Image drawn by my Son for my birthday. A representation of some of the best relationships in my life <3
CW: toxic relationships, family breakdown
Relationships are hard.
I know, it’s not the most upbeat beginning to a writing, but stick with me.
We put such a heavy bias on romantic and sexual love that I think most of us (me included) go right to that when we see the word relationship. So when I was thinking of what to write about, that’s where I started.
I thought about the perception that poly is harder than monogamy. I don’t think that’s true.
All relationships are hard.
But they’re worth it.
We are always finding and making new relationships. From the moment we’re born we’re forming them. They’re the bonds that create family and chosen family. We have a drive, generally, to find our people. To make relationships and connections. To find our tribe.
It can be really fulfilling. When you find someone who enhances your life it’s a wonderful thing! It can be soul destroying. Sometimes you’ve got blood links with people who aren’t terribly nice and society dictates you love them unconditionally.
Toxic people are toxic and if you need to cut them out of your life for your own good then you should do that.
I recently got to tell my mother in law (MIL) what I think of her. I’m not great with anger usually and I tend to end up dampening it down and swallowing it. However, she has hurt my husband and my son over and over again and I finally had enough.
And as I raged at my MIL in a very coherent and reasoned way (which surprised me. I’m usually all tears and words don’t work) I realised I should have done it years ago. Why didn’t I? Because I believe in forgiveness. I believe people can change. I always will. But what I now believe in too, is self-preservation. Sometimes you’ve got to distance yourself from the toxic.
I tried for years to bridge the gap. I tried for years to build the familiar connections with that side of the family because I thought it was the right thing to do.
Hubby decided a year ago to cut his family out of our lives and it has made a hugely positive difference. Sure, we’ve had moments of sadness but mostly it’s been regret that he got a bad deal when it comes to family.
As I talked and my MIL verbally squirmed to try and get from under the spotlight, wheedling, lying, throwing the blame on me, on him, on anyone but her, I felt all doubts disappear. I knew for certain Kev had done the right thing. And that is where my righteous indignation came from. My words, my ability to articulate my anger came directly from the fact that she had no remorse for what she had done for years. The fire of anger burning inside me flew true to the source. And it felt cathartic.
And my only regret now is I didn’t encourage Kev to cut ties much earlier. Like, when we first met.
Relationships are hard.
But good ones, oh good ones are so worth it.
A good relationship enhances your life. Even at times when things are rough. In fact, especially in those times. When you’re struggling, those people you love will be there for you. Lifting you up, holding you tight, giving you what you need to move on. That can be anything from physical hugs to washing the pots. It can be a few words in a text or a meal you don’t have to cook. It can be silence whilst you tell your truth or loud noises like discos or movies to drown out your pain.
Sometimes things are hard in the relationship. Sometimes communication breaks down or there is a misunderstanding. Sometimes there’s anger and upset. Sometimes you don’t even realise it or realise why. Sometimes you carry on and it’s not until something SNAPS that you discover there’s a problem.
Relationships are hard and need work.
Good relationships are worth it. So how do you see the difference? When do you put the work in and when do you walk away? Wow, if I had the definitive answer to that, I’d be rich. I think a lot is down to you. But there are things to look for.
- Does the other person listen to you when you air your concerns?
- Does the other person try to amend their behaviour if they realise they’re doing something that upsets you or the balance of your relationship?
- Does the other person admit when they fuck up? Do they respond gracefully when you admit your fuck ups?
- Does the other person apologise and act on that apology?
- Do they hold you accountable? But support you to make the changes you need to make?
Good people will make it feel like you’re moving forward together. That you are supported, that you are loved. They won’t let you feel overwhelmed by guilt. They won’t bring up your old mistakes every time you have a disagreement. They won’t lie about what they’ve done. They won’t try to make you think you’re crazy for feeling how you do. They won’t belittle how you feel.
We all fuck up. We don’t live in a fairy tale world. We make mistakes. We all do but you know you’re in a good relationship when those mistakes are met with love and are used to make things better going forward.
Relationships are hard but oh, the good ones are worth it.