Waving Goodbye to Toxic Relationships
For more than two years, I have shared my family’s journey with Huntington’s, including learning about the disease, living through my wife and daughter testing gene-positive, and working to accept their diagnoses.
This time, I want to share some advice from Jill, my wife: Let go of people who are toxic.
Sounds simple, right? Toxicity is everywhere — in politics and sports, at home, and in the workplace.
Toxic has only five letters, but it’s a big word. Its implications are dramatic and scary. So, what does Jill mean when she uses it? It’s simple, she says. It refers to someone who takes but never gives.
Following is her example.
Years ago, Jill worked in a pharmacy where the clerk had a “give a penny, take a penny” bowl. The clerk would complain that one particular customer always took change, but never left any. This went on for years.
One day, Jill asked the clerk where the change in the bowl came from. “Me,” the clerk replied. Jill was stunned.
The clerk went on to say that family members would tell her to stop putting coins in the bowl. To stop giving, in other words. The clerk said she didn’t want one person to negatively affect everyone else who benefited from the service.
“It’s such a simple thing I can do to help others,” she told Jill.
Jill understood not wanting to stop, but she also knew it wasn’t healthy for the clerk to be upset every time that person came in. Jill suggested a possible solution: Move the bowl off the counter when the customer came in, thus allowing the clerk to remove a source of frustration without stopping her kind and thoughtful impulse completely.
It worked. The clerk was happy, and the customers who needed coins and gave back when they could were happy. This made Jill realize something important.
She had friends who always took from her but never gave. At the time, she was a single mom who had a father with Huntington’s, and when she stopped to think about her friendships, she realized that some weren’t good for her. They drained her emotionally, because she was investing a lot of time and energy into maintaining a healthy relationship via kind words or good advice.
She realized some of those friendships were toxic.
Back then, she knew that one day she might get Huntington’s like her father, and she wondered if any of her friends would be there for her in the ways she needed. Would they be a shoulder to cry on if one day, her daughter heard the same devastating news? (Sadly, this did eventually happen.)
That was when Jill made a major shift. She decided that toxic people would not be a part of her life; instead, she would try to find people who understood the give-and-take of healthy relationships.
Every day, I am happy I made the cut.
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