I’ve been reflecting on what it means to have a healthy, intimate relationship versus a toxic one. Not just the romantic kind, but also with family members and friends. The foundation of a healthy relationship entails an establishment of trust and freedom for effective communication. Without this an individual is likely to withhold from vulnerability and openness, which is a pivotal component of all healthy, intimate relationships.

I listen to the distress of many caregivers who are experiencing ongoing challenges in the context of relationship, often with the person they provide support to, or others.  I notice how quickly the distress eases the moment someone is given an opportunity to talk about their experiences and associated feelings. It may seem unusual to feel safer expressing yourself in the company of a stranger, than with those you have intimate relationships with. But as I observe the supportive dynamics play out on a carer retreat, I’m reminded that these new connections come with no attachments. The ‘attachments’ I’m referring to are the interactions you’ve experienced in the past which predetermine your ability to trust and communicate effectively with another.

We’re taught to “let go” of the uncomfortable emotions caused by distressing interactions within intimate relationships. The verbal attacks, criticism, abuse, or neglect, but we all have a level of tolerance and when enough is enough, decisions need to be made to distance yourself from a relationship because “sometimes love says no.”

There is always a choice and it requires you to weigh up what is in the best interest of everyone involved. It may not be easy, but it helps to find a platform for safe communication, perhaps through counselling. There is support out there when you need to move forward and make significant changes to your lifestyle and responsibilities.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that a relationship ceases to exist, because very often it’s not possible. It simply means you create space to enhance wellbeing for all people involved.

I was recently listening to a podcast from Marianne Williamson, and the message hit home as I explore relationships; “you can be in a toxic relationship, but it doesn’t mean a person is toxic.” A relationship can be a place for healing, but instead “one person’s wounds rub up against another person’s wounds and they trigger each other, instead of healing each other in a way that compassion and forgiveness would do.”

In an ideal world, love would prevail. But wounds can run so deep that many people don’t allow the miracle of relationships to flourish as an opportunity for love and healing. You can only take responsibility of your own actions. When trust and communication is broken, striving for forgiveness and compassion within yourself  helps to heal the pain of emotional wounds and free yourself from suffering.

Carer Gateway has free counselling services for carers. Call 1800 422 737

If you’re experiencing a crisis, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 for 24/7 crisis support.

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