collab: Ending Toxic Relationships

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First of all, let me put a little disclaimer as to what I mean by ‘toxic’.

A toxic relationship for me is any time where one person does something to the other person’s detriment over a long period of time. This isn’t necessarily any kind of abuse; it could also be neglect or even lying.

I have had a few toxic relationships in my life, friends and partners, and I am now a firm advocate for removing that toxicity from your life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an honest and forgiving person and so if I’m affected by something you’ve done then I’ll make it pretty clear and give you a chance to redeem yourself (within reason). However sometimes – and this is the killer – the relationship aint worth saving.

Last year a friendship that we had cultivated for several years came to an end. I will hold my hands up and say I had bottled up some of my frustrations with this person but they had become toxic to the point where the relationship was beyond repair. Having been lied to repeatedly, neglected and generally made to feel like I didn’t matter, I knew that all of my efforts were in vain as I tried to have it out with them about my feelings. It might sound like I wasn’t being forgiving but after several months of putting so much effort in for someone and them not meeting you remotely halfway, there comes a point where you have to pick yourself up and say ‘enough is enough’.

As Louis C.K. says in Season 5 of Louie:

“I’m telling you that it hurt and you don’t get to deny that. When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t.

It feels oddly therapeutic to write this because I have always been the person who let things go, who let people get away with upsetting me. I now realise that I didn’t do that this time and that’s a good thing. I tried to make this person see what their actions had done to me but I think they either didn’t care enough or weren’t ready to admit their guilt about it.

I still miss this person but I miss the friend that I had. By the end of the relationship, they weren’t the same anymore and we had grown apart completely. It’s weird because you sort of grieve for them as you come to terms with the fact that they’re out of your life for good. Despite this sense of sadness and loss, I am still proud of myself for standing up and saying I deserve better. I was sick and tired of constantly being concerned about someone who didn’t seem to care that their actions were detrimental to me. I made them a priority and felt like I was only an option.

If you’ve had to end a toxic relationship or you’re thinking about doing so, my advice would be this: be strong, prioritise yourself for a change and think about if there’s a way in which you guys could patch things up. If there’s not, then cutting that person out may well be the best option for your wellbeing, even if it hurts at the time.

I asked one of my dear online friends and fantastic blogger types Lucie Wang if she would contribute to this post, having had a similar experience.

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I used to be the kind of girl who had mostly male friends. Cal was my best mate for years; we bonded pretty much instantly over a love of banana martinis and questionable music. He was goofy and hilarious, and by some crazy coincidence we started seeing a pair of siblings at around the same time. So it made sense for the four of us to sneak off during a party back to mine to hang out. Even when the cracks started to show, I always stuck by him.

There were alarm bells of course. The fact he introduced me to girls he wanted to sleep with as his “only female friend”, the one token woman who could vouch for him. The way he spoke about my girlfriends made me feel uncomfortable. He always joked that I wasn’t like “other girls”, and naive as I was back then, I believed this was a compliment.

One night he told me he wanted his “best friend” to meet his girlfriend, but when she got up to go to the toilet he asked me to pay for dinner because he didn’t want her to know he couldn’t afford it. The next day I sent him a long text to let him know that though I’d decided not to embarrass him in front of his new girlfriend, what he’d done wasn’t ok. I’d helped him out when he’d been in trouble before, but this was the end of the line for me. And just like that, I walked away. I changed gyms so I wouldn’t run into him, I untagged myself from promo videos he’d put up on Facebook to promote his personal training business (because even after we stopped talking, he still tried to use my personal page to advertise his services). That was the last time I spoke to him.

For weeks afterwards, I felt awful. Not for how things ended, but because I felt the fact they ended at all put a horrible cast over the friendship we’d had. I stayed close to his older brother for awhile, but the fact that we could never speak about Cal (and believe me, we talked about everything else) made things uncomfortable between us in the end.

