Self care strategy #15: notice who inspires you…

Common courtesy

…and spend more time with them. This means spending less time with emotionally draining and difficult people who may be harming you.

Part of caring for yourself means choosing to spend more time with loving people and less time with harmful ones. It’s impossible to be kind to yourself if you are in a relationship that causes you physical or emotional harm. It’s easy to figure out when someone is causing you physical harm, but emotional harm can be tricky. It’s especially confusing if that behavior comes from a caregiver or a long term partner. It’s important to recognize when you are being emotionally harmed and work on strategies to reduce or eliminate contact with those people altogether. If someone is physically harming you, do whatever is necessary to protect yourself. It is especially important to protect children from harmful behavior. Children are not able to take care of themselves and need the protection of a responsible adult. Physical harm is never okay. Get out.

When you are in the process of taking steps to reduce or eliminate contact from a harmful person, it’s critical that you spend time with loving and supportive people in your life. This type of transition can be painful and challenging. If you are not sure whether or not you are in an emotionally harmful relationship read on.

Here are 10 warning signs you might be in an emotionally harmful relationship:

  1. You consistently find yourself feeling more on edge and tense around them. You may feel unusually nervous not knowing when they might “snap” or act out (verbally, physically or both).
  2. They don’t respect your boundaries: they won’t take no for an answer or honor specific reasonable requests.
  3. They don’t care about your values. They actually try to impose their personal beliefs and often try to coerce you into doing things that make you uncomfortable.
  4. They might have a history of aggressive or violent behavior. People who have harmed others in the past are more likely to repeat that behavior, unless they’ve received professional help to change it.
  5. They don’t seem interested in your needs or concerns. They defy your requests repeatedly.
  6. They can be overly critical or condescending. They might say something in a “joking” manner that hurts your feelings and then minimize or deny it when you confront them.
  7. You often find yourself sad or irritable after spending time together.
  8. If you confront them on their bad behavior and ask them to get help, they refuse. They might make excuses, minimize, or rationalize their inappropriate behavior. They might even turn around and tell you you’re the one with the problem.
  9. They might be causing harm to themselves through active substance use or other addictive behaviors, without concern for the consequences. They refuse to see they have a problem or to do anything about it. Again, if confronted they deny it’s a problem despite being reminded of the negative consequences. They continue to choose their addiction over you and refuse to change.
  10. Your inherent dignity as a human being worthy of love and respect is trampled on by them.  They often make unrealistic, inappropriate demands outside your role. For example, a chronic alcoholic might expect a child to take on adult responsibilities in the home. A disturbed parent may discuss their sexual affairs or other inappropriate topics with their child. A partner may try to control a significant other’s behavior with guilt, threats, or shaming tactics.

If any of these ring true for someone in your life it’s time to re-examine this relationship. I advise you speak to a professional or trusted confidante regarding this matter.

Now contrast the above with signs of a loving person who cares about you and respects who you are as a person. 10 signs of a healthy relationship:

  1. You say what you think and it’s received with respect.
  2. You enjoy spending time with them and feel more energized afterwards.
  3. Loving and thoughtful behavior is reciprocated, and both people make an effort to maintain the relationship.
  4. They offer support by being positive and encouraging.
  5. They are mindful of your needs as well as their own.
  6. They show you they care with their actions and behaviors.
  7. They make time for you, especially when you need them most.
  8. They are open and honest.
  9. There is an equal sharing of power in the relationship.
  10. They value your needs as a human being and respect your beliefs.

So sit down tonight and evaluate your current closest relationships. I think it’s important from time to time to really think about who you are investing the most time and energy with. In certain settings or situations it might be challenging to escape from certain harmful people (i.e. an arrogant boss or a dysfunctional family member). The first step is awareness, the second step is changing your behavior. One way to do that is to evaluate who you’re spending time with in your personal life where you do have options and make it a point to cultivate more healthy relationships and slowly start spending less time with the unhealthy people in your life.

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