I’ve recently been doing a lot of writing about creating boundaries and teaching kids the importance of consent. During my research I have come across lots of advice on how to work on avoiding unhealthy relationships, and how to help our kids avoid them too. At the same time I have also read some pretty crazy stories of adults disrespecting other adults’ boundaries. It gave me a lot of food for thought: am I maintaining a toxic relationship with someone in my life right now? While I’m working so hard to ensure my kids will only seek out healthy relationships, am I neglecting to do that for myself?
I think we can all agree that we want the best lives for our kids and that’s why make sure they get all the love, comfort, and education that they need. A little attachment, a little independence, safe people surrounding them, and lots and lots of love. But what if there are people in OUR lives who are toxic? Do we work around them? Expose our children to them? Cut them off? What are we teaching our children when they see US reacting to unhealthy and toxic relationships?
Think of that one friend who is always asking for something. They are fun to be around, always game for a laugh, but you start to dread their texts because they often contain a slightly veiled demand. They also have a bit of a temper so you find yourself tiptoeing around their feelings, catering to their needs. Friendship is supposed to be some mutual work and a lot of shared reward, but with this one you are often left feeling drained and start thinking of ways to avoid them whenever they want to hang out.
I have had a few of those friends in the past, and because I don’t want to hurt someone I tend to just let the friendships linger on, all moldy and ugly on the inside. Over time I have cut these people off, one by one, although I’m sure some of them think they cut me off which is fine by me. As long as they don’t come back again.
Or maybe you have a family member who constantly passes judgment on everything you do. They hold you up to insane levels, and as soon as you put a foot wrong you become the butt of their disapproval. Whenever someone mentions your accomplishments they compare you to someone who is doing better. They constantly tell you that you aren’t raising your children right, your partner isn’t good enough for you, or that you should be making more money, doing more, being more. More what exactly you will never know, because nothing will ever be enough in their eyes. So what do you do? Noone wants to cut a family member off, but isn’t it sometimes healthier to do so? Is blood really thicker than water?
How about that person who has been around forever, and as much as you love them you have to let them go because their addiction affects everything they do. You recognize the glazed look in their eyes or their repetitive speech immediately, even when they say they are “just tired”. How do you justify not wanting them around your family anymore while still loving them and wanting to help them?
I struggle with this. I’ve spend a lot of time in my life helping people who I later realized were very toxic (whether they wanted to be or not). At the same time I recognize times and relationships where I was probably the unhealthy one. But having kids really has given me a much better perspective of the type of relationships I want to have with others, and also perspective of the type of friend and family member I want to be. I want my kids to see that as an example, but at the same time I want them to understand what the differences are between healthy and unhealthy. You know, expose them to real life without forcing exposure if that makes sense?
I’m still trying to figure this out. I’ve been working really hard to avoid falling into repeating unhealthy cycles in my own adulthood, but I still find myself lacking in the confidence to speak up when I really need to.
How do you maintain healthy relationships with others and effectively rid yourself of the toxic ones? Here and here are some great resources to start with, and let’s get the conversation started over on the Mamazou forum!
Jade Anna Hughes is a writer and photographer who was born in the
UK, grew up in France, called NYC home for a decade before relocating to
the California sun. She has two young daughters and a son, and spends
most of her “spare” time writing, reading and trying to change the
world. Her first book, With Spring Comes Hope, is currently available on
Amazon and B&N worldwide.
Jade can be reached here:
cover image from google.