On Trees and Toxic Relationships

This is the first post in a series on toxic relationships.

Once, in a lush green forest, a young tree was befriended by a vine. The vine was friendly and helpful and the tree and vine soon became very close.

The tree learned to rely on the vine, and before long, the vine and the tree became so close they were almost one. Time went on and the tree grew. The vine grew, too, wrapping herself tightly around the tree.

But the tree began to notice something was wrong. She was growing very slowly in comparison to the other trees in the forest. At times, the tree felt suffocated by the vine.

The tree began to feel sad. She wasn’t really living her life as a tree. Most of her resources went to supporting the vine.

One day the tree gathered up her courage and asked the vine to untangle herself from the tree. The vine became very angry and afraid and dug deeper into the tree. The vine told the tree she was the worst tree she’d ever known and the tree was lucky to have such a kind and wonderful vine caring for her.

The vine was worried, because without the tree the vine feared she would die.

This kept the tree quiet for awhile, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that she’d never be able to become the tree she was meant to be unless the vine let her go.

“We can still be friends,” the tree said earnestly, “but I need to use more of my resources for myself.”

The vine became furious and lashed out at the tree. She accused the tree of being selfish. She reminded the tree of all she had done for her and promised her that one day she’d come begging for the vine’s help and the vine wouldn’t be there.

The tree was heartbroken. But, she stood her ground.

The next few days were very difficult for the tree and the vine. When the vine finally understood that the tree would not relent, she gathered herself up and painfully unwound herself from the tree. The vine thought she might die and for a time she became very ill.

The tree was ill for awhile too. Her trunk bore scars from her relationship with the vine. And though they reminded her of a very painful time, the scars also reminded her of her strength. With time, she grew into the beautiful, healthy tree she was meant to be.

 This is how it can be for us when we’re enmeshed in a toxic relationship. It can be painful to stay and painful to go. Often, the toxic person will refuse a relationship unless it’s based on his or her terms. This makes it almost impossible to set boundaries, care for oneself and still have a relationship.

Have you experienced a toxic relationship? Were you able to set boundaries within the relationship or did you end it?

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