cryWhile attending a public event recently, I found myself drawn to a particular display booth of an organization that helps others who have experienced the violence of abuse.  As I browsed through their brochures, tip sheets and other “giveaways”, I began to think about how relationships can nurture and support or can demean and erode the wellbeing of another. I know that choosing who is around you can make a big difference in your life just as much as whom you choose to be.  Several questions came to my mind.

  1. How often do those living with pain experience healthy vs. “sick” relationships?
  2. What is the impact of these relationships on their pain?
  3. How common is the cause of someone’s pain a result of abuse, neglect or indifference from so-called “loved ones” or caregivers?
  4. How do we know if we are in the midst of an unhealthy relationship (whether we live with pain or not)?

I began to reflect back on stories shared with me in confidence by some pretty terrific women I know. I admit to being surprised when I heard of their horror of relationships past. I also started to think about my own personal stories of toxic relationships in the workplace, at home and in social settings. There is a common denominator here–of powerful life lessons, that not all of us are blessed to survive and thrive. Not all of us come out the other side to find beauty, strength, love and support again.  For those of us who do, we owe it to “pay it forward” by helping each other in more positive and motivating ways—sharing our unique experiences and wisdom.

My pearl to you is this: Keep the toxic influences at bay, the best you can. Surround yourself with others who make you feel you can be you, accept you for who you are and inspire you to become better every day. “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”[Maya Angelou]

So, how do you even know if you are in a healthy relationship? Here are some questions to think about:

  • Does your partner respect you and your beliefs or is your opinion criticized so that you feel belittled?
  • Do you feel like you can be yourself or do you feel you must hide the real you?
  • Is your partner supportive of the things you do or is missing in action?
  • Does your partner get extremely jealous or possessive?
  • Does your partner try to control what you do and who you see and when?
  • Are you feeling that you must “watch your back” and afraid your relationship might turn more clearly abusive (mentally, physically, sexually)?

Note: “Partner” can be defined as family members, friends, colleagues, significant others, and/or spouses.

Look, everyone deserves healthy relationships, so being in a relationship with others should not cause ongoing hurt or bad feelings. See how you measure up and take the Relationship Quiz.

To read more about relationships, see: Comfort or Chaos: Are You in a Healthy Relationship?


What Do I Do If?

[toggle title=”I Think I May Be In an Abusive Relationship:”]

Get help right away.

  • Talk to a trusted friend, relative, pastor/minister or counselor.
  • Contact a crisis hotline.
  •  If you are afraid you will be hurt for reaching out, call your local domestic violence shelter or the police.

[/toggle][toggle title=”I Think a Friend or Family Member is Being Abused?”]

Offer support.

  • Believe them and confirm that you have seen it too (if you have)
  • Tell them you would like to help; offer to be a support person for them.
  • Recognized that people who are being abused are often afraid.
  • Do not take it personally if the person is angry with you or does not want your help.
  • Tell another person – a trusted friend, relative, pastor/minister, teacher, or counselor.

[/toggle][toggle title=”I Am Hurting Someone Or Afraid That I Might:”]

There is a way to get help to stop.

  • Most people do not want to hurt others, especially the people they love.
  • Talk to someone you trust, like a friend, relative, pastor/minister, teacher, or counselor.

If you become violent when you use alcohol or other drugs, ask for help for substance abuse.

[/toggle][toggle title=”For more information, see:”]

  • Toll-free, 24- hour Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or
  • Call 911 or the police.
  • Talk to a trained professional counselor.

National Sexual Violence Resource Center[/toggle]

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