To preface, this brief essay refers to platonic friendships in addition to the romantic variety.
This is an important and relevant topic because everyone (at least adults) finds themselves involved in some level of relationship throughout their lives.
As with anything of importance, relationships should begin on firm foundations and should not end for light or trivial reasons. Also the signs I cite must be taken with some degree of flexibility. Relationships go through rough patches and there may be times when problems exist, but are resolvable with work and patience.
Before listing the 6 signs, let us discuss a few important reminders. First, our lives and the time we spend living them are absolutely precious. Relationships absorb a considerable amount of our lives, and they should therefore be empowering additions to our lives.
Also, we must remember that we are primarily responsible for the quality of our personal lives. This means WE must make choices, set expectations and conduct ourselves in ways that bring us happiness and fulfillment. No friend, relative or mate is responsible for YOUR happiness. Ideally, they share their own and compliment yours.
Lastly, you should never feel “forced” to participate in any arrangement that breeds continual contempt, wasted time/resources, or continued anguish/frustration. Such situations often lead to health problems, financial difficulties and emotional trauma.
Why Do People Stay in Toxic relationships?
People often stay in toxic and failing relationships out of fear that they won’t find a friend or lover to replace the last. This is especially true for older folks who often believe their companionship options narrow with age. This sentiment is also shared by folks who feel unfulfilled or inadequate. Perhaps this person habitually starts projects they don’t finish; maybe they didn’t accomplish much in their lives or wasted valuable time and opportunities; Their health or physical attravctiveness might be failing, they’ve survived a string of failed and hurtful friendships or intimate unions in the past. They might have abandonment issues or suffered abuse. As a result, they lack confidence in themselves.
A second reason people stay in toxic relationships, is because doing so meets a financial, physical or emotional/psychological need. In this sense, the relationship is a co-dependent one. Despite high level dysfunction, the two people manage to get something desireable from the association.
Guilt forms a third reason why people may endure a draining, non-productive or highly toxic relationship. One person may want to sever ties but feels guilty because their friend or lover helped them in a time of need in the past: Or children/mutual friends are involved, and you fear losing connections to them in the event that you leave; Or maybe your friend or lover is broke, in poor health, and facing a multitude of problems.. You are dissatisfied with the relationship, but feel obligated to stay, out of guilt. You feel bad disconnecting from someone who has so many problems, complaints and difficulties.
What Are the Signs?
Now for the 6 signs that you should end a relationship:
- Too much of your time is spent arguing, complaining and feeling resentful or unappreciated. This drains you and steals your joy. Life is too short to be in a relationship that routinely gives you migraine headaches, affects your emotional/physical health or makes you feel miserable.
- It becomes increasingly clear that you are both highly incompatible. This doesn’t mean you should be identical twins or that you need to agree on everything. Difference is often healthy and brings freshness to a relationship. However you both should share general views and values. If not, you may experiences serious and irreconcilable conflicts over these differences. This can occur if people were raised with radically different values, expectations and cultures. Things one person takes for granted, can be the same things about which the other person is clueless.
- One or both of you fail to hold yourselves accountable. Nothing is more frustrating than when a person makes a clear violation and refuses to apologize or even acknowledge their behavior as inappropriate or hurtful.
- You begin to assume the worst of each other. In healthy relationships, people tend to have positive perceptions of each other. Consequently, they do not generally assume their friend or mate is trying to hurt, deceive or embarrass them. Insulting words and actions are infrequent. When the opposite occurs, the trust between you has eroded and been replaced by paranoia, resentment and distrust.
- You find more peace, camaraderie and happiness in this person’s absence, or in the company of other people. When you treat others with more respect and concern than those who are close to you, or stop confiding in them, there is a problem. When you frequently find yourself avoiding this person’s calls, doing things without including them, celebrating when they leave or not missing their absence, its time to re-evaluate the relationship.
- Lack of reciprocity. No one should “keep tabs” on everything done for a friend or mate. Also we shouldn’t do things to receive something in return. Yet we shouldn’t continually offer our time, money, or advice to a person most of the time. Certainly that person should demonstrate the same generosity and selflessness when we need it as well.
Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he wrote The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook, teaching Black student activists how to organize and lead. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-Span, NY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, “The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Currently, Agyei is a member of the Black Power Cypher, five Black Nationalist men with organizing backgrounds, who host a monthly internet show addressing issues and proposing solutions. He runs his own business publishing books, public speaking, and teaching Black people how to organize and fight for empowerment.
Agyei earned his Bachelor’s Degree in sociology from Syracuse University, his Master’s Degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his Master’s Degree in Afro-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.