Time to detox

In­vest in re­la­tion­ships that al­low you to be your best self

The Hindu - - EDGE - The au­thor is a psy­chol­o­gist and man­age­ment con­sul­tant. [email protected] Krithvi shyam

Have you ever been in a re­la­tion­ship which has com­pelled you to ask, “Why?” — Why am I stuck be­ing friends with her? Why am I re­lated to him? Why do I have to put up with this?

We all go through pe­ri­ods where we ques­tion our san­ity and won­der why we con­tinue to as­so­ciate with some of the peo­ple in our life. Usu­ally, these pe­ri­ods are fleet­ing and oc­ca­sional. How­ever, if it is a con­stant fix­ture in your life, then per­haps it is time to eval­u­ate if you are in a toxic re­la­tion­ship, and con­se­quently, what you want to do about it.

Toxic con­ver­sa­tions

Tox­i­c­ity isn’t al­ways in-your-face. It could take the form of sev­eral lit­tle drops of neg­a­tive be­hav­iours that even­tu­ally form your ocean of un­hap­pi­ness. Per­haps, con­ver­sa­tions with that one friend of yours al­ways re­volves around the highs and lows of his or her life, never yours; maybe he or she of­floads emo­tional bag­gage on you and it is your job to be the porter, pick those bags up and scurry af­ter him while he runs to catch his train to Feel­ing Bet­ter­pu­ram. How­ever, when it is his turn to be there for you dur­ing dif­fi­cult times, he is nowhere to be seen.

Here is an­other sce­nario: Maybe you have a part­ner who is con­stantly putting you down with sub­tle in­sults, forc­ing you to start ques­tion­ing your self-worth. You might be suf­fer­ing through it in si­lence be­cause ev­ery­thing else about this per­son is won­der­ful, and af­ter all, they are just words, right?

When we’re in a toxic re­la­tion­ship, it isn’t al­ways easy to ac­knowl­edge it in the first place. We may have known the per­son for a long time, and would have seen their good side as well. We might ra­tio­nalise or make ex­cuses for their be­hav­iour to­wards us. So, the first thing to do is ap­ply a lens of ob­jec­tiv­ity while re­flect­ing on your re­la­tion­ship — do you feel happy when you are in the com­pany of this per­son, or are you emo­tion­ally drained? What is it about their words or ac­tions that makes you feel this way?

Once you have done this, the next step is to un­der­stand what is mo­ti­vat­ing the per­son to be­have this way with you. Is this how they are in gen­eral with other peo­ple too, or are you an easy tar­get? If it is the for­mer, how have oth­ers han­dled it when the per­son be­haves this way with them? If it is the lat­ter, what cues are you giv­ing them to make them think their ac­tions are con­don­able? Are you plac­ing more stock in the re­la­tion­ship than they are, and con­se­quently, are you more in­vested in keep­ing it alive than they are?

Do’s and dont’s

Fol­low­ing this, con­sider what you want to do. You have prob­a­bly put in a lot of time and ef­fort to build the re­la­tion­ship up to where it is to­day. So, it is nat­u­ral that you might want to sal­vage it. Start by talk­ing to the per­son about how their ac­tions or words make you feel and the im­pact it has on you. Call out this be­hav­iour the next time they do it so that they be­come aware of it. Then, wait to see if your re­la­tion­ship with that per­son im­proves, over time.

How­ever, what if the per­son doesn’t change his/her be­hav­iour? I think back to an ar­ti­cle I read — about a moun­taineer who scaled Ever­est. He was tan­ta­lis­ingly close to the sum­mit, but was run­ning dan­ger­ously low on oxy­gen. Rather than risk his life to achieve his goal, he made the dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion of turn­ing back (he went on to make a suc­cess­ful at­tempt again, later). The point of the story is, even if you see re­wards in main­tain­ing a re­la­tion­ship with the per­son, do the risks out­weigh the re­wards? Some­times, cut­ting ties might be what is best for you in the long run, even if it means a dis­rup­tion in the short term. If this is the case, start lim­it­ing your in­ter­ac­tions with the per­son and the amount of time you spend with them. Even­tu­ally, he/she will move on; if they don’t, you might need to have a con­ver­sa­tion with them about for­mally end­ing things and your rea­sons for this.

In­vest in re­la­tion­ships that al­low you to be your best self. You owe your­self that much.

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