Is your relationship toxic or healthy?

A frequent topic of conversation in our residential resilience trainings is that of relationships. Most people want to find a partner, someone with whom they can share their lives. Many have experienced disappointment in relationships. Some have experienced real suffering. Others have experienced unhealthy relationships in which, although they have felt unhappy and mistreated, they have felt unable to get out of.

Perhaps one of the saddest aspects is when a relationship has ended and the person wants me to help them with some trick or strategy to get that other person, that relationship back. This is normally an indicator of an unhealthy relationship. In a conversation with my youngest daughter she expressed herself quite clearly and healthily: “If someone doesn’t want to be with me, why on earth would I want to be with them?! It would be stupid!” Wisdom from the mouth of a 22 year old.  I have had long conversations with people of more than fifty years of age who still don’t get that simple idea. The other aspects always present in such relationships are drama, arguments, public scenes; on again, off again… I think you get the picture.

Years ago I had a secretary who worked for me, a very capable and attractive woman. Every Monday she would tell anyone who would listen about the latest horrible episode with her boyfriend: they were together, then apart, had a big argument; they made up, he mistreated her and yet he loved her etc. That this was the last time he would ever mistreat her etc….… Of course the very next week we would have to listen to essentially the same story about the same guy. So much suffering and drama without getting anywhere!

What people don’t get is that what they are trying to get back doesn’t exist. Even if they do get back together, it will never be the same as it was before; that moment has passed. What they will most likely experience is a repeat of all the same dramas, as they will have plenty of reminders of all the past mistakes and problems. They would be much better off learning to love themselves.

So how does one differentiate a toxic relationship from a healthy relationship?

The essence of our consumerist society is emptiness, creating an empty feeling in us all that we then try to fill mostly with stuff that doesn’t work. In fact, these efforts usually cause greater hunger.  It is no different with unhealthy relationships. We try to get another person to fill the void that we are incapable of filling ourselves. That’s why breaking up in an unhealthy relationship is so painful. We are left once again with “the void”.  We suffer, as if at some level our sense of self-worth, our sense of self depended on that relationship.

Relationship breakups are an inevitable part of life. It is a fact that the vast majority of romantic/sentimental relationships will end. Nothing is permanent and everything changes.

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