That photo makes me cringe every time I see it. Someone proving Darwinism is real decided to jump into a cholla cactus during the WM Open Golf Tournament many years ago here in Phoenix. (Insert Lifeguard voice here:) YOU! Out of the Gene Pool!
But, blatant stupidity is not what this blog is about, instead, the cactus analogy fits nicely into today’s theme that I wanted to write about. Assume the cactus is synonymous with a toxic relationship for this read.
We’ve all been there, but hopefully you learned your lesson and exited that situation. Allow me to bludgeon you with this to start out….its your fault. Yes, I know that stings to hear, but everything in life is your own responsibility and therefore your fault when you do not get the desired results. Here is a question for you, are you comfortable being alone? Are you in a relationship simply because you hate to be alone? Can’t really fend for yourself, so you rely on others? Here’s a simple test for you: can you go to the movies by yourself, or sit in a restaurant comfortably while you are alone? If not, you may what to give this some deep thought.
You need to figure yourself out first before you partner up with someone for the long haul. You need to learn to live comfortably in your own skin, and that takes time and practice. One of the reasons that I am staunchly against marriage at a young age is that you have not figured out who you are just yet. I am a HUGE advocate of going through the college years (if you choose that route) then getting a job, and then likely change jobs and change jobs again. We all (hopefully) mature quite a bit in our twenties, so to hitch your wagon to someone while you are both in this stage of life is a difficult path. The odds of both of you staying on parallel paths at this stage of life are slim. It’s not impossible, but it is difficult, and in my opinion one of the major reasons the divorce rate is so high.
As far as hugging the cactus goes, this is meant to illustrate that no matter how nice, caring, loving or dedicated you are, the cactus doesn’t change. The end result is the same, you feel the pain but the cactus does not. Most toxic relationships function in this manner; maybe not quite as obvious as actually hugging a cactus, but you still feel the pain of what amounts to an ongoing unhealthy decision. I realize that there are times when just turning and walking away is not always an option. In some cases, financially this is not feasible and in other unfortunate cases, the other person involved has managed to isolate you enough that you feel you have no options and would be unable to survive without them. There may be the threat of physical harm, to you directly and/or to others who try to hep you. It can be an ugly situation, and I sincerely hope that you are not in one of those situations now. If so, please understand that you are not alone and there is help available. This link may be of help.
If you step back and take a look at your relationship and honestly and objectively measure the happiness, security, safety and other metrics that you should use, how does it rate? Does your partner make you feel loved, safe, and supported? That is the goal, and in my opinion you should not settle for anything less. Don’t think that bone-charring sex is worth living in a toxic relationship, eventually those sparks will cool off and now you are left with huge fights and make up sex. In another context, someone who makes a lot of money but is never around may be providing a great lifestyle, but not a great relationship. Balance is the key to life, and while there are times when things need to be off kilter out of necessity, this should not be a long term plan. But if you or your partner have a job that is sucking the life out of you because of a demanding schedule, boss, or whatever, find another one. I know that sounds oversimplified, but it is possible. If you are good at what you do, someone else will hire you. If you want to have a happy life, this kind of balance is essential. Clinging to a job that makes you money but makes you miserable in the process is just another form of hugging the cactus.
again, this all comes down to you. Can you be alone? Can you change jobs or careers and settle into something new? These are scary propositions, but think of it in at least one of these contexts:
If you stay put, you stay miserable
You realize that LOTS of people make these type of changes, which means you can too
You need to prioritize your relationship, otherwise you will find yourself alone.
Whatever your motivation needs to be, take action. Don’t get comfortable in your own misery, do something about it. Stop hugging the cactus, whether it is in a bad relationship, a bad job situation or anything else. Only you can control things like this, no one is coming to rescue you. Take a stand, PRIORITIZE YOURSELF, and get your life aligned the way you want it. Make a plan, take the steps and be brave enough to bet on yourself. I have friends that make a million or more a year, and they are miserable. They work constantly, trying to run more than one business, constantly on the phone putting out fires. Their family life suffers, they have missed most of the things every parent wants to be a part of, like first steps and soccer games. It doesn’t matter how much money you make, you CANNOT buy these things back. Many times this scenario leads to divorce, which means you missed all the important milestones for your kids, and now you end up alone and with 50% of your money. Is that really where you want to end up?
When looking directly at relationships, if behaviors and patterns emerge (or you ignored them early on) and seem to be the default operating system of your partner, you can be assured these are not likely to change. Yes, some people see the light and do actually make some major changes, making them a partner worth being with. But most do not, most people do not make any effort to change without a major reason to do so. That reason could be you leaving, or maybe the death of a family member who also has the same patterns. My point is, it takes something drastic for most people to change a behavior and thought patterns. Look how hard it is for most people to quit smoking or to lose weight, even though we all know that these habits are very harmful. Living in a toxic, abusive relationship is just as harmful in the long run, and that is assuming there is no physical violence involved.
The ultimate card to have in your pocket is the ability to be by yourself. This is truly emotionally as well as financially speaking. If you need to work on this ability, get started today. Practice this, just like anything else. Have you ever gone to a movie all alone? Most people have not, as it is an assumed social event. Try it. It will feel uncomfortable at first, but you can do it…I promise. If you need to part ways with someone, whether a partner or a boss, start laying the ground work now. Get a plan in place, start saving up some money to make that transition easier. Bounce ideas off of those you trust, build a support network if you don’t feel like you have one now. Think things through, then take action. Do your best not to make a rash decisions, unless you are real danger of physical harm. One thing you want to make sure of is that you can stand on your own two feet when you make this leap. It would be easy to slide backwards, right back to where you were, if you do not lay out a plan for making a clean break.
Throughout human history people have been able to make a clean break, start over, disappear if necessary. I hope your situation isn’t that dire, but if it is, you can set yourself free. Don’t be a slave to the money you make at a job you hate, modify your lifestyle and work on being happy and present. Live a life you and your partner can be proud of and enjoy. We don’t all get to live the van life and not have a care in the world, but at least give yourself to enjoy the proverbial sunshine once in a while. You’ll be a better person for it.