No matter how experienced one may be in the world of relationships and dating, there is no guarantee that our experience will keep us from finding ourselves in a toxic relationship. What’s important to know is how to identify these types of relationships and how to either fix them or abandon them entirely.
Unfortunately, toxic relationships are not always immediately identifiable. Fights or negative behavior does not immediately deem your relationship as toxic, but the consistency and frequency of this behavior does. Even strong relationships can deteriorate over time and become toxic, whether that is due to history, not meeting one another’s needs, or poor communication skills leading to constant fighting. This can quickly change both partners for the worse.
While fixing a toxic relationship is possible, it’s very important to decide whether or not that is a good idea. A relationship that is truly toxic will likely not benefit much from one or both partners trying to fix it. There is a chance it was toxic from the start though both parties were blinded by attraction. However, the emotional turmoil that comes with a relationship turning sour is hard to recover from, and staying in one will only result in further damage as time goes on.
Know the most basic signs of a toxic relationship. This knowledge can protect you going forward and give you the tools to escape and/or avoid these situations in the future.
Red Flags of Toxic Partners:
They bring out the best or the worst in you – if you don’t like who you are being and how you are showing up with them (jealous, insecure, wilted or volatile) don’t expect that to improve.
They are dishonest – if you see them being dishonest with others, it’s only a matter of time before they will be with you. Many relationships have misunderstandings that can damage trust, but those can be overcome with clear communication and a true effort to do better. Lies are another matter. When you ask a direct question of your partner and they look you in the eye and confirm or deny with an untruth, be wary. Partners will almost always try to justify lying in a toxic relationship. This is a cowardly and lazy way out of taking responsibility.
They are manipulative – Emotional manipulation is when a person says and or does things in a way that leads you down a road of false beliefs and unnecessary suffering. They are seeking to create an outcome or convince you of a perspective for reasons which they hide from you. If you see them seeking to “get over” on others to benefit themselves, that’s a character flaw that will eventually undermine your relationship.
They are chronic complainers – if you hear them constantly picking at people and making disparaging comments, you are likely to become a target before long.
They break agreements – If your partner tells you that they will show up and doesn’t, with or without an understandable excuse, it creates disharmony and a lack of trust. When there are agreements in place that aren’t honored on more than the rare occasion, consider that a big red flag.
They are cheaters – if they cheated on a partner with you, or you know they cheated on an ex, they will almost certainly eventually cheat on you.
No matter which of these violations they engage in, toxic partners can be quite convincing when you start to question their behavior. They will tell you it’s no big deal and berate you for making it so. Keep in mind that often they will start with small lies or manipulations to see how you react. Are there consequences? Do you let things drop or even pretend nothing is happening?
If they sense that they can complain, lie, cheat or manipulate with impunity, they may move on to bigger and bolder indiscretions. Once trust is broken, however, it is very difficult to get it back. Someone who considers themselves a confident, trusting person may suddenly experience feelings of insecurity and jealousy. It is at this time that one should take a step back and look at the bigger picture, deciding whether or not it is worth staying in this relationship or moving on.
Toxic partners are not always so obvious. Below are a few less obvious things to watch for in your relationships.
Conversations within a toxic relationship typically follow an unhealthy pattern. Partners may accuse their significant others of mistreatment or neglect through passive aggressive comments and questions. For example, statements like, “You seemed to enjoy your time away from me tonight,” is both an accusation and an attempt to catch someone in a lie. One’s mistakes are suddenly considered core character flaws and reasons for why they may be to blame for hurt feelings..
A common downfall is one partner doing all of the work in the relationship. It is extremely debilitating and exhausting for one person to be thoughtful and make compromises only to get nothing in return. A common misconception is that if you give everything you have, you can fix your relationship. However, this sets up an imbalance that is unsustainable. No one should ever give more than what they are comfortable giving. Unless there is illness and caregiving needed, no one should feel that they are always taking care of the other.
Rather than acting as a team and accepting that each of you makes mistakes, a toxic relationship has a kind of scorecard for one or both partners. It may involve keeping track of those mistakes and constantly reminding each other of them. When past problems are continuously brought up, it berates the individual being targeted with the aim of undermining their sense of self worth. Being shamed and having your weaknesses constantly pointed out is a highly toxic behavior in a relationship.
Similarly, a toxic relationship may also include unhealthy comparisons of each other’s issues. For example, your partner claims that whatever you may be going through is not nearly as bad as what they are currently experiencing. A healthy relationship should involve continued support from both partners, and a genuine sense of understanding about the challenges each faces.
Healthy relationships often require sacrifice from both partners, but never at the cost of one’s self worth and well being. It is never worth spending your best years with someone who doesn’t value you. A truly loving relationship will not require constant or one-sided sacrifices. And it will not allow either party to be demeaned and devalued.
Know that you deserve to be honored and cherished in your romantic relationship. If you can’t get on the same page and commit to treating each other with the love and respect it takes to be in a functional and honest relationship, it may just be time for a change.