How I Became Toxic

By Chelsea Harris

I don’t think anyone wakes up in the morning and thinks,

“I’m going to hurt the people I love today.”

The mindset isn’t pre-set to encounter unexpected situations.

We just react to the climate and deal with the consequences.

The problem is that consequences live outside of the world of context.

The consequences can seem endless when they are attached

to your name. Without context of all perspectives, a name can

be ruined. It can become bile in the throats

of enemies, spewing out to greet your friends and acquaintances.

Take a person out of their context and all that is left is a description

of the person—their attitude and their mannerisms—all at the mercy of

one perspective.

What if they did do those things you heard about? What if they did

react that way and say those things? Do you know why?

I don’t know everyone’s reasons…but I will tell you mine.

The longest relationship I have been in lasted for

two years, and everything was relatively fine up until the last few months.

That was when the constant fighting started. For a long time, I couldn’t

even tell why we were fighting. It just felt like every time I turned

around there was something else to dispute.

He felt like he was walking on eggshells. I felt like I couldn’t be heard.

All at once, it felt like I wasn’t in a relationship. It felt like I was at war.

Every disgruntled face, every sentence said with attitude, every judgement passed

would start a new fight. And I couldn’t run for cover because the one person

who used to be my stronghold was now on the other side of the fortress.

“I don’t know what to do”: I’d say that more than a few times.

And every time I would try to communicate that I felt attacked

or hurt, he’d say something along the lines of: “You just assumed that I meant

that” or “That’s not what happened” or “I didn’t say that”—to the point where

I actually felt like a crazy girlfriend who had a bunch of problems for no reason.

Gas-lighting—that’s a term that I learned later.

But guess what? I don’t think he was doing it on purpose.

I think it was self-defense in a time where he felt like the

ground was crumbling beneath him.

He became toxic for me…but I also became toxic for him.

Part of our arguments came from not seeing eye to eye on certain subjects.

And there were things that I needed in a relationship that he

couldn’t emotionally or spiritually provide.

It’s not that he was a bad person or that he became a disappointment to me.

I became disappointed in myself for trying to save something that was

supposed to die. If I had noticed the things that were not going to work

between the two of us before we had started dating, I might have been able

to save something from dying at all.

Instead, I expected things from him that were never there to begin with.

He may learn those things eventually—communication, spiritual leadership,

humble love—but if he doesn’t, it’s not up to me to say whether he should

have those traits or not.

It is only up to me that I should want those things, but I don’t have

to have those things with him. And he didn’t need to change for me.

That is why, even if my name has burned like acid leaving his tongue,

I won’t do the same with his.

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