Boundaries

I had a falling out with my dad and step-mom the other week. They were upset with me over something that was, in my opinion, not really worthy of an argument. Sadly, I was on the receiving end of their anger and harsh words, hardly able to defend myself before breaking down into a puddle of tears.

Thankfully my dad is pretty self-aware. He eventually apologized for yelling at me when he saw how deeply his anger and words hurt me. My step-mom….not so much.

My relationship with my step-mom is….to put it nicely, strained. Ever since she entered our family, she has been unkind to me. For the past 18 months or so, I’ve been in her “good graces” (which is still not a happy place to be) after 5 years of being banished from her life. We’ve at least been able to be in the same room together without something horrific happening. But sadly, I’m now back on her long list of people she hates. And to be honest, I’m not sure I’ll ever come off the list this time.

My heart is just sad. I want to stop being wounded by her. I want to stop the cycle of hurt and reconciliation, hurt and reconciliation. I want to stop the poison that has been slowly leaching into my life for so long. And then…. part of me wants to stay the course, to keep trying to love her and trying to show her grace and kindness despite the hurt she always throws back at me.

I guess I’m wrestling with how one protects their heart, maintains boundaries and avoids a toxic relationship while not making the situation worse. Is it even possible? Jesus says in Matthew 18:21-22 that we should forgive someone not seven times, but seven times seventy…meaning we should forgive over and over and over again. And believe me, I’ve done that. But at what point do you just have to take yourself out of the equation to make the assaults on you stop?

I have never walked away from someone in my life. Never. Sure, I have relationships in my life that have faded a little over time… life gets in the way and the distance grows. But I have never made a conscious decision to end a relationship in my life. Never ever ever. And I’m scared to do it. And I don’t know how to do it. And I’m worried this will cause more damage. And I’m afraid of it backfiring.

But I feel like it’s maybe something that should happen. 15 years is a long time to endure spitfire.

For those of you who have toxic people in your life, I would love to hear about how you went about ending the relationship or setting up boundaries to protect yourself. How did you do it? Where is your relationship at now? I’d love to hear your story, so please please please share! I’d love any advice or words of wisdom you’d care to share in your comment. This is a really big, difficult decision for me and I would really appreciate any advice or insight!
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5 thoughts on “Boundaries

  1. Oh Becky! I'm so so SO sorry! My relationship with my father is the definition of toxic! It has been for many, many years. For the last 10 years, we've periodically gone through periods of trying (always initiated by myself) followed soon after by so much pain and heartache that I call it quits. The most recent was a few months before my wedding more than three years ago.

    All this to say, I never found that balance… the place where you can protect your heart and show grace and mercy. I periodically feel guilty about it, but then I guess not guilty enough because my self preservation continues to win out! Sorry I'm no help! Praying for discernment for you in this delicate and difficult situation!

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  2. I am so sorry. I know this all too well. I found that the damage done while remaining close to a toxic person was too much for me to handle. I have walked away from not one but two family members. I had spent years and years forgiving them and one day I decided that I needed to pick up my dignity, tell them what I needed from them I order to remain in my life and I walked away. I immediately had peace about the whole thing. Still to this day I have not gotten what I needed from them but again I had to forgive them for this. There are consequences and repercussions. Just make sure that what you lose is worth less than what you gain.

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  3. Hey Becky…just catching up on your blog and this entry makes my heart cry. I know you have held out hope for this relationship for so long, that to come to a place where you're figuring out if and how to walk away….man, I'm so sorry it's hit this low point. I wanted to leave a comment because several of the things you said remind me of what I've been thinking about with my family. Until now, I've never been at a point where I chose to walk away from people, but right now that is definitely on the table with my family. It's a terrible feeling to close a door on someone you think you want to love. I'm thinking of 1 Cor. 13…love endures all things…hopes all things…love never ends. Can we love people and really walk away from them at the same time? I imagine the answer is no…but we can try to reduce the pain we inflict on one another. Maybe instead of opening the door (only to be lambasted over and over again), we can find a way to walk through life in the same direction. Maybe less face to face interaction and more “walking alongside one another” interaction? I'm still figuring all this out and I'm sure it will be a life long process, but you're not alone in trying to find personal safety and forgiveness. Keep on keeping on! 🙂

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