Have you ever found yourself in a toxic relationship?
In a perfect world, every relationship we enter would be a fruitful one. They’d make us happy, make us better people and lift us up while the rest of society tries to drag us down. In a perfect world, our relationships would put us back together at the end of the day instead of pull us apart. But we don’t live in such a world and toxic relationships are sometimes too real a thing.
By definition, a toxic relationship is characterized by one person’s uncanny ability to cause physical, mental or emotional damage to their partner. The behavior that causes this damage, of course, is not one-off; it’s a continuous or frequent occurrence that often leaves at least one party with their face in their hands.
It’s a little disappointing how I didn’t have to reach out very far in order to get some material for this piece. I watched one too many of my friends pick themselves back up after a string of bad fights, bad weeks and nights they cried themselves to sleep. There have been too many instances when I had to ask: Why stay?
Nevertheless, there have been—there are—lessons to be learned.
Don’t ignore the stench of bullshit
It doesn’t happen for everyone, but sometimes we’re actually given warning of the toxic relationship we’re in. Sometimes our friends tell us we’re being stupid, that we’re being fucked over, that we’re fucking ourselves over. On the rare occasion that you pick up on the stench of bullshit, don’t cover your nose. Let it waft up your damn nostrils, find where it’s coming from and get far away from it.
Letting go is not cowardly
I’ve heard it said that ending a relationship is the easy way out—it isn’t. When you feel yourself getting dragged, pushed or led to the bottom of the ocean, letting go of the weight isn’t cowardly; it becomes a means of survival.
Sometimes you find yourself trying to swim to the surface for two, but when the other is flailing and incapable of helping you help them, all effort is wasted.
Say it with us: letting go isn’t cowardly. Sometimes, it’s actually the bravest thing you can do.
At the end of the day, you need to be able to live with yourself
Put yourself first, no matter what happens and no matter how selfish that may seem. You’re accountable for yourself because no matter how much you love someone else (and no matter how much they claim to love you), there’s only so much that they can do. At the end of the day, you have to be the one to take care of yourself.
It’s not your job to save someone
It is not your responsibility to make sure someone else goes to work or does his/her homework. It is not up to you to break a bad habit or a chain of bad habits. You aren’t responsible for saving someone else from anything—even if it means saving them from themselves or their past.
It isn’t up to you to dig deep into their psyche and solve their mystery. You can help, yes, and you should definitely try to, but history can only repeat itself so often before you have to realize there’s not much you can do.
Should it become a matter of life and death, never be afraid to ask for help
A relationship is traditionally between two people, but when push comes to shove, it’s okay to seek for help outside. Never be afraid to reach out to someone else—especially when it becomes too much for you. Some people make threats when they’re about to lose someone; that isn’t a reason to stay. In these instances, it’s okay to pull other people in.
Toxic relationships are tricky and one doesn’t mirror another; you cannot control how someone reacts to a trigger or two. But either way—whether or not it applies—it’s always best to keep these lessons in mind; you never know when they’ll come in handy. Besides, these aren’t lessons you want to learn firsthand.
Art Alexandra Lara