Know what I learned? Walking away from a toxic friendship isn’t the end of the world. We hold on to some people for longer than their expiration date because we want to remember the good times. We have these great memories of what the honeymoon phase was like but the thing about memories is, sometimes we choose to remember only the fun stuff.  Not the times we had to make excuses for their behaviour both to ourselves & to other people. Not the emotional blackmail. Not the nasty little comments disguised as “friendly banter”. We remember the few times they were there for us, but also forget the far more frequent times they weren’t. Our brains are somehow wired to retain the positive, maybe as a survival instinct to maintain social constructs of friendship. We don’t remember all the times we had to act a certain way to avoid being mocked by them, but I will certainly remember the feeling of relief when I walked the hell away from that toxic situation. So many nights I couldn’t sleep because I wasn’t sure how to bring up the fact this friendship was affecting my mental health. I drafted a million conversations and replayed them in my head. It took so much energy to maintain, and you know what the kicker was? I didn’t even like the guy in the end.

I learned a lot. I learned that people change, and sometimes not for the better. Sometimes you keep friends from an old life, and that’s fine. Those people you met through an ex. Old friends from school you have nothing in common with. That dude from uni who posts borderline racist memes on Facebook. Why would you put yourself through that? Life goes on. No one really cared that we were no longer close, and thought it was mentioned a few times when people asked if I’d seen him lately, now almost a year later it’s almost as if we were never friends at all. And let me tell you, I am a much happier person for it.

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Lucie is a Canadian woman with fabulously bright hair living in Edinburgh. She works in design by day and blogs about feminism, food and lifestyle by night over at tetrisandcheesecakes.com.

Have you ever had to end a toxic relationship?

Do you currently think you’re suffering in one?

 

Either leave a comment or you can privately email me anytime at jennalouiselloyd27@gmail.com.

Jenna
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If you liked this post, you should check out:
Being ‘bossy’ vs being ‘The Boss’ – Is being bossy bad or does it actually make you The Boss?
Mental Health and University – I talk about the importance of looking after your mental health at uni…
“You Can’t Be A Feminist If…” – genuine things I’ve been told make me ‘not a feminist’
Self Care (and why no one should make you feel bad about it) – A piece for Zusterschap about self care

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Mental Health and University

I’m in my final year of my Modern Liberal Arts Undergraduate degree at the University of Winchester and there’s something really bittersweet about this point in my life.

In the one sense, there’s an overwhelming feeling of fear and dread, not only about the final assignments and my dissertation but there’s the added pressure to find and hold down a job once I leave. Another part of me is incredibly excited about moving on in my life, taking that first step into a career that I’ve been working so hard towards and having something great to show for the past few years of dedication. There is however also a small part of me that doesn’t want to leave uni, not just because I’m so used to being there or doing the work but because it has been a really great experience that I don’t want to end.

 

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Me after completing my third first year… Beating it for good.

 

Despite having a tough start, I’ve met some great friends, heard from inspirational people and expanded my learning beyond where I ever thought I could. I’ve been encouraged and criticised… I’ve felt enthusiastic and completely uninterested… I’ve felt empowered and lost.
It’s been quite a journey.

But this post isn’t about my mental health in particular, this is where I’m going to share some of the things I’ve picked up on throughout my time at uni and useful advice about wellbeing I’ve picked up along the way.

 

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Noone knows what they want to do

Back in 2011, I did a first year of a course that just wasn’t me. It was a course that I was steered towards in sixth form when I didn’t get the grades to study medicine and I realised once I was on a placement that I wasn’t able to do that kind of work. I’m okay with admitting that now but I don’t regret that year because I wouldn’t have known had I not given it a go.

If you find yourself in a course or even a line of work where you feel its best to leave, listen to your heart and don’t let anyone else coerce you into staying. Don’t beat yourself up or think that you ‘wasted your time’ because it was an experience even if its over now. See it as an opportunity to start something new!

I read a fantastic piece by Holly Palmer over on Zusterschap the other day about this very thing, which I encourage you to go and read next.

 

It’s okay to ‘fail’

Before I got to uni, I was a complete nerd and spent a lot of time doing extra work and revising and things. I wasn’t a straight-A student but I got pretty good grades and even in college, I never really felt like I’d failed. That might seem like a good thing but it wasn’t. I wasn’t at all prepared when I got my first ‘fail’ or when a result was a lot lower than I had been previously accustomed to. Failing once prepares you for when it inevitably happens again and usually then you won’t be quite so hard on yourself the second time around.

