Subtitle: Consider that part of the problem in your fixation on toxic relationships is you? Could ya’?
On Christmas Day and Boxing Day, in between people, tears, and naps (it was a weird-ass Christmas, what can I say), I binge-watched Bridgerton, fell in love with the gorgeous Simon (not so much with Daphne, but oh, when Heloise gets her own storyline, yes, and also, Lady Danbury, yum, and Marina and Sienna? OMG), and knew immediately it was only a matter of time before someone would try to ruin it all for me with some kind of perfectionist analysis.
It ain’t perfect. But it’s gorgeous and sexy and I loved it. Why can’t you just let me enjoy it?
I didn’t—I haven’t—I won’t—read any of the critiques, btw. But I see the headlines, and I hear my friends jabbering about them. The ones that piss me off the most are the ones that dive into the “toxicity” of the relationships in the story.
So let’s get two things straight, right now. First, in a patriarchy—and we live in one—it’s virtually impossible to have a relationship—any relationship, between people of any genders, not just a man and a woman, but especially between a man and a woman—that’s free of misogynist overtones.
(Just like in a white supremacy, it’s impossible to not be a racist, no matter what colour your skin or how ardently you value equal human rights for all. But let’s keep things focused on gender right now. It is easier.)
Second, it’s impossible to have a perfect relationship. Period. THERE IS NO SUCH THING. There are more or less functional ones, more or less co-dependent ones, more or less frustrating ones—if you’re in a perfect relationship? You’re delusional (probably due to the hormone cocktail that makes us fall in love). And if you’re looking for a perfect relationship and refusing to settle for anything less?
Good fucking luck, Your Grace.
Perfection occurs occasionally on movie screens and within the pages of a book, because the creator yells cut before the hard stuff starts. It’s fiction. And fiction is also delusional.
But sometimes, we need our delusions, you know? So lay off Simon and Daphne.
By the way: perfect relationships make for fucking boring plots and screenplays. You know this. Do you want to watch a movie about a couple who come together, experience no difficulties and misunderstandings caused by conflicting values and priorities, miscommunication, and the fragility of being human and fallible? You do? You lie. Those stories are unreadable, unwatchable. They bomb at the box office. You want drama in your onscreen relationships. You devour it.
The problem comes when you want and thus create that drama in your real life relationships.
I find the term “toxic” in general, and in reference to relationships in particular, somewhat triggering these days, and I would love to see it disappear or at least diminish in popularity in pop psychology and on my friends’ social media timelines. There are a number of reasons for this, the first of which is that the people who use the term the most… tend to be, to be honest, kinda toxic themselves. I wouldn’t use that particular word to describe them, a) because I dislike it and b) because there are many others: negative, whiny, pouty, querulous, waspish, petulant, self-victimizing, other-blaming, generally not a pleasure to be around, and rarely contributing in a positive way to my relationships with them, because, at any given moment in any given interaction, they are likely to start complaining about their toxic relationships with their exes, currents, parents, friends, bosses, colleagues, etc.
This, of course, makes me wonder what they say about me when I’m not around. It’s probably not good even when our relationship is smooth, and once we hit rough waters—and all meaningful relationships hit rough waters sometimes—I know what they’re going to say about me.
“She was so toxic.”
“That relationship was becoming just too toxic.”
To all the people who keep on airing their toxic relationship laundry on in my newsfeeds… I don’t want to gaslight you. Shitty, exploitative and downright evil relationships exist, and if you’re in one of those, with a friend, lover, or family member, get da’ fuk out. But could ya, like, maybe consider that if all your relationships are toxic… maybe the problem, is, like, you?
I’m not saying you’re toxic. As I’ve said, I dislike the word, and I don’t throw it around. But, like… maybe you could use a detox. From, like, thinking that what’s wrong with all of your relationships is the other person. Like… dude, dudess, sponge cake: at least some of it is you.
And until you figure that out, and change your role, reactivity, and responsibility in them, every relationship you have will be toxic.
Doing the work to figure that out, though, is hard. It’s much easier, instead to point out how the fictional relationship that I want to enjoy in my book or Netflix binge-watch is toxic and rail about that.
But you know what? Go ahead and rail and rant. Maybe that’s part of the process—maybe that’s how you work it all out for yourself. I’m not gonna read it though, and I’m gonna watch Bridgerton again, because Simon, Heloise, Marina, Sienna… and of course, Lady Whistledown, perfect in all their imperfections.
And then, when it’s allowed again, I will embrace you and tell you that I love you in all of your imperfections, despite all the conflicts, miscommunications, drama, trauma, stupid decisions, outright mistakes.
Deal? No? I’m toxic and you’re pursuing perfection?
Good luck. Your Grace.