‘Look at you, you are disgusting, why would anyone else want you?’ Sound familiar? If it is something you can imagine your partner saying to you, you are part of a toxic relationship. Toxic relationships may not be something that is openly spoken about, but are sadly very common in today’s society. Most of the time it is difficult to recognise just how much of a negative impact a relationship has had on you until you have distanced yourself from the situation, and looked at it from an outsider’s perspective. The first step in dealing with a toxic relationship is recognising the signs. Dr Lillian Glass author of ‘Toxic People’ defines a toxic person as “anyone who manages to drag you down, make you feel angry, worn out, deflated, belittled or confused.” Successful author and blogger for abundancetapestry.com Evelyn Lim also provides some insight into the characteristics of a toxic relationship. She describes them as being ‘extreme relationships, which involve some sort of overt control over the lives of the people involved; they can be manipulative, abusive and aggressive, causing the weaker person to feel as though their emotional and physical survival is in danger. Toxic people have a negative outlook on life; they refuse to take blame for their actions and like to make you feel guilty.’
Brett Blumenthal, successful author and blogger for sheerbalance.com, wrote that there are certain toxic personalities to watch out for. For instance: judgemental people can change your perspective on the world and make you more negative; in the same way that insincere people will not be there when you need them, as they see your bond as meaningless. She states how ‘all toxic personalities will continue their behaviour for as long as they can get away with it. They do not see their behaviour as wrong, so they will make you feel like the crazy one if you challenge them on it’. Natalia Avdeeva, blogger from LovePanky.com, supports this toxic personality theory by discussing how certain personality traits can affect how you feel about yourself. For example, demanding partners may expect the best from you and not return the favour, comparing you to other women all the time can also make you feel inadequate. Narcissistic partners, who make you feel like an accessory, will negatively impact your self-esteem. “He would always lie about where he was on a night out and then never answer his phone, I drove myself crazy wondering if he was with other women and if he was safe”, says 26 year old Lucy about her ex.
The second step in dealing with a toxic relationship is recognising your part in the problems facing your relationship. “My friends helped me to see that I was allowing my low self-esteem to create problems that were not necessarily there, I would always assume he was cheating because I didn’t feel like I measured up to all his ex-girlfriends”, says mum of two Angela. In order to feel complete in yourself, you have to objectively assess the pros and cons of staying with your partner. Are they ultimately going to help you grow as a person or hinder your progress in life? You need to look into your past to identify why it is you feel you deserve this type of toxic love, and reassure yourself that there is real love out there for you, in your future. Kelly McDaniel, author of Ready to Heal: Women Facing Love, Sex and Relationship Addiction, suggests “rest and solitude”, to give yourself time to heal and recuperate, from the damage that toxic relationship has caused you. It is ok to be single and spend some time figuring out who you are and what you want from your next relationship.
To survive a toxic relationship you must also set boundaries, and be strong enough to stick to them and leave if your partner oversteps them; because if you do not respect yourself, then why would he? Know your self-worth and believe that you do deserve to be treated with respect. When you show that you are secure and confident in yourself, you become more attractive to others; and will inspire them to want to live up to your high standards, in order to keep you in their lives. Joe Amoia, founder and creator of SmarterDatingForWomen.com, believes that women reluctant to leave a toxic relationship are not confused because of love, but fear. Fear that you will remain alone; fear of the unknown, caused by starting again; fear that you will never find the kind of relationship you desire, and so you settle for a relationship that makes you unhappy, and begin to rationalise the bad things as being not that bad, and convince yourself that things will get better. But inevitably, because your needs are not being satisfied, it will never work. In a healthy, mature relationship both parties should feel catered to, not just one. “I kept going back because of the strong connection I felt with him, but every time it would end I was left feeling broken and like I had to rebuild myself again”, says 30 year old Chloe about her ex husband.
What a lot of women need to realise, is that you cannot change your partner, trying to change them will only result in you changing yourself for the worse. The only way a person will change is if they want to do it for themselves, this is true of men and women. But you can control what you will and will not allow. Natalia Avdeeva stresses the importance of boundaries in a healthy relationship: ‘if you accept abuse whether physical or the verbal threat of abuse, your partner will feel power over you’; the longer you remain in an abusive relationship, the more dominance your partner will feel, and the less respect he will have for you. In the same way that cheaters will continue to be unfaithful if you continue to take them back and inadvertently allow their behaviour, as the respect is lost. Toxic relationships are not only detrimental to your emotional well-being, but can also affect your physical health: as long term studies have shown a link between negative relationships and the risk of developing heart problems.
If you do find yourself in a toxic relationship, that you do want to salvage, Evelyn Lim offers some tips on how to handle a negative relationship: Stand your ground and stick to your boundaries, without allowing your emotions to cloud your judgement on the situation; Feel secure in your own skin and do not allow anyone to change how you feel about yourself, or increase your insecurities; Pick your battles and try to focus on the positives rather than the negatives, so that you can remain objective and avoid on-going conflict; Communication is key, try not to lash out in anger, but voice your opinions clearly in order for you both to emphasise with each other’s feelings on the subject. Sherrie Bourg Carter, author of High Octane Women: How Super-achievers Can Avoid Burn-out, suggests addressing toxic behaviour as it occurs using ‘I’ statements to reduce the likelihood of a defensive reaction; as long as you feel it is safe to do so. Avoid feeding more negative energy into the relationship by telling everyone your business, too many opinions may confuse you, and cause you to deal with your partner in the wrong way. Remember every relationship is different, and only you know what really goes on behind closed doors. Finally, learn when it is best to just end a negative relationship and move on, as your personal happiness is the most important factor. If you feel that you need extra support to rebuild your self-esteem and gain the strength to leave a bad situation; there are outlets available, such as counsellors, helplines and online forums for people in similar circumstances. Try not to underestimate the ability of your friends and family to listen when you need them, and offer you support in the times you feel most alone. Life is too short for regrets.
Not sure if your relationship fits the criteria for a toxic relationship just yet, but you’re sick of the constant arguments? Here’s some advice on how to handle conflict so that you can both emerge stronger at the end.
Sometimes alone time is the best thing to clear your head and regain a sense of the you before it became we.