Friday, August 5, 2011

Ending Toxic Relationships And Forgiveness

How do you end a toxic relationship?  I know there are many answers to this question.  I have been finding my own answers over the past few weeks.  I sometimes forget that just ignoring a situation or a person doesn't end the relationship when the other person isn't willing to let go or if one of the two of us or both of us hasn't learned whatever the lesson was that we were supposed to learn from each other.

I know that neither of us is all good or all bad.  I don't see things as all or nothing, especially in relationships. If the relationship is toxic, I have played my part in the healthy and in the toxic parts.  I am not perfect.  I make big mistakes when it comes to relationships and feelings.  I am still learning my way with feelings, especially anger.  For the most part, I hope that I am healthy in feeling and dealing with angry situations but I do make mistakes.  I am not always right or always wrong.  Neither is the other person.  I always have room for improvement.  Where anger is concerned, I still don't always recognize what I am feeling and don't always handle anger as well as I wish I would.  I am human.  We all are.

A friend recently told me that I am not responsible for fixing other people and I am not responsible for protecting them either.  I know that I am not responsible for fixing others.  That has been one of my lessons this lifetime. 

Raised in a dysfunctional family with incest and alcoholism, my family role was that of hero and caretaker.  I was the oldest daughter who was expected to do well in school.  My parents had 5th grade and 7th grade educations.  I had to do well in school so that they could feel good about themselves.  I even majored in Special Education in college because it was my mother's dream.  My brother was in Special Education from 3rd grade on.  I think my becoming a Special Education teacher was to ease any guilt that my mother had toward my brother's special needs. I took years to realize that being a Special Education teacher was never my dream. That is why I quit college when my husband graduated. 

Early in my childhood, I became a caretaker of everyone in my family.  At three years old, I took on the job of protecting my mother from her feelings.  At eleven years old, I became a wife to my dad taking care of the house, learning to cook meals, and becoming the sexual substitute for my mom.  My mom unconsciously pushed me into that role.  My dad actively pushed that role on to me.  My feelings were never considered.  My permission was never asked.  I had already learned that their feelings, wants and needs were more important than anything that I wanted or needed.

As an adult, I continued the caretaker role in my marriage and in my friendships.  Anything that I could fix, I did.  Any advice that I could give, I did.  I thought that if I could fix your problems, you would like me and give me value as a woman.  Women were supposed to take care of everything.  We were the nurturers.  If I could fix you, I could feel good about myself.  What I didn't know was that I didn't have the time to look at myself and my own issues if I was busy fixing you and your issues.

12-Step meetings in the 1990's taught me that being a caretaker was not a good thing for you or for me.  What helped me to stop my caretaking was when someone said that when I was fixing you, I was also teaching you that you were too stupid to do it for yourself.  I didn't like that message and didn't know that was what I was saying.  I would never call someone stupid.  I know what that feels like.  My parents both used that word a lot. I am not stupid and neither are you.  Today I recognise a caretaker pretty quickly.  I learned that I don't have to take care of you in order to feel safe in my environment or in order to feel loved. Today I love myself and I feel worthy just by being me.

Today, I rarely give advice because of my caretaker days.  I know that you can find your own answers without my help.  If you ask my opinion, I will give it.  When I give my opinion, that is what it is.  My opinion is my truth as I know it.  I do my best not to be judging when I give you my opinion.  I can't say that I am always successful in not sounding judging.  

Recently a friend asked my opinion about a situation.  She wanted my approval for what she had said to someone else.  I disagreed with her.  I wasn't judging her but she read my comments as judgments.  I do my best to be discerning which is seeing things as they are rather than as telling the person that they are bad.  This person is very sensitive.  She is not bad. I didn't agree with her behavior toward another friend. In stating my feelings and what I think about a situation, I will sometimes trample all over the sensitive person's feelings, not intentionally, but I still do it.  My best friend helps me with this lesson.  She is sensitive when all I want is the truth, even when it is about me. I don't mean to hurt her feelings, but sometimes I do.  Together we are working our way through this lesson. I am far from perfect in this area. I constantly stumble and get up and try again. I am aware of this in myself and I am working on it.  If you are one of those sensitive people that I have done this too, I am sorry.  I am working on doing better. Being aware of how I act and react and changing how I react is my way of taking responsibility for my part in my relationships. 

