Mental Health 101: Helping Loved Ones Get Over A Toxic Relationship

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My big brother Johnny had been the glue that kept our family together. Though there was a 13-year age gap between us, I could remember a time when our home got seized by the bank because our parents could not pay for it anymore. We stayed in a motel for a few months, and Mom and Dad were on the brink of getting divorced because they were blaming each other for our financial worries. But Johnny told them to stop fighting and that he would look for a part-time job to bring food to the table.

Johnny was only 17 years old back then, but he already knew how to handle our situation better than our parents. The family finances eventually got sorted out when Dad’s business venture kicked off, so we managed to get our house back. Still, even my parents were forever grateful for my big brother acting like an adult when they couldn’t.

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By the time I entered first grade, my big brother already went off to the community college. He remained close to us and visited home almost every weekend. If Johnny couldn’t go home, he would often call and say that he missed being with us. However, my brother started to change when he met Jenna.

Johnny’s Toxic Relationship

Even at a young age, I already knew that Jenna was bad news. She acted and looked like those mean girls in the TV shows that Mom used to watch. When Johnny introduced her to the family for the first time, Jenna kept her chin up the entire time. She wasn’t blatantly rude to us, but it was obvious even for me that she didn’t even want to meet us. After dinner, Jenna asked my brother if they could go back to their apartment, even though the initial plan was to spend the night in our house.

When the couple was already gone, I overheard Mom complaining to Dad. “Did you see how that girl picked on her plate as if the food I made was not palatable at all? And Johnny couldn’t see that she almost didn’t want to talk to us!”

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Trying to appease Mom, Dad said, “Please calm down. What can we do about it? Our son is already an adult. We can only hope that he would realize it soon.”

Well, my parents’ wish didn’t come into reality as soon as they hoped. Three years later, Johnny and Jenna were still together. I could count the number of times when the girl visited with my brother with my two hands throughout those years. Each time, she only stayed for a few hours and made up excuses to cut the visit short. And when Johnny was with us, Jenna kept calling him, asking him when he’d be back.

Before their fourth anniversary, Johnny came home again to tell my parents that he wanted to propose to Jenna. That’s when the floodgates erupted, and Mom exclaimed, “Marry that girl?! You must be out of your mind!” Then, she proceeded to rant about the awful things that she noticed Jenna do.

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Instead of listening, though, my brother got up and accused Mom and Dad of not giving his soon-to-be fiancée a chance to show her true colors. But Mom heatedly said, “Oh, we saw her true colors all right, and they weren’t pretty.”

That was the last time that Johnny went back home. After some time, we heard that he got married to Jenna, and they didn’t even bother to invite us to the wedding.

The Fall Of A Toxic Relationship

When I was already in middle school, I came home to see a new car parked at our garage. Upon entering the house, I saw my brother crying in my mother’s arms. He looked much older than his age, with gray hair peeking through the black mass. When I asked what happened, everyone told me that Johnny caught his wife having an affair at their house. He left and filed for divorce on the same day before going back to our home.

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Johnny uttered, “I should have listened when you all said that marrying Jenna was an awful decision. Look where it got me now.”

But instead of blaming my big brother for the fall of his toxic relationship, we helped him get back on his own feet. Dad sent movers to the house that Johnny shared with Jenna, and they proceeded to put it on sale. My brother also hired the best lawyer in town to ensure that he wouldn’t need to pay for alimony. In the end, she never got a dime from Johnny. (Justice was served!)

At home, the entire family focused on my brother’s mental health. We went on trips and ate together and spent most nights reconnecting with each other. Johnny also took on the job of driving me to and from school, and I could not be happier to bond wit my big brother. During one of those school outings, he even met my beautiful Math teacher, Ms. Abby. Though Johnny said it was too early to find love again, we could see them having a bright future together.