Toxic relationships are something that I have wanted to talk about for so long now, and I’ve been trying to pick apart why I haven’t. I guess it comes down to the fact that once it’s out there, then it’s out there. I can’t unsay it. Which is quite a vulnerable thing. But the other day I saw a post on Instagram that really stopped me in my tracks, in fact that this post hit me so hard, it was a sure sign that it was time, which feels powerful and liberating.
This is the post that I saw
“sick of the excuse “they’re still your Mum/Dad/Sister/Brother/Friend…etc”. No, toxic is toxic. You have the right to cut off anyone that’s unhealthy for you. Period.
Now, some of you will really struggle to understand what I am saying here, to the extent that you feel it is fundamentally wrong. I am okay with that, and I understand why when you view this through a certain lens, and through your own life experience, it won’t make any sense to you.
Equally though, I would ask that you try and see this with open eyes where you can, because someone in your life might really need that. I have the right to talk about this without guilt or shame, which makes this even more important.
I’m using one of many examples from my life and it’s a big one. Which brings me to one of my favourite quotes.
“You own everything that happened to you, tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better”
Here we go. I am estranged from my Father, I am not about to go into the reasons why. It would be unfair of me to discuss the details, because it’s not just my story, it’s his too. But I will say that our relationship DOES NOT WORK. It just doesn’t. I’m nearly 40 and have done enough “work” on it and around it to know in my heart that, that is true.
Is that sad? Yes of course, he’s half the reason I exist, I was a total Daddy’s girl when I was little, and I wished for decades that things would be different but they aren’t and they won’t ever be. Our relationship for me is extremely toxic, and in order to protect my emotional wellbeing, I will no longer engage with him.
I know I am not alone in this, I have met other people who are estranged from their parents, siblings etc. Sometimes they are still in contact but really don’t want to be. Yet they cannot break free. Why? Well there are a variety of reasons. Its largely because they are conditioned to stay, it’s what society tells them to do, and of course, because of the shame game.
When I have discussed the situation with my Father with other people, they are quite often perplexed and don’t really know what to say. Occasionally they say “me too” and find it cathartic to talk about it. The majority of the time though I hear this “yeah, but you only get one Dad, you should get back in touch” or “you’ll regret this, there’s nothing I wouldn’t give for more time with my Dad/Mum/Brother/Sister”. That final comment is usually from someone that has lost a parent, a parent that they had a loving relationship with. Now, I have never experienced that kind of loss. I can only imagine how heartbreaking it is to know that someone is no longer here. That there is no time to put things right anymore.
So I know that those comments all come from a good place, but they all come out of the mouths of those people who had loving, supportive, nurturing relationships with those people. They cannot comprehend how I can live as I live, because they’ve never been in my shoes. One person actually told me that what I was saying scared her, as she couldn’t imagine her world looking like mine. She was that close to her Dad that the mere idea of him not being in her life made her feel sick.
It comes down to this. We all have the right to choose who we allow in our lives, and we don’t owe the world an explanation of our choices. I don’t necessarily understand or agree with everyone else’s decisions, but I respect that they are theirs and I am as supportive of them as I can be.
For me, it’s not just a belief, but a knowing that not all relationships can be salvaged, it doesn’t matter who they are with. A parent, a spouse, a friend. Lots of relationships expire and allowing that process to happen when its time is crucial to your sanity and your inner peace.
Letting go is hard, so unbelievably hard. We have a picture in our minds of how life was going to be, or how we always wished for it to be. But sometimes in order for you to live in peace, to move forward in the healthiest way for you, letting go is what has to happen.
I wrote a letter of forgiveness to my Father, I never sent it to him and I never will, but I forgave him for not being who I needed or wanted him to be, and I released him with love. Because its not a case of loving someone less, its a case of loving yourself more. That was a big deal, and for any of you watching this that are struggling with this stuff, the mere idea of forgiveness may feel impossible. It did for me too, that story of being “girl without Dad” was a familiar comfort to me, something I could use to make excuses for the things I wasn’t doing, something that earned me lots of tea and sympathy. But I was lugging around so much pain, so much anger and eventually it became clear that it’s what needed to happen.
The result was a lighter me, a more grounded and stronger me.
I spent so many years revisiting this, trying to connect over and over, simply because that’s what people were telling me I should do. But when I stopped and thought about what I needed to do, the answer was clear to me. It wasn’t an easy answer, it hurt, but it was the right one.
So, if there is someone in your life struggling with something similar, please bear all of this in mind. They will be feeling battered enough as it is, and even though you may not understand why they are doing what they are, you can still be there for them, still hear them out, and let them know that you are in their corner. When one of the most important relationships in your life breaks down, it can shake you to your foundations. People don’t walk away lightly, it takes courage, soul searching and plenty of second guessing, and we have got to start leaving shame and the opinions at the door.
This isn’t easy either, and you may never understand why a person is making the choice that they are, but that doesn’t mean that they should be judged for it, or that there is a need to try and sway their opinion.
As for regrets about these things, well, only time will tell. If this is something I regret then that’s for me to process when it happens, but again, this is not a decision that has been made lightly. It’s taken years to get to. Right now, I am completely at peace with it.
I would love to hear your thoughts on all of this. Are you struggling with a similar challenge? Is there someone that you really want and need to walk away from but just can’t quite do it? Are you hanging on because “what would people say if I got divorced/ended that friendship/cut ties with whoever? I’m really interested to know what’s going on for you, and of course to know what you make of what I have said, that includes people that strongly disagree.