I have spent the last two weeks working my way through this issue and looking at my part in the relationship disagreement.  This friend blocked me on Facebook and called me a stalker when I went to her husband's Facebook page to ask if she was okay and to let her know that I didn't intend to hurt her and that I was sorry that I did.  For myself, I look for patterns of behavior in myself that I might want to change about myself if they are hurting me or someone else.  I told this person about the possible patterns that I was seeing in her. I have friends who do this for me.  I don't see it as them judging me.  I see if as them helping me with some awareness that I might not have otherwise. I don't want friends who are going to lie to me about my behavior. 

I am not telling you any of this because I want your sympathy. I am sharing with you that this is how I process things for myself.  Because this is the way that I work, I never thought that the other person would see my words as a personal attack.  For that I am sorry.  I don't see these patterns of behavior as character faults in myself or in anyone else.  I just see them as things that I can change for me and you can change for you.  No, I don't see it as my responsibility to tell you about what I see unless you ask me.  If you ask me, I assume that you really want to know.

I have a best friend who will very quickly tell you not to ask Pat unless you want the truth.  I know that most truths are not absolute and that my truth may be different from your truth.  My truth is the only one that I have and yours is the only one that you have.  That is where awareness is key to healing.  If I am not aware of my patterns of behavior, then I cannot change them.  Neither can you.  It was from this space that I shared my opinion with my friend. As much as I didn't mean to hurt this friend, I did. This hurting will make me more careful next time if this situation arises again in my life.

I know that I am not responsible for fixing another person.  I do believe that it is my responsibility to protect those that are weaker than me.  Maybe I am wrong in that belief.  Some people are strong enough to protect themselves.  Others are not.  Maybe this is my belief because I wasn't protected as a child.  Even as a young adult, I didn't have any idea how to protect myself.  Until I did become strong enough to protect myself, people continued to come into my life who abused me.  I can't stand by and watch someone else being bullied.  If that is bad, I am sorry.  I think the strong should protect the weaker ones.  How are you supposed to learn how to be strong unless someone else shows you how?  I only grew strong enough to protect myself because of the human angels that God put into my life at each step of the way that I needed guidance and support.  My life would have been so different if those strong people had not showed me how to protect myself.

Out of my wanting to protect others and to vent some of my own anger over the situation, I went on someone else's blog where this friend had commented about the original situation on my Facebook page.  For that I am sincerely sorry to the owner of the blog and to her readers and commenters.  I should not have said the things that I did that told everyone exactly who I was talking about.  I should have come to my own blog if I was going to put it on a blog at all.  I made a big mistake in judgment in that area.  As I said earlier, I am human and I make mistakes and this was a big mistake on my part.  I am not trying to justify what I did.  I was wrong.  I have no problem accepting responsibility for my part in this whole thing.  I played the game even when I knew that I shouldn't.  I am not a good game player. 

I want the truth, not game playing in my life.  I haven't contacted this person since she called me a stalker.  I let it drop and was processing my part in the whole thing.  I don't want to react in this way again so I have looked at the whole situation and my part in it.  I can't change the other person.  I can change myself. Denial of my mistakes would change anything.  Taking responsibility for my part is all that I can do.

For me, the relationship with this person has become toxic.  I don't like drama.  I know it is a coping mechanism but it is one that I don't want in my life.  I am not saying that the person is toxic.  Our relationship, which we both created together, is toxic to me.  She is free to see it otherwise.

I chose to leave the relationship behind and to work on changing my reactions.  I didn't expect this person to take off her block of me on Facebook but she did this week so that she could send me a two-page expression of regret and blame.  I know where my fault lies in this relationship.  I can honestly say that I forgive the person for what she said.  I wish her well in the future. I can only hope that she will find forgiveness in her heart for me.  As long as either one of us is angry with the other, forgiveness hasn't happened. 

I can forgive without wanting that relationship back. A big part of my decision has to do with trust.  I don't trust her or myself to not re-enact or recreate this whole thing over again at some point if we remain friends. I don't need that in my life.

