Despite our good intentions, most people can admit to staying in a toxic relationship well beyond its expiration date. Few of us get out unscathed in life in that department. Especially when we get divorced. Often this relationship turns into something that has become increasingly unhealthy.
We often remain in these relationships for many reasons, which rarely have any value to them. We remain in them until, well, we don’t. However, when we adjust our glasses and begin to see things differently, we finally do see the ‘trees beyond the forest’ and understand the relationship for what it is and more importantly for what it’s not.
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,’ her truth prevailed and that relationship quickly ceased to exist. My marriage, exceedingly more toxic than the friendship ended with equal clarity, a packed jeep, motivated by fear, and unbridled determination. I slammed the door on that relationship.
Yes, valuable lessons were learned in both of my experiences: a greater understanding of myself and why I chose to stay in those relationships (but boy, can honesty be really painful sometimes), the meaning behind our innate intuition (listen to it!), the need to set healthy boundaries, and above all else, the importance of my value as a person.
5 Signs You’re in a Toxic Relationship
Yvette Bowlin, eloquently summed up what it means to be in a toxic relationship in her blog, 5 Signs You’re 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.” Inspired by Yvette’s list, I added a few things that I often see helping others tackle this problem.
If you have been in a toxic relationship, as you are reading these signs, you will undoubtedly be shaking your head up and down. If you are unsure, these signs will provide clarity.
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 and the relationship becomes uncomfortable. Ask yourself the following questions:
- 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. Furthermore, 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
Our ability to grow, change, and continue to evolve is a natural part of life, however toxic people feel threatened by this. Their negativity can insidiously sneak in and stifle your growth and desire to change, influence your decisions, and question your judgment. Because they’re unhealthy, they want a partner in crime. You. Learn to walk away.
Become aware of the signs of a toxic relationship. Listen to your intuition – that inner voice we all have (its there for a reason), which often steers us in the right direction. Take the time to listen to it. 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.
The core of a healthy relationship is open and honest communication. Trust and support. People are not critical, are able to manage their own problems, rely on one another in a productive and reciprocal way, and are rarely defensive or blaming. They know how to take responsibility for their behaviors.
Do you find yourself questioning your decisions? Are you neglecting what’s important to you? Are you forsaking your values for another? Hit the pause button and take a moment to think about your relationships. Are they toxic or healthy?
As a Clinical Psychologist, Divorce Mediator, and Relationship Expert, I help individuals and couples find their voice, create the conversation, and improve their life as they tackle difficult, thorny, and challenging relationship issues. My passion for my work, regardless of my role, remains unwavering.