On Wednesday, I was on this HuffPo Twitter Space panel about toxic relationships. The question was posed to my co-panelist, therapist Virginia Gilbert about whether or not toxic people can change.
She made a distinction between abusive people and toxic people. Abusive people? Don’t bother, get professional help to escape. She said that with toxic people, if both people in the relationship are committed to behavioral change, it can work.
It was the end of the segment, and there was much I wanted to unpack. Like, the whole attachment style thing… how “anxious” people chase “avoidant” people.
Okay, how about normal people BOND. And when the people they bond with act sketchy, it’s pretty predictable that the person who cares will become anxious.
But I’m quibbling. My bigger issue is WHY BOTHER with whatever flavor of fucked up a toxic person is? You have one precious life. Why waste it on someone who treats you terribly? Unicorn sightings are rare.
Also, as a few bazillion of us can attest to — a lot of disordered partners feign interest in therapy as the price of avoiding consequences. You think you’ve got a unicorn, until you don’t. Or maybe you do, (color me skeptical) but the damage is done and you need to move on.
(If you want a deeper dive on this, you can read my whole diatribe on reconciliation and entitlement. I think a lot of what we deem toxic is driven by the power dynamics of maintaining one’s entitlement. Healthy relationships, by contrast, aren’t competitions or predatory. They’re reciprocal and respectful.)
So, in summary, I made the claim that in running this blog for 10 years, and the millions of unique visitors and comments, no one has ever regretted leaving a cheater.
I mean, we’re one hell of a data sample.
You could argue, this place is self selecting. Says LEAVE right there on the tag line. But I would counter that the vast majority of chumps tried reconciliation first. And even if they didn’t leave, and were left, they probably spent a lot of time trying to get their partner to be more fully invested. Chumps are all in.
But what I hear again and again and again is — I wish I left sooner. I wish I had that time back.
Also, where is the site with millions of people who are with reformed toxic people and their life is better for it? The reconciliation boards I know are full of twitchy, hypervigiliant folks with trust issues.
Oh, they’re just all happy, quietly living in their new and improved marriages, Tracy.
Uh huh. Okay. The unicorns have invisibility cloaks too.
So, anywho… my Friday Challenge question to you is — any regrets about leaving a cheater? (Or being left by one.)
You might regret the wake of their fuckupendess. The financial toll. The scary life rebuilding. But the person themselves and how they treated you? Do you miss it?
I think to anyone on the fence, this might be a useful read.