Are there toxic relationships that you have wanted to walk away from but didn’t? Did you feel like you needed to explain your reason for walking away, but that was too difficult? Have you felt like you should continue toxic relationships because the relationships involved family or long-time friends? If so, what has that done to you?
My guess would be that you have swallowed your feelings or slowly pulled back a little, but guilt pulled you right back into that toxic relationship. Society is to blame for this, in my opinion. Boundaries are typically not taught to us as children. Therefore, we don’t see it as an option to set them in order to create a healthier mental state for ourselves. We aren’t taught how to avoid or navigate toxic relationships because often those toxic relationships are with family members.
When I was a young adult, I had to make a tough decision for my father not to be a part of my life. He was a severe alcoholic with almost all of the toxic behaviors one thinks of when picturing an alcoholic. The boundaries that were needed to keep me safe physically and emotionally were never set for me when I needed them as a young child.
Lack of Healthy Boundaries in Toxic Relationships
Without seeing boundaries modeled and the societal pressures forced upon me, I continued over and over to attempt a relationship with my father. That was to the detriment of my mental health. Throughout my teenage years, I would attempt a healthy boundary with my father. Cutting off contact was the healthiest avenue for me. Maintaining that boundary typically didn’t last for long. Unfortunately, that’s the norm for toxic relationships. They end up right back where they were.
Society tells us that we should do whatever it takes to maintain relationships with our family, even if they are toxic relationships. Countless times I was told, “But that’s your Dad,” “He loves you and you have to keep trying” or other similar lines. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to ignore that societal pressure for far too many years and remained in that one and other toxic relationships.
After a few months of standing firm in my no-contact boundary with him, I would eventually cave. Guilt and shame from society and people who knew nothing about what I had endured from my father resulted in me always letting him back into my life. It seemed as though something more severe happened each time I withdrew my boundary. His toxic and dangerous behaviors increased causing me more and more harm every time I let him back into my life.
We Are Not Obligated to Stay in ANY Relationship, Especially Toxic Relationships
Getting older and slightly more mature in my mid-twenties, I realized that my father was very ill mentally and there was nothing I could do to help him. Protecting myself had to be my priority. Not only that, I realized that I had to reprogram the messages I was taught that “He’s my father and I should do whatever I had to in order to have him in my life.”
Now, I know that the seven-year period without my father in my life allowed me time to heal. He has since passed and I still have no regrets from him not being a part of my life. Knowing that my father would’ve been proud of me for having shifted the generational patterns of our family gives me peace. That was something nobody in my family had ever done.
My ability to set boundaries, work on myself and keep from following in the footsteps of my father and my family was huge. Separating my father from his alcoholism and mental health issues allowed me to see him at his soul level. He, too, had an alcoholic father. I have compassion for the difficult life he had that led to his death. Connecting to his spirit now allows me to know that I made the right decision to end contact while working to heal my wounds.
Pointless Explanations When Ending Toxic Relationships
On a different note, there are times when I simply walked away from toxic relationships with friends. I’ve had several friends in my life with whom I cut off contact for different reasons. For years, I tried to explain to some of those friends the things that I saw that they were doing to themselves or to me that were harmful. Oh, how badly I wanted them to gain self-awareness!
To me, their behaviors were blatant, and I just couldn’t grasp how they weren’t aware of their actions towards themselves and others. If it were blatant to them, they wouldn’t be engaged in toxic relationships or at least some wouldn’t. Now, I can sit back and almost laugh at how hard I tried to force people to be self-aware or do their own personal work. My laughter isn’t at them, but more so at myself. Realizing that there’s nothing I can do to “make” somebody work on themselves took me several years to grasp.
Now, it seems so obvious. Years were spent dealing with toxic relationships, both with friends and family. Often, I would try to explain to these people the reasons I was setting a boundary or needed a break. Each time, it fell on deaf ears and caused even more toxicity in the toxic relationships.
Only in the past few years, have I learned that I do not have to explain why I am choosing to leave a relationship. Regardless of the amount of time invested in a friendship and regardless of someone being family, I am not obligated to explain myself.
As I work with clients on ending toxic relationships, they all tell me they, too, have the need to explain why they are ending a relationship with somebody. Growing and healing for myself brought me to a place to be able to explain it to clients. Here is what I tell my clients struggling with this:
“There’s no point in explaining yourself to people who don’t have the conscious awareness or the conscious ability to look at themselves or the ways they affect others negatively.”
Read that again. Ask yourself if the person you are giving an explanation to truly has the conscious awareness or conscious ability to hear your explanation from a healthy state of mind. If the answer is that they do not, giving an explanation is pointless.
What Happens When you Walk Away from Toxic Relationships with No Explanation
Typical results of not giving an explanation to those without the conscious awareness or conscious ability to hear us and look at themselves can often lead us to going back to explain. Trust me, it will still not change anything. What it will do is cause more friction and difficulty for you.
You probably know what I meant when I mentioned “typical results.” If not, I am referring to being back pulled into the toxic cycle that you were attempting to escape. An example of this is the person you walked away from playing the victim role. This has happened to me every time I have walked away without an explanation.
Conversations about you between the person you walked away from and other people take place. That person plays the victim role very well. An example of this is, “I just don’t know why Mary Beth won’t return my calls and texts. I did A, B, C for her and she doesn’t even appreciate it.”
Now, when I am made aware of these conversations that were had about me, I have to set a very clear boundary to not engage in any way. The moment I engage, I am right there in The Victim Triangle, which is hard to escape. There’s not enough room in this post to explain The Victim Triangle, but to read more about it, click here. For now, just know that it is a very toxic, dysfunctional cycle that never ends well.
Summing up this post, I will give you a quick How-To for you to easily refer to when deciding if you’re going to walk away from a toxic relationship, whether that is romantic, friendship or family.
5 Steps to Walking Away from Toxic Relationships WITHOUT an Explanation:
- Determine if the benefits of that relationship outweigh the emotional toll.
- Spend some time deciding if the people truly have the conscious awareness to take a look at themselves and their contributions to the difficulty in the relationship.
- Ask yourself if they have the conscious ability to truly hear you from a healthy “place” or if their Not Good Enough Stuff prevents that.
- If the benefits from step 1 are small and answers to steps 2 and 3 are a no, walk away without an explanation.
- Do not engage with any attempt from the people you’re walking away from or others who are trying to solicit information from you about the situation.
Now, for many of you this may seem harsh due to our societal conditioning of always explaining why we are ending a relationship. If so, then it might benefit you to keep revisiting Step 1. Please keep in mind that this can be very difficult to do. Understand that my ability to do this took several years. Countless hours, months and years were spent on my explaining to those who were unable to truly hear me or staying in toxic relationships that were detrimental to my mental health and my healing journey.
Keep in mind that it is truly difficult to begin working on yourself and to begin or continue on your healing journey, especially ending toxic relationships. So, don’t let anger build for those you have to walk away from without an explanation. Have compassion for them. Remember that there was a point where you also didn’t have the conscious awareness or ability to hear others or to do your own personal work.
Self- care is very important to practice when walking away from toxic relationships. Click here to read the post “What is Self-Care.”