Many of us can tend to see the best in people. This is how everyday folks can end up completely confused at how they have ended up in a toxic relationship when they only ever had the best of intentions.
Toxic relationships are usually marked by red flags very early on in the piece but if your glasses are more rose-tinted than clear, it’s likely you will ignore the signs and spend more time justifying to yourself and others why this person isn’t who they are making themselves out to be.
It’s important to mention that while it’s normal for relationships to go through both hard times and good - toxic relationships are different in that they significantly take a toll on a person’s physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional health and have a detrimental effect on a person’s self-esteem.
If you are unsure about whether you are in an unhealthy relationship, read through these 6 signs and take a moment to sense if these signs characterise your relationship.
Signs of a toxic relationship:
1. The behaviour of one or both people can be emotionally or psychologically manipulative. This could look like a person saying they can’t live without you, or them starting to bring down your relationships with people close to you in your life. It could be that they trick you, by setting up a certain situation and then getting jealous and taking it out on you.
2. You start to become isolated. As the emotionally manipulative behaviour starts to work, usually the person in the relationship who has the best intentions will start to subconsciously back away from that which brings them joy, so as not to rob joy from the other person. This leads us to the next point:
3. The relationship is one-sided. Are you always doing the ‘heavy lifting? This could look like always trying to fix or patch up problems or consoling the other person and trying to make things right again. Healthy relationships are a two-way street, with each person leaning on the other from time to time in stressful times, yet also knowing that each of them is responsible for their own lives, happiness, and healing.
3. Feeling like you must hide things from your partner or walk on eggshells around them. In a relationship, it’s important that you have a dynamic where you can be yourself, and that you are both accepted and celebrated for who you are. That’s not to say that it’s not okay to be annoyed at each other and frustrated from time to time, but genuine love and affection and acceptance are the crux of healthy connections.
5. Disrespectful behaviour. This can include behaviours such as put-downs, bullying, being controlling, abuse and jealousy. There is no excuse for being treated in these ways.
6. Unhealthy communication patterns. This could look like resorting to name-calling, stonewalling, or being defensive any time an issue is brought to the table. Another commonly heard term for unhealthy communication is gas lighting - where one person’s experience is denied and invalidated which makes them question their reality. An example of this would be if one person expresses to their partner that their behaviour scares them. The partner responds with, “talking like this is normal, you’re just not used to it and you’re way too sensitive.” Good, healthy communication feels safe and involves listening, sharing, and being open to hearing other points of view.
While leaving an unhealthy relationship can be incredibly challenging, over time it is possible to become the person you once were, perhaps becoming even stronger and happier than you could have imagined.
Preparing to leave, or leaving a toxic relationship requires strength. This can be found by surrounding yourself with a robust support system, from friends to colleagues, to professional help and or family members. Take the time to heal and take note of the following tips to avoid getting into an unhealthy relationship again:
Trust your gut and act on your instincts.
Know your worth. This will allow you to choose yourself over other people when their behaviour starts to undermine the amazing person that you are. Expect to be treated with respect, (and vice versa).
Do their actions measure up to their words? This is a straightforward, surefire way of finding out if someone has integrity.
Observe how a person talks about their ex-partners, if it is derogatory, this is a red flag.
Choose to enter relationships only with those who are equally committed to you. If they are not committed, this will be a painful path of ups and downs for you to navigate.
Bree Nicholls is the founder of The Being Way, a unique coaching method that combines Coaching, Therapy and Mindfulness. She works 1:1 with clients, and runs a Coaching Training course, teaching the Being Way method. Her next 10-week Life Coach Training Course runs across Oct-Dec, 2022.