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It’s okay to love someone, but not tolerate their behavior

My eight year old cat Milee was recently diagnosed with feline diabetes. A shock and adjustment for both of us. Especially learning how to test her blood and administer daily shots of insulin.

Can’t stand shots myself so giving them has been tough. The hardest part is knowing it hurts her, at the same time it hurts me too.

I recognize the disease will likely shorten her lifespan, so I am trying to spend as much time with her as possible.

She was just a few months old when I rescued her off the street, a tiny ferocious feral kitten. Wild at first, we’ve both mellowed over time into our very connected relationship. It makes my heart sing when I come home from work and she runs to the door to greet me. Or how she lays in bed and wraps her fuzzy paw around my arm.

She gets a lot of leeway as a kitty with an illness. (Confession time, she got a lot of leeway before I knew she was sick).

Recently, I noticed she has been peeing on my bedroom carpet — ahhhh!

Let’s get real for a moment, all of the pet parents out there had at least one fur baby with naughty bathroom habits.

So frustrating!

I’ve tried everything, moving the litter boxes, scooping diligently every morning, locking her out of the bedroom. Reading everything I can online about cat behavior modification — a contradiction in terms might I say. This retraining process is taking valuable time and energy, which is hard to come by in my life right now.

I realized that my experience with Milee is a perfect metaphor for the difficult or even toxic relationships that highly sensitive people might find ourselves in.

We may love someone dearly and they have some really wonderful qualities.

The truth is, their behavior is hurting us.

They may be deeply wounded themselves or have a psychological diagnosis or both. The challenge for HSPs is that we can both empathize with their plight while at the same time be absolutely unable to tolerate their behavior — strong, conflicting emotions all at once.

For a while, we may choose to look the other way. Or we try subtle hints. Or, we hold everything in until our frustration erupts into high drama.

We may wonder why this other person that is supposed to love me, always turns things around pointing the finger at me?

Then we question: could they be they right, did I do something wrong?

We may spend hours worrying, ‘How can I change them? I know I can fix this.’

Deep inside, we know this relationship is not working.
We also what it will take and how how much it will hurt to let it go.

Letting go of toxic relationships is simultaneously the hardest thing I have ever done and the most freeing, joyous growth experience all rolled into one.

What it took, was for me to get real with myself about what was actually happening. Not the fantasy I wanted to see but what was right there all along.

It took COURAGE, multiple rounds of COURAGE.

I call setting a boundary with a toxic person THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA. Build it tall and build it wide, let it stand for centuries to come.

It required me to honor myself, to know my true value, my worth.

I hold my sacred boundary, taking care of my needs first. If I am not cared for first, I do not have anything left to give to others.

With time and distance comes perspective.

The most difficult part to face was I chose those relationships. I actually spent more time working on forgiveness for myself for staying so long when I knew it was wrong. Forgiveness and self compassion are the most valuable inner work.

This is my new affirmation, my personal promise:

I have the power to choose only healthy, loving and reciprocal relationships.

If you or someone you know is involved in a toxic relationship, please know that you are not alone. There are so many online resources, support groups, counsellors and other HSPs who have experienced this who want to see you be happy and healthy.

It’s up to you to take the first small step to believe you are worth a different life.