Relationships are a bank where we make deposits.
We expect a return on our savings, but what happens when we get a negative balance?
Many people are in caustic relationships. It could be with a family member, a lover, an employer, or a friend. In my case, I had a mother who had serious emotional problems most of her adult life. And in how she dealt with her problems, she overcompensated and created a caustic relationship with her siblings, husband, friends, and children.
In talking with friends, some of them described similar relationships in their lives. They talked about things they were giving up in their life to maintain some semblance of normalcy with the person they loved.
I learned more about caustic relationships when I became an adult. Some things I wished I’d known earlier will help you experience a better relationship with a caustic person in your life.
1. A caustic relationship harms you more than the other person
Everyone benefits from a healthy relationship.
But when one person takes more and gives less, it’s uncomfortable. When it happened between me and my mother, I started feeling taken advantage of. So I brought it up in a private conversation with her. I explained how I felt, but it offended her. And instead of making things better after we talked, the relationship got worse. I felt I’d released a genie from its bottle. And the genie wasn’t interested in getting along.
Relationships grow and mature when people want them to. But in my case, my mother seemed happy with how we interacted, but I was miserable.
Sometimes the best solution for a caustic relationship is to end it.
2. Staying in a caustic relationship is a form of dependency
We should always work at building good relationships.
When you’re a kid, there’s always that one kid in the neighborhood that you just have to be friends with. It doesn’t matter if the kid is good or bad. You can’t explain it, but you want to be friends.
Down the street from my parents’ house lived two boys. They were the poster kids from troubled teens. My dad told me to stay away from them, but I felt irresistibly drawn to them. Every chance I got, I hung out with them.
They knew I wanted to be friends with them. But instead of being my friend, they encouraged me to do things that would be fun for them but get me into trouble.
I felt that my friendship with those two boys was so important that I would do whatever they asked. I became dependent upon them for my happiness.
One day, I came home from school. The police were at the neighbors’ house, arresting my two friends.
I had to watch them being in handcuffs for me to learn that some relationships are one-sided and not healthy. It was a hard lesson to learn.
3. Believing in caustic relationships is practicing denial
In relationships, love can be blind.
A few months ago, I met a couple who live out of their motor home. They were friendly to me, but they fought. And one night, he beat her. The police came out, and the woman’s mother said she would take her home. It seemed they solved the problem.
A couple of months later, I saw them at a park. The girlfriend had left her mother’s home, and she was back living with him. And they were fighting.
When a relationship becomes dominating or violent, there is no relationship. The only way it continues is one person is in denial.
4. Refusing to end a caustic relationship is denying yourself
Everyone wants a good relationship, but not every relationship is good.
Life is too short to live in a caustic relationship with someone who is dominating, violent, manipulative, or makes you miserable.
Sometimes the only solution is to end the relationship. If you don’t end it, you are denying yourself happiness to make someone else happy.
5. Escaping a caustic relationship is liberating
Ending a relationship doesn’t have to be absolute.
I didn’t want to stop all relations with my mother. She was my children’s grandmother, and they needed to know her. So I decided to limit how often we met.
When I restricted my interaction with my mother to her birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, I felt liberated. It was as if I’d found freedom. I took back the power that I’d given to her.
Relationships are complicated. People like having things their way. And they don’t enjoy having things taken from them, including people they know.
In a healthy relationship, there is a normal give and take. And if one person takes advantage of another, a mature conversation will usually settle things down.
If relations you have with someone becomes caustic, stop, and think about what you are getting out of the relation.
Live is too short to live in a caustic relationship.