Are you in a toxic relationship? How do you recognize them? Are you just overly sensitive like they claim?
How Do We End Up In Toxic Relationships
I was listening to the song "That's the Way" by Led Zeppelin the other day, one of my favorite all-time old school groups.
I go through cycles with music. Lately, I’ve been loving some good old school classic rock. It gets the blood pumping and reaches my soul. I’m talking Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, and the Stones.
In one particular Led Zeppelin song, there's a line that says, "I can't play with you no more."
That got me thinking about how we "play with other people.” I mean, that’s the good stuff in life, right? Sure, we’ve all got responsibilities and need to balance all 5 cores but playing and having fun is a recipe for joy. It builds your relationship core as well as your emotional core and can greatly affect your mindset. I don’t ever underestimate the power of play.
But, it changes over time. And who we choose to play with changes over time as well. When we’re little kids, we don't think about who the cool kids are.
We just play with kids that make us feel good and who like the same things we do. We find kids who are on the same wavelength and who play the same games. We’re hard-wired to learn this way too. I love watching Wyatt play with friends. Right now, he doesn’t even care if he’s ever met someone before. It’s just “You like fire trucks? Me too.” And then they can laugh and play and connect for hours.
Then we get older…
And oh boy do the politics come into play. It starts to matter WHO you hang out with. By middle school you know who’s who in the lunchroom. This innate need and craving to belong goes way back to our caveman days. Back then, your survival was dependent on you belonging to the strongest tribe. You needed alpha types in your life - the hunters and the fighters - so you didn’t either starve or get eaten by a bear. Now it’s to survive the school cafeteria and bullying (which aligns pretty strongly with the same needs, right?)
Even as you get into adulthood, there are some relationships that are more forced.
There are the parents of the kids your kids are friends with, PTO parents, sports parents, work colleagues and other “friends” that you wouldn’t necessarily seek out but are conditioned to find it necessary to belong with.
This creates a vortex of toxic relationships and it happens all the time.
Immense Impact Toxic Relationships Have On Our Lives
You may not want to get out, but you really need to. Toxic relationships cause friction, keep you from moving forward and building momentum.
I remember very specifically when I was younger and in my victimhood, maybe around 12 or 13 years old, and I had a group of friends that just straight up “ragged” on eachother. I think we’ve all had friends that rib on eachother and sometimes you get a little bruised. But this was beyond that. We got into really nasty stuff. The goal was to make the other person feel as bad as they possibly could. Back in the 90’s, these were called “frienemies” and I had plenty.
I was part of this group for years.
The result was that I ended up becoming extremely insecure and down on myself because I didn't know how to brush it off as well as some of these other guys, or at least they made it look like they brushed it off. Maybe they didn't as well. Who knows?
This fed my “fixed-victim” mentality that caused me to build negative instead of positive momentum over the next several years. My confidence shrank, my attitude soured, and the lens through which I saw the world started getting muckier and muckier.
Fortunately, a serendipitous catalyst appeared years later that allowed me to reset my momentum and start building it in the positive direction again. Stepping out of my failure loop and into my success loop. It came in the form of a recommendation by my favorite professor freshman year of college to read a book that would completely change the way I saw the world and myself.
The book was “How to Win Friends And Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. Written way back in 1936, the principles on how to develop and maintain deep, lasting relationships and allies held true when I was in college, still do today, and will be till the end. It was then that I realized what a real relationship should look like, how to build and maintain them, and how to form them at will (no pun intended).
Had I not had my cataclysmic intervention, I may never have pulled myself out of the pattern of being drawn towards people who use me as a punching bag, or been able to develop what have become incredibly deep, meaningful, soul-filling relationships.
1st Step To Exiting Your Toxic Relationships
Remember, you are the average of the three people you hang out with most in your life. That is a universal principle. It is a universal truth. I have seen it repeated over and over.
If you haven't already, take your five core assessment HERE, do so now to get a better sense of where you stand in your relationship core, as well as your others.
After taking it, make a list of the 3-5 people you spend the most time with (spouse, friend’s, co-workers, etc). Now rank them on a scale of 1-5 based on those same questions you answered.
If they fall in the 1-3 category in the majority of their cores, you’re going to want to figure out a way to remove them from your immediate life so their toxicity doesn’t continue to spread to you.
No ragging allowed ;)