Toxic Relationships

by Lorraine
(New Mexico)


Usually whenever one visits any website or blog designed to offer support for women going through menopause, we hear only about the physical unpleasantness of menopause, such as hot flashes, depression, fatigue, water retention, ahem...vaginal dryness, heavy periods, etc.

I wanted to get another thread started, however, that has nothing to do with the physical symptoms of menopause, but with other changes that women have made in their lives due to menopause, particularly when it comes to self-discovery, relationships, etc.

I do not know about you, but since I have entered menopause, I have entered into a new realm of self-awareness. At 53, I know so much more about myself than I did when I was in my twenties. I like who I am at 53 much more than I liked myself at 20 because I've come to discover the real me. I know who I am, what I like, what I dislike, what works, what doesn't work, what gives value, and what drains. Going through the ravages of menopause forced me to take stock of the priorities in my life, and that included relationships.

Menopause forced me to do some serious house-cleaning when it came to relationships because, truth be told, I found that many of the relationships that were in my life were either toxic, or they simply were not adding value to my life.

I have found that we tend to routinely keep people around simply because they're already around. It's easy to develop a connection with someone who is always around, even when they are not really adding any value to our lives. It's even easier to stay in those relationships. Old relationships are comfortable, and starting new relationships is difficult.

I think it's safe to say that we've all held on to people who, quite frankly, didn't deserve to be there, and in all likelihood, many of us may even still have people in our lives who continually drain us - people who do not add value to our lives. People who aren't supportive, who take and take and take without giving anything back. People who contribute very little, and who even prevent us from growing. Perhaps people who love to play victim.

Such people, however, can be dangerous. They keep us from feeling fulfilled. They keep us from living purpose-driven lives. They keep us from reaching our full potential. Over time, these negative relationships actually become a part of our identity - they define us and become who we are.

When I started going through the ravages of perimenopause at the age of 40, I started to have all sorts of problems with certain relationships in my life. When you are going through menopause, you need a tremendous amount of support, patience, and understanding from people. The last thing you need to be around is someone who is going to constantly criticize you, berate you, make you feel small, drain you of what little mental and physical energy you have, and expect you to give of yourself in ways that, because of what you are going through, just is not possible.

Menopause forced me to take stock of all of the relationships that were in my life. When I saw that some of the relationships simply could not be fixed (which is always the preferable solution), because the person believed that everyone else was the problem but not himself or herself, it was time to sever the tie. It simply wasn't going to work.

If you sit down with someone who is draining the vitality from your life and respectfully explain to them what must change in order for your relationship to work, and you explain to them that you need them to be more supportive, you need them to participate in your growth, and that, although they are important to you, the relationship in its current state is not making you happy, and they refuse to listen or make changes, inferring that you are the problem, and not them, well, then it's time to ditch the relationship.

This is always difficult, but it applies to any relationship: family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances. If someone is constantly draining your life, there is absolutely nothing wrong with saying to them, "I'm sorry, but this relationship is no longer right for me, so I must move on." I think we owe it to ourselves to move on and to be happy in our relationships, especially when we are going through menopause.

Moving on is sometimes the only way to develop new, empowering relationships. That's what I'm looking for...people who are going to empower me, inspire me, and force me to grow. Over the past 13 years, while I was going through perimenopause/menopause, I found myself having to cut many people from my life, people who called themselves my "friend," who took and took from me, but gave me little or nothing in return. People who criticized, berated, and drained me of my value. People whose emails or comments would often leave me picking shrapnel out of my self-esteem for weeks on end.

Menopause forced me to confront those individuals. I explained to them how I felt. When they refused to change, I moved on and left them choking in the dust.

For years I kept people in my life because I said to myself, "Well, even though they aren't adding value to my life, perhaps I can be used to add value to theirs. I'll take the higher road. I won't be selfish." Although this is a noble concept, it is one that will cost you in the end, my friend. It will cost you in terms of happiness, peace, vitality, creativity, energy, and growth. You see, in order for a relationship to work, BOTH parties must do their part. When only one is doing all the giving while the other is doing all the taking, the relationship will not, and cannot work. If you are investing in a relationship, you have the right to expect a good return on that investment.

When we are in our twenties and thirties, and not yet going through the ravages of menopause, we can handle the negative effects of any toxic relationships that may be cluttering up our lives. It's much easier to be resilient, to blow them off, and hope that tomorrow with that individual will be a better day. But when you are going through menopause, you are already stressed and strained to the max. By this point, you have crossed your threshold of tolerance, and you simply refuse to take anymore, not because you are selfish, not because you think that life is all about you, but because you are human, because you have value, and because you realize that it is high time that others acknowledge that value as well.

I would rather have one friend who empowers me, inspires me, influences me, and energizes me, than 1,000 who drain me of all vitality, joy, creativity, and energy. (Remember the proverb: "Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred?"). And if I cannot find that inspiration in a single person, I can always find it in a book, perhaps written long ago, by a person who no longer lives on the earth, but whose words carry on.

I don't even know why I've written this post. Truth be told, I woke up this morning, poured myself a cup of coffee, and planned to spend the morning reading, but some unseen force compelled me to type this post instead, and so I decided to yield to that unseen force and send my thoughts your way.

So, there it is. Out there for you to ponder. I was just wondering if anyone else out there discovered that menopause forced them to take stock of the relationships in their lives and to make the necessary changes regarding those relationships, not only in order to survive, but in order to thrive, to grow....

...and to be.

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