As my marriage crumbled my father came back into my life and offered to help. I needed it and I accepted it gratefully. But I was aware of his issues, too. I'd already cut off contact with him once before due to his unhealthy behavior. My trust was tentative at best, but any port in a storm.
I'd become aware that being raised by an alcoholic narcissist fed right into me trying to be the referee between two alcoholic narcissists. You tend to gravitate towards what is familiar, not what is healthy. All three men were the same mistake with different faces.
It was easy to look at the situation and realize I had made bad initial choices. Wrap it up in a neat package of these early family-of-origin issues. I'd learned, I'd grown and I was committed to getting out. I realized I would have to make hard choices and cut out crucial people in order to establish a healthier living dynamic. It was going to be hard, but worth it. So very worth it.
I was committed to getting my life on healthier ground.
And I'd done it!
I'd distanced myself from my best friend. I'd come out clean on the other side of my divorce, and I'd cut off contact with my father after he became abusive again.
Shortly before the one-year anniversary of my divorce being finalized I had paid off our (now my) unsecured debt and realized my long time dream of being debt free. Shed of those toxic people and looming debt, THIS was when life starts.
This is the part where the story wraps up with 'happily ever after'. This is the part where I heal; where I move on into all the awesome that I'd been waiting for.
(I could write a whole blog post about how life after you’ve repaired or recovered from a big life issue isn’t a walk in the park.)
A couple months later I had to make the choice to cut another toxic person out of my life. Again. She wasn't involved in the toxicity of the other three. She couldn't be wrapped up in the nice neat little package of my family-of-origin mistakes I'd already learned from. She had her own unique history of dysfunction. She'd been a long time friend and was thoroughly enmeshed in my social circle. She even had an intimate connection with one of my partners.
Getting her removed from my life was rather complicated - which is an odd thing to say when you realize I had to go to court to legally and financially disentangle myself from my ex. The thing is, with my ex, the lines were pretty well drawn. Friends either chose him, me, or were mature about my request for space and to keep our personal lives separate. There was no guilt or pressure about having to ‘play nice’ with each other in social settings. People absolutely understood we weren’t on good terms. I guess having your ex take out a restraining order on you does have its benefits. Regardless of who you choose to believe ends up being an asshole.
This newer removal wasn’t so clear cut. My partner had invested a lot of time and interest in the relationship and he wasn’t willing to give up entirely. I realized that I might have to choose to watch and try to be supportive of someone being abused. And…
I wasn't ready for that.
I realized I wasn’t going to be able to do that. In a very real but subtle way that realization shook me to my core. I wasn’t going to be able to stand by and watch him be mistreated.
What I was realizing was that I was too broken, or not yet healed enough, to be closely involved with someone who was going through abuse. I'm still not.
I've likened it to having a broken arm. It's out of the cast but I'm not about to go lifting weights with it. It can only take so much pressure. And being around someone who is abusive or is choosing to stay in an abusive relationship is beyond my weight class currently.
That's a hard thing to admit.
Maybe it’s not something someone is supposed to feel they can accomplish in the best of situations. I don’t know. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to, and that meant I had to be prepared to cut another person out of my life. This time, not someone who was toxic, but someone who wasn’t able to say no to being abused.
In the end, there's a happy ending. Most of us, including my partner, have chosen to get the needed distance from her. Honestly, in the process of trying to get distance she dramatically pushed us away. It took a while, with her circling back to re-attack or rehash the litany of wrong doings she felt we'd inflicted on her. But she's gone. Off living her life somewhere else and leaving us alone.
But the situation left me shaken. The choice to remove the toxic people from my life wasn’t a one-and-done choice – no matter how hard of a choice that was to implement. Choosing to be healthy is an ongoing battle. There will be more toxic people that you have to make that choice on. You will loose friends. And more importantly that choice isn’t always going to be to remove toxic people. Sometimes the choice will be to remove the enablers of toxic people.