No matter which way you look at them, relationships are hard work sometimes. Whether these are friendships, intimate relationships or professional relationships, all relationships are likely to take a toll on you at some point. Sure, a little bickering here and there is normal and it’s completely expected that you’ll step on each other’s toes from time to time, but toxic relationships are something you should say a firm, hard “nope” to.
A toxic relationship is any relationship that is unfavourable to you. A toxic relationship will quickly depreciate your self-esteem, your happiness and the way you view the world. Many toxic relationships start out perfectly healthy, but when negative thoughts, feelings and encounters begin to override the positive aspects of the relationship, things become risky.
Toxic relationships can evolve easily and quickly, with even the strongest of people falling victim to them.
Contrary to popular belief, toxic relationships aren’t always made up of psychopaths or narcissists. Toxic relationships may simply be made up of good people with poor relations, thought patterns or standards.
If a relationship turns toxic, it’s unlikely that things will change. When things turn toxic, people move on, at least in an emotional sense. This is because the damage has been done. Sure, the damage hurts, but the worst part about it all? Things will only go further downhill if you stay. Fighting to hold on to something that is not fighting to hold onto you in return will cause nothing but heartache for you.
But what signs should you actually be looking out for?
This is a tough one, because toxic behaviour is not straightforward, nor linear. Toxic behaviour exists on a spectrum. All people and relationships experience toxicity sometimes, but that doesn’t necessarily make them toxic. Toxic relationships are defined by intensity, consistency and damage. Be mindful of these traits, as many are common within toxic relationships;
1. The relationship feels bad. All the time.
You wake up feeling bad and go to sleep in the exact same mindset. You compare yourself to other couples and feel the sting of not being able to relate to their happiness. You question yourself and feel as though you’re somehow to blame.
When you stay in a toxic relationship, your strength and confidence is drilled into the ground and swiftly buried. Once this happens, you’re stuck. You forget what it’s like to feel loved, secure and valued. You accept things the way they are because it’s easier than leaving.
Leaving a toxic relationship is by far one of the hardest things you will ever do, but if you’ve noticed yourself feeling this way within your own relationship, it’s time to seriously evaluate your situation.
2. You avoid speaking your mind.
Regardless of the type of relationship you’re in, there are always important needs. The most significant needs within relationships tend to be respect, validation, appreciation, affection and support. When these needs are ignored, disregarded or mocked, you’re soon met with a new kind of heartache - Emptiness.
When you begin to feel overlooked and undervalued when attempting to speak up, you’ll eventually stop trying altogether. After all, why would you?
If your attempts to talk about your needs are met with arguments, accusations, blame or anger, you’re already staring down the barrel of a loaded gun.
You always have the right to share how you feel.
3. You wait for the “Gotcha”.
You’re always waiting.
Everything becomes a trap. Questions turn into tools of manipulation “So, you’d rather go out with your friends than stay home with me?”.
Statements become tricks. “You sure seemed to enjoy looking at that guy on the beach.”
When the “Gotcha” hits, there’s no chance of redemption, despite not needing to redeem yourself to begin with. There’s no forgiveness or understanding, just the sly glory of “catching you out”. At this point, it’s impossible to move forward. Your apparent “mistakes” are used to make you look unfaithful, uninvested or just plain stupid.
This isn’t love. This is toxic.
4. “No” is a “No.”
In any aspect of life, “no” is an important word.
We often feel pressured to please others by agreeing to anything and everything, but your relationship is one place that you should never scrap “no” from your vocabulary.
While healthy relationships involve compromise, they also respect the wants and needs of both people. Communicating what you don’t want within your relationship is just as crucial as communicating what you do want.
Don’t be afraid to find your “no”. Stand behind it and back your decision to use it. A loving partner will understand and respect that you’re not going to agree with absolutely everything said and done within your relationship. If you find that your acceptance with your partner is largely based on your “yes”, it’s perhaps time to look at saying “no” to the relationship as a whole.
5. No matter your issue, they have it worse.
A healthy relationship means taking turns between being the supported and the supporter.
A toxic relationship will find you always acting as the supporter, with zero reciprocation being found on any level. Toxic people only focus on themselves.
You might be stuck in bed, sick with the flu and barely able to speak, but they’ll guilt trip you for not being able to make it to their mate’s party with them on the weekend.
Nope. Not okay. If you find yourself travelling to the ends of the Earth for your partner to receive nothing but guilt and animosity, it’s time to shut down the power imbalance and take back your worth.
If reading through those signs of toxic relationships has sparked your concerns or perhaps opened your eyes to some issues you may have been avoiding, now is the perfect chance to think things through.
There are plenty of reasons that people find themselves caught up in toxic relationships, none of which have anything to do with their strength, character or standards.
Sometimes, the toxicity of a relationship simply grows and blindsides you. By the time you realise what is happening, you’re in too deep. You feel stuck, trapped and unable to find the light at the end of the tunnel.
Remind yourself that toxicity doesn’t make sense. Ever.
While it’s important to make sacrifices in relationships, your happiness, self-esteem and self-respect should never be compromised. Healthy relationships nurture and replenish, they don’t diminish. Healthy relationships don’t suffocate you or make you question yourself.
Unfortunately, love and happiness don’t always go together. Love can be a dirty, sneaky little liar sometimes. But that doesn’t mean you’re deserving of this treatment. The terms and conditions of your relationship should never involve you losing yourself in the process.
Be mindful of the damage they are attempting, but most importantly? Be proactive.
You owe toxic people nothing, but you owe yourself everything.
Cassie is The Real Her Project’s resident Counsellor and each month will be providing you all a personalised blog dedicated to you overcoming some deeper mindset struggles. Cassie is passionate about helping the next generation reach their potential and has all the skills to assist you in overcoming some of the tougher situations in life that hold us back from chasing our dreams.