In Mindless Behaviors, Beatrice Adenodi touches upon many difficulties and issues we face in our lives. One topic appears in several of the short stories illustrating mindless behaviors: toxic relationships. There is a gradual awareness around toxic relationships in our current society, after several generations of societal taboos and denial. Let’s see how Adenodi’s approach to toxic relationships relates to our current social discussion about the topic.
Mentions of toxic relationships are found in several of Adenodi’s stories but one really focuses on the topic: the story called “Enabling Bad Behaviors”.
In this story, we follow a young woman, Bianca, experiencing a recent romantic break-up. One evening, she agrees to go out with some of her friends, only to discover that they’re bringing her to her ex-partner’s house party. Despite her uncomfortable feelings and her refusal, Bianca eventually follows her friends there.
Here, Adenodi illustrates toxic friendships. We can see multiple red flags from Bianca’s friends: the fact that they don’t tell her beforehand about the party, they don’t acknowledge her refusal and they try to push Bianca back with her ex. Moreover, when Bianca is faced with her ex, her friends are amused by the situation and try to cover it with fake solicitude.
Eventually, Bianca leaves the party and realizes that she should not have been swayed by her friends to do something she didn’t want to.
How to Identify Toxic Relationships
It’s important to remember that when we say “relationships”, it includes all sorts of relations: parents, children, siblings, friends, romantic partners, business partners, etc.
Despite the rising awareness, we tend to more easily acknowledge toxic behaviors in coworkers, acquaintances, business partners rather than in friends, family, and romantic partners.
Identifying the toxicity of a relationship is not easy, as we are emotionally, often deeply, invested in relationships.
It takes time and a serious self-reflection, asking ourselves questions about the relationship and how it affects us. What do I get from it? Do I feel listened to? Or do I feel ignored?
Adenodi gives some examples of guide questions: “Are my friends truly friends?” or “What do I know about my friends beyond surface-level facts?” (page 69).
Why We Cling to Toxic Relationships
Too often, we tend to cling to toxic relationships, even after one part of us has realized its toxicity. Why is that?
There are multiple reasons such as being afraid of losing a loved one or losing intimacy and love we think we receive, in the times where the relationship is functional. Some people also fear of being alone, and out of fear, would rather be in bad company than on their own.
Adenodi also notes that it’s even more difficult to end a toxic relationship when it’s a long one: “time becomes the main mean measure of a fulfilling relationship, leading us to maintain ties even when the relationship is toxic” (page 65).
It’s also the case for familial relationships: for a long time in our society, questioning the behaviors of parents or siblings has been a taboo, and some people lived with toxic environments just because it was their family.
The consequences of a toxic relationships are multiple. Adenodi argues that maintaining toxic ties enables bad behaviors and giving away your power to others. It means ignoring your own needs and wants, and constantly living painful experiences and situations.
For example, Bianca felt uncomfortable, hurt, exhausted, because she didn’t want to see her ex again, and was constantly overlooked and ignored by her friends in her decisions.
Ending Toxic Relationships
However hard it may seem, we all have the power to end toxic relationships and get back our power. Some situations will need more time, external support, or strength, but it is imperative to trust ourselves, be honest and “focus on relationships that are deeper in value” (page 65).
It’s also important to question our own behavior and responsibility, because sometimes we also engage in toxic behaviors and feed the cycle.
We can see that Adenodi delves deep into this topic: she concretely illustrates toxic friendships and explains how we can identify them. Her advices relate to our current society’s awareness around the topic: not letting people, even close ones, put us into cycles of pain and standing in our power.
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