From Los Angeles
Get It Together: Ending Your Toxic Relationships
Writer, author, and relationship guru Steven Nereo (better known as the advice columnist Single Ape), gives us his tips us on how to cut ties with the toxic relationships we've kept in our lives once and for all!
Interview by Ally Mullen
Hi Steven! Before we start, can you tell us a little about your website?
I write on a site called Single Ape where I have answered advice for the past five years. It’s mostly hyper-wordy questions and responses that can usually be summed up by the idea to always have fun while remembering to get in where you fit in, because losing yourself doesn’t help anyone.
[Steven's true identity.]
Where did an idea for an advice column come from? Growing up, were you always the one your friends came to for advice?
It wasn’t until I was older that people really started asking me for advice, but the idea definitely grew out of the fact that I was always answering questions. Though more than anything, I’m just nosy and like to listen, so when I was looking to practice writing, it only made sense to answer questions. My mother was a therapist and wrote a weekly column on dealing with stress, so I guess it was inevitable I ended up here someday.
[Steven's mom's true identity.]
What are five deal breakers all men and women should have when dating someone?
If those convict-marrying women have taught us anything, it’s the fact that there really are no such things as definitive deal breakers. Everybody has their own thing, man. Here are a few off the top of my head I can personally stand behind.
1. People who drive Hummers or yellow cars. Or especially: a yellow Hummer. There is no explanation that is acceptable for this.
2. People who insist on getting a bi-sexual free-pass when in a relationship because, “It’s totally not the same thing.” It really is the same thing.
3. Political opposites. Maybe someone can make it work, though I’ve never seen it. I think your politics say a lot about your view on everything.
[Oh, so you're a Republican? Tell me alllll about it.]
4. People who get upset that their ex—who now has a new bf/gf—won’t be special-friendly with them anymore. There’s something about the entitlement of someone expecting to be treated as more than just an ex that rings the red flag alarm for me.
5. People who buy their dogs from breeders. With all of the awesome adoptable dogs out there, purchasing a vanity dog instead (in my opinion) is either totally selfish or completely ignorant. Both unattractive qualities in a person.
Aside from the deal breakers listed above, what are subtle things to keep an eye out for to make sure you're not dating someone who is wrong for you?
I’m a huge fan of humor. If you’re not making each other laugh, I have a hard time seeing how you’ll keep each other entertained for a lifetime, or even a year.
["LOL we're so rich"]
True or False: You can change a loser into a winner.
A guy I knew who was an acting coach once told me, “You can’t teach acting, you just babysit them until they figure out another profession.” A pretty grim assessment, but likely true. In the same way, I’m not sure you’re going to flip the total loser, but you can influence people to be better versions of themselves.
[At least he knows it.]
It’s one of life’s cheesy truths that sometimes we are only as good as our motivating factors, and the right person could be just the thing to raise these factors to new heights. Unfortunately though, you aren’t going to change anyone that doesn’t have the desire to change themselves.
Romantic relationships aren't the only ones that can be bad for you. What are a few signs you have a toxic friend ("frenemy") on your hands?
Well, there’s the obvious, like if they are trying to sleep with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Then there are the more subtle hints, such as recognizing a person who is actively campaigning other friends against you, or shooting you down at every opportunity. The smaller versions are the person who are only interested in their own drama, and never yours, or someone who just never makes you feel like much of a homie.
[Just imagine two frenemies playing this against each other.
] Uh-oh you just made us realize we have a few frenemies. What's the best way to go about ditching them without being too cruel? Because, you know, we're the good ones here.
My mom once told me, “Sometimes some people who once had a place in your life no longer do.” I’d like to think she meant you just accept this as a fact of growing up and fade them away maturely instead of Twitter-blasting them before telling them to eff-off in the middle of a crowded bar while someone restrains you from swinging. If you suspect the time they are spending with you is toxic, quietly stop finding the time for them.
[Pulling the sick card always works, especially when you're a whore.]
Any frenemies, bad dates or toxic relationship stories that you can share with us about how you got out?
Nothing too exciting. I’ve found that eventually all bad relationships tend to work themselves out, with the problem being timing instead of people. If someone was once a friend, or a BF/GF, there is usually a reason you were attracted to them. With a little time, distance and age, you might remember what that reason was and find a way to get along in the end. That's the best outcome possible, because hating people takes way too much energy.
[Don't you know that you're toxic?]