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Breaking Up with Unhealthy People

This blog post was written by Recovery Help Now’s, Amy Margolis, Registered MSW.

Growing up, my parents were not the happiest campers. My dad self-medicated with alcohol and my mom dealt by being a martyr (doing everything for everybody, while secretly seething). Early on, I made it my mission to make them happy. I would be charming and funny to make them laugh and later on, be a confidante and offer nurturing and advice.

It is with these early coping skills that I faced the world. I literally set out to make friends by thinking… “how can I help this person?” This served me well for a long time. I was popular, always had a boyfriend, and was successful in the world. Yet in my early 20s, I became painfully aware of feeling lonely and exhausted much of the time.

I began therapy, which was revolutionary. For the first time I began to ask the question, “Is this a friendship that enhances my life?” I became acquainted with the terms: “caretaker” and “people pleaser.” I also looked at my part in seducing one-sided friendships and my inability to receive.

I also started attending Alanon (a 12 step group for people whose lives have been affected by alcoholism) Being part of this solution focused group complimented my therapy beautifully. I began to “weed-out” relationships that no longer served me and change my behaviors in the ones I was stuck with (family members). I faced resistance and anger, but I had my therapist and support group to help me through.

Today, I am never afraid to answer my phone, because the person on the other line is someone I choose to be in my life. My relationships are reciprocal, supportive and nurturing. If someone wants to be my friend and I see warning signs of a “brain drain” I do not have to call them back. If they keep calling, I can gently set a boundary that my life is too full for new friendships.

If you think you are involved in unhealthy relationships, here are a few warning signs…

1. You don’t want to pick up the phone when they call

2. They judge or criticize you

3. They complain and do not hear your advice

4. You feel drained or down after spending time with them

5. You feel obligated to take care of them and guilty when you don’t

And here are a few clues you are in healthy relationships…
1. You look forward to hearing from them

2. You feel supported and nurtured by them

3. There is reciprocity and a common desire to make each other’s lives better

4. You feel connected and uplifted after spending time together

5. You feel safe to set boundaries and share your authentic feelings

If your goal is to have healthy relationships and thus, a happier and more satisfying life, I highly recommend starting with individual therapy. Then join a group to connect with others who share the same goal and… maybe make some healthy friends!

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If you feel you may harm yourself?

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1800.273.talk (8255).
Toll free 24 hours