December 09, 2013

Toxic Relationships

Toxic relationships suck the life out of you.  I have had my share of toxic relationships.  When you are in one, you can find yourself losing all self-respect and begin to doubt your sanity.  They are the opposite of what God wants for us.  God created us for relationships, and the best relationships are those that mirror who He is, a God of love, slow to anger.  Good relationships bring out the best in us and make us feel like we can be more and do more than we ever imagined.

I like Natalie Lue's definition of a healthy relationship.  Natalie is the author of the Baggage Reclaim blog.  According to Natalie, a healthy relationship has these landmarks: Intimacy, commitment, consistency, balance, progression, and shared values, plus love, care, trust, and respect.  Natalie mostly writes about romantic relationships, but I think this is true of any relationship, whether it's family, friends, or a love interest.  When some of these characteristics are not part of a relationship, it's time to end it or at least suspend it.  


Even with family, at times, you need to temporarily disengage to get your head clear before having any kind of conversation.  Relationships can be toxic all the time, or they can start healthy and become toxic.  Rarely does a relationship go from toxic to healthy without a period of no contact.  Having no contact is the best way to grieve a relationship of a person who is still living.  It is basically a way to restore your sanity and get clarity on what you want out of this relationship in the future if anything.  

With no contact, you simply don't contact someone for a period of time and also ask them not to contact you, if they are pursuing a conversation before you are ready.  Here are signs that you are in a toxic relationship:
  • You feel stressed whenever you talk to them or think about them
  • You spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about them
  • Whenever you talk to them, you never say what you meant to say; they somehow get you to back down
  • They have busted your boundaries after you've made them clear
  • They say they respect you/love you/care about you, but their actions say anything but
  • When you talk to them, you end up crazy pants and do or say things that are totally unlike you or against your moral code
  • You don't recognize yourself when you are around them
  • You have tried to walk away from them before or take a break, but they do or say something that re-engages you
 When in the no contact period, it is normal to go through a myriad of emotions: anger, depression, sadness, stress, anxiety, self-doubt, and basically any of the emotions with normal grieving.  In a way, it's exactly like a death, except there is the the chance of reconciliation, but you are grieving the loss of what you thought the relationship was.  In time, you maybe able to have a different type of relationship with this person, but first you have to kill off the old relationship and the unhealthy way it currently operates.

The best thing to do is spend time mourning but also take time to enjoy life and do things that make you feel good.  Killing off toxic relationships allows you to make room for healthy relationships in your life.  Once you have gone through this process, you will find it a lot easier to discover what healthy relationships looks like.  For some of us, this is completely new if we have little to no experience with healthy, fulfilling relationships, but believe me, you are worth it.    

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