Are They Toxic? Or Are They Human?

There’s a difference between putting up boundaries and putting up walls, and the latter is what breaks relationships.

 minute read

In the age-old quest of betterment and “higher vibrational living”, we rid ourselves of relationships that no longer serve us as one would rid themselves of anything in their pantry that isn’t vegan, organic, gluten-free, or bought at your local farmer's markets. Shrines are put up in the name of Brené Brown and Goop, and we cultivate Instagram feeds like mood boards. “Letting go of what no longer serves you” is repeated like a mantra on the internet, with a huge emphasis on letting go of relationships that no longer serve you. Cleansing these “toxic” relationships from your life can feel like a catharsis close to deep cleaning your closet or when the facialist pops all your blackheads for you. However, I can’t help to think that possibly, in the rise of emotional cleansing, we are cutting out “toxic” relationships in place of attempting to fix issues and rather avoid the situation entirely. 

I am guilty of all of this. At times, it has been much easier to “take a break” from someone and “revisit my boundaries” than actually get to the bottom of what’s been messing up our relationship. My rationing lies behind the idea that big conversations require big girl pants and probably ends up with me crying in my car or in a bathroom stall. Deeming the relationship problematic or toxic, two words I find to have become quite interchangeable allows me a catharsis similar to cancelling plans (something else I'm trying to change). Yet this serves nothing to the relationship, nor either person. Isolating yourself from the person and ignoring a problem isn't going to fix it.

There’s a difference between putting up boundaries and putting up walls, and the latter is what breaks relationships.

Ultimately, there’s a good chance that your friend isn’t toxic. There’s a good chance that they’re going through something that they haven’t figured out to tell you. Or maybe you did something that you aren’t even aware of. If that relationship was serving you, if that relationship was of any benefit to you, if you give a shit about the person, then maybe the relationship isn’t toxic, and rather - miscommunication (or a lack thereof) has sealed off communication.

If this might be the case, I hereby empower to fully open up the conversation and get into the nitty-gritty. From personal experience, I wouldn't do it over text, however, find the medium that you think would make the best fit. Stray from accusations, have “I” statements be your basis, and let the truth set you free.

With all this being said, people do exist in this world with toxic behaviours.

Their whole being is not necessarily toxic, but how they behave within your relationship can be. If they’re not taking responsibility for their emotions, apologizing, and feel like you’re always in the cycle of defending and proving yourself, you might need to re-evaluate the relationship. If the interactions are consistently emotionally draining, bringing up feelings of anger, or just leave you feeling shitty in general, there’s a chance this indeed could be a toxic relationship. This is when it’s time to put up walls, create space, and if so be it, truly cut someone out of your life.

All this talk about toxicity leaves me with the question: are people attached to their problems? Or are we to make that separation between the person and the problems that follow? Relationships that are strained require navigation that often we are still learning, I sure am. If you value this person, if they bring joy to your life, they’re worth the tough conversation. In the end, people are worth it, most of the time.

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