Toxic RelationshipsFor as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted people to like me. For years, I tried to please everyone, tried to juggle countless personalities and identities, hoping to please everyone and be universally liked. I tried to be everything to everyone, to the point where I didn’t know who I actually was. But as I’ve found my voice and begun to embrace who I truly am, I’ve come to realize that it’s not only impossible to try and please everyone; it’s harmful.

In the tattered scrapbook of old friends and extended family members, we all have one or two people with whom we continually clash. Perhaps it’s religious differences. Maybe it’s politics. It could be even be bad blood between other relatives or friends of yours. It could be anything. You may even learn to embrace the tension, to learn from the discord. But what if that relationship becomes more than a simple clash? What do you do when it turns toxic?

As women, we’re taught to maintain the peace, to keep our voices down, to smile, to be hospitable, to avoid stirring the pot, to brush the conflict off of our delicately feminine shoulders. We’re taught to politely pretend it isn’t there. We’re taught to be sugar, spice, and everything nice.

For years, I did as I was taught with a particularly challenging person in my extended family. I quietly tried to both reconcile my differences with this person and simultaneously appease the burgeoning tension between our families. I wrote numerous emails, explaining how I felt, where I was coming from, who I was, what I believed in, and how I respected and valued this person. I went to painstaking lengths to reach across that proverbial aisle, connect on a personal level, and make the relationship successful.

In the end, it just didn’t work.

I tried so hard for so long to understand why it wasn’t working, what I was missing, what more I needed to do, what the underlying problem was. And then one day, after a particularly hostile and dismissive interaction, I realized something: the underlying problem wasn’t me — it was a lack of respect.

I’m now estranged from this family member. I don’t speak or engage with this person. If they do try to reach out to me, I ignore those attempts. An avid social media user, I am disconnected from this person on every account I have. I have more or less cut them out of my life. Sound harsh? Maybe. But no one deserves to be in a relationship in which they constantly feel dismissed, debased, and disrespected. That’s not productive. That’s not healthy.

In the age of social media, of constant connection, and especially if you put yourself out there in a public way, people believe they are entitled to your time, to your space, to your energy. And there is something to be said for having a dialogue with people with whom you disagree, taking down your defensive walls, and engaging. That can be fruitful and worthwhile. But boundaries are essential. We must take care of ourselves, and that includes cutting ties with people who have become toxic to us and our own well-being. As the inimitable Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” When we prioritize ourselves and our own needs, especially as women, we are committing a distinctly feminist act. We are bucking the restrictive gendered norms that force us to appease others to keep the peace rather than take care of ourselves to keep our sanity. We are declaring ourselves worthy of love and respect, and in a society like our own that devalues and debases women, that is nothing short of revolutionary.

I don’t know what the future holds with this family member, but I do know that by cutting ties, I am taking care of me. I am prioritizing my own emotional health and well-being. I am declaring to the world that I am valuable and worthy. I am abandoning people-pleasing in favor of self-care. There is nothing selfish about self-care.

As the saying goes, you can’t please everyone. What a lovely truth that is.

 

The FriskyThis post originally appeared on The Frisky. Republished with permission.

 

  • Monique

    I agree that some relationships can become toxic and need to be eliminated. I actually know someone who refuses to cut anyone out her life. Despite what happens, she won’t let go. She’s afraid to lose someone no matter how hurtful the relationship is. I pray for her because I know what it’s like to hang on to bad relationships with bfs, family members etc. You gotta let em go to stay sane.

  • Alana

    I agree that certain people should be let go but for me it depends on why I feel it’s necessary and how not having them in my life will make it better or not. Often times we make decisions out of haste. I had a friend I knew for 15 years, I always had my issues with her but I never said anything. And when I did I think that I had been quiet about how I felt for so long that she didn’t take me seriously. I finally decided to cut ties with her. Looking back I probably wouldn’t have completely cut her out of my life but our friendship definitely would have changed.

  • http://www.labelwhorre.com labelwhorre.com

    we are on the same boat…I cut people off immediately…i just cut off an uncle and his wife and kids…this man is a legitimate enemy of progress..and just can’t be happy for other people’s success. after a nasty fight that got even physical…i apologized to his wife and told them it’s a wrap…the same goes for friends…I COME FIRST, MY SANITY,MY HEALTH AND MY HAPPINESS COMES FIRST. I have a friend who went to vegas with two of our friends…she got drunk and her second friend wanted to leave her behind just to hit the strip…she still talks to that friend and caters to her which makes me sick to my stomach.

  • Marketing Gimmicks

    Toxic connections are tricky because often times there are qualities about the offender that are redeemable. No one is all bad and no one is all perfect so you have to really know what you want out of life in order to feel best about your decision to cut ties.

    It’s emotionally mature to speak our hearts and let others know our true feelings but honest dialogue does not always end up in koom ba ya group hugs. Sometimes people are just broken, bitter, and character flawed and there’s no conversation that can really heal that.

    In my experience with toxic friendships I tend to give people a lot of rope before they ultimately hang themselves. But everyone has a breaking point. I tend to attract the passive aggressive types because my mom is that. Passive Aggressive’s tend to do the most damage because they are masters at being subliminally negative.

    Ultimately it boils down to values and trust is at the top of the list followed by respect. If I cannot trust you or respect you then more than likely you won’t be my friend.

  • MimiLuvs

    I am thinking of cutting off a toxic relationship. The problem is the friend is in an abusive relationship, which is one of the main reasons why I want to sever the bond that we have.
    F.Y.I. The abuse that is going on in that relationship is mutual. She abuses him. He abuses her. Then, they are lovey-dovey for two days after. Then, it repeats.
    Now, some of y’all are probably saying ‘Well, if it’s like that, then I would chuck the dueces and end the friendship!’
    But, it’s hard to end it, especially when it comes to the situation. I don’t want to be the ‘ditching friend’ and won’t be the person to help her, when she decides to leave him.

  • Anon

    I have a similar situation but why do you say this “Looking back I probably wouldn’t have completely cut her out of my life but our friendship definitely would have changed”

  • RightOn

    It’s difficult when the most toxic person in your life, is your mother :(

  • tsaun

    I’m relieved to know I am not alone in my struggles. It’s the worse when the toxic relationship is with one of the people responsible for your mere existence.

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