How to know when you are in a toxic relationship
Relationships are meant to be easy and comfortable and if nothing else you should feel physically, emotionally, mentally and psychologically safe within your relationships. We all wish that this is how all of our relationships will feel. In reality though, there are many of us who do not feel this sense of ease, comfort and security with some of the people with whom we are in relationship.
The reason for this is because sometimes we find ourselves in relationships with people who display destructive behaviours which directly affect us.
Because we are not well informed about different behavioural patterns and how they affect us, so many of us live our lives accepting anything and everything that is dished out to us in relationships. Whether it is personally or professionally, if you are feeling uneasy or unsafe in a relationship, there is something out of balance in that relationship that you need to take a closer look at.
So how do we know when we are in a healthy relationship or a toxic/destructive relationship?
The first thing you need to ask yourself is do I have personal boundaries in place with this person and am I enforcing these boundaries. Boundaries are simply the limits we set with people which indicates what we find acceptable and unacceptable in their behaviour towards us. The important thing to remember here is that boundaries are a personal set of limits. What’s acceptable to me may be unacceptable to you and that’s ok. Within each one of our relationships the other person should be respecting our boundaries and if they are not then this could potentially be a toxic relationship.
Deciding on your boundaries is one thing, but enforcing and holding them, often times proves to be quite a difficult thing to do. A lot of what we have learnt about boundaries or the lack thereof, has been modelled to us by care-givers, people we look up to, our parents and society while we were growing up. As adults though, we can make different, healthier choices within our relationship which are more aligned with our own personal values.
A healthy relationship is one where both parties are giving and taking the same amount of energy, time, support etc within the relationship. If you are feeling like you are always the giver and the other person is always the taker, this could be a red flag indicating that you could possibly be in a toxic relationship. People-pleasers will find that they are always at the giving end of a relationship with very little to no reciprocation from the other party. There is a myth that we have bought into which says making sure that others needs are met, even at the expense of your own self, is virtuous. We can only give with an open heart and without resentment if we are feeling seen, heard, appreciated and reciprocated in our relationships. Even the most virtuous giver will start resenting the taker if his/her’s needs are not being reciprocated within a relationship.
Asking for what we need and expecting reciprocation in our relationships does not make us bad people. If anything, it makes us better people because it diminishes the possibility of us becoming resentful and angry at the other person. Some of us project this resentment to the other person in passive aggressive ways which is our way of discharging the disappointment of not receiving in balance what we’ve been giving in that relationship. Make sure you are not depleting yourself with giving while others are happily taking and not even thinking about what it is that you need in the relationship.
We all know this type of people. The one’s who are always bringing drama into our lives. Their energy and their actions are always just one incident away from all hell breaking lose. In relationships like these we often find ourselves walking on eggshells around this person. We are over-cautious about what we say or do and sometimes we are even willing to lower our standards or overlook their behaviour to just ‘keep the peace”. People who are always surrounded with drama may have a certain degree of narcissitic tendencies because 99% of the time the drama is related to them not getting their way in certain situations. They have an inability to recognise others needs and are unwilling to take on other perspectives. Their perspectives and their way of doing things is always the right way and the only way. Anyone who does not agree or who challenges their perspective is de-valued and belittled or berated. Do not try and reason with them because this will make things worse and you will end up feeling like the bad one.
There is no relationship without it’s challenges and struggles. In every relationship their will be differences of opinions and there will be issues. When you are in a healthy relationship, the issues are addressed, a resolution is reached and everyone moves on without judgement and residual anger. In a toxic relationship nothing ever gets resolved and conflict inevitably ends up in an argument. The lack of trust and the lack of willingness to see another perspective results in a bigger argument and it becomes a perpetual cycle of conflict. People who display destructive and toxic behaviours do not have the capacity to hold space for another person to speak their truth. They are always on the ready to counter-attack and project their own stuff onto the other person.
Our intuition and our internal guidance system have a way of telling us when something does not feel right or do not add up. Too many lies (white lies included) erodes away at our trust in the other persons integrity and trustworthiness. We feel a sense of dis-ease and we know on some level that what we are being feed are lies. Sometimes, or maybe most times, we try to silence the voice of truth and knowing which screams out to us and other times we may feel so angry that we lash out in destructive ways ourselves. What we are experiencing is the breakdown of trust and even the most healthy and strong person will start feeling insecure and suspicious once this starts happening. If you start feeling as if you are acting in ways that are not naturally who you are as a person, chances are that you are in a toxic relationship and you need to examine why you are not trusting your own instincts and intuition.
We all deserve healthy, loving and connected relationships and we all deserve to be seen, heard and acknowledged in our relationships. Our relationships have been set up by us. Even though there are two people in every relationship, the only person who should take responsibility for being caught in a toxic relationship is you. Many of us don’t want to hear this. We would rather try and change the other person than face the truth. And what is the truth? You are responsible for your own experiences. If the behaviours of others are affecting you then examine those relationships and a make a matured call about how to deal with it. Sometimes it means letting go of toxic relationships completely, other times it means being brave and willing to enforce boundaries and limiting contact.
The only power you have is the power to choose something different for yourself. Trying to change others and trying to make them see how their destructive behaviours are affecting you, is draining and will result in more resentment.