If you’ve noticed that people seem to walk all over you or you’re constantly getting involved in friendships or romantic relationships that are one sided or abusive, it’s usually not random.
It means you have to take an objective look at yourself and see how you enable others to treat you this way after you’ve seen the red flags and know that you are being mistreated. Some examples of a toxic or one sided relationship include: being taken for granted, expressing your emotions only to have them ignored, minimized or outright denied, being insulted either directly or through back handed compliments, being expected to be at someone else’s beck and call, feeling as if you can’t express yourself because you are ridiculed for your opinions or feelings….the list goes on. Bottom line- somewhere in your head or heart, you know you’re being mistreated.
Once you have recognized this- if you continue to interact with this person voluntarily- it’s time to ask yourself “why?” “Why am I putting up with this?” I think we mostly know that people don’t change unless THEY want to. So to subject yourself to abuse or maltreatment is generally also a choice. I’m not talking about people who are married and fear for their lives if they leave. That is an entirely different situation. I’m talking about staying friends with someone who you know is using you. Or dating someone who insults you.
Personally, after leaving a relatively short term but intense relationship with an abuser, I took a good, long look at myself and why I tolerated and even excused the behavior. I wasn’t married to him, I wasn’t financially dependent on him, we didn’t live together or have a life together. I was with him voluntarily even though as time went on, the signs that he was becoming more aggressive were impossible to ignore or explain away.
I realized that I am a “giver” and generally expect that others will reciprocate. That is a fallacy. Some people will and some won’t. Some people can easily identify “givers” and use that as an opportunity to drain them of their energy, resources, and whatever else I have to offer. I don’t know if I was born a “giver” but I do know I have been needing to work on holding to my boundaries for some time now.
Being a single mother and a nurse- giving and giving and giving became normal. Prior to that, I had a relatively healthy set of expectations for how people should treat me and I stuck to it. But 14 years of nonstop giving took its toll.
I read recently “we teach others how to treat us”. That is why having boundaries and sticking to them is essential. For example- when someone says they will meet me at a certain time- they should be there or call if late. That was my first red flag in my last relationship. He was late to our first meeting, didn’t mention it, didn’t call, didn’t apologize.
Throughout the relationship I realized that I was doing all the work. Or the vast majority, anyways. Another red flag was his entitled behavior. He came to expect me to give, yet didn’t thank me nor did he reciprocate the giving. I was often the first to tech out, the one who planned things, the one who addressed issues. That is an unbalanced relationship and those types of relationships are generally not happy ones. The giver becomes tired and resentful.
As I became more annoyed and fed up, I started complaining almost nonstop. All the giving was draining. Eventually, I just ended it on a whim. And at the urging of friends who tend to be less biased because they view things from the outside looking in.
More examples of toxic behavior: not thanking you for things you do, not accepting “no” as an answer, feeling like you can’t be honest with the individual because you’re afraid of their response, back handed compliments, insults- both subtle and outright, constant criticism, treating you as a child who cannot make your own decisions and blaming others as a pattern.
The solution to this is to spot this behavior in others as soon as possible and cut off contact. Don’t feel guilty about it. You know what’s best for your life. You don’t owe people anything unless it’s your children or sometimes maybe your parents.
Develop and nurture boundaries. If you “over give”- knock it off. Stop offering to help people and help yourself until you’re in a place where you can give what you want to give and not feel obligated about it. And if you find yourself giving more than the other person, if that person is valuable to you- have a talk with them. If they won’t listen, they are not a real friend or partner. Some will give insincere apologies but then proceed to behave the same way.
We have to hold others and ourselves accountable for not accepting toxic behavior from others. And there does come a point if you keep accepting toxic behavior that you become an enabler. So drag your self esteem out of the dumpster and realize that YOU deserve better and tactfully yet firmly hold to your boundaries. Which are decided by you.
I have decided my boundaries include that friendships must be reciprocal, I don’t accept petty criticism, I don’t accept people who don’t return my calls, I don’t accept insults (even under the guise of “it was a joke!”) No, no, no. These are some examples of the more popular ways that toxic people will attempt to break you down, there are more I am sure but those are the ones that immediately come to mind.
So figure out your boundaries, spot people who are “takers”, and don’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself FIRST.