Last year was filled with many changes for me. Specifically, I learned a lot about toxic relationships, how to figure out if you’re in one, and how to get out of it. Many times people make friends out of convenience and common interests. What is beautiful about friendships and relationships is that you choose to be in one. You choose to spend time with that person, to listen to them, and to invest in them. I realized that I was surrounding myself with friends that negatively impacted my life. I didn’t understand what a healthy relationship consisted of. This changed when I began dating my (now) fiancé and began to understand the qualities of a healthy relationship. I started analyzing my friendships, and saw that certain healthy qualities existed in my relationship with my fiancé that didn’t exist in my friendships. I had to unlearn a lot of unhealthy habits I’ve cultivated throughout years of unhealthy relationships. In short, once I experienced what it felt like to have a healthy relationship, I learned what it meant to have an unhealthy one.
My opinion of a healthy friendship or relationship is one that:
- Offers support instead of criticism.
A healthy relationship consists of both partners being able to support each other in their hobbies, interests, career, and dreams. It doesn’t always mean you both have the same taste in music, movies, food, or style but it means the other person doesn’t put you down for being yourself. It is okay to be interested in video games just like it is okay to like reality TV or reading. If a friend or significant other thinks your interests or dreams are stupid, then I wouldn’t be surprised if that relationship causes issues in your life.
- Accepts people for who they are instead of changing them.
I’ve had friends in the past tell me what I should wear, how I should act, what I should do, and who I should be. It’s interesting when you actually stop listening to others, you start to listen to yourself. I began to realize what I wanted to do, and who I wanted to be. I accepted myself. After going through these changes, I started to think hey I can accept myself for who I am, why can’t others? I just realized I got into a habit of surrounding myself with friends that either didn’t want me to be myself or couldn’t accept who I really was. They constantly wanted me to change and to be more like them. Friends or partners don’t need to be a mirror image of us, but they sure do need to support us.
- Makes you happy.
In the end, I think how you feel in the relationship can help with deciphering whether or not it’s a relationship you’re meant to be in. Now, you might think feelings aren’t always stable. Feelings change. Yes, feelings do change, but I don’t mean how you feel in just one moment of time, or one day. Maybe not even one week. But if your friend or partner constantly makes you feel like shit, then that’s a pretty good indicator that the relationship is toxic. I had a friend who would always call me or talk to me whenever she had a problem. Friends are here to help, yes, but that’s not the only aspect of a friendship. She would ONLY talk to me when she had a issue and needed to vent. I was her sort of friend/therapist. I would listen, console her, and try to help. Whenever I wanted to get together or would reach out, she would never be available. After our conversations or meetings, I was always left feeling anxious, negative, and sad. It was a one sided relationship and it made me feel horrible. After I removed the toxic relationship from my life, it was like a weight was lifted off of me. I felt happier.
Feelings may not always be an accurate measure of whether a relationship is healthy, (if you’re going through a personal issue or depression you may always feel sad and anxious) but I wouldn’t ignore how you feel or how someone makes you feel if it is negatively affecting your life. Relationships aren’t always easy, perfect, and don’t always make you feel happy, but for the most part, they shouldn’t cause you intense anxiety, sadness, loneliness. For the most part, they should add value to your life. They should add to your happiness.
In the past, I chose my friends based on convenience and common interests. Only recently, I started realizing it’s important to surround yourself with people who actually support and accept you. Although it seems like common sense, I didn’t always know that that I needed to be more cautious and thoughtful of who I spent my time. I even assumed that my old friendships would always continue because I assumed that people would continue to support me as I changed and grew as a person. That’s not always the case, and it’s okay. I learned that as people grow and change, relationships change too. But, I don’t think it’s okay to hang on to a toxic relationship for the sake of the past. I learned that if I have the choice of who I’m going to surround myself with, I’m going to choose to surround myself with loving and supportive friends. I’m going to choose to be in a positive and healthy relationship. I’m going to choose to be friends with people who encourage me and accept me for me.