Thursday, 12 September 2013

Recognising a Toxic Relationship

Eight of Swords
You are in love, but all is not as it seems. Cracks begin to appear, but you are trying to ignore them, because mostly you're getting on well together.

Yet deep down you are anxiously waiting for Jekyll to turn into Hyde yet again, giving you days, sometimes even weeks of misery. When will it be? Tomorrow? Next week? Next month?

It's not easy to recognise a toxic relationship. It all starts very subtly, and the severity increases over time:
  • little tiffs become more common and start to intensify
  • sarcastic and cutting comments and remarks, e.g. changing from "you are so beautiful" to "you're getting fat"
  • no clear communication; avoiding to talk about issues
  • accusations, e.g. your tentative request to spend more time together is turned against you as " being controlling"
  • avoidance or refusal to show affection or be intimate (you may be accused of being demanding or selfish)
  • lack of trust and increased jealousy; again, you may be accused of being a liar, selfish and a manipulator (all based on paranoid assumptions and their own weaknesses)

Remember, a healthy relationship should make you feel nurtured, nourished, appreciated, valued, respected, loved and cherished.

But when it's slowly turning into a trap of negativity, it will make you feel low, depressed, sad, angry, fearful, lost, unhappy, unsupported, alone, losing self-worth and confidence, tired... pulling you slowly into a pit of doom.

When a relationship gets you down this way, then trust me, you need to get out, because you cannot change it.

But of course, it's not always easy to leave a relationship from one day to the next. Most likely you still love that person and hope things will change for the better. But believe me, there will be no change, because the person's personality traits, behaviour and habits are so deeply ingrained, they may even be unaware of it.

Even if they do realise, they find it almost impossible to make positive changes. At best, it will be constant hard work, not just for them but for you, too. In fact, mostly for you, because they actually don't care much, or just haven't got the energy to make the effort.

You'll be stuck in a loveless relationship that will make you feel as lonely as the sole survivor of a global disaster. Before that happens, you will need to learn that it is much better to be alone than trapped in a bad relationship, and overcome your fear of loneliness.

If you suspect to be in a toxic relationship, here are some tell-tale signs, some or many of which will apply:
  • they have had numerous previous relationships; some of which only lasted for a few weeks, others were just one-night stands, casual or friends with benefits
  • they like to blame others 
  • they are highly opinionated
  • they find easily fault with you, and they like to point out any weaknesses you have
  • they like to hog your attention
  • they keep discussing their problems with you, but in return cannot relate to you when you need to talk to them about yours
  • they lack empathy and are emotionally limited; don't expect them to love you unconditionally
  • they are selfish, always concerned with themselves and their own feelings, not yours
  • they like to project their own weaknesses on to you, e.g. when confronted about their increasing level of withdrawal from you, they accuse you in return of the same - very frustrating!
  • if you don't do things their way, they become cold, withholding or even punishing (they will do something they know will annoy or even hurt you)
  • they always complain about how others treat them; it seems like the whole world is against them
  • they always want to have the upper hand, the last word, power and control
  • they tend to talk constantly, and you can't get a word in edgeways; you find yourself having to rudely interrupt to turn their monologue into a two-way conversation
  • if you challenge them, they are highly defensive and refuse to talk further, giving you the silent treatment
  • they are self-absorbed, e.g. they can be surfing the net for hours or playing games on their phone completely ignoring you
  • they don't have any genuine friends, just acquaintances or associates
  • they aren't that sociable either
  • they had an unhappy childhood, or where brought up in a dysfunctional family with little guidance and inadequate role models
  • you feel like you're putting a lot of effort into the relationship with very little return
  • eventually they will blame you for the break-up of the relationship

Living with a person like this can drain the life out of you; it's not surprising that they are also known as emotional vampires.

If you happen to be involved with such a person, you may hesitate to end the relationship, because you still have hope that it can work out.

My tip: It is best to end the relationship, when you know you have tried everything, and you can do no more, so you may still have some work to do before you are ready to detach yourself.

What you can try before you let go:

  • Set clear boundaries what is and what isn't acceptable. By all means be tolerant of minor issues, but being ignored for days or cheated on as a punishment demands zero tolerance. 
  • Communicate your boundaries clearly and don't be afraid to speak out
  • Stand your ground. If you keep holding back, it is likely out of fear, perhaps from another cutting remark or accusation. You might avoid a nasty argument, but in the long-term that doesn't make you feel better or help your relationship. Facing a confrontation will help you express your feelings and also realise where you stand. It will help you make a decision about the relationship.
  • Set a time limit for when you know you need to call it a day. A deadline (pardon the pun ;)) often helps to stay focused rather than drifting in the status quo indefinitely. At least you can take stock and revise it, if you need more time. 
  • Practice self-care to stay confident and positive. Nothing can knock your self-esteem and self-worth as much as a toxic relationship. It's so easy to fall into the trap of feeling worthless, ugly, unlovable, demeaned and put down. Avoid binging on food (especially carbs) and succumbing to your depressive mood. Instead, exercise regularly, go for massages, wear nice clothes, and don't forget to seek out the presence of positive people, especially family and friends, who support you.

It's still painful to make that break, but by giving it at least a good try, you are unlikely to look back wondering if you have made a rash decision. Actually, chances are high, you were very patient. Some people are stuck in this kind of relationship for many years.

It may take you several attempts to break out. Perhaps you will be lured back with seeming regret and promises of change only to find that good intentions were only short-lived. You may even experience some happy time for a number of weeks or even months before the Jekyll/Hyde scenario repeats itself.

Keep reminding yourself of the kind of relationship you truly want and deserve, and one day you will no longer be fooled.

Getting out of a toxic relationship
Take your time, dearest, until you are ready. Be always kind to yourself while you are trying to get out, even when you feel crappy afterwards thinking what the hell took you so long to leave.

Don't ever blame yourself; all you did was love that person with all your heart, and you wanted it to work out. That is not a weakness.

And it's not entirely the other person's fault either. Make peace quickly; forgive them. They have their reasons why they are the way they are, and they have their own crosses to bear. Avoid lasting resentment and bitterness.

And when you are ready to meet someone new, don't close your heart based on your experience.

Keep your faith that there are many kind and loving people out there, who you can be happy with.

Warmest wishes,


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  1. Thank you for sharing. I totally relate to the experience of being in a toxic situation and the importance of practicing extreme forgiveness and self care.


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