Cutting Ties with Toxicity
May 9, 2017
Everyone knows someone who’s toxic, everyone knows someone who is harmful to their health, everyone knows someone that they’re better off without. But what do you do when it comes to the point that that person and the relationship you share starts to destroy you? What do you do when the person you love has escaped from the skin of who they are now? What do you do when you’re in love with who they used to be? What do you do when you’ve given your all and more, and they keep taking? You cut them off. Cut the tie that holds you and the person together, even if it takes all the strength you have inside of you to do it. It’s funny though, when you cut them off, and you’re the only one who’s left bleeding. But it is how you stop that bleeding and recover that really matters.
Letting go of someone who has only ever hurt you isn’t giving up, it’s loving yourself enough to know your own worth. It’s being honest with yourself and realizing that person’s toxicity is going to grow and their hold on you will only strengthen. There comes a point where you have to let go before you won’t be able to. You have to put yourself first and take those steps towards moving on, even when you never thought you would have to. You are allowed to safeguard your sanity. You are allowed to do what is best for you. And you should.
When I say “toxic person,” it is not always the person as a whole, but their behavior. A toxic person causes pain, immense confusion, and turmoil in other people’s lives. There are many signs that may point to one being toxic: always playing the victim, being overly jealous, lying, trying to control others, being judgmental, and overall, just constantly expressing negativity. There are also many types of toxic relationships from friends, to family members, and even romantic relationships.
One time, my dad explained to me: “These kinds of people are everywhere. They will suck the life out of you if you let them. We’ve all been burned by people like this. You fill a void in their lives at a time when they need something. Then when they don’t need you, they walk away and s*** on your feelings. It sucks, I know. But it’s not you, it’s them.”
My dad and I are not the only people who have dealt with a toxic person. According to TODAY contributor, Diane Mapes, 85 percent of females and 75 percent males have or will experience a toxic person at some point in their lives. And if you are reading this, it is safe to say you or someone you know have been in a relationship with a toxic person. Toxic people and relationships can drain the energy out of you and leave you feeling less yourself, and this in turn will not only affect a person mentally, but also physically. Research shows that a person in an unhealthy relationship is more likely to develop heart problems.
Unfortunately, these days it is easier to come across a toxic friend, than it is to find a true friend. Sophomore Samantha Smith* was in a toxic friendship for three years. When asked what signs she initially noticed she said, “Jealousy, possessiveness, projecting of anger, and minimizing my problems. She never listened to me or gave me useful advice when I needed it the most.” A friend is someone who, even in the darkest times, can light you a path towards happiness. A friend does not make you feel less just so they can feel more.“I grew tired of being so selfless to someone so selfish,” said Smith. “Part of me was happy to be myself again. Part of me didn’t know how to be myself without her.”
After someone drains you of the person you were at the beginning of the friendship, and you start to see the changes within yourself, you have to make a change. Letting a friend consistently drag you down and change you is like planting a seed in the darkest corner of a shed and hoping for it to blossom into something beautiful. You are leaving no room for growth, a flower cannot bloom in the dark in the bottom of a shed. You cannot grow when attached to someone who keeps you last on their list, who keeps you in the bottom of their heart. You cannot blossom beautifully without some kind of nurturing. A toxic friendship will not nurture you, and you have to find sunshine and get out of the dark if you have any intentions of blooming into anything. “If you find spending time with a certain friend […who] makes you feel rotten for whatever reason, it may be time to cut that person out of your life,” said Douglas Loychik, a school psychologist at Round Lake High School “If the situation has become chronic, it’s time to break that cycle.”
Just because someone is a member of your family does not make you obligated to have them in your life. You are not obligated to stay close someone who consciously chooses to hurt you. Being blood related to a person is not an excuse for them to take advantage of you and mistreat you. “She’s my cousin… I’ve known her my whole life,” said Melanie Newman, “When I did let go, it hurt a lot… it was like losing a piece of me. The pain was unbelievable but she was just bad to have in my life.” Newman went on to explain that her cousin could not take responsibility for things, and nothing was ever her fault. “She was very clingy,” Newman said. “Somehow everything that happened to her was my fault, even if I wasn’t there. It always came back to me.”
More often than not, a person has to struggle with a toxic family member. Be it a cousin, a sibling, or parent, it is painful. But you have to find a way to paint that pain into a portrait of progress. You cannot let a toxic family member continue to destroy you after you’ve worked so hard to get to where you are now. You are an artist and cannot let one critic destroy the beauty of a person you’ve spent decades creating. You have to protect yourself from people who only ever want to see you smeared on their smock. It’s not normal for someone who’s supposed to love you to make you love yourself less.
“Young to older adults do disengage from relationships with toxic family members,” said Joe Savage, a social worker at Round Lake High School. “This causes great distress but we need to recognize that we are caring for our self when we choose to do this.”
