How to avoid toxic relationships

June 27, 2012 by Odile Faludi
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Odile Faludi catches up with Rabbi Michoel Gourarie…and they discussed toxic relationships.All relationships are essential to the human experience and it is what allows a person to really flourish. It helps them actualise their human potential. 

So why is it that some relationships can be so Moorish but yet so bad for us?

Odile Faludi recently caught up with Rabbi Michoel Gourarie and was fascinated by what he had to say. He is the director of BINA  and lectures on a wide range of topics with a special emphasis on Personal Growth and Self Development, including self-esteem, communication and relationship building. Because this topic has so many layers we decided to keep things simple and present it as a Q & A session.

Odile Faludi

What is the definition of a Toxic Relationship? 

A toxic relationship is one where there is constant conflict and arguments. To understand this term better one needs to understand the definition of “harmony.”  Rabbi Gourarie says, “Think of an orchestra, with different instruments playing, all the sounds are different but when they are played together they are one magnificent sound.” Rabbi Gourarie stresses it is important in relationships for each of us to be different. Individuality is essential. The key is that we  harmonise when we are together. In Hebrew, the term is often referred to as Shalom bayit the Jewish religious concept of domestic harmony and good. Relationships are not about people moulding into one entity. Relationships are about two individuals who come together who retain their individuality but create  harmony.

What is the outcome of Toxic Relationships?

The relationship becomes disrespectful, you begin to doubt each other, you argue with each other and it is a downward spiral from there. This can lead to mental and physical abuse and great harm can be done when one party tries to control the other. A healthy relationship builds someone. A toxic relationship can destroy someone. It is not only destructive to the people in the relationship but also to those around the relationship.

What are the tell-tale signs that a person is disrespectful by nature? 

Is there balanced talking and listening when you are together? Did the person actually listen to you when you had a conversation? How interested is the person in what you do, your background and what interests you? These are signs that the person lacks respect in you, it is all about “them.” Their behaviour is just an extension of their self-centredness. In respectful relationships, each person is genuinely interested in the other person. Observe how the person relates to other people. For example, in a restaurant, how does the person speak to the waiter. Some people need to take a bite out of others to make themselves look better. This is all about their lack of self-confidence. Respect for other people generally comes from being secure in one’s own skin. People who are confident and have healthy self-esteem make space for others and this is essential for a good relationship. Respect breeds respect.

What is the basis of a healthy relationship? 

Most people will say love. Love is incredibly critical, it is the glue of all relationships, every relationship needs love, the bonding, closeness and building a strong connection. But, love is not the foundation of a healthy relationship there is something that comes before that and that is respect. The definition of respect means to value the other person as an individual and to protect their individuality. To understand that the other person will be inevitably different to you and will have different views and different ways of doing things.  In a Jewish marriage, the contract known as the  Ketuba document, discusses respect first then love. Love can very easily become selfish. There is a very fine difference between selfish love and selfless love. The only way to achieve selfless love is if it’s foundation is respect. Love is a very funny emotion, to love someone you need to be present. It is all about “I love” there’s a very strong presence of the individual. The more “you” love the more you feel the love is there. It’s a self-centred emotion to begin with and that’s why it is an emotion that so easily can become selfish.

Rabbi Michoel Gourarie

Why are people scared to enter relationships? 

Statistics don’t help when you have so many relationships ending in divorce but there’s more to it. It’s the approach of how you enter relationships. People enter relationships to satisfy their own needs and we live in a very self-centred world, a very “I” world. The result can be that suddenly the relationship doesn’t suit ones needs and you don’t like this relationship anymore. It’s too much about serving my “own” happiness rather than “our” happiness.

How will I know if he or she is the right one for me?

Wrong question. Obviously you look for shared values, compatibility and physical attraction. Normal clichéd comments but the real question is not if this relationship is right for me. The right question is… am I right for it? Am I  a respectful person?  Am I really ready to have a relationship – that’s the question people have to ask themselves. Relationships need work. It’s inevitable you are going to discover things you don’t like and the only way it gets resolved is to talk about things with respect. Appreciate the differences!
Why are relationships so critical to a person’s wellbeing? 
A person without relationships is an incomplete person. Relationships help people go beyond themselves. A real relationship allows an individual to expand their opportunities, perspectives and see other people’s views. A good relationship makes a person larger than they are. It gives one the ability to love the world of another. But, in order to do that first, there has to be respect. So when you have respect then love can easily be selfless. You would never do anything to try and control the other person. You will never attempt to swallow the other person into your world. Rather you will respect their world and equally love their world.

Rabbi Michoel Gourarie says, “We live in a very pleasure seeking world but we have forgotten how to give pleasure to each other!” Everything must be a two way street including respect, love and intimacy. His words are full of wisdom but more than anything he is incredibly interesting. He says we need to play less tennis, spend less time being busy and more time just getting to know each other and respecting each other. Commit to the relationship. Be ready to make room for others and sometimes be prepared to leave yourself behind to truly find love.

To spend meaningful time learning and engaging in new ideas check out Rabbi Gourarie’s courses just click here

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