“We would do ourselves a tremendous favor by letting go of the people who poison our spirit.” ~Unknown
My husband and I both have living grandparents. My daughter has met the grandparents on my husband’s side, but she hasn’t met mine. Some think I’m cruel for not taking her to meet my grandmother because I had an excellent relationship with my great grandparents.
Some ask why I haven’t contacted her in the two years since my only child was born. I could give a long drawn-out response and try to explain why I gave up on a relationship with my maternal grandmother. But most don’t understand, and I choose to spend my time in more productive ways.
Instead, I keep the answer short and simple: She’s toxic.
That’s it. She is a toxic person, and I’m done letting her eat away at my soul bit by bit just because she shares a fraction of my DNA.
There is a lot of advice out there about how to distance yourself from toxic people and relationships, but it’s never as easy as it sounds. I had a lot of mixed feelings about ending my relationship with my grandmother. She had always been a part of my life, albeit a mostly negative part.
The truth is, removing toxicity from any area of your life is a process. There is a certain amount of mourning that goes into cutting ties with someone. It’s almost as if the person has died, except you have to resist the urge to resurrect her because that option is still there.
When I first began the process, I felt conflicted. Suddenly, all the bad didn’t seem so bad anymore. I started remembering the good times.
I remembered exploring with my cousins on the acres of my grandmother’s land. I remembered taking my pick from her complete library of animated Disney movies. I remembered playing hide and seek in her huge garden amongst the fully grown stalks of corn.
But then I realized something. None of those memories directly involved my grandmother. And the memories that did involve her still leave a sour taste in my mouth.
I remember the time she forced me to sit at the dinner table for hours after everyone else had finished because I didn’t like her spaghetti. I also remember the time I drew a picture for her, and she told me it was ugly. And I can’t forget when she let our family cat die while my family was on vacation because she didn’t feel like feeding her.
If you are grappling with the prospect of removing a toxic person from your life, ask yourself these questions:
What positives does this person bring to my life?
How does this person make me feel?
Is the relationship mutually beneficial?
Do I dread interactions with this person?
If your answers to these questions are mostly negative or you realize you are trying to convince yourself that “it’s not that bad,” it is time to take a step back from the relationship.
In many cases, removing toxicity does not require ending the relationship. You may simply need to take time away and set the appropriate boundaries before allowing this person back into your life.
However, as was the case with my grandmother, the person may be so toxic and the resentment may run so deep that it is necessary to completely end contact with the person. You can choose to do this all at once or make it a gradual fading-out. Either way, you must cut off the relationship for the sake of your emotional (and sometimes physical) health.
I made the decision to cut my grandmother out of my life when I pictured my daughter having experiences similar to mine. I couldn’t bear to see my precious child treated the same way my grandmother had treated me and the rest of her grandchildren. I realized that I have the power to keep that from happening.
I decided that the cycle of emotional abuse and toxic behavior would end with me. My grandmother wouldn’t be given the opportunity to hurt my child like she had hurt me, my mother, and so many others in her life.
It’s true that we will be hurt. Our children will be hurt. But this hurt shouldn’t come from the people we are supposed to trust and claim to care for us.
When I realized this, suddenly the process wasn’t so painful anymore. The possible negative consequences for keeping my grandmother in my life were worse than any positives she might bring to the table.
Instead of keeping someone around based on biological ties or perceived obligation, choose to put your well-being first and free yourself from the toxicity.
Choose to surround yourself with love, support, and safety and embrace your emotional freedom.
Arguing image via Shutterstock