I have recently found myself in a situation where I had to put an old relationship on hold. I was attempting to maintain closeness with a person who consistently hurt me – in the past decade there has been nothing but pain brought to the relationship on their end. I was putting up with consistent brutal attacks on my character, harsh comments, and regular bad behavior brought on by my presence. My time spent with them was a time of great anxiety, of not knowing when something I did would set them off, and not being able to relax. A state of suspended animation, a sense of walking on eggshells. A decade long stomachache, anxiety and panic attacks.
I stayed out of a sense of obligation, as this was someone I have known my entire life. And it wasn’t always this bad; granted it was never an easy relationship, we are both much too different, but there were moments where I thought things could improve. Moments where I would have a glimpse of what the relationship could be, and those glimpses gave me so much hope. Moments where we would talk it out, I would feel we had reached resolution enough to start fresh, only for all the old hurt to be thrown back in my face after a bit of time had passed… For me to be gas lighted.
I can honestly say I tried. But everything I did was not enough. After years, I finally realized that I would never be able to give them what they want from me, because they don’t even know what that is. And as painful as that was for me to realize, it is freeing. The only thing I can do now is remove myself from their presence and move on with all my loved ones.
So after yet another round of cruelty thrown my way this Christmas, I have decided to let this person go. I don’t have any emotion left – even hurt has left me. As I observed the latest round of atrocious behavior (that fully grown adults should know better than to do) I released I wasn’t even upset. Granted my old anxiety was gnawing at my stomach, and I felt like a child again, but all I was feeling on the emotion front was hollowness. I even felt a little amused; it was all so petty and obviously attention seeking that I couldn’t help but laugh a bit. And feel incredible pity for them.
For someone to react in such an extreme way indicates a great level of pain. And that is the key as the victim to moving on in these circumstances. I realized that this behavior is not actually about me, you cannot explain irrationality. I have spent so much time trying to figure out what it is about me that makes this person seem to hate me, and I always come up short. I am far from perfect, but I don’t actively try to hurt people, and always try to exist in a state of peace with my loved ones –this relationship is the only one like it in my life. And after a huge amount of self-work and reflection, I have come to accept that whilst this behavior is heaped on me, it isn’t ever actually about me. I have learned to accept myself and know that I am not a terrible person like I have been told my entire adult life. Certainly I am the trigger that sets off something deep inside this person; perhaps fear of abandonment from childhood, possessiveness or even jealousy – but none of these things are my fault.
It is a strange feeling to realize you have nothing left. To be aware of the fact that this person and their behavior have worn you down until you have nothing left to give, and nothing left to tolerate. That someone who you feel you should be close to is a complete stranger to you, and this fact doesn’t faze you anymore. I guess I have spent the last decade mourning the loss of this relationship, and this is the end of that pain.
Because to be honest, I feel a huge sense of relief. Choosing to take myself out of pains way, to have no contact with toxicity, is incredibly empowering. Having the strength and freedom to say “I can do no more, and will not stand for this anymore” means I have the power to stand on my own two feet. It means I can feel the love and appreciation from the incredible people in my life, and have the confidence to say that I am not what one person thinks I am. And I know I did all that I was capable of to save it. The rest is now on them.
Life is too short to tolerate toxicity out of a sense of obligation. Nobody should be made to question his or her essence of being, or be transformed into a human punching bag. The effects of this sort of relationship ripple out into everything we touch in life. And only we have the power to put an end to the hurt.
You are more powerful than you realize.