative outlook when faced with a person who brings out your worst. Whether they are pressuring you into something or simply bringing out your….ehem….less attractive attributes, this is a clear sign that they are not invested in preserving your innate character, fostering your strengths, or helping you grow into your highest potential.
For some of us (or perhaps all of us) there are people in the world who feel these things toward us! *Gasp* As unimaginable as that might seem, we are humans, too. It is highly likely that we have committed transgressions against others, even if we didn’t mean to or aren’t sure of how we may have done so. This list is important to consider from both angles, and to help us reflect on the ways in which we may make others feel restricted, weighed down, or unworthy.
You deserve to get back every bit of love, attention, and energy that you give out. Part of loving ourselves is being brave enough to step out of the line of fire and into a place of self-assured confidence and care. When and where will you draw the line?
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Photo: Floriane Legendre via Flickr