You come home, tired from work and all you want to do is take a nice hot shower and get in bed.
The door unlocks and you feel your muscles tense up. Instead of feeling the sweet relief you used to feel even a couple of months ago, dread creeps in from a dark place and anxiety teases your thoughts.
“What mood is s/he in? Will s/he begin shouting right now? Have I already done something silly? Maybe I forgot reply to his/her last message. Maybe I am being quiet for too long. Should I speak now? Will it annoy him/her? Oh no s/he looks really pissed…it’s all my fault”
Sadly, it’s not the monologue from a short filmed that bombed. It is what every man/woman in a toxic relationship goes through in their own way. What begins as self-doubt, denial, and anxiety, turns into self-blame, lack of confidence and fear. Toxic relationships are not myths concocted by writers for the occasional Cosmo. They are real. They are everywhere. And YOU might be in one!
It’s time to re-evaluate.
What defines a toxic relationship?
Dr Lillian Glass defines a toxic relationship as one that has no mutual support. In a toxic relationship one person looks to undermine the other during conflicts. There’s competition and disrespect. A toxic relationship lacks togetherness.
Everyone has had a fight with their best friends. Almost everyone has seen their parents or grandparents fight. It’s clear that every relationship has its ups and downs, so judging it when it’s going through a rough patch would be unfair.
However, if you are struggling to remember the last happy moment you guys spent together. Or, if you are feeling consistently drained, questioned, belittled, ridiculed and criticized, then you may be in a toxic relationship.
According to Dr Kristen Fuller, toxic relationships are mentally, psychologically and even physically damaging. Contrary to popular belief, these relationships don’t have to be romantic. They can be familial, friendly or/and professional relationships as well.
Physical damage may not last a lifetime for the lucky ones, but psychological damage can be difficult to overcome. Thousands of men and women across the world struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after coming out of abusive relationships.
When is it time to leave?
If you find yourself in a toxic relationship, you are the best person to decide when it’s time to leave.
We can only tell you some signs that define a classic toxic relationship. In case you see these signs in your friendly, familial, professional or/and romantic relationship, it may be time to reconsider it.
1. You are walking on eggshells
According to Andrea Bonior, PhD, the first sign of a toxic relationship is that you are always on the edge. You are afraid of making one mistake that will set the other person off.
Sometimes, it can be as simple, yet as sad as not being able to share your thoughts, opinions or ideas because you are afraid of how your partner will react. While it doesn’t always entail physical violence, it may involve emotional abuse, unprovoked anger, slew of insults and verbal threats.
2. You feel physically ill around your partner
It is indeed sad that the presence of the person you once loved and respected makes you feel nauseous, or uneasy, but repeated emotional trauma from him/her can have this effect on your body.
According to Sofia Milan, relationship expert, new signs like ulcers, vomiting, heartburn, indigestion, passing out, chest pain, hives (skin flaring up), or hair falling out are all possible due to the excessive emotional trauma caused by some abusive relationships. It might sound bizarre but physical symptoms are not uncommon effects of toxic relationships.
3. You feel the need to hide/lie
You may feel that the truth will make things worse. The truth might infuriate the person no matter how benign it is. So you hide small matters and then you worry about him/her finding out.
Lying out of fear is not uncommon either. You may be too tired of all the yelling, drama and emotional blackmailing. The next time you are about to hide a detail or cook up a lie, ask yourself if it’s healthy for your mental wellbeing. If necessary, reach out to a friend or family member you trust for support.
4. There’s a lot of stonewalling
Either you or your partner refuse to talk about the serious matters in life – not ordering Pad Thai or watching Stranger Things on Netflix. We are talking about the serious stuff – renting an apartment together, going on vacations together, having a baby or not having one, adopting a pet.
Well, if you haven’t been truly communicating, then what’s even the point of having a relationship? A relationship should provide you with the safe space where you can unwind, be yourself, make fun of each other’s favourite bands and yet find the time to plan a future together.
5. You are keeping score
Whether it’s a fight or someone making a booboo, you are always trying to one-up the other. A relationship isn’t a competition. If you find your significant other always trying to bring up past mistakes to justify their sucky behaviour, then you are in the wrong kind of relationship my friend!
Both of you need learn from past mistakes (no matter how big they are) and try to move forward towards a better future. Ginning up bitterness is definitely not the way to go about it.
6. You did not sign up for this
When a romantic relationship just begins, the two people involved are too engrossed in exploring each other. Love trumps everything else, including the issues that may surface in the future.
We often forget that life isn’t a Disney movie and we are in a relationship with a real person. And what does every human have? Flaws! Well, if you feel like you didn’t sign up for this, first, consider why you are feeling this way.
It may be physical incompatibility, or differences in long-term plans, or simply different life values. If that’s the case, you may think about breaking it off mutually.
However, is it because s/he is suffocating you? Does s/he want all your time? Are you having to give up personal time, time with friends, family, and pets because of him/her? Is he forcing you to change your hobbies and lifestyle? If that’s the case, it might be time to get out!
Fighting in any relationship is healthy! Arguing about thoughts, ideas and ideologies help in exchange on information and opinions. Through arguments we learn to acquire new perspectives, reconsider our ideas and grow as human beings.
Every relationship should have the safe space where two people get to argue, but still love each other and care for each other despite the differences in opinions. If you and your SO are constantly fighting and that has been causing you mental and physical distress for weeks or months, you should reconsider being in that relationship.
If you are scared that your SO or friend might hurt you physically, or emotionally abuse you further for your effort to break up, you should reach out to a professional relationship expert, or psychological counsellor, who can give you the emotional support you need.