I have to admit that I struggle with people who are toxic to me — setting boundaries is hard for a recovering codependent! My first marriage was marred by emotional abuse, which spilled over into the divorce via our children. The court system in the United States is pretty oblivious to the problem (as long as there hasn’t been physical harm), so I ended up even being legally required to clean up after my ex-husband and put up with his behavior long after I took the kids and left. Given that I had training from significant people to tolerate behavior and love at all costs, I still feel like the court abused me, as well.
However, my point is the struggle and my musings are on how to overcome it. The past is gone, and only by learning and moving forward can the negative serve a good end.
So, I tend to be open and accepting, which draws people to me who feel like I am very gullible. (I admit it often takes me a little longer to see through the masks and the cons because I genuinely want to like other people, but I do eventually see it.) I also want to be kind and loving to everyone.
The scenario then, is this:
A narcissist/psychopath/sociopath/abuser enters my life. Wanting to be friendly, helpful, or just “nice,” I begin to tolerate their presence. Since their behavior at this point isn’t at a level that is hurting or draining me, I go about my daily business. Then, I discover things are escalating on some level — telling my secrets, telling me their secrets and demanding that I be a “secret friend,” calling me names or assaulting my sense of integrity to get me to do things their way.
The dance is starting again.
I believe that, over time, I have gained enough strength to say stop it and mean it. In fact, my most recent encounters have generally ended badly because I have stood up for myself. Of course, then I am left trying to overcome a sense of guilt for not being more understanding and a need to try and “fix” things.
As usual, I don’t have any true answers. Toxicity leaves its effects — it’s emotional poison. Perhaps that’s the secret to healing, recognition of things as they really are.
Maybe one day, I will grow to the point that I can be satisfied with knowing I was true to my ideals and values, that I tried, and that I can’t be responsible for problems in another person. I can only be a resource if that person ever seeks to change. Maybe one day I can be strong enough to recognize my right to set loving boundaries and that these boundaries aren’t just for my good, they are for the good of those who struggle with respecting boundaries, as well.