I like to think that I’m a kind person. Occasionally, I’m too kind; I’ll tolerate people way beyond the point where I should have ended the relationship because I feel sorry for them, because I know that they’re getting a s**t load from our relationship, even if it’s all at my expense. And I know that if I end the relationship, they’re going to feel a lot worse.
I googled ‘toxic relationship’ last night and was quite astonished that the relationship I had in mind ticked every single one of the boxes to determine whether it was toxic or not. “Toxic people try to control you” – tick. “Toxic people disregard your boundaries” – tick, tick, TICK. “Toxic people take without giving” – oh my god, you have NO idea. “Toxic people are always “right”” – definitely (though I did feel a little guilty about that because I always like to be right, too). “Toxic people aren’t honest” – no they’re not (phew! I can breathe easier! I’m usually honest. And forthright. And I tend to open my mouth and start talking before I’ve engaged my brain). “Toxic people love to be victims” – dear god in heaven, I am so sick of the ‘not good enough’, ‘poor me’ litany that springs from this person’s mouth. “Toxic people don’t take responsibility” – no, they don’t, do they? They also get the s**ts when someone else succeeds at something they’re trying to do, and they pretend to hide it behind saccharin smiles and good wishes for the person.
I’ve tended to be around, work with and have friends who are men my entire life. Because they’re much more honest and predictable than women. On the whole. That’s a vast generalisation but it’s the experience I’ve created for myself. Women (again, this is MY creation and bears no resemblance to reality) tend to mull things over, add meaning to things and to get emotional about stuff when there was absolutely no need to get emotional in the first place. I hate that. I can’t deal with it. I’m also a woman. We might have a problem here. When it boils right down to it, the issue that I have is that I lose power in this kind of situation, where the other person (for me, it’s ALWAYS a woman; I can deal with blokes who try this) is passive-aggressive, says things that you know mean something else under the surface but which they can deny, who gives enough to the relationship so you can’t use that as an excuse, who really NEEDS your support and who admires & reveres you. But also hates you and despises you. And you know this, but you also can’t do anything about it because it’s so well-hidden under all the saccharin and fairy dust. I like authenticity. I like honesty & integrity. This kind of relationship is none of those things, and neither is this kind of person. Though they will happily PROVE that they are, in fact, all of those things, and that I am, in fact, everything I say I despise, and they’ll do it all with a sickly-sweet smile, in a sickly-sweet voice, explaining how I’m doing them such a disservice and how much I’ve hurt their feelings. And I fall for it! Every time! I’m 55 years old and I still haven’t learned not to fall for it! Well, we all have our weaknesses, right? And this is a pattern that’s been repeating itself in my life since I was a teenager. I’m getting over it now.
What I also hate about these relationships, is the way they end. I try to explain things – I like explaining things – and the toxics twist and turn everything and it ends with me feeling guilty and lousy because I’m being such a bitch to them, I’m totally selfish, and look how much I’ve hurt them by doing this when all they’ve done is try to do the right thing by me. I don’t know how to deal with it and come out feeling clear, powerful and centred. I’m actually not sure there is a way, to be honest, and I also know that the toxic person tends to push me to a point where I lose my temper, which is never a good idea. Then they have great reason to never be my friend again (when they get out of hospital and they’ve recovered from the trauma of what I said and did to them, of course).
Okay, let’s be honest here: the main reason I don’t want to have a conversation with a toxic person that I’m trying to get out of my life is that the conversation is highly likely to end in an argument, no matter what I do. I like to have people understand my point, even if they don’t agree with it; that’s what I do for people, I expect people to treat me the same way. When they don’t do that, when they refuse to even try to understand my viewpoint, I get irritable because they’re just being ignorant. I don’t like ignorance, it’s infuriating. And limiting. And rude. And small-minded. And… ignorant. But the problem is, when I lose my temper, people get hurt. When I lose my temper, people have Defining Moments that, well, define the rest of their lives. They’re never the same person again. Which is not necessarily a bad thing when you look at it, but I’d rather not have that on my conscience if I can help it. I’m sure someone likes them the way they are; their mother, maybe. So, I avoid it if I can. Actually, I avoid it at all costs, including my sanity, self-respect and energy.
But what I forgot is that we live in the age of technology! All praise Apple, Facebook, and the internet in general, because I don’t have to have that conversation now; I can just ‘ghost’ them. I didn’t know that was even a technological term till last night; I can ‘ghost’ someone. It sounds pretty amazing, and (in case you’re a tech-know-little like me) it means that I can disappear from their lives forever without ever having that dreaded conversation with them. They can google me to their hearts’ content, stalk me forever, and while they might be able to check out my website, they won’t be able to find me on Facebook, or join any of my groups, like any of my pages or see any of my activity AT ALL on Facebook! They won’t be able to comment on my website, message me, text me, email me or contact me. I’ve even gone so far as to blacklist their email addresses on my server.
I’m now a ghost. Maybe that’s why I feel so much lighter! Heaven.
Hi! I’m Karen O’Connor, hormonally-challenged, peri-menopausal writer, blogger, self-confessed sarcasm enthusiast, mother of 4, wife of 30 years, destroyer of souls... no, wait, that's just in the mornings...