Many of us have or will be in toxic relationships at some point in our lives. Some of us without even realizing it. I believe the key to avoiding allowing most relationships to disintegrate is through open communication and learning the recognize the little tendencies that can grow into habits that create a toxic environment.
What Is a Toxic Relationship?
A lot of people think a toxic relationship is only a relationship where there is physical and/or verbal abuse, and while those are often indeed the most toxic relationships, the average toxic relationship may not be filled with yelling, screaming or violence all. Some of the most toxic relationships involve emotional abuse and manipulation.
In a toxic relationship, the romance, passion and even friendship that once made you happy is pretty much all disappeared and replaced with negative feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, resentment and disappointment. Of course we all know that relationships have their ups and downs and aren’t usually filled with sunshine and rainbows all the time, but there is a difference between toxic tendencies and allowing those tendencies to fester and ruin the relationship.
Toxic Tendencies to Watch Out For
In relationships, it’s healthy to have your own space and even take breaks from each other from time to time. Those times a part allow you to be your own individual person and even have your own experiences to talk to your partner about when you are together. They help us grow as individuals and even as a couple, but if you and your partner both prefer to do things without each other, sigh in relief when the other one is not home or can’t come to an event you both were invited to, it may not be a good sign. There is nothing wrong with looking forward to and enjoying a night out with the girls or the guys, but when you are looking forward to not seeing your significant other, it may be a sign that the relationship is headed for trouble.
Lack of Autonomy
With that said about mutual avoidance, it’s just as important that you don’t lose who you are while in the relationship. Some people are so eager to be a part of a relationship that they almost willingly give up their autonomy and therefore, their identity as an individual. They no longer are an “I”, but a “we”. Many people think it’s supposed to be that way. They stop being Jane and become Steven’s girlfriend, Steven’s wife and if they have kids they become mom or Asher’s mom. If the relationship fails or when the kids grow up and have their own lives, Jane may become depressed and feel lost because she no longer knows who she is as an individual.
You Tell Half Truths
Okay, so maybe you don’t consider yourself a liar, but you find yourself telling little half truths because it’s easier than telling the whole truth. Like you may say you went to the bar with Jane and Erin, but purposely leave out that John was also there, maybe because you know that will become a fight between you and your partner or that he’ll start asking more questions you don’t feel like answering. It may seem relatively innocent, but telling little white lies is definitely a sign that there may be a bigger issue that needs addressing.
You Can’t Do Anything Right
Your partner is always nagging or criticizing you. It’s a sign that your partner doesn’t appreciate you and in-turn can lead you to develop little toxic tendencies of your own that will only add to the overall toxic level of the relationship.
I once date someone who complained about how I washed the dishes, cleaned the kitchen or made the bed. It got to the point that I just stopped doing those things out of rebellion. What was the point of me doing it if it was never right. Eventually part of her argument became that I never washed the dishes, cleaned the bathroom or made the bed.
You Feel Malcontent
When you’re around your partner you feel unhappy, uncomfortable, anxious or like you’re walking on eggshells, then it’s a sign that you’re in a toxic relationship or one that is on a clear path to being one. Your partner should bring joy and happiness to your life, and like I said, there may be times when you two aren’t happy with each other, but that should be the exception and not the rule. You should never feel in a constant state of unhappiness or anxiousness around the person you’re supposed to be in a loving relationship with.
Jealousy and Envy
Your partner is jealous of your achievements instead of celebrating them with you, Instead of making you feel good, they try to bring you down. In one of my last relationships, I got promoted three times during our relationship nearly doubling my income whereas she didn’t. She would bring that up, not as a means to celebrate me, but in a way of throwing a pity party for herself in which instead of feeling good about my professional growth, I had to turn my attention to her and try to reassure her of her career.
He or she is constantly finding something to fight or be upset about. If you’re at the beach he or she complains that the sun is too bright, the water is too rough and the waves are too noisy. Some people can’t be happy for too long or they get bored so they constantly stir up drama. It may look like they’re upset, but it’s what makes them feel alive while it drives you crazy.
Living in the Past
Your partner is always bringing up the past. Past mistakes you made, past hurts you may have caused them. They never let you forget that one time you messed up. In a relationship where one partner sees themselves as a victim and wants to hold on to that title, it’s hard to see a promising future because no matter what great things you do in the present, they will always bring up the times you weren’t so great in the past.
I once dated someone who when we fought cursed me out like she hated me. I always always amazed and hurt at the level of filth that came spewing out of her mouth. On top of that, even when we weren’t fighting, we’d go out and she’d start drinking and openly flirt with other people. It was something I tried to ignore, but when it was brought to my attention by other people I realized just how disrespectful she was. If your partner disrespects you often and you have any respect for yourself, then those two realities will constantly clash and you definitely deserve to be with someone who respects you.
You’re Probably Part of the Problem
I have been in a few toxic relationships and eventually learned that I was part of the problem. I eventually learned that I was choosing partners who had certain character flaws and I myself, had a big character flaw called codependency. If I didn’t take time away for myself to address that issue, then I would continue choosing the same toxic people and having the same toxic relationships over and over again. It took a lot of self-discipline, introspection and learning about codependency for me to start trusting myself when it comes to dating again. I know what I am attracted to and I know what I am attracted to is not good for me. I had to learn to trust that I was good enough for healthy partners, not partners who needed saving or that I thought I could fix, help or change.
And that’s the thing, if we don’t find out what it is about us that chooses the type of people that we end up in these toxic relationships with, we’ll just recreate the same mess with someone else. There’s a saying that goes, “Wherever you go, there you are”, which to me means, you can change people, jobs, cities and even states, but if you don’t change what you need to change about yourself, you’ll just recreate the same environment over and over again.