Do you ever look at your past relationships – romantic or otherwise – and wonder what the hell you were doing? I do that a lot. To be honest, my past is positively littered with people I’ve intentionally lost contact with. Which might sound really antisocial but there is a reason those people are in my past and not my present. So when someone that I had happily left in my past suddenly wants to get back in contact with me, you can understand that I’m not entirely thrilled by the prospect.
I’m not the kind of person that holds onto things for very long – grudges notwithstanding. For me, once something is over, I usually wash my hands of it. Take, for instance, relationships. I have never been romantically involved with someone that I didn’t end things with on my own terms. Of the (few) people I’ve dated, I only speak to one of them and as for the others, I cut them out of my life a long time ago, and with good reason. Basically, I’m just better off without them.
The sad thing, is that that knowledge only comes with hindsight. If I had known at the time that my relationships weren’t right for me, I’m not sure I even would have bothered entering into them. What’s the point if, in the end, the only thing you’re going to get out of it is another person you no longer talk to? I have enough of those already, at the rate I’m going I’ll have no one left to talk to at all!
However it’s not just romantic involvement. I have lost – or discarded – many a ‘friend’ who no longer fit that particular description. When you find out that your so-called friends are spreading vicious rumours about you behind your back, you know it’s time to get out. But again, if I had have known how things would have turned out with those people, I have to wonder if I would have bothered. That’s not to say that there weren’t good times, but just that they mean nothing now because they’re marred with a heavy cloud of negative emotions.
The thing with relationships though, is that you often can’t look at them rationally because you have a personal attachment and it blinds your judgement. Sometimes you just can’t see the bad, even when it’s right in front of you. And this is where I think relationships need to come with warning labels. Magic neon signs for your eyes only, clearly displaying why you and another person should stay far away from each other. Warning! This relationship is harmful and toxic. For your safety and happiness, don’t engage. The warnings wouldn’t necessarily have to come at the beginning either. Maybe they could appear at a time when happiness was about give way to misery and woe, so you could break things off before you had to deal with the negative drama that was due to come.
Can you imagine how easy relationships would be if you didn’t have to deal with all the emotional baggage that can come with them? You could have a person in your life for as long as you were compatible and then go your separate ways without any of that residual guilt, unhappiness or anger.
I think about all of the relationships I know of, and how many of the people in them would benefit from warning labels. People who were once in love and now don’t even talk. People who stay in unhappy relationships because they can’t see that it’s killing them. People who do everything for a friend and get nothing – barely even a thank you – in return. And then I think about those kind of relationships I have had with people, (barring the first) and how I wish I had have had some kind of prior warning before I got involved.
Admittedly, there is a problem with my concept of warning labels. For a start, people don’t always heed the warnings. And secondly, life is all about experiencing the good and the bad. If everything was good, we’d have no point of comparison and then, how good would anything really be? It’s that whole ‘without suffering there would be no compassion’ theory. In order to appreciate the good, you need to have experienced the bad. But that being said, I’m sure I’m not the only one who looks back on past relationships and wished I had never gone there.
I guess the thing to remember is that, while there may have been good times, your relationships end for a reason, toxicity warning or not. Don’t get me wrong, they can be repaired and built up again. I myself am now back in contact with an old friend, after a six year absence from each others’ lives, and we get along great. The trick is knowing yourself well enough to know when something doesn’t, or no longer feels right. And if an unwanted visitor from your past turns up wanting to be all friendly again, don’t be afraid to tell them to shove it.