Another call. Another text. Another voicemail. You see who it is from or hear their voice, and you can’t help but roll your eyes. It is them…again…and you dread having to deal with it. We all have had people in our lives at some point where that becomes the normal reaction. It could be a friend, a family member or a co-worker, but we can come across them in all parts of our life. The question is how do you deal with it.
A few years ago, there were a couple of people in my life I considered to be very close friends. We shared a lot about our daily lives, the ups and downs of our relationships and jobs, and we talked practically every day if not multiple times a day. The thing you might find the most interesting is that I didn’t do the eye roll when I heard from them. It was quite the opposite. I was happy to hear from them because they were so important to me. They made me feel connected. Two of the friends were going through some relationship issues and another was struggling with their job and what they wanted to do with their life. All things which we can relate to and certainly want to be there to support our friends through. What I didn’t realize at the time, was what it was doing to me.
I was dating my husband at the time and some interesting circumstances started to develop. The more I heard from the friends struggling in their relationships, over time, the more I started to “notice” issues with my own. The small, everyday things that never bothered me were suddenly becoming these huge points of contention. And for the friend struggling with their job – yep, I found myself becoming less motivated and less satisfied with a job that I had previously loved.
After several months of continued conversations with these close friends and the growing discourse in my own life, through mere coincidence, I ended up with some time away from all of them at once for a few days. It gave me time to reflect and I had an epiphany. With some perspective, I realized how much of their own life’s “drama” had become my own and knew things needed to change. Without even noticing it, I had become much more short-tempered, angry, and permanently stressed out. I had internalized everything going on with everyone else and it was manifesting itself in unhealthy ways in my own life and I was simply drained.
Initially, my thought was to get a handle on my own life. Refocusing on my relationship with my boyfriend (now husband) and my job, I took a step back and made them both the priority and pushed my friendships to the back burner a bit. When I did that, you would have thought I had set the world on fire! It sounds a bit funny now, but it became obvious to me very quickly what I thought were close friendships were really my friends’ need to have an audience, to help fuel their own personal drama. My distance and lack of focus on them was taking away from them fulfilling their needs to be the center of attention and have someone to complain to. It was the recognition of their self-serving intent that solidified how toxic the relationships really had become to me and my own happiness.
I won’t lie to you; backing away was difficult. I had shared so much of myself and my time with these people, but if I didn’t make a change, I was going to get eaten alive by the toxic energy they brought with them. At this point, as I was trying to get the needed separation, this is when the dread set in. I didn’t want to receive another text, or call, or email. In one case, a difficult conversation was required before I was given the room I needed. The others, it took several things before it happened. It took time, minimizing my engagement with them and not responding in the manner I once did before I was able to build enough distance to create the positive environment I desired. When I finally did manage to reset my life’s course, I felt like a weight had been lifted and I could breathe again. I also started to find all of the small stuff that used to set me off…it didn’t bother me any more.
Today, I appreciate the experience I had as I hold more closely the important people in my life and protect those relationships from external negative energy. I identify “drama” and toxic behavior much more quickly and keep it at an arm’s length (or more) as much as I can. I also stick to the belief I am going to only spend time with people of my choosing. If I am unhappy being around someone and I only have so much time on this earth, why spend it with people who don’t make me happy? More importantly, my circle of people who I hold dear today are much more positive and want mutually supportive relationships. Without my experience, I might not have recognized it and appreciate it as much as I do. I am truly blessed with the friends I have in my life today and I hope they know how thankful I am!
Healthy relationships should be filled with positive support, make you feel good about yourself, continue to build up who you are and encourage you to grow into who you want to be. If a person in your life wants to continuously take your time and energy, adds negativity, demeans who you are as a person or may simply be filled with too much “drama” in their own life, I hope you will stop and take a real, hard look at what this relationship adds to your life. If it is anything less than positive, I hope that you can say you need and deserve better for yourself. We all have a right to be happy and sometimes, it means distancing ourselves from the toxic people we currently have in our life. You don’t have to explain yourself – you are an adult – and this is your life. Your happiness is something you should own and protect like the precious commodity it is.
“Toxic people will pollute everything around them. Don’t hesitate. Fumigate.”
– Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass
Have a good day!