We know the Valentine’s Season is here and many of you out there are starting to think about love and romance. Perhaps you are looking for the right romantic gift, making plans for a delicious get-away, or daydreaming of finding someone special. Love is in the air.
Today I want to talk to you about something a little more difficult and reach out to those who might need some help. I sincerely hope that all of my readers are in safe healthy relationships with the people in your life. We all are seeking connections that make our lives better. Finding those important connections is so important to a healthy and happy life.
But what about those people who are in toxic relationships?
Toxic connections are sometimes the hardest ones to spot because we are taught to try to find the good in people or to give second chances. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a good example of how we tell ourselves that what we see might not always be the truth.
Sometimes the connection might start off well but before you know it, you are finding yourself in situations where you know you are not doing the right thing but you feel compelled to keep going even though your inner commentary is telling you differently.
“They’re people whose feelings of insecurity and inadequacy make them jealous, envious and uncaring, so they end up sabotaging your projects, your relationships, your happiness-even your car journey!” explains psychologist, Dr. Lillian Glass, author of Toxic People (Simon and Schuster)
I recently had a conversation with an old friend who was explaining to me that he is recently separated from his wife and he was missing her in spite of the fact that just last week she had tried to have him arrested for breaking a restraining order. (Note to self: This is why you don’t have friendships with crazy people. No matter how hard it is to look away!)
Intrigued, I couldn’t help but ask him why he would want to seek out any further relationship with a woman who in my view didn’t care for him. He said they had a “connection”. As he went on to tell me about the strange and often illegal nature of their relationship I just had to shake my head, their whole marriage is based on the foundation of their toxic connection – lies and addictions.
Each one of them play the part of the toxic and even dangerous partner and fueled the other’s mischief until they were simply explosive. She had an addiction to drama and was an artful liar in order to gather allies. He has addiction problems and lacks self-control. Both of them set the scene for a disastrous relationship that is completely toxic not only for the both of them, but for anyone around them. However neither of them see this and instead fall back on fairy-tale ideals. “We are soul-mates, I know she loves me.”
How can you tell if this is a Toxic Connection?
1. Ask yourself how you really feel when you are around this person. Do you feel good or do you feel like your thoughts, feelings, or accomplishments are meaningless? Do you feel sad, depressed, or afraid?
2. Do you feel out of control when you are with this person? Does this person want you to feel dependent?
3. How do your friends and family feel about your connection with this person? Do you have to keep secrets about what is really going on because you are afraid of what others might think?
4. Have you lost your self-esteem or find yourself doing things that are out of character and you don’t like who you have become?
5. Do you feel like you are in danger when you are around this person or do you feel like you might harm someone else if you don’t get away? Do you fight physically or become violent?
6. Does this person challenge everything you say and have the need to be right in every situation?
7. Is there a lack of trust in this relationship?
8. Are you able to be yourself and feel comfortable? Or do you constantly feel like you need to change, work harder, or feel embarrassed?
9. Do you feel like you are trapped?
10. Do you find yourself avoiding spending time with this connection so that you don’t feel bad?
Staying in a toxic relationship is harmful to your health. These relationships aren’t just between romantic partners, but sometimes between family members, co-workers, and even friends. Sometimes getting out of these relationships can be very difficult. You have to make the effort to reach out for help and admit there is a problem. These relationships do not get better, they get worse. These toxic situations can even turn deadly.
Pamela Brewer, Ph.D. explains why we get into these toxic relationships. “There are many reasons why we choose toxic relationships. We may have grown up in a toxic household, we may have been taught that we are not deserving of happiness, or we may have learned to take responsibility for others. One of the most important things to remember about being in a toxic relationship, is that you do have choices and you can get out!”
No matter how scary the future might be without this person in your life, staying in a toxic situation is never healthy. Trust me, sometimes you have to walk away and take care of yourself and only you can do that for yourself. It isn’t easy and sometimes you want to run back, just because the change feels so different and you want things to feel “normal” again. But it gets better, you meet new people and they like who you are and may even like you better now that you are not ashamed to be yourself anymore. One day at a time, find a healthy place and enjoy dancing with fireflies.
If you are in danger, help is available at The National Domestic Violence Hotline, (800) 799-SAFE
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