The Exclusive with Tony Gaskins, JR. – Relationship Expert
Ebony S. Muhammad (EM): Being a relationship expert, motivational speaker, and life coach and consultant, from your observation what seems to be the most common reason that toxic relationships last as long as they do. Why do we find it difficult to let go of people who are hazardous to our health?
Tony Gaskins, Jr. (TG): The most common reason is low self-esteem. A lot of times it’s not the person…they don’t come in with that low self-esteem. However, when you’re with someone who already has low self-esteem, normally the male, he then strips the woman of her self-esteem. So she may have come in feeling beautiful like she had something to offer and bring to the relationship, but then – what I call a “grown boy” or an insecure man – oftentimes strips that woman of that dignity and that self-esteem. Then she feels like she’s not worthy of anyone else. That’s what keeps women… normally it’s women that stay in the relationship. Guys, if they find that she’s not the one…men can pretty much just leave. Whether they dibble or dabble back and forth, they still find another woman and separate themselves from the relationship. However, usually I find women where in a serious relationship or just talking for a month or two, they’re still stuck on it months later, sometimes years later.
EM: How exactly does this transfer from high self-esteem and confidence to low self-esteem take place?
TG: Normally it’s a man exuding his self-hate telling her that “another guy would’nt love you the way I love you”, “other guys wouldn’t even think about being with you”, “you better be glad I’m here for you”, “I talked to others guys and they say ‘I don’t know how you can be with her’”.
So now he’s stripping her down so that she becomes dependent on him, and really he needs her because in essence he needs a human “teddy bear” because he’s still growing and he’s not a man yet. It’s not in him to build her up, because that would make him feel like less of a person. So instead he tears her down so that he can feel like more of a person.
EM: We’re talking more so of the effects in regards to the male tearing the female down, but how does he get to that point? What are some of the factors that cause a man to do some of these things towards a woman?
TG: Men become insecure and controlling and coercive to women because they, themselves, have never been affirmed. They don’t know who they are. They may not have had a parent speak into their life and declare their greatness and help them identify who they are as a person, as an individual and what their gifts are, what their to gifts to the world ought to be and what their purpose is.
Often times when a person has no purpose and he doesn’t know who he is, that’s what makes him hate himself subconsciously, and then if you have hate for yourself then naturally you’re going to make others hate themselves.
EM: Now let’s go into other forms of toxic relationships, because there are those that extend beyond just male:female relationships such as friendships and family members.
When we talk about friendships being toxic, how do you determine whether or not it’s just a seasonal issue or if it’s in fact toxic?
TG: The only way you will be able to determine that is if you ride it out, but I wouldn’t suggest riding it out. As soon as a person starts to treat you differently then you have to call them out on it. If it’s your friend then you should be able to do that or you step away from it. You don’t reinforce their behavior. If a person is talking down to you or they’re ignoring you or your friend starts treating you badly…if you stay and you’re there and you’re available for their every beckoning call but they’re not there for you when you need them now you’re reinforcing negative behavior and then it becomes your fault. When you reinforce that behavior it’s just going to repeat itself.
A lot of times it is seasonal, but they can get used to it if you’re going to put up with it. A person will treat you how they see you treat yourself.
EM: Yes sir!
With male:female relationships and same gender relationships, I think they share the same dynamic when you see something that you don’t want to tolerate you pretty much end that relationship, but what about family systems? If you have a family member and the relationship seems to come across as toxic, how do you handle that? I would think that it would be a little more sensitive than the friendship and relationship.
TG: Right. Now are you saying family as in brother and sister…
EM: I would say immediate family, because I think that it has more of an effect on a person than a distant relative. So within the household; mother, daughter, father, son and siblings. The kind of relationships that may become co-dependent or toxic how do you suggest a person handle that because of the dynamics?
TG: Family, it is touchy but just like anything we have to remember whether it’s your brother, your mother, your father or your sister at the end of the day you have to take care of you. You’re the only one responsible for that and if you don’t love yourself and if you don’t protect your mind and if you don’t protect your sanity then no one else will. Even your closest of family will steal your sanity and will steal your peace trying to find their own if you let them.
No matter what relationship it is whether its family, friends, or intimate you have to stand your ground and you can’t reinforce negative behavior. Sometimes you have to let a person go so that they can grow. I’ve had to do it on every level with my own sister, with my own mother, with friends and with lovers. Sometimes you come to a point where you have to let a person go. By you letting them go or you stepping away from them and removing yourself from that situation you teach them a new lesson, because you’re not reinforcing this behavior. So if they see that what they’re doing this is forcing them to lose people then they need to change. If you stay, instead of helping them you’re hindering them.