Over the past few weeks, I have gone into two major bouts of grieving the loss of this friendship.  Possibly for the first time in my life, I actually was able to allow myself to feel the heavy grief for a few days and then to slowly start coming out of it.  In that grief, I was able to look at how much I still want the appoval of my peers, my fellow survivors. I probably lost some of that approval because of my words on the other blog.  At the same time, the people on the other blog saw me at my worst with the mean little girl in control of my words.  I take responsibility for letting that mean little girl take control.  She is the one who feels the hurt and the grief of my childhood and she is the one who carries my anger.  I am not excusing myself for my hurtful words.  I meant them at the time that I wrote them.  I am not asking for approval or condemnation. I know what I did was wrong in identifying her in the way that I did. 

I am not apologizing for my anger.  I have a right to feel what I feel.  So does the other person.  I am sorry that I allowed my anger to hurt another person just because she hurt me. We were both wrong in striking out at each other on someone else's blog.  Her words seem more innocent than mine but they were not.  I knew where her digs were even though others never saw them.

Yesterday or the day before, I received two anonymous comments here on my blog.  Both were from this person.  To me, at this point the anonymity thing felt like a slap in the face to me.  I know who she is and she knows who I am.  I am being curteous here in allowing this person the anonimity of not using her name in my post because this post isn't really about her.  I didn't write this post to place blame. This post is about me attempting to figure out all of my stuff, not hers.  I am sharing this hoping to save someone else the pain that I have experienced with this issue.  I hope by sharing my mistakes with you that I may save you from doing the same thing in your life.  My blog has always been about sharing my journey to healing with you.  Well, the past few weeks have shown me some major areas that I still need to work on.

I am also sharing this so that if you have put me up on a pedestal as an expert or as the perfect way to do healing, please take me off that pedestal.  People keep telling me how I have a large influence upon others in the survivor community.  Well, here is your opportunity to learn from my mistakes and to see that I don't deserve to be put on a pedestal any more than anyone else does.  I teach by sharing my experiences.  Well, some of those experiences have negative consequences. I can't change what happened.  I wish I could but regret doesn't heal anything.

In case this person is reading my blog post, I accept your forgiveness in the manner than it was given by you.  Now, please leave me out of the drama of your life.  I have learned my lessons where you are concerned and I intend to move on.  I hope that you can do the same, just not in my life. I hope that you can one day forgive me for trespasing on your feelings.  Your feelings are just as valid as mine.  I won't invalidate what I feel to make you happy and don't expect you to invalidate your feelings for me.  With that said, I don't want you in my life. Thank you for what you have taught me about myself and what I still need to learn.  I always have the right to approve or not any comments that come here to my blog.  I welcome respectful comments. To save anyone from looking, I did not publish the two comments from this person. They were too personal and too shaming.


Anonymous said...

i am still in a process of everything so i really do not know what to say emotions now are overwhelming because of my wanting "to heal" also..i just want to send you my hugs for this blog can not please everybody..but you can still be a human angel to some without you knowing it Patricia.:)!!G

Patricia Singleton said...

G, thank you. I appreciate your words.

Jane Rowan said...

Patricia, Thank you for this brave post.

As I healed from my early abuse, I also found that I needed to detach from certain friends in my life. They were not "bad" people, which made it all the harder. Their needs and requirements were toxic to me. They were baffled, hurt, and angry when I set boundaries. It still hurts to think about one of these lost contacts, but it would hurt worse if I were still coping with their dramas.

So I sympathize and wish you well.

Patricia Singleton said...

Jane, thank you. This has been a really big lesson for me. I hate letting go of friendships but when they become toxic to me, I have no other choice.

Faith said...


Sharing is healing and helping others can be healing. Keep sharing and healing. Like you, I am not an "expert" either. I just know that I have come further than many I have known and feel so thankful.

I will continue to share my journey as well as follow yours.

Jane, as for "It still hurts to think about one of these lost contacts, but it would hurt worse if I were still coping with their dramas." - Ditto and right on.

Leads me back to my thought that it is better to miss them than be hurt by them.

Journey on!

Patricia Singleton said...

Faith, thank you. I agree with both you and Jane. I appreciate your thoughts. I learn so much from the people who share my journey.

Renee said...

