Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Toxic Relationships

Sometimes, I just don't know what to do.

Have you ever had a relationship that soured, to the point that your interactions were filled with animosity and barely contained rage?

I feel that I am experiencing that myself, right now. There is a person who I have tried to help on numerous occasions, for whom I have risked my reputation and good standing with important figures in my personal life. I tried to help him because I care for him and am concerned for his wellbeing - spiritual, emotional, and physical - and it has backfired in my face.

Not only have our carefully orchestrated plans crumbled, but this person now has complaints against me! I don't need the credit for trying to help him; as far as I'm concerned, it was my duty and although I wasn't sure that the outcome of the idea suggested by others (which involved my input at critical points) would result in a success, I was willing to put in the effort. But now, he places the blame squarely at my feet, as if I am the one responsible for his mistakes.

I can't bear to look at him. Aside from the personal aspect, there is the fact that I let him into a large part of my life, a place that I hold very dear to me. Witnessing him take advantage of that environment in an abusive way caused me such anguish; hearing him denigrate that which I love stirs up such volatile emotions within me that I am afraid to speak to him.

It's gotten worse after the fact. Hearing his take on how things happened, and his attitude towards the people who he came into contact through our attempts to help him take on fantastic proportions. His inflated ego allows him to float through a delusion wherein he is the victim. I have never felt so betrayed.

My outlook has come around 180 degrees: I don't want to have anything to do with him at this point, let alone spend time with him or speak to him (ironically, I have no choice: with God's help, we will be a part of each other's lives until the ripe old age of 120). Where I used to be concerned with his wellbeing and success, I now feel an acute sense of schadenfreude - I want so badly to be vindicated in my predictions that he will squander every opportunity given to him. I want him to realize the extent of his self destructive tendencies - no matter the cost.

But the worst thing about this whole episode is the way I feel, the vitriolic expressions written above.

I am so ashamed at my subjectivity; I have lost the ability to determine where my indignation stems from. Is it pure righteous frustration or egotistical offense at a wrong perceived to be a personal spite? Just vocalizing some of these thoughts and feelings concerning this whole debacle makes me feel shallow and cruel.

I am so ashamed at my inability to look past the hurt that I feel (legitimate or not), and to redouble my effort to help this person.

Is this how a Jew acts? Is this how we are taught to respond to frustrations and setbacks at the hands of those closest to us?

On the one hand, I ask "how can I forgive him?" but on the other hand, I want to know "how can I forgive him?"

Perfect timing for Elul...


Leah said...

Sometimes ther are people who are beyond the scope of help as far as the lay person (you) is involved. There is a famous expression that I have heard from a friend of mine: I don't condone the behavior and I don't condemn the individual.
Easier said than done- especially since I don't know the particulars of this situation. So, my answer may be very pat- which I do not mean to do.
If you behave in the same good, helpful manner to those other people in your community your reputation should not be destroyed and chances are others see thru this person's behavior and recognize this person is ill and needs help. Sad, yet true that these situations exist. I have helped two such individuals in our community and have been taken advantage of. A third tried in our community. I was prepared and was able to assist up to a certain point, yet knew when to not get heavily involved and that was that.
I wish you hatzlachoh in this matter. definately judge the overall individual favorably in terms of illness and realize he/she needs help and daven for this for this person and ask a rav for advice most of all. it is a test for Elul, too. Hashem's non- corporeal ears are open and He wants to hear your prayer.

Anonymous said...

My wife has a long string of former friends. People in need, who she befriended and helped, but then wanted a foot for every inch, a yard for every foot. Someone new in our mutual home town, or someone going through tzaros with the children. A then-recently widowed almanah...

Very asymmetric relationships in which both parties confuse helping someone out with true friendship -- and eventually it cracks. Too much demand, being taken for granted,or on the other side -- anger that "she wasn't there when I needed her" because the dependency can't always be met. Etc...

I think the term in psychobabble is codependency.

-the other frock

Anonymous said...

Sorry to tell you but this is a really common phenomenon. It's davka the people you help the most who hate you the most.

If you helped someone you did a good thing. So please focus on that in your mind. The other person's reaction is their business (i.e. not your problem). Also think of the zechut you get in shamayim. If someone thanks us, that is part of the reward. This way you have the whole reward up there waiting for you. You might even end up thanking this person in your heart. It takes time I know. I don't think that you have to think about forgiving them if they didn't ask forgiveness. You have your cheshbon in shamayim and they have their's. There's a mitzvah sitting in yours. Not sure you have to worry about their's.

Neil Harris said...

It's easy to forget that V'Ahavta L'Reacha Kmocha has to apply to oneself.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Very good post. Do you recall the piece in one of the seforim (maybe Tzav V'Ziruz) where the Rebbe teaches what to do in situations of extreme anger towards someone. He says to write a letter that completely expresses everything you would like to tell the person. In your post you may have held back on some things but in this letter, you'd write it all exactly like you do when you tell the person off your mind. Then take the letter and bring it to someplace where you can be completely alone like a forest and yell it out as if you were telling the person off.

Then do it again the next day. He says you won't be able to do it with as much feeling and will be a bit embarrassed.

After the 3rd or fourth time, you will be too embarrassed to even read it at a whisper and will want to make up with the person.

I'm not sure in your situation when you have to have future exposure to this person that this is shiach but I wanted to pass it on.

BTW, he says that at the end you should burn the letter.

Also, I thought of another eitza yesterday to deal with a situation I have (which is *much* less serious) so we can talk further some other time if you would like to.

Kol tuv.

Shmuel said...

Dix - the Rebbe gives that eitza at the end of the ninth perek in Chovat HaTalmidim. It is "baduk u'menuso" (not to mention a stroke of genius) but I believe that these may be extenuating circumstances due to the dynamics of our relationship and the extent/nature of our interactions...

Thanks for all the encouraging words guys. Your comments are greatly appreciated.

Shneor said...

If you take a dog which is starving and feed him and make him prosperous, that dog will not bite you. This is the primary difference between a dog and a man. -Mark Twain