EM: What we’ve talked about thus far is pretty much prevention, but what about those who are already in toxic relationships; they feel their level of confidence is going down whether it’s in a family, friendship or relationship after they’ve made that decision to leave and they step away, how do they then begin to rebuild themselves? Let’s put it in line with your clients. What do you suggest with your clients who seek your assistance with life coaching?
TG: I believe that everyone should have a life and/or relationship coach. Most life coaches don’t teach both. I would say hire a coach; not a counselor or therapist because a lot of them who do it are in it for the money. They went to school and learned it, whereas life coaching you don’t have to go to school for it. You do it out of passion and most often you’re certified by life and so you’re able to relate on another level.
Hire a life coach and then relearn. You have to breakdown everything that you’ve been taught in that negative relationship. Now you have to learn what real love is and what a real relationship is, what a real friendship is. Learn the right way and then come and learn who you are and what you’re here for and what your gifts are and understand your worth. At the end of it all know that if you learn from your mistakes then it wasn’t a loss, it was just a lesson. If you take time, time heals all wounds. In due time you will heal, but you just don’t sit in salt. You live proactively learning and seeking wisdom, knowledge and understanding about what you went through but also gaining the composure to get to where you’re trying to go.
EM: Beautifully said brother.
You’ve already touched on the next question regarding some of the experiences you’ve had in life. Your book, “What Daddy Should’ve Told His Little Girl”…this book is definitely not for the weak hearted at all (laughing)! I absolutely admire the way in which it is written, your straightforwardness. It’s very direct and it’s honest. Each chapter where you discuss why some men don’t value celibacy, why do some Black men choose white women, and why do men cheat with less attractive women are just a few topics you delve into with details only life experience can offer. It takes courage for a person or group of people to discuss such topics in a mature fashion and that’s exactly what you did. With these chapters you state that these are experiences that you’ve personally encountered in life. What series of events or turning point occurred that caused you to make a change in your life to become a better man?
TG: Well, in relationship you kind of hit that wall where you’re not fulfilled and you’re not happy and you’re seeking real love and you come to a point to where you just get tired of being sick and tired. You know that if you want the situation to change then you have to accept responsibility and change yourself. That didn’t really change my life that was outside of relationships that I was still searching for myself as a man; selling drugs and living that life style and doing what my peers were doing. I was about 23 years old and I got robbed and being robbed put about $30,000 in the hole. Therefore at that point I literally had nothing, and at that same time I had almost lost my wife because of my insecurities in myself and searching for myself and the life style that I was living with selling drugs, it made her leave. I begged her back and the night she came back was that same night I got robbed. It was like the straw that broke the camel’s back, and I knew that my life had to change. I knew that I had to change my life.
I had already written the book before I actually made my final transition into becoming a man. I was 23 years old. I wrote the book at 22. At the time when I wrote the book, I just wrote it from my heart and with passion. I wrote it as if I were writing it to my mom or my sister. I was young and I was just very raw and blunt and I was very close to the game and what was going on. I had just come out of it to a certain degree. I was still in it so I understood the dynamics of men and women. I was writing to young African American females, 18-25 (years of age) and how to deal with young African American men like myself at that time. That’s why it was so real. There was really no loyalty to the game. No one really understood love, it was all a game to young men and women were falling victim to it because they didn’t know the rules to the game. Basically, I was transitioning and getting ready to change my life and I was probably a few months out from being married; I was in a serious relationship. Therefore it was like me retiring fight there (laughing).
EM: Yes sir (laughing).
After reading your book, I learned that you are a very spiritual person. You make a lot of reference to the Bible. How much of that played a role in your transition?
TG: That was the main element of me becoming a man, when I started studying the life of Jesus Christ. After reading the life of Christ and reading the New Testament, it was then that I learned what real love is and what it is to be a real man and to see the strength that Christ had to do what he did. That’s what I want to be that’s the strength I want to have. After seeing that and learning about real love in Ephesians and what it is to be a husband and how the dynamics of a marriage should play out.
In Corinthians 13 of what real love is…I had heard something then that I never knew. Therefore I thought love was a man controlling a woman and having the last say and that it’s my way or the highway and that a woman’s job was just to shut up, cook, clean and obey this man and that it was a man’s job to steal her mind and rule and reign over her. That was what love seemed to look like when I was growing up. Looking at all of the relationships around me and in my own home, my mother didn’t listen and she wasn’t like that. I think my father would have liked for her to be like that and to listen (laughing), but she didn’t and they ended up getting divorced. So I just really didn’t know what real love was as far as a relationship was concerned. Yet studying Christ and the New Testament changed my life and it put me on to something that took me to the next level. After reading something so powerful, I’ll never be the same. I could never go back to being the old me.
EM: That is awesome!
