Sometimes we become too caught up in relationships that continually prove to be detrimental to us. We develop a bond with others who intentionally or unintentionally cause us to be pulled into their world of drama. Most often it is a result of their own self-destructive tendencies that at best causes us to put their priorities ahead of ours and at worst puts our well-being in jeopardy either directly or through an association with them. I see a looming crisis when people allow their identity, fate and outlook of the future to become wrapped up in someone else's chaos or in their judgmental, selfish or shortsighted perspectives—and when those other people determine the direction and course of their lives.
In tonight's episode, we meet several family members who are all living within the powerful shadows of General Benicio Flores—a menacing dictator and sworn enemy of the United States. When several of these family members disappear from a busy DC restaurant—seemingly targeted due to their connection to the General—Olivia's office is soon flooded by an intimidating foreign military presence. General Flores and his staff are determined to find out who is behind the international kidnapping plot. While he has reason to believe that foreign governments may have orchestrated the abduction, the associates at the firm uncover details which suggest the true culprits may, in fact, be closer to the General's inner circle. His wife has orchestrated the whole thing in an effort to get away from her husband. It quickly becomes apparent that reuniting the dictator with his family may not be the desired outcome for all involved.
Are there relationships in your life you would be better off without? Are these relationships leading you straight to disaster? Are there people who erode your self-confidence instead of building it, maybe by constantly criticizing or ignoring you? Do you allow your voice to be stifled by others who you feel are more powerful? Are you tired of living life on their terms and ready to take control?
If so, then first, you have to address why you might be staying in such a relationship. Perhaps you feel as if you would not be able to survive financially without the assistance of that toxic person in your life. Or, maybe you feel because that person was once there for you in a time of trouble, you must now remain loyal through turbulent times in his or her life. Perhaps you are so afraid of making your own mistakes in life that you remain anchored to someone else—allowing that person to make all the decisions and absolving you from any responsibility of a potentially negative outcome. Don't allow others to always take the driver's seat because you are besieged by insecurity, guilt or fear of failure. It's your life—you make the rules. Determine your priorities and needs and don't apologize or be timid in fighting for them.
Second, know that changing a relationship doesn't have to be an all or nothing proposition. In other words, your options are not simply choosing to have that someone in your life versus not having that person in your life at all. It is not always feasible to simply detach yourself from someone whom you share a connection with (for example, a husband who is also the father of your children or a boss that treats you poorly). You can, however, establish rules and set boundaries and thereby take control of the circumstances that will involve you, your time and your mental energy. Furthermore, relationships are meant to evolve and, as such, our roles in those relationships are not static. I don't believe that every toxic relationship should be severed completely (provided there are not safety issues involved). In fact they can be used as an opportunity for growth. Sometimes, dysfunctional relationships provide the impetus for us to advocate for ourselves and demand a respect that we didn't realize we deserved. Know that the person you are today may not be the same person you were several years ago. Therefore, your needs and function in the relationship may have changed. It's up to you to communicate these needs and start assuming a different role.
Third, you need to realize that where you are today does not have to represent where you can be in the future. It's easy to feel hopeless when you are surrounded by people and situations that constantly highlight your insecurities or seemingly validate your fears. When you look in the mirror, it might be hard to recognize yourself separate from the other person whose comments and actions have stripped away your confidence, downplayed your goals and dreams and caused you to live a life that you never envisioned. But know that you are capable of reclaiming the life you want—you just have to find your voice and not be distracted by the opinions, desires and demands of others.
We've all remained in relationships, romantic or otherwise, for too long even though we knew the outcome would most likely lead to heartache. Unfortunately, we stayed, hoping that the circumstances responsible for our unhappiness would magically change. We told ourselves that things weren't really that bad, while at the same time we coaxed ourselves into believing that they would get better. But when was the last time this strategy worked for you? Don't remain stuck, damaged or held back by a relationship that is not working. You are only setting yourself up for crisis by remaining committed to a sinking ship. Get control back by taking stock of what you are getting from your relationship and deciding whether that is compatible with want you want for your life.
Judy A. Smith is the founder and President of Smith and Company, a leading strategic and crisis communications firm with offices in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles as well as a Co-Executive Producer of ABC's Scandal. You can follow her on Twitter (@JudySmith_) or "Like" her on Facebook, and you can get more information about managing personal and professional crisis situations by visiting her site, judysmith.com.