I've got a quick uncomfortable truth for all of those of you in relationships. They might be happy, complicated, short or long-term, but nothing renders a relationship immune to compromising your mental health. Unfortunately, that's just the nature of co-dependency and the addictive nature of emotional validation.
It's also incredibly hard to step back and recognize what we put ourselves through every day. What we have acclimatized to is not what we deserve to endure. Equally, what we can handle is not what we can sustain. And finally, that which we would do for them is not necessarily what we get back in return. Emotions are sometimes a transaction.
This doesn't mean that they're there to be bought, or flogged, or sold on the black market for people numb to the world to benefit of those that Feel Too Much. But it is reciprocal and filled with its own cultures and transactional exchanges.
Gestures that we know to respond to, or dismiss in order to send a message
However, with the application to relationships, this becomes even more intensified. Why? Well, because you are generally putting all of your emotional eggs in one (probably careless) human being of a basket. We can't expect people to be infallible or never make a mistake, but all it takes is a stumble and suddenly your emotional wares are on the floor and they're stepping all over them trying to find them again. Think of it as Pandora's box.
The point that I'm leading here is that no matter how much you love another person, and no matter how much they, in turn, love you back, you can't control how you feel at all points. Neither can they. Often, if communication starts to toil in the back burner, those in a relationship can quite forget that their actions can hurt the other person. And that's a tough pill to swallow. It brings to the surface questions of failure, emotional availability and one's ability to truly be there for another person. But that's the kicker. We can't be there for someone all the time.
A lot of the time, yes
But not enough or with enough accuracy to satisfy their emotional needs all of the time, and certainly not sufficient to alleviate stress or anxiety. In fact, whether they know it or not, many people in relationships find themselves getting worse symptoms of their mental health problems rather than being soothed or relaxed. And that's where it really hurts because the other person likely doesn't even realize that what they're doing hurts. We can acknowledge that, but we aren't responsible for excusing that. People have that much power over us because we willingly ceded it, but we would do well to remember that it's also ours to take back. I understand that separating yourself from a toxic relationship is no small feat and that often people are symmetrically attached in relationships.
Some get out easier than others, without having tied all their sense of self to the other person. Others struggle, and that's perfectly valid. It is very upsetting, though. I'm not going to sit here and pretend that there's an easy fix either because there isn't. Emotions are hard and so are life and relationships. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't put ourselves out there or that it's not sometimes worth it, in the end, to have your heart broken a little.
But you can't sustain a relationship that breaks your heart every day
It kills you a bit inside every time that your partner is careless with you.
I know that I'm not alone here in suffering from anxious moments, but it really can feel alienating, bewildering and frankly out of control to not know what's happening from one moment to the next.
It isn't enough to work to merely de-stigmatize it. We need to normalize it. In fact, more than that, we need to actively engage with it. It's not enough to just blink and look both ways politely when someone is suffering from an anxiety attack. But keeping your distance isn't always the way to go, particularly when a person is spiraling and just needs confirmation that they're still on this mortal coil.
It can seem like your life is drifting out of control or slipping away down a drainpipe.
That's when you need people most, and that's when they can really let you down by being MIA.
Maybe they have their own needs, issues and personal boundaries. That's okay.