Toxic relationships are more common than you think, taking the form of friendships, romantic relationships with your husband or wife, girlfriend or boyfriend, and even family ties. The question is, however, how do you know that you’re in a toxic relationship?
There are no guidelines or pointers given to you when you enter a toxic relationship as it could seem perfectly normal for a lengthy period of time, however, eventually telltale signs will become clear. I have been in a few relationships – mainly friendships – that I realised overtime were incredibly toxic. Depending on how much I loved and cherished that person, sometimes it took years to realise what was going on, and other times it took weeks.
It’s safe to say that no one is perfect, and I am the first one to admit that I am the the furthest thing from perfect, but there are a number of attitudes, habits and problems that can stop a relationship from growing in a healthy manner. I am going to cover some of the habits, attitudes and problems I have encountered to help you see the signs and avoid staying in an unhealthy and toxic relationship:
You start to feel unworthy. I have started with this point because it is one that has affected me for quite a long time, and it is a form of emotional abuse. I was treated badly in a couple of my previous relationships that lead me to think that I was not worthy of being treated with kindness or worth loving – and it’s safe to say it is horrible to feel that way about yourself. When someone is putting you down all the time or telling you that you are not good enough – whether as a friend or romantically – it takes a huge toll on your mental health. However, my current relationship – that I have been in for nine years this year – has shown me that I am worth so much more.
You feel like they are controlling you. Has your friend, partner or family member told you that you are not allowed to talk or interact with a certain person? Are you not allowed to visit a certain place that you use to visit frequently since you entered your new relationship? These are both examples of someone trying to control you and your actions, isolating you until you are left with no choice other than to spend the majority of time with that person. Again, I have been in a romantic relationship where this became a big issue. Just because they did not drink, want to go out, or socialise with any of my friends, I was made to feel bad about my choices and ended up spending more and more time doing what they were interested instead.
They take advantage of you. You can be taken advantage of in a number of ways. Whether it is sexually, meaning that your partner feels the need to demand sexual acts from you whenever they feel fit and if you do not give in they threaten to leave you, whether it be that they borrow money that they fail to return, or whether they are blatantly lying to your about where they have been or who they have been with. Being taken advantage of is a red flag when it comes to realising that you are in a toxic relationship, as you should never ever feel bad about choosing to say ‘no’ or asking questions if you feel as if you are indeed being taken advantage of.
You are drowning in negativity. When a relationship becomes more about one person than the other, it is no longer an equal partnership between two people. Listening to each other and working through any problems you are encountering in your life together is one thing, but if you find yourself listening to only one side of the story there is something wrong. You can only listen to someone’s negativity or problems for so long before it starts to effect you, your life and your own moods. I found myself become increasingly negative when I was around certain friends, making me feel hopeless and down. It took my girlfriend telling me that she was worried about me and how I was feeling to pull myself away from that situation and start to feel better.
The above four points are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what signs you should be looking out for if you think your relationship is (or is turning) toxic. If you feel as if you can talk to that person without the situation escalating or before your relationship worsens, that is where you should start. If you don’t think that you can do that, or if you have tried and the situation only got worse, it is always better to walk away, whether that means you give each other space for a lengthy period of time, or walk away from your relationship all together.
This is an issue that will crop up throughout our lives, as we meet new people and form friendships or romantic relationships, but in order for the relationships to thrive and benefit all the parties involved, they have to be healthy.
If you are in a toxic or abusive relationship and need help, there are a number of people you can talk to. Do not wait until the last minute, you deserve better and to be treated with love and respect. If you need someone to talk to or someone to give you advice, here is a link to a number of safe and supportive people you can contact: www.southafrica.info.