My parents have been in a toxic relationship for 60 years

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by my mother, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.

They are the most toxic couple I have ever met.

It's a bit confusing when you think about it. It's one thing to be toxic if you're thinking of things outside of people, like radioactive waste or pesticides. However, we use the word "toxic" differently when we talk about people and their relationships with one another.

Here are the two types of toxic people:

  1. Toxic people who are mean because they have personal issues that they haven't dealt with, such as mental health issues or past traumas. In this case, these individuals are being toxic because of something else that is not their fault that has happened to them. These people may need help from professionals so that they can stop being toxic and become better versions of themselves for themselves and for those around them.
  2. Toxic people who are mean because they enjoy making others feel bad or putting others down. This kind of person is more dangerous than the first type because they may not even realize they're hurting those around them. They don't care that other people get hurt by their behavior — in fact, this kind of person may take pleasure in others' pain!

I think my parents fall into the first category. They're both toxic because of the way they were raised, and they haven't been able to deal with those issues. As a result, they take their toxicity out on each other and on me.

I grew up in a household where I was constantly exposed to my parents' fighting. It was so bad that I would have anxiety attacks whenever I heard them raise their voices. Sometimes, they wouldn't even be fighting. They might be speaking loudly to be heard over the television or the blender, and my body would go into flight or fight mode automatically.

My mother thought about leaving my father when I was in my early twenties, and I fought to keep them together. Now, I'm not sure if I did the right thing. Maybe I shouldn't have intervened. I should have let her make her own choice without outside interference.

Sometimes there are marriages that are just bad for everyone involved, but it's not for us to judge or interfere. People make their decisions, and we have to let them live with those decisions.

We aren't supposed to make them leave or stay. It's not our job to change people's minds. But it is our job to love them, support them and listen to their stories, even if the only role we can play in their lives is just a shoulder to cry on while they drink coffee out of a chipped coffee cup and complain about their lives like my mother does every morning.

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Writing about relationships online since 2009.

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