- Sheryll Prabhakar Rayan
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Toxic Relationship- Identifying Signs and Dealing with it
What is a Toxic Relationship?
A toxic relationship contaminates your self-esteem, your happiness and the way you see yourself and the world. A toxic person will float through life, leaving behind a trail of broken hearts, broken relationships and broken people behind them, but toxic relationships don't necessarily end up that way. Relationships can start out as healthy, but bad feelings, bad history, or long-term unmet needs can fester, polluting the relationship and changing the people in it. It can happen easily and quickly, and it can happen to the strongest people.
Toxic behavior exists on a spectrum. All people and all relationships go through ungracious moments at some point or another – but that doesn't make them toxic. A toxic relationship is defined by its consistency, intensity and the amount of lasting damage.
Signs of a potentially toxic relationship:
Lack of Respect: When there is a lack of regard for the other person and their way of life, there is constant undermining and humiliation, indicating a lack of respect.
Excessive Control: It is the need to monitor and control every aspect of the other person's life, leaving no room for them to live their own life.
Insecurity and seeking constant reassurance: When someone is insecure to a point where they try to seek constant assurance, try to control and spend as much time as possible with you, it affects the quality and growth of the relationship, along with the well-being of both the individuals involved.
Abuse: Any relationship with any form of abuse (emotional/physical/psychological) is a red flag. Abuse in a relationship is a way of forcing control and manipulating the other partner into doing something against their will and is absolutely unacceptable.
Lack of Acceptance: If one of the partners feels the need to change, and is consciously criticized or humiliated for their individuality, there is a lack of acceptance from the other partner's end.
Lack of Equality: If one of the partners feels superior in comparison to the other and constantly imposes their ideology of a relationship, as they feel they know it better, there is a lack of equality in the relationship.
Dishonesty: Trust and truth are important factors that help to establish a strong foundation for your relationship. If any, or both, the partners involved are hiding facts, lying to each other, the relationship will be built on a shaky ground with devastating, damaging and long lasting negative impact on the course of the relationship.
Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where a person or group makes someone question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories. When it occurs in a relationship, partners experiencing gaslighting often feel confused, anxious, and unable to trust themselves.
Can the relationship be saved?
Many people assume that toxic relationships are doomed, but that isn't always the case. The deciding factor? Both partners must be willing to change and work out the relationship.
Here are a few other signs that you might be able to work things out -
Willingness to invest: You both display an attitude of openness and willingness to invest in making the relationship better.
Acceptance of responsibility: Recognizing the past behaviors that have harmed the relationship is vital on both ends. It reflects an interest in self-awareness and self-responsibility.
Shift from blaming to understanding: If you're both able to steer the conversation away from blaming and more toward understanding and learning, there may be a path forward.
Openness to outside help: This is a big one. Sometimes, you might need help to get things back on track, either through individual or couples counseling. This is especially the case, given that most toxic relationships often occur as a result of long-standing issues in the current relationship, or as a result of unaddressed issues from prior relationships.
Moving on from the past: Sure, part of repairing the relationship will likely involve addressing past events. But this shouldn't be the sole focus of your relationship moving forward. Resist the temptation to constantly refer back to negative scenarios.
View your partner with compassion: When you find yourself wanting to blame your partner for all the problems in the relationship, try taking a step back and looking at the potential motivators behind their behavior: Have they been going through a hard time at work? Was there some family drama weighing heavily on their mind? These aren't excuses for bad behavior, but they can help you come to a better understanding of where your partner's coming from.
Start therapy: An openness to therapy can be a good sign that things are mendable. Actually following through on this can be key to helping the relationship move forward. While couples counseling is a good starting point, individual therapy can be as helpful as well.
Find support: Regardless of whether you decide to try therapy, look for other support opportunities. Maybe this involves talking to a close friend or joining a local support group for couples or partners dealing with specific issues in their relationship, such as infidelity or substance abuse.
Practice healthy communication: Pay close attention to how you talk to each other as you mend things. Be gentle with each other. Avoid sarcasm or mild jabs, at least for the time being. Also focus on using “I” statements, especially when talking about relationship issues. For example, instead of saying “You don't listen to what I'm saying,” you could say “I feel like you aren't listening to me when you take out your phone while I'm talking.”
Be accountable: Both partners must acknowledge their part in fostering the toxicity. This means identifying and taking responsibility for your own actions in the relationship. It's also about being present and engaged during difficult conversations.
Heal individually: It's important for each of you to individually determine what you need from the relationship and where your boundaries lie. Even if you feel like you already know what your needs and boundaries are, it's worth revisiting them. The process of rebuilding a damaged relationship offers a good opportunity to reevaluate how you feel about certain elements of the relationship.
Hold space for the other's change: Remember, things won't change overnight. Over the coming months, work together on being flexible and patient with each other as you grow.
And if you feel all the negative still persists, know that you can find the strength to walk out. Love should never cost you your peace, your joy, your happiness. If there's more negative in the situation than positive, something has to change