Speaking of, your life experiences and expertise have led you to many phenomenal opportunities. One of those being an opportunity that no one, now, will have the chance to do, which is to be a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show. You were also a guest on the Tyra Banks Show. Tell me a little bit about how those shows went in discussing your book and your life, first starting with the Oprah Winfrey Show.
TG: On Oprah I kind of became a man in front of a large audience telling about my downfall as a person and telling a portion of my life story. I told things about myself that no one knew. It was almost like my crucifixion, like me dying out to myself saying “now I can truly be used without an EGO. I’m completely humbled”.
Then the next day I got a call from Tyra Banks to come and show my book to the world and tell my story. Now I began to step out and get on the road to changing lives. It was like an out of body experience. At that time I was still “green”. I hadn’t really been speaking much. I’m very shy naturally. So to be on Televison was an out of body experience and I know that God just took over and gave me the strength that I needed.
I remember at the Tyra Bank Show in the green room, they were questioning whether they still wanted me on the show because I couldn’t rehearse. They wanted me to be loud and animated in the room, but I’m just not a fake person and I’m not a rehearsed person. It’s all heart. So I couldn’t do it (rehearse). They came to me at the very end of the show when they were running out of time, and I guess they thought since they brought me up there they would give me a little camera time and they ended up having to cut off all that I said, because they saved me for so late because they didn’t know how I was going to perform. It was God that took over and I just started speaking and the crowd went crazy and they were clapping and everything (laughing). Tyra Banks was like, “Preach preacher”!
EM: (laughing) She was bearing witness!
TG: Yeah! It was really an out of body experience. I know God had a plan for me to be 25 years old on those stages in that light.
EM: Awesome! Are there links available for those of us who would like to view the shows?
TG: You know what, that was another thing God did. Because it was so real and so raw…Oprah was live and Tyra was recorded and it still airs today, but they never gave us a CD. Oprah said that they couldn’t because it was something legally that they couldn’t give us a copy of it.
EM: Wow, are you serious?
TG: Yeah, it was a live show so it wasn’t recorded. I think it was because at the same time both were talking about Chris Brown and Rhianna and the case hadn’t been solved. I remember having to keep restate things like “allegedly Chris Brown did this”. It was right after the domestic violence incident. That’s how I fitted in because I had a chapter on domestic violence in my book. I was young, an African American male like Chris Brown so that was my segway to be on the show.
EM: Okay, I’m really disappointed that it was not recorded. I was hoping you were going to say, “Yeah, you can go to www….” (laughing). Nevertheless, you said that the Tyra Banks portion is still available.
TG: Yes ma’am, it still replays. On certain days I’ll get a bunch of Tweets about people seeing me on the show. Normally it’s people in Africa, so I guess they have rights to it now. I do remember seeing small clips of myself speaking on the show on YouTube. Someone had recorded it on their Television. So you can see the old T.V. set and then you can see me on it (laughing).
I know Oprah was lives so I don’t think it ever re-aired.
EM: Okay yes sir. Just a couple more questions…
You offer a monthly seminar and life and relationship coaching consultations. They come in about six or seven different options. For those who are interested in having a life coach and taking advantage of your consultations what is your approach? What can they expect from you as a client?
TG: We will address their issues, their problems and what they feel that want to get out of coaching. Therefore we identify the problem and then I help them find a solution and then we set goals on how we’ll change. Then we’ll make a plan and then execute the plan and I hold them accountable. That’s in life, relationships and business.
I help some clients write books. I help other clients start businesses. I do match-making for some clients in helping them find a mate matching them with one of my other clients of the opposite sex. I help some clients heal from their past and learn from those mistakes then prepare for the future. It’s an all around package. It’s once a week, 30 minutes to an hour depending on what they prefer, and basically just having a constant motivational friend that holds you accountable and helps you set goals and stick to them. We make sure that you take your life to the next level.
EM: Yes sir!
Your study course, “For the Love of Me”, you have a men’s and women’s class that’s offered over via the telephone. I saw that the classes have already begun in May, however, is it an ongoing class where you can jump in at anytime or will there be another new class start in the near future?
TG: We’re going into the third week of six, and people can join or sign up at any point and they can come into the class or they can wait until the next one. This one will be over at the end of July and the next one will start at the end of August. We normally take a month or two months off and then start back up.
EM: Absolutely wonderful brother! You are doing great work!
Was there anything else you would like to add?
TG: Just TonyGaskins.com, a one stop shop. I encourage everyone to hire a life or relationship coach, even if it’s not me. I would love to help any and everybody.
EM: You’re on Facebook (Tony A. Gaskins, Jr.) as well as Twitter (@TonyGaskins).
TG: Yes ma’am!
EM: Thank you very much for your time, experience and wisdom on the subject of letting go of toxic relationships!
Follow on Twitter @TonyGaskins