It’s a sad truth, but my generation was not taught to occupy space or have boundaries, especially when it came to our families. Phrases like ‘blood is thicker than water’ were not only thrown around but were considered to be literal mantras to live by. If your parents or siblings were mean or nasty to you, you were not only meant to grin and bear it, but you were also supposed to keep it a secret out of family loyalty – with that came a lot of unnecessary trauma.
I’m writing this today after hearing another friend speak about an abusive family member. I’m writing this because when I asked him why he continues to insist on visiting this particular person, his only answer revolved around the fact that he was obliged to because they were related. I’m writing this because obligation alone is no reason to give someone who repeatedly hurts you your time and energy.
I will say it only once for the cheap seats at the back; respect is not something automatically owed, especially if that respect isn’t reciprocated. So many people speak about not wanting to cause trouble or break up their units, but few talk about the mental impact of staying in situations which are bad for them. And this doesn’t just extend to families but to friends and partners too.
We must start normalising getting up from tables where love is not being served and start smashing those generational patterns. If someone hurts us, they don’t get to tell us that that hurt isn’t real, and they definitely don’t get to eat away at even more of us. Yes, you need to communicate that hurt to begin with and give people the chance to possibly make amends but putting up with something for the sake of it just because your parents did too only leads to more pain. And it gets even worse when children are involved.
The young are like sponges and build their internal worlds based on the world that you show them. Do you really want them to see that it’s okay for their parents to be treated badly? Will that not help model their own expectations from a partner or a friend? Do we not have the responsibility to show future generations what healthy relationships should look like?
It costs more to hold onto something toxic than it will ever to let it go.