Most of us can admit to remaining in a toxic relationship well beyond its expiration date. Few of us get out unscathed in life in that department. We often remain in these relationships for many reasons, which are rarely any good. Until we don’t. We eventually find that yes, we can see the trees beyond the forest and yes, we are able to see the relationship for what it is and more importantly for what it isn’t.
In writing this blog, I was reminded of two previous toxic relationships that overlapped in time, which feel like a lifetime ago for me - a friendship and a marriage. The friendship started when we bonded over intense doctoral demands and for each of us, an impending divorce. However, the friendship turned toxic when I was able to see the truth in her personality and how she treated others – condescending and often with a self righteous attitude. The opposite of my value system. As I slowly came out of my “divorce fog” as I refer to it, I quickly ended our friendship and moved on from my divorce. I learned a valuable lesson in both of these experiences. Introspection and distance provides invaluable clarity.
5 Signs You’re in a Toxic Relationship
As I was reading up on this popular topic, I came across a blog, 5 Signs You’re in a Toxic Relationship, by Yvette Bowlin, who eloquently summed up what it means to be in a toxic relationship. “Toxic” doesn’t only entail obvious damage like physical abuse, stealing, or name-calling. It also represents all the internal turmoil that results from an unhealthy relationship.”
Not only could I relate to many of these things, but felt compelled to share some of the things I have learned along the way not only from my own personal experiences but from those people whom I help.
1. It seems like you can’t do anything right.
The other person constantly puts you down as not good enough. They mock your personality, and you feel ashamed most of the time. You only feel pardoned when you take on the traits of the person doing the condemning or judging. Belittling makes you feel less than and takes away your power and inner strength.
When you are in agreement with the other person, the relationship is going well. When you disagree, relationship strife bubbles to the top. The relationship becomes uncomfortable.
Ask yourself, “Do you like this person?” “Are they good for you?” “Do they bring out the good in you?” “Do you find that you become more negative while in their presence?” “What are some of the feelings that you experience when around them?” Is there more criticism than compassion?” The answers to these questions are important and telling!
2. Everything is about them and never about you.
You have feelings, too, but the other person won’t hear them.You’re unable to have a two-sided conversation where your opinion is heard, considered and respected. Instead of acknowledging your feelings, they battle with you until they get the last word.
The toxic person seldom, if ever, asks about you and the conversation is one sided. If you do share, its momentary and they find a way to quickly return the conversation back to them.
3. You find yourself unable to enjoy good moments with this person.
Every day brings another challenge. It seems as though they are always raising gripes about you. Their attempt to control your behavior is an attempt to control your happiness.
Further, they focus on the negative to keep you in the same state that they are – unhappy and miserable though they would not admit that.
4. You’re uncomfortable being yourself around that person.
You don’t feel free to speak your mind. You have to put on a different face just to be accepted by that person. You realize you don’t even recognize yourself anymore, and neither do your closest friends and family.
5. You’re not allowed to grow and change.
Whenever you aim to grow and improve yourself, the other person responds with mockery and disbelief. There is no encouragement or support for your efforts. Instead, they keep you stuck in old judgments insisting that you will never be any different than you are now.
Set yourself free...
Being in a healthy relationship means you feel safe and at ease to be yourself. You can live your life with authenticity. Sharing your thoughts and feelings are acknowledged and embraced not ridiculed and left to make you feel uncomfortable. Open and honest communication is at the core. Healthy partners are trusting and supportive. They are less critical, are able to handle their own problems, are less defensive, and do not turn the conversation around and blame you when they are struggling. A balanced relationship.
Growth and change is part of life yet they feel threatened by your growth and your desire to improve yourself. Because they toxic people are negative, they seek to stifle your growth, question why you would want to change, and make you feel bad for wanting to improve. You might question your judgment. Don’t. It’s not about your being unhealthy, its about them being unhealthy.
Recognizing a toxic relationship often includes listening to your intuition, that “inner voice” that we all have, which often steers you in the right direction. You just need to take the time to listen to it. Do you find yourself questioning your decisions? Are you neglecting what’s important to you? Are you forsaking your values for another? This could be indicative of an unhealthy and toxic relationship. Are you in a toxic relationship?