I think many people can attest to having one or two bad relationships in their lives. Whether it be romantic or just a friendship, we never seem to see their toxicity until we are too deeply attached. At this point, it makes it hard sometimes to free ourselves from them. So how do we recognize these relationships before it is too late?
To start, I want to ask what it is that pulls us into these sort of relationships in the first place. For me, it is a couple of things. First, I was actively seeking out new friends or a romantic encounter. However, I did not have a clear picture of the type of person I was looking for. Thus, when I found a quality in someone that really attracted me to them, they instantly became my focus.
As I got to know the person, I did not stop and check to see if they fit all the other qualities I wanted in a friendship or boyfriend because I had no idea of what those other qualities were. So when signs of damaging behavior arose, my brain was not attuned to picking up on them because it was too busy focusing on those few qualities that hooked me in the first place. By the time I started to notice them, I was too attached to let go.
I think some of the best advice I have ever heard in regards to finding “the one” is also the advice that should be used for all the relationships that we form in our lives. This advice was to know yourself inside and out and to think about what kind of relationships you want in your life before you get involved in them. If you do not know who you are as a person, you will not know what qualities in others will best fit with you. Likewise, if you try to formulate what your perfect friend or partner looks like while you are in a relationship, then you will tend to form your list around the person you are currently involved with. Not having a current person in mind helps you examine yourself in a clear and unbiased manner.
So take some time when you are not actively pursuing anyone and get to know yourself. Figure out what qualities and behaviors in others make you the happiest versus upset, feel the most loved versus neglected, and proud to be around them versus embarrassed. Then, prioritize the qualities! This is just as important as knowing the qualities as you may come up with a long list of “Does and Don’ts” that make it easy for many people to fit your standards. If the hottie in English class seems to meet all your requirements but one, you may think that means you should give him or her a chance. However, if you know that the one quality is your deal breaker and not just a turn off, then it will be easier to mentally tell yourself to not get involved. As always, pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance as He knows ourselves better than we do!