It’s important to remember that uni is a much higher level of study than where you were before. It’s supposed to be challenging! If you get a result that you’re not happy with, stop and think why you aren’t and book a meeting with the lecturer or your personal tutor to discuss where you went wrong if possible.
You can turn ‘failing’ into a positive thing.

 

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Some people are arseholes

It sounds like a stupid thing to put in a mental health post but I’ve received a lot of stick at uni in the form of sex-shaming, ableism and even threatening behaviour. Not everyone will experience these things and I sincerely hope that you don’t but if you do, I want to tell you that it’s not your fault.

Because there are so many people from different backgrounds with different personalities and beliefs in a university environment, some people will inevitably clash. This can result in some pretty hefty debates and eyerolling a plenty – you can’t get on with everyone! This however isn’t an excuse for anyone to treat you unfairly or put you in any kind of danger and there are people responsible for helping if that does happen. You will have pastoral care (including counselling) available through your Student Services and you should have a representative for student welfare too.

 

Take care of yourself above all

Self care is always a worthwhile practice and you shouldn’t let anyone make you feel bad for it. Self care is anything that makes you feel good and I wrote more about that in detail here. Whilst your workload is piling up and you’ve probably got more responsibilities than before, you need to take some time for yourself and pay attention to your thoughts and your body.

Physically, plenty of sleep and good food are good and putting crap into your body (including booze or drugs of any kind) is of course bad. Mentally, you need to make your task lists manageable and you need time away from your work. If you need help or support, you should be able to find it even if its just a chat over a cuppa with a kind housemate!

 

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How cute was my uni room? (It never stayed this tidy)

Living with other people is tough

I was really lucky in that I got on with my housemates in halls however I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about others who didn’t. Sharing your living environment is always going to be difficult if the other person doesn’t quite do things the way that you do. Some common sources of conflict in shared accommodation are: the washing up, ‘borrowing’ bits of food, bathroom hygiene and unwanted noise.

My main advice when these situations do arise is to keep your cool. If you’ve got an early lecture and your housemates are being going out that night, have a word beforehand and kindly ask that they try and keep the noise down when they stumble in. If someone’s left their dirty pans in the way and you want to prepare food, send them a quick text and see when they’re back and if they wouldn’t mind clearing up. Obviously this is all easier said than done and if its the umpteenth time you’ve had to mention it, you’re probably close to screaming and stamping your feet just to get your message across but you don’t want that kind of tension when you’ve got to live with this person.

I will reiterate that if someone is making your living space dangerous or is acting in an improper manner towards you, you have every right to get the housing services and/or student representatives involved.
Those things require more than a quick chat.

 

Asking for help is vital

University might be challenging but that doesn’t mean that you have to go it alone. While your family and friends might have spouted on about you being ‘grown up’ and ‘independent’ now, they should still very much be there if you need to say that you’re having a tough time. Skype/Facetime/Facebook Calls are great ways to schedule much needed chats with loved ones or to ping a quick message and get some advice.

As I’ve said there are also people on campus and in halls who can be a listening ear or offer some guidance for problems you might be having. You might think that you’ve got to be stoic and suffer alone but there’s people out there so that you don’t have to!

 

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University above all should be a fun and enriching experience that sets you on the road to something new in your life.

You will meet and hear from so many different people and thinkers that you’re never quite the same once you leave, regardless of if you stay in a course or go on to do something else.

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I guess what I’m trying to say is that when things are difficult, you’re not alone.

Did you go to university/college?
Do you have any mental health advice for those thinking about going?

Let me know and leave me links in the comments below.
Jenna
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If you liked this post, you should check out:
you just keep doing other people – guest post by Camilla Hennessy Jackson – sex and feminist silliness
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guest post by Ashleigh of Not A Typical Teenager – Ashleigh shared her tips for being good to yourself at school
self care (and why no one should make you feel bad about it) – I talk about the importance of self care