Toxic Relationships

What is it about family and the perception of how familial relationships should be that makes people put up with seemingly unceasing amounts of crap from someone to whom they’re related?


The old saying “you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family” springs to mind.  Why is it not the done thing socially to treat someone in your family with whom you don’t agree or don’t get along the same way you would treat someone who is (or was) a friend?

If you have a friend who talks behind your (or other people’s) back, wouldn’t you do something about it?  What if it’s a member of the family?

And we’ve all had that friend who constantly takes advantage: they never have their wallet/purse with them at the right time, or their car is out of order and they need a lift or you’re going their way anyway and can’t you pick them up?  How long are you prepared to put up with it until you finally burst your proverbial paper collar and address the issue head on?  Isn’t it better to take a deep breath and grasp the nettle?

When I was in my early 20s I had a friend who used to whinge about her relationship all the time.  She’d call me up crying after they’d had a row and tell me all about it.  I used to sit there, listen and verbally pat her on the head time and time again.  This wasn’t an infrequent occurrence but to me, at that age, that’s just what you did for your mates.  One day I’d had a massive row with my own boyfriend and was in floods of tears and really needed someone to talk to.  I called up this friend only for her to say “I really can’t deal with this right now, I’ve got enough on my plate at the moment”

WTF?  Seriously?

That was a fairly early lesson for me.  I cut off contact with her immediately.  She called me a couple of weeks later after her latest row with her boyfriend to take up the old routine.  I told her that I was no longer interested in maintaining a one sided friendship and to leave me alone and not to bother calling me again.  Even now I’m still a little gobsmacked that I did that as pretty much everyone else got full licence to walk all over me any time they wanted at that stage in my life.

“If you allow people to make more withdrawals than deposits in your life, you will be out of balance and in the negative.  Know when to close the accountChristie Williams

It’s taken me a bloody long time to get to where I am emotionally and mentally and I like to think I’ve learned a lot along the way, including how to be relatively objective.  I know that it’s often easier to see a situation in black and white when you’re not emotionally involved but to my mind you’re not being a good friend if you don’t offer all options and play devil’s advocate.  I have also learned that this isn’t always appreciated and sometimes you’re supposed just to agree with your friends because they’re your friends.  I’m afraid I don’t subscribe to that idea any more.  There is such a thing as tough love and I believe in it wholeheartedly.

“When I loved myself enough, I began leaving whatever wasn’t healthy.  This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs and habits – anything that kept me small.  My judgment called it disloyal.  Now I see it as self-loving”.  Kim McMillen

In my case, I had an issue with my mother a number of years ago.  The compact version of the story is that she was allowing someone to take advantage of her, then complaining and worrying about it.  She didn’t take advice and persisted in calling at all hours of the day and night to inflict her worries on me so I cut off contact.  There is obviously a lot more to the story, but that’s the canned version of events.  Sometime within the following 12 months, she was diagnosed with a terminal disease and suddenly everyone I knew became concerned with the fact that I wasn’t talking to my mother.  They were telling me that I should forget everything that I’d said, forgive her and put everything right.  Why?  “Because she’s family”

I obviously didn’t want her to die but the situation that caused the rift had not changed and would not change because she wasn’t prepared to do anything about it.  I did visit her before she died and obviously we spoke (it would have been a seriously short visit if no talking was involved) but as her illness progressed, she became more brusque and dismissive of the people around her and passed away four days before Christmas of that year.

Do I regret not mending fences?  No.  That may sound harsh but in reality I’ll do just about anything within reason for my friends and family.  What I will not stand for is someone taking advantage and/or refusing to help themselves.  I have no time for that.  As the old saying goes:  piss or get off the potty.  You can whinge about a situation to me – I will offer advice.  You don’t have to take it but I will expect you to do something about the situation that’s ticking you off.  If you don’t, then as far as I’m concerned, you forfeit the right to whine about it.  Life is too short to be constantly complaining about the same thing.

4 thoughts on “Toxic Relationships

  1. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I often feel as though family thinks that they get a pass to be users. I’m not very close with my family because they were not healthy for my life. At some point you have to choose you above others. Because family will use and hurt you worse than a stranger on the street. I’m sorry about you mother. It’s good you did see her before her passing. As long as your conscience is clear then others opinions do not matter. I look forward to reading your next article. Keep up the amazing work!

    1. Thank you! Choosing to keep yourself healthy whether it be mentally or physically can be very challenging (as you know). You and I both know that those who manage to achieve it know it’s an ongoing struggle.

  2. Well said. Your openess about the “sticky wicket” issues that present themselves as toxicity in relationships is refreshing and very helpful to me. Especially about “mother/daughter” issues. Thank you for speaking truth 🙂

  3. Thanks Christine! I always try to be as honest as possible. I don’t always see things in black and white but I think my vision has become a little clearer as I get older. Still a long way to go yet …

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