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Coping with Toxic Relationships
I read a great article yesterday, one that I would recommend to anyone stepping into a committed relationship, but most of all to those in interracial and intercultural relationships. These tips for dealing with in-laws are true life savers if you read them in time, but if you don’t, how can your recover from the damage already done? This is something I have struggled with over the last two years with some success, but still no real solutions. How do you move past the self-doubt that comes with toxic relationships? How can you rebuild our thought process and leave out the critics? Is there a way to re-instill confidence in yourself and let go of the hurt?
I still don’t have real, practical answers to these questions. Time and change seem like two great factors for letting go of the past, but how much will it take? When will recovery come? This is something that I wonder about often.
Sometimes, I don’t know if my suegra or cuñada’s hateful actions will ever be erased from my psyche. Not to mention my own personal childhood struggles, which likely increased my sensitivity to certain behaviors. When will that feeling of being complete return? When will I stop worrying about how my life affects them? I don’t know, maybe never. One thing I am confident in though, is that we were right to walk away…some relationships are like poison and there’s no way to resolve the bitterness that exists there.
So how do you move past all this and release yourself from the guilt and hurt? Not easily, that’s for sure. My husband and I are still on our personal journey toward recovery. Here are some exercises that we have found useful along the way:
- Talk about it. Avoidance is not recovery. If you want to resolve an issue, you have to make sense of it in a way that allows you to let it go. This requires talking, plain and simple. As a couple, this has probably been our greatest challenge. Both my husband and I grew up in homes where expressing emotions wasn’t beneficial. In his family, it was a sign of weakness and an invitation to ridicule. In my family it was an accusation and a burden of guilt. Expressing your emotions meant becoming defensive and refusing to validate others’ feelings. Needless to say, we weren’t the best communicators and we’re still working on it. When talking about sensitive issues, validate each other and avoid taking mis-communications personally.
- Support each other. This is super important. As Tracy expressed in her article, you need to have each others’ back. One thing I’ve noticed in our house, is that even though the suegros (in-laws) are gone, we still find ourselves arguing about them. Somehow, re-hashing the stories will do that to you. There are still remnants left behind and we find ourselves arguing and apologizing more than we’d like to. Being supportive is key though, because moving forward is so much easier when you know that your points and progressions in this emotionally challenging journey are being acknowledged and supported.
- Keep a journal. One of the keys to recovery for me has been keeping track of my journey and investing my time into analyzing my thought process. In recovery, I’ve found that it’s so much easier if I can organize my thoughts and dissect them. I also love that I can look back at my previous entries and see a clear progression. I can’t tell you how helpful and encouraging it is to see that I am getting somewhere and that I am one step closer to a better me.
- Love yourself. In order to bring yourself back around to a self-loving state, you must DO more things that make YOU the priority. It’s important to invest in yourself after you’ve been through abusive experiences. Too often we bend and recoil in order to please others. This practice can start to deteriorate your sense of control and confidence in your life and leave you feeling less than whole. The best way to regain those lost pieces is to empower yourself. Maybe you’ve always wanted to pursue a certain career…take a class. If you’re interested in art…create something. Take yourself out for some me time and give yourself the gift of a new wardrobe, a mini vacation, peace and quite to read a good book, etc. The important thing is to do whatever you’ve been holding yourself back from…from those things that you don’t make time for or feel you may not deserve. Know that you deserve to meet your personal needs and take the steps to do so.
- Enforce your boundaries. One of the biggest mistakes we often make is giving in to guilt and returning to the same toxic relationships that made us emotionally ill to begin with. Once you’ve established a boundary, whether it be setting a standard for behavior or limiting your relationship with the person(s) involved in the behavior, it’s imperative that you stick with it. This is crucial because relinquishing power of your boundaries will only put you in a position to receive more of the same abuse that you’ve been working to escape. Don’t let yourself become the victim, you have control so enforce it.
[Learn more about toxic relationships and recovery]