I am only 16 years old, and I have more friends in toxic relationships and who have been emotionally scarred by a significant other than friends in healthy romantic relationships. Let one thing be perfectly clear: there is nothing romantic about a toxic lover. “Recovering from a toxic relationship is so hard. It’s been 8 months [since the end of the relationship] and I’ve been sleep deprived, stressed, depressed, emotionally, mentally and physically damaged,” explained Arturo Fernandez. “I have become someone I am not and have resorted to things I am not proud of. All because I decided to not face the facts and ignore what was going on because she had me by the throat and I felt like I couldn’t leave because I wanted to fix things.” Fernandez’s then-girlfriend had been verbally abusive and even after he found out she had been cheating on him for three months, he held onto the relationship for a year-and-a-half. “We were constantly fighting over small things due to lack of communication. She was controlling and didn’t want me to talk to anyone that wasn’t her,” Fernandez explained. “I had to cut off my best friend and even a family member. I had to hide innocent friends and change their contact names just so there wouldn’t be any suspicions, just so she could be happy.” You should not have to cut off parts of you just to fill your significant other up.
A person can be completely blinded by love—or what was hoped to be love—but love should not damage you, love should not bring you any harm. Love should protect you, you shouldn’t have to protect yourself from love. You will never be enough for someone who is always empty. Their inability to be satisfied, to be happy, to love, is not your fault. Just because they’re so damaged themselves, and can’t love you the way you deserve to be loved, doesn’t mean you aren’t worthy of love, or that you are unlovable. You deserve the love you were never given, you deserve the same love you give to others. Love yourself enough to put yourself first. Love yourself enough take away their power over you. You are stronger than the bridges the person has built between you two. You can cross the bridge and never look back, burn it, and you can build a new one leading to someone who wants to love you the way you deserve. Do whatever it is you need to do for yourself to be okay again.
“I know the decision to leave a [toxic] relationship can be extremely difficult and stressful,” said Savage, “and that I believe we all have the ability to do this and to find healthy relationships when we are ready- we all deserve healthy relationships.”
There is a poem titled “loss” by Alexandra Elle, it reads, “the question is as hard as/ swallowing rocks and as/ brutal as stormy waters/ crashing to shore./ the question is not always why,/ but how do we let go without/ falling apart– without crumbling/ from loosening our grip on what/ was and what could have been.” The how part of letting go, is as individual as the situation, you just have to find what helps you. Here are some suggestions I believe that can help you stay out of unhealthy relationships, as well as prevent new ones from finding ways into your life:
- Set limits, stop letting people walk all over you, you are not a sidewalk. This helps keep you aware of your worth and helps you to not accept anything less than what you know you deserve.
- Do not wash away what they put you through, but remember it. This pain will remind you that you do not need to go back to them, as well as teach you that anyone who treats you poorly isn’t worth your energy.
- Focus on solutions, not the problems. Staying fixated on the problems will only prolong negative emotions, but when looking for solutions, you can develop positive emotions that will lead to a happier you.
- Find a support system and USE IT! The biggest help can sometimes be found in a HEALTHY relationship with communication and the mutual want to help each other grow. Other people can see a solution that you can’t because they are not as emotionally invested in the situation.
- Sleep. It will give your body and brain a break from the parasitic problem people, and provide you with peace.
- Pour that negative energy into something positive. Whether you are an artist, writer, singer, athlete, put your energy into moving on and bettering yourself, for yourself. Pain is often found to be the best muse. It can help you take back the power said toxic person had over you. Again, not all of these will work for everyone, letting go is a process. You have to learn what will work best for you, it might not be easy, but it is do-able, and you are capable.
I know that the process of letting someone go, especially someone you care about and love, is easier said than done. But it will never get done if you do not accept the adversity. Accept that this person came into your life, but was not meant to stay. Accept that this person’s presence is poisonous.Understand that no amount of love is an acceptable excuse for pain inflicted on you. Stop letting these toxic people crawl under your skin and feed off your hurting. Instead, feed off of it yourself. Become independent. Let that hurt be the foundation of your future, an example that people can survive a toxic relationship, an example of everything a relationship should not be.
I read a quote once, written by Josh Ship, “You either get bitter or you get better, it’s that simple. You either take what has been dealt to you and allow it to make you a better person, or you allow it to tear you down. The choice does not belong to fate, it belongs to you.” I believe this is important to understand, that the choice is yours and yours alone.
And to anyone struggling in a toxic relationship, do it, leave, if it’s causing you pain, it is not worth it. You are standing in a sinking ship. Be your own life raft. Learn to swim on your own. Know that you can survive the rough waters, and now you are moving into calmer seas. On your journey, you will find an island capable of providing all the resources necessary for a healthy relationship. And you’ll ask yourself why you stayed so still in the storm of your past relationships for as long as you did. You will no longer be stranded, but a survivor.
Note: I cannot help but admit to all who read this, that while writing this I felt the most hypocritical I have ever felt in my life. I, myself am struggling with learning how to let go and not look return to someone who has exhibited toxic behavior. It is not an easy thing to do by any means. But I am trying. I am learning, I am growing. And as hard as it is, I know it will make me a stronger person. I know that any bit of effort you put into leaving, will help you. And you too, can learn, can grow, and can become a stronger person. You have to try, not for them. You have try for you, for your peace of mind, for your happiness.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of my sources.