Toxic Relationships: Dealing With People Who Have Issues
I come from a large quirky family of addictive and codependent personalities that bred what seems like nothing but toxic relationships; relationships that ultimately did more to harm our mental, physical and emotional well-being than good (7 Basic Signs of a Toxic Relationship). I've never really considered us "dysfunctional" because we actually functioned quite well as long as everyone did their job and played their role. That job or role always being to pacify and enable the person with issues by protecting them from reality or the consequences of their actions. It looks a little something like this:
Do You Know Some People With Issues?
- Partner drinks up the rent money. You work more hours to make up the difference. Partner complains to you about lack of quality time and drinks some more. You feel worse.
- Mom beats brother. You are a “perfect princess” so mom won't be mad and hit brother anymore. Brother hates you anyway. You feel worse.
- Child gets in trouble at school. Mom blames herself for working too much and cuts her hours at work to spend more time with the child. Child thinks you suck because you can’t afford to buy them a new set of Dre Beats.You feel worse.
In each case, the person or people with the problem never have to deal with it because the codependent tries to deal with it FOR them! As is often the case, the person with the problem is actually rewarded for their problem which only reinforces it. I've found the same is true of any toxic relationship, no matter who it's with. Many of us have people in our lives (friends, lovers, family members, coworkers and even children) that have issues! Anger Issues, Control Issues, Self-Esteem Issues, Family Drama Issues that THEY need to deal with.
If you have codependent tendencies like I do, you might be tempted to try and "SAVE" and "FIX" them. I know it sounds like a noble thing to do. But let me tell you, nothing can ruin your own mental and emotional well-being like trying to save other people from themselves!
Let Their Issue Be Theirs, Not Yours
People with issues can be very good at emotionally manipulating you into believing that you are the one with issues, or they would be better if you would (fill in the blank). It can be hard to realize when you are being taken advantage of, especially when it is by someone you know well and/or love. While there is no single definition covering all aspects of what constitutes emotional abuse, generally speaking, the following occurs with regularity in the emotionally manipulative relationship:
- Attacks on personal character
- Blame and accusations
- Shame and judging
- Sarcasm and twisting what you say
- Rewriting history
- Playing the victim
- Manipulation, control and coercion
- Unpredictable explosions
- Criticism that is harsh and undeserved
- Escalating situations or refusing to discuss a situation by not speaking at all
With some distance and a chance to clear your mind, perspective can be gained and you can see right through the tactics people with issues might be using to manipulate you. Remind yourself that you are not responsible for anyone else’s happiness. It is healthy to emotionally detach and let that others know that they alone control their own fate.
tneely (2013, January 28). Toxic Relationships: Dealing With People Who Have Issues, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, December 1 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/thelifelgbt/2013/01/toxic-relationships-dealing-with-people-who-have-issues
It's very difficult to recognize the fine line between "being there" for someone with issues and enabling them, especially if you are dealing with your own issues. Being there means saying "I am here for you while you work out your issues, but I won't allow you to make me a part of it." Enabling means "I know you can't help it, you have a mental illness, of course I forgive you."