Separating from certain individuals is a necessity, in the healing process. In one relationship that I have severed, the person has tried repeatedly to reconnect, but I refuse to entertain the notion. I applaud you for standing your ground. It's never easy to end relationships, but your emotional health is priority. Life is too short. Be encouraged my friend, you have many unseen friends in cyberspace.

Sophie said...

I am sorry you are hurting right now Patricia.
i agree with you: pedestals are no good coz we can only fall from them and toxic relationships must go, however much good there was in us or the other person. Just done that and didn't like it but it was another necessary step to my recovery.

Patricia Singleton said...

Renee, thank you so much for your words of encouragement. I appreciate so much tonight. I know it is necessary for my own good.

Patricia Singleton said...

Sophie, thank you for your kindness. This move was definitely necessaray for my own good as you said.

Adnama said...

It amazes me as I read through your post, as you recounted your family dynamics & how you responded (became the fixer-the parent) I see a lot of how I walked a very similar walk. The childhood part sucked- but I finally realized that "I" now have my emancipation papers and can say who comes and who stays in MY life. I owe no nothing but love and sometimes it is better expressed from a distance.

Patricia Singleton said...

Adnama, Even though all of the hurts and abuse, I did still love my parents. From a distance is sometimes best, especially if one of them never changed from being an abuser. Thanks for your visit and your comment.

Just Be Real said...

Pat this says so much. So much I can relate to. Thank you for taking the time to share. Safe hugs.

Patricia Singleton said...

JBR, thank you so much for your continued support and for your comment. Safe hugs back to you too.

Anonymous said...

Hi Patricia, this is Pam. I'm just posting as anonymous because I don't remember my Google account name or password. I do that a lot.

I'm sad to hear you've had this problem. I know that sometimes things can get so tangled up between people that the only solution is to forgive and move on. It's never easy to lose a friend even when they have hurt you.

I was oblivous to most of this but I want you to know that I think no less of you. People can be over-sensitive and it's hard to not hurt them at some point. I know because I've had friends like that and I still have friends like that.I can only be their friend if they can also accept that I at times get hurt and say things I shouldn't. If they can't then the friendship will probably end. Relationships take two and one person can't carry all of the burden in a relationship. Acceptance and forgiveness has to be two-way.
I still appreciate the things you have to say and value them. I don't expect you to be perfect. I just like you. I hope you heal from this experience soon and move on to healthier relationships.


Patricia Singleton said...

Pam, I hope that a lot of people were oblivious to what was going on. Thank you for your words. I am moving on and hope that the other person will too. Holding onto resentments isn't good for anyone.

Jan said...

What a tough lesson you have learned. I am still in the process of setting boundaries,it is difficult for me to stay consistent in this with certain members of my family. I am grateful to you for sharing this with us, it was something I needed to hear. I hope someday to be strong enough to step up for myself ALL the time. The only friends I have at this point, I have never personally met other than skype . I lost any "friends" I had when I got sober. I have my family, all the abusers are dead now, I do however still have toxic relationships within the family.
Again thank you, and yes I was oblivious to your happenings as well.<3 I admire your courage and determination.

Patricia Singleton said...

Jan, thank you for your visit and for leaving a comment. I am determined to heal no matter how much work it takes me to accomplish that task.

You are very welcome. I share in order to let other survivors know that they are not alone in their struggle to heal. We all, including me, need to know that we have someone's support in our journey.

I have found that some family members have the hardest time accepting the changes that I have made in myself through my healing. When we heal, friends accept us or they move on to other places. Then we have to grieve their loss. Letting go has never been easy for me.

touched2mysoul said...

People come into your life for a time... Some are there for a moment in time, some there for a season and some for a lifetime. It can hurt and be disappointing when someone we thought was here for a season we find is only supposed to be for a moment. Or someone we thought was a lifetime is only present for a season. The great thing is to breath in the whole experience and continue to grow, learn and love. I am learning this and am learning to breathe in these experiences. Your post shows that we are not alone in these experiences. Thank you for sharing.

Patricia Singleton said...

Touched2MySoul, thank you for visiting my blog and for commenting. I love what the poem that you are talking about says about people coming into our lives for a reason,a season or a lifetime. I am glad that my post shows you that you are not alone in your journey. That is why I write my blog and share my experiences - good and painful and in between. Today, no one has to do their work alone.