• The Hopefulist

Getting out of toxic relationships

This month we will be tackling toxicity and how to get rid of it in your life. As much as you can anyway. Toxicity comes in so many forms but the most toxic are people that bring you down or feel bad about yourself. People that may hold you to expectations that you can't meet or don't want to meet. Guilting you into doing things and manipulating you into doing things their way. I want you to know there is no one who should ever treat you like this in your life and if there is you have every right to remove them from your life forever.

I also thought since Mother's Day is coming up I could talk about my toxic relationship with my mother and how I'm working really hard to forgive her. My mom and I had a volatile relationship. It wasn't always that way but it progressively got worse over the years. I think we each had a lot of built up resentment toward each other and we never really worked through it so our relationship deteriorated over time. As time went on we both felt bitter about the things we had said and done to each other over the years. Instead of talking about it we seemed to be in a competition over who would get the other to do what we wanted.

I don't think my mom tried to have a bad relationship with me. I don't think she ever intended to have so much anger and bitterness between us. But we were a lot alike and butted heads quite a bit. We were both stubborn, opinionated, wanted to be right and wanted to have our way. I think there was a time my mom thought she would win me over and get me to be the exact daughter she wanted me to be. I'm not sure exactly what that was but it certainly wasn't the way I was. My mom wanted me to adore and cherish her. But she never really did anything that made me want to do that. And when I didn't she became even more disappointed in me.

I had a lot of pressure on me. My older siblings had moved to different states and I was the only one around to attend all the holidays and come around when she wanted me to. Even though I lived an hour and a half away she would expect me to be at most occasions no matter what. It didn't matter what I wanted. Maybe a holiday or two at my house. She may have liked me to host a holiday but not if it meant we couldn't see the rest of the family. Whenever she needed help with anything I got recruited. The main issue I had with these expectations is that she never considered how they inconvenienced me or what my desire was.

The biggest issue with my mom was she was a very unhappy person. She had it set in her mind that other people or circumstances would make her happy. Of course we know that isn't how it works, right? You have to find happiness in yourself. No one can fill that void for you and if that is what you are doing then you are setting yourself up to fail miserably and make the people in your life unhappy with the weight of those expectations.

She was what I like to call a happiness delayer. I think she went through life thinking that the next thing would always make her happy. When she divorced my dad, when she remarried, when she moved into a nice house, when she got to retire, when she lost the weight, etc. You get the picture. And when none of those things made her happy she turned her focus toward her children and how she determined that having the perfect relationship with her kids would make her happy. Of course I was the only one that was even remotely close by. She was very much into appearances and how things looked to other people. And when she didn't get the adoration she felt she deserved she made sure I felt her disappointment.

I know my mother could have done things better when it came to our relationship but so could I. She passed away a few years back and since she has been gone it has felt very freeing to me. As sad as it is to say I finally blossomed partly because of those expectations being lifted from my shoulders. This is how I know how damaging that relationship truly was to my psyche, confidence and self worth. She had an amazing ability to always make me feel wrong and like I was the bad guy. That's how I always described it. I always felt like I was bad or not good enough. But that is no longer the case. Part of my discovering my hopefulistness is the fact that I don't feel like a terrible person anymore.

It got to a point where my mother basically gave up on our relationship and sort of replaced me with her niece. That became her go to person. She spent a lot of time with her and always sang her praises. Whatever she did my mother was there supporting her and cheering her on. It was very different from the way she had always treated me. And yes, it made me resentful as hell.

But after some time to reflect I realize that was how my mom was trying to make herself happy. She had finally realized that I was never going to give her what she wanted so she just moved on to someone who maybe would do that. And they did have a great relationship. She got a lot more from her niece than she did from me. But she also treated her a lot different than she did me. And honestly, that hurt...a lot. It's hard to be replaced. Especially by your mother. I could never get her to understand that she treated her niece a lot different than she did me. She didn't have expectations of her. She also treated her like she would a friend. Not someone who owed her which is how she made me feel most of the time.

But this is about forgiveness, right? I'm trying really hard to understand my mothers motives for the things she did. And replacing me was the most hurtful thing. She didn't cut me off or anything but she made it very clear who she favored. Who she went out of her way for. And who she preferred to talk to at family gatherings. I know now that she was doing the best she could to make herself happy. And I'm glad she found someone that could bring her some happiness that I couldn't. I really am. I'm still bitter and resentful but it's getting less every day.

So what was the point of this whole story? To let you know that regardless of the relationship with someone you don't have to take being treated in a toxic way. Even from your own mother. If I had known how free I would feel once those expectations and disappointments were gone I would have cut ties with her years ago. Neither one of us got what we wanted from the other. And who knows, maybe cutting ties and being away from each other for awhile would have given both of pause to realize that isn't what we really wanted. I'll never know now. But I will try to remember more of the good times from now on.

I hope you aren't in a position where someone makes you feel bad about yourself or not enough for them. It's not your job to make other people happy. That is something each person has to do for themselves. And if they are laying that on you don't accept it. It's not your responsibility. And you have to do what is going to make you happy because that is your job. So if there are people in your life who are failing in that department it's time to let them go. It's not easy. Not by any stretch but your happiness and well-being is what is most important. So always, always do what is best for you.

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. Maybe take a few moments to check in with your kids and see how they view the status of your relationship. See if there is something missing in their eyes and maybe you can work together to make things better.

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Now go on out there and be badass this week. You know I'm here cheering you on.

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