Toxic relationships. We’ve all been there at one point or another. The lies, the cheating, the manipulation – unfortunately these are all things we’re all far too familiar with. But are you aware of the subtle signs that you or someone you know are in the middle of a toxic relationship? Here’s what you need to know and what you can do about it.
If you’re interested in hearing about my personal experiences being in a toxic relationship when I was younger, you can head over to my blog, A Daynna Life, to check out How I Survived an Emotionally Abusive Relationship.
1. You’re Withdrawing from other people you care about.
Have you been spending less time with your friends and family? Do you feel like you’re losing connections that you once had? Girlfriend, we’ve all been there, and it sucks. Maybe people are even making you feel guilty about spending less time with them now that you’re in this relationship. As someone who’s been on both sides of that argument, I know it’s not a fun time for anyone involved.
The thing you need to look at is what your motives are behind spending less time with people. Are you doing so because you only want to spend time with your significant other? If the answer to that is yes, I can kind of understand that from my own point of view, but it’s also important to remember than in order to have a healthy romantic relationship, you need to have other relationships outside of your significant other. It’s unhealthy to rely on one person for all of your social and emotional needs, and it’s not super fair to everyone else in your life either to cut them out completely. If the reasoning is because you’re feeling pressured by your significant other to not spend time with your friends, then that, my friend, is one of the first tell-tale signs that you’re in a toxic relationship. You should never have to feel guilty about spending time with your girlfriends or your mom, or anyone who brings positivity to your life for that matter!
2. You find yourself adjusting your own moral compass for the person you’re with.
Perhaps you have people in your life telling you that you’re not being yourself. Maybe somewhere deep down, you agree with them. The thing that makes us who we are is our moral compass, or our values. This includes what we believe in, what we feel is right and wrong, how we view important topics – you get the idea.
The point is that if you need to alter these things in order to make your relationship work, 1. your significant other isn’t appreciating you for you and is trying to change inherent characteristics about you, and 2. it’s probably not going to work out anyway. A relationship should be based on mutual love and respect for who each other are inherently. It’s perfectly okay to not like every single aspect of your significant other (for instance, it is okay to ask them to help you out with the dishes more if that’s an issue or something else relatively menial like that). It is not okay, however, to try and change who someone is inherently. If your values don’t line up, you’re with the wrong person. And if someone tries to change the other person’s values, that is setting the relationship up to be extremely toxic.
3. You’re in a negative mood state more often than not.
Self-reflection is an incredibly important process of self-care in general. It’s even more important when in a difficult situation in any aspect of life, whether that be your relationship, career, etc. When you reflect, are you finding that you’re unhappy more often than not? Do you experience negative emotions, such as anger, sadness, fear, hurt feelings, when you think about your relationship? Believe it or not, this is one of the hardest things to come to terms with. It may take some time for you to be honest with yourself. At the end of the day, if a relationship, whether romantic or platonic, isn’t making you happy then it’s okay to let go of that relationship. In fact, it’s the healthy thing to do.
4. you feel like all of the problems in your relationship are your fault.
Whenever you get in an argument with your significant other, is the end result more often than not you apologizing while they take little to none of the blame for your argument? When you’re upset with them for something they clearly did wrong, do they somehow turn it around on you? When this happens, you often begin to feel like you can’t do anything right. Believe me, girl, I know from past experience, I’m with ya on the fact that this totally sucks. When you’re in the middle of it, you don’t realize what’s happening or why you’re feeling so shitty about yourself.
This manipulation tactic is incredibly common in toxic relationships, and it can really take a toll on your self-confidence. Take a minute and really reflect on your relationship – is this happening to you? If so, know that this pattern of behaviour isn’t a healthy one, and you need to do whatever you need to do to change it. If you don’t, I can speak from experience that the effects on your self-confidence will be detrimental and it’ll take a long time for you to heal from the damage.
5. your relationship pattern consists of the cycle of abuse.
In the world of social sciences, there’s something that many therapists, psychologists, and social workers refer to as the cycle of abuse. Essentially, there’s a consistent pattern seen in the majority of abusive relationships that goes something like this. First, the abusive behaviour occurs. Whether this is physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse, the cycle remains the same. This may be the point where the abused partner wants to leave the relationship (probably the most healthy option in a lot of cases).
Next, the abusing partner may apologize, and they may come across as genuinely sincere in their apology. In many cases, this is to stop the other person from leaving the relationship. The final step is a period of time where the abusing partner is loving, caring, and supportive. It genuinely seems like everything is perfect, which is why a lot of abused partners justify staying with their abusive partner. Everything is perfect… until it’s not. As the word “cycle” implies, tension builds up between the two partners until we’re once again at stage one, the abusive behaviour. Does this sound like your relationship?
6. You fight with your partner often.
You guys, conflict is stressful. It’s not good for anybody to have to deal with conflict on a regular basis. Your significant other is supposed to be someone that you for the most part get along with. I mean, of course you’re not going to agree on everything and some arguments are inevitable. That being said, if you’re fighting with your partner more often than you’re getting along with them, it’s time to do some reflecting on the relationship. Is this person bringing you joy? If not, what are your reasons for being with them?
7. physical altercations have occurred.
Though it may seem obvious, I think it’s important to mention this here. If your significant other has ever physically hurt you or you them, that is an incredibly toxic environment. In a healthy relationship, we should be comfortable being vulnerable with our partner without fear of being abused. If your partner hurts you, that is a huge breech of trust. And what is a relationship without a foundation of trust?
Everyone has their own reasons for staying with someone who has physically abused them (for instance, it may not be safe for them to leave at that time). It’s important to tread carefully in these situations, as things can escalate fairly quickly. Know the situation you’re in and that it’s toxic. Make a plan so that you can safely take care of yourself in whatever way is right for you. In an emergency, call 911 for your local police services.
What can you do about it?
If you think you know of someone who may be in a toxic relationship, it’s important to understand what they’re going through. Whether it’s a friend or a family member, this person, regardless of the situation, has feelings for their suspected abusive partner. Many people in toxic relationships justify pretty much anything their partner says or does (again, speaking from experience).
The more you tell them to leave that person or you talk badly about them, the more they will cling to them and the more distant they will become from you. For this reason, the subject needs to be maneuvered carefully. Let them know that you’re there for them. You can tell them that verbally, or just show them by listening to their struggles, being there for them during the hard times, and being gentle with them. The better friend you are, the more likely they’ll be open to listening to your genuinely caring thoughts.
If you are someone who has realized that your relationship is toxic, first of all, congratulations! It takes a lot of courage and reflection to come to that realization. Many people in your situation have clouded judgment from their feelings. Now you need to decide what you’re going to do about it.
Many people would tell you to just leave the relationship. In the end, this may be your best bet. However, it may be worthwhile talking to your partner first if it’s safe to do so. It’s possible that they don’t realize how their actions are affecting you (depending on exactly what those actions are). If the two of you can come to an agreement that both parties are happy with, maybe you can stick it out for a little while longer to see if anything changes. Or it may just be time to move on. That’s something that you need to decide on your own.
Thank you so much for reading! What are your thoughts on how to handle a toxic relationship? Did I miss any important signs? Let me know in the comments! Also, you can get access to the FREE RESOURCE LIBRARY by signing up for the Sweet Success Society newsletter. With four wonderful contributors, you’re in for a huge variety of content and resources to help you live your most successful life, so I recommend you don’t miss out! Talk to you soon, xo.