It is not abnormal for misunderstandings to occur in a relationship. However, this should not distract one from legitimate causes of concern in one’s romantic life, that is, the signs that a relationship may have become, or always was toxic.
By definition, a toxic relationship is a relationship characterized by frequent behaviors on the part of the toxic partner that are emotionally and physically damaging to their partner. While a healthy relationship contributes to our self-esteem and emotional energy, a toxic relationship damages self-esteem and drains energy. A toxic relationship is characterized by insecurity, self-centeredness, dominance, violence, emotional abuse among others.
We risk our very being by staying in such a relationship. To say a toxic relationship is dysfunctional is, at best, an understatement.
All people and all relationships have flaws – but that doesn’t make them toxic. A toxic relationship is defined by the consistency, the intensity and the damage.
Here are some of the signs of a toxic relationship:
- It feels bad all the time:
In a toxic relationship, you fall asleep hollow and you wake up just as bad. Every day of the relationship makes you more depressed. You look at other couples doing their happy couple thing and you feel the sting. Why couldn’t that sort of love happen for you? It can, but first you have to clear the path for it to find you. Leaving a relationship is never easy, but staying for too long in a toxic relationship will make sure any strength, courage and confidence in you are eroded down to nothing.
- You avoid saying what you need because there’s just no point:
We all have important needs in relationships. Some of the big ones are connection, validation, appreciation, love, affection, and so on. When those needs are mocked or ignored, the emptiness of that unmet need will clamor like an old church bell. If your attempts to talk about what you need mostly end in a fight, another empty promise, accusations of neediness, insecurity or jealousy and you now either bury the need or resent that it keeps being overlooked, your relationship shows signs of a toxic one.
- There’s no effort:
Standing on a dance floor doesn’t make you a dancer and being physically present in a relationship doesn’t mean there is an investment being made in that relationship. Doing things separately sometimes is healthy, but as with all healthy things, too much is too much. Your relationship is most likely toxic when there is no effort to love you, spend time with you or share the things that are important to you with you. When the relationship stops giving and starts taking too much, when a point comes that the only way to respond to their – ‘Well I’m here, aren’t I?’ is, ‘Yeah. But maybe better if you weren’t’, it is toxic.
- All the work, love, compromise comes from you:
Nobody can hold a relationship together when they are the only one doing the work. It’s lonely and it’s exhausting. It might be time to let go of the fantasy that you can make things better if you try hard enough, work hard enough, say enough, do enough. Stop. Just stop. You are enough. You always have been, and the problem is not you.
- You’re always shown how wrong you are:
Being human simply means we are all bound to make mistakes. It’s how we learn, how we grow, and how we find out the people who don’t deserve us. Even the most loving, committed partners will do hurtful, stupid things sometimes.
When those things are brought up over and over, it will slowly kill even the healthiest relationship and keep the ‘guilty’ person small. At some point, there has to be a decision to move on or end it all. Having shots continually fired at you based on history is very manipulative and can be emotionally draining.
Healthy relationships nurture your strengths. Toxic ones focus on your weaknesses.
Love should never cost you your peace. It should never cost you your joy. It should never cost you your happiness. “If there’s more negative in the relationship than positive, maybe it’s time to let go.”
If you have however made the courageous decision that you need to get out of your toxic relationship, the first step may be to find healthy support. Remember: you don’t have to do it alone.
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