Normally, tolerance is a benefit to a relationship. It inspires love, connection, relational flexibility, understanding.
But in toxic systems, tolerance becomes a quick-sand trap, leading you deeper and deeper into immobilization, fear, and desperation.
This isn’t actually your fault.
Your generosity, your willingness to consider yourself wrong and to evaluate your actions, and your empathy are normal, natural, and healthy elements of healthy relationships.
But in toxic ones, they become the tool the abuser uses to manipulate you into believing you are, in fact, the problem, and that it is YOU that must become more tolerant.
Tolerant of the emptiness because “you’re too needy”.
Tolerant of the pain because “you’re too sensitive”.
Tolerant of their bad behaviors because “you just don’t understand how hard it’s been for them. They have trauma!”
Naturally, you take on tolerance like a war directive. Your survival and your relationship depend on it. A fantasy of “when they finally change, all this will be worth it” swallows your awareness. You’re no longer looking at the red flags in front of you. Instead, you’re chasing and seeking those green flags that tell you you’re efforts are succeeding.
Deeper into the quicksand you sink.
Your brain is in deep fawn response, seeking safety, seeking stability, and yearning for connection and emotional nourishment.
This drives you harder into the fantasy, harder into the efforts of “being loving” and “understanding” and kind.
Yet, the abuser is only getting more abrasive, more aggressive, more violent, more demanding.
It is like your efforts are simply never enough.
And they won’t be. That’s the point. As long as the abuser has you hoodwinked on the fantasy that you’re the problem (taking hostage your goodwill, empathy, and tolerance for their benefit), they’ll get away with whatever they choose. Plus they get their supply.
The way out is intolerance. Firm, absolute intolerance.
Not of everything, of course.
But of very specific things.
Specific like: abuse of any kind (physical, emotional, sexual, spiritual, mental, etc). Neglect of any kind. Gaslighting. Chronic lack of accountability. Lying over and over. Stealing. Cheating.
That means you no longer deal with the person. There’s not an active relationship anymore with them.
Just like you wouldn’t drink a little Drano every day, you don’t tolerate a little abuse.
Tolerance is useful in:
- Benign lifestyle differences
- Bodily functions
- Life stresses
But all of these are properly owned, discussed, and transparent. There is no abuse in any of them.
You feel seen, heard, respected, and understood. Those are the signals you’re dealing with a healthy person.
So, are you giving someone undue tolerance? Identify it and then end it when it is safe to do so. This is your first step in your liberation!