I mentioned in my last post how much I loved watching Brene Brown on Netflix. If you haven’t checked it out, I encourage you to see it or look for other Brene videos on YouTube. If you’re not familiar with Brene, she is a psychologist who has made it her life’s work to study shame, trust and vulnerability. Brene’s talk got me thinking about my relationships, specifically toxic relationships and how I often stay in them WAY too long.
How do you know when you’re in a toxic relationship?
In her book ‘Daring Greatly’, Dr. Brene Brown says healthy relationships are based on mutuality, and require boundaries and trust. Toxic relationships are the ones where we feel as though we have just been run over or drained. These relationships often leave us feeling undermined or devalued. They are often with passive aggressive people who are unable to have direct conversations about their anger or resentments. We can differentiate between toxic people and those who celebrate us because when we are around people who celebrate us we feel energized, motivated, safe, and secure.
Brene talks about toxic relationships using the story of her daughter’s marble jar. When someone supports you, is kind to you, sticks up for you or honors what you share, you put marbles in the jar. When people are mean, disrespectful, share secrets, or talk negatively about you, marbles come out. So, it is important to wisely choose whom you have in your life. Ideally, the people you let in your life each represent marble jars that are filled to the top.
Brene also points out “true compassion is having boundaries and holding others accountable.” It is not our job to fix the way others interact. Our job is to uphold our boundaries. You share with people who have earned the right to hear your story. There is a quote from the bible that says it all:
“Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.”
– Matthew 7:6 – Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount
Sometimes it’s hard to see it right away. If someone is more covert or sneaky in their aggression, even though on the outside they’re being “nice”, it doesn’t feel quite right. Often these people are trying to get their needs met, or get your attention, but can’t bring themselves to have a direct conversation or communicate in healthy effective ways. They will sidebar and comment to others, snipe via email or social media, avoiding an actual conversation. Sometimes when you step away and stop giving them attention, they’ll pretend everything is fine and make some neutral comment to see if you’ll respond, sort of like a test balloon. Don’t get sucked into their drama – if they’re not willing to talk directly, don’t compromise your own integrity. Sometimes you have to let people go.
I recently let go of a toxic relationship that spanned over 20 years. I think I hesitated in letting it go because of the length of time invested and I wanted to believe she was a true friend. What I didn’t want to see were the multiple instances where boundaries were overstepped, ignored or trampled upon. There have been times when she admitted to feeling jealous or envious of my accomplishments. She had been through a lot in her own life, so I tried to be forgiving, but the same behaviors kept re-occurring. On more than one occasion, she’d tear me down to others, showed up late for our get togethers, and found other ways to undermine. You keep hoping they really do care about you. In the end, their actions don’t reflect respect or regard for you or your feelings. I have forgiven her, and let go of the relationship.
Whenever you are hiking up any mountain, you want and deserve your “ride or dies” by your side. These are the people who love you no matter what. The ones who give left-handed compliments or demean you don’t deserve your attention or your time. This doesn’t mean your “ride or dies” won’t have issues with you, but they will care enough to be direct. They won’t gossip or rant to others. They will have the courage to pick up the phone and settle differences. They will come from a place of love and respect even when you’ve screwed up. And we all screw up.
There are very few “ride or dies” for me. And I’m perfectly OK with that.
Forgive them. Forgive yourself. And move on. Protect your heart. Know that you deserve better.