Many people have a good intention to change but then recycle themselves back into a reactive cycle of destructive patterns. As a psychotherapist, I am in the business of helping people change. People walk in and out of my door and I know exactly those clients that are heading towards major personal transformation. And those that will remain stuck.
I’ve even had plenty of personal experience getting stuck myself at times before realizing what it takes to change.
Here’s the difference. When someone has the courage to look in the mirror and stop excusing away hurtful behavior or making excuses, there is a magical door that opens. This is a space for new thoughts, feelings and behaviors to enter. This is when we have the ability to “see the truth”, consider another person’s feelings and stop self sabotaging. The seed of change is planted.
For many people, owning the truth is too painful because of toxic shame. They create a confusing twisted reality and story to explain hurtful behaviors and avoid taking responsibility. The “truth” of how they impact others is labeled “judgement”, most often these people become serial offenders causing harm to others.
In my past relationship, I gave my partner a second chance after abruptly abandoning the relationship. Sometimes my ability to empathize and hold compassion towards others, puts me at risk for major heart break. We agreed to relationship counseling to overcome challenges stemming from childhood programming.
There were several good reasons to trust this person. They shared the “why” behind harmful life patterns and empathized with the harm it caused me and themselves. Because of my partners life circumstances we discussed the obstacles ahead of us. We knew that a commitment to self care was a priority while building a healthy partnership. We decided there was enough mutual reciprocation of love, care and warmth between us to overcome any busy lifestyle challenges.
About a month later, the same hurtful patterns emerged. My partner was distant, cold, picking fights, critical, cancelled therapy and making excuses again for this hurtful behavior. I gently attempted to discuss what was happening but it was met with resistance and defensiveness. The conversation about self realization “committing to change” was throw out the window. My feelings were ignored and a few days later, I was abruptly discarded – AGAIN
When a person refuses to change and won’t take responsibility for hurtful behaviors in order to maintain a certain public image, its time to walk away. The change process begins in the moment a person can acknowledge that the way they think and behave causes harm to self and others. This is a starting point towards transformation in thinking and feeling that results in new behaviors. To achieve this outcome requires daily effort to stay open with receptivity of feedback from others. A person must be listen carefully, stay open and be willing to change.
Commitment to the change process is long term not a couple week or months. This includes courage to overcome fears, complete responsibility and acknowledgment for mistakes along the way and the ability to continue to empathize with others feelings.
When we love a person that refuses or is not capable or willing to change, its not easy. We have seen this person shine at times and we want them to return to the best version of themselves. We can’t fix another person, we can’t love a person into wellness. We can offer support until the relationship turns toxic. The word “toxic” is overused sometimes. It is important to understand what this means. A toxic person will make you feel like you are infected with insanity.
- Toxic people disregard your feelings
- Toxic people take without giving
- Toxic people are dishonest
- Toxic people don’t align words with actions
- Toxic people revel in being the victim of their own lives. They makes excuses, rationalize and blame others.
- Toxic people push or pull. They are all or nothing.
- Toxic people don’t take responsibility for harmful and hurtful actions, its “just survival” or “what’s best for me
It is important to remove toxic people from your life. When influenced by a toxic person, we might feel sad, confused and struggle with well-being. A toxic person can make us question – EVERYTHING.
Think about how much time and energy has been invested into a person that is capable but unwilling to stay committed to the change and growth. If we stay too long in these relationships, we give power away, and risk getting stuck in a victim mentality.
Taking a step away from a toxic person is self protection. We can love this person from a distance while taking our power back and declaring “I have respect myself” “I have value” “I am lovable and worthy” I deserve to feel appreciated” “I will not allow you to take me for granted”
Reciprocity is essential to romantic love. Unrequited love with someone unwilling or incapable of change is a painful experience that smashes self image.
After you have the courage to end a toxic relationship, its important to understand the behaviors of a healthy person (including self examination) and and characteristics of a healthy relationship:
- A non-toxic partner is trustworthy
- A non-toxic partner is available and present. You can count on them to be there for you.
- A non-toxic partner has the ability to reciprocate warm and loving behaviors on a consistent basis.
- A non-toxic partner doesn’t push you away and then pull you back
- A non-toxic partner is able to give attention and focus on you. This creates meaningful conversation and deep bonding.
- A non-toxic partner is kind. They don’t criticize and pick fights to create space in the relationship.
It’s important to remember that you can love from a distant. Co-dependency is the best ingredient to allow a toxic person to continue to cause harm and hurt in your life. Learning how to build self worth outside from a romantic relationship is a good place to start taking back power.
Ending a relationship with a toxic person is an act of self protection and love. For many of us, leaving or not giving any more chances is the last option when we care about someone.
Begin a new journey of investing energy in building the new, instead of fighting the old. Don’t be afraid to start over, be a role model for change, and move towards non-toxic people that nourish your life instead of depleting it.