What is a toxic partner? Unfortunately, unhealthy relationships are not so unusual in today’s day and age. They tend to be something that develops without a person realizing it, and then they can experience a whole mess of emotions that makes them feel trapped.
Because this is such a common topic, I wanted to write an in-depth article for you that will help you determine whether or not your relationship is toxic, explain why this happens, and provide you with concrete tools to help you exit a highly toxic relationship with grace and peace of mind.
There are solutions that are available to you, and it all starts with attaining more information. When you know what to look out for, analyzing the situation becomes considerably easier. When you feel like your head is swimming with questions and you’re in the dark, it comes as no surprise that you would feel paralyzed in the situation. But don’t worry, we got you.
Here at Happily Committed, we have made it our goal to provide you with all the tips and tools you need to coach yourself at home, even through the most difficult of situations.
Today’s article will go through all the elements at play in a toxic relationship so that by the time you finish reading, you will know what steps you need to take. You’re not alone in this, so let’s get started!
What makes a relationship toxic: The answer
There are a lot of details that make a relationship toxic, and it isn’t always easy to see when you’re in the thick of it. In fact, a lot of people feel like they’re stuck and that there is no way that they could ever get to the other side of this, but I want to tell you that it IS possible. You have all the tools you need, you just need to become aware of them.
Take my client Reina for example. She was in an eight-year relationship with a man that she referred to as “the love of her life.” Sadly, their relationship was incredibly toxic. This man would verbally abuse her, gaslight her and make her think that she was crazy, and he’d make her feel like she was utterly worthless.
Despite this, she felt glued to the relationship. They had spent such a long time together and she has invested so much time and energy into it, that she just couldn’t seem to let go. The hardest part, I remember her saying, was letting go of the potential she once saw in the relationship.
She knew that the relationship had transformed into something that was causing her to suffer, but she remembered how it was at the beginning and clung to that idea.
At this stage, her identity was rooted in this relationship and whenever he made her feel worthless, she was convinced that it was because she WAS worthless. When she first contacted us for one on one coaching, it was because she wanted to fix her relationship.
However, when she shared the details of her situation and her relationship, the extent of the toxicity became apparent and I had to tell her something that I don’t like to tell clients: that I could not help her stay with this man.
After a few weeks of reflection, she returned and said that she was ready for help with exiting her toxic relationship and getting back on her feet. I am so happy to say that today, Reina has transformed her life and after spending some time reconnecting with herself, she has found a love that is fulfilling, complete, and beautiful.
So my point here is that even when you’re feeling trapped and lost, there is a light at the end of the tunnel if you choose to move towards it! So to get started, let’s take a look at some of the key signs of a toxic boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse.
Toxic partner: The signs
There is an interesting thing about toxic relationships that can help explain the signs associated with them. A toxic relationship often has to do with adrenaline. When two people have a tense, strained relationship with extreme highs and lows, it can create a rush that can become addictive. It’s a strange concept, but think if it as a cyclical thing. Intense, eruptive fights are followed by passionate make-ups, and the emotions associated with the “making up” can get a person hooked. The problem, of course, is that you need to have a big fight in order to have that emotional make up… and this is one of the main causes of toxic relationships. The result is that despite what you might think, you aren’t addicted to your partner you’re addicted to the rush that the situation gives you.
This is often when I see people mistake toxicity for passion in a relationship. They think that the high highs and the low lows are a sign of passion and true love when in reality, they’re signs of a toxic relationship. Healthy relationships are created on a solid foundation where there are trust and balance… But more on that later.
Let’s look at what makes a relationship toxic.
The biggest examples of toxic relationships
A toxic relationship is one in which your boundaries are not being respected by your partner. It can also be a situation in which you aren’t respecting your partner’s boundaries. Remember, it only takes one person to make a relationship toxic! This includes violating or threatening one another’s privacy and speaking to each other in a way that makes you feel threatened emotionally and/or physically.
When it comes to the most common examples of toxic relationships, another one that I see all the time is when one person asks their partner to stop doing something that is hurting them, but their partner refuses to do so. The relationship is toxic if your partner ignores your cries for help or for change, and this is especially true if they try to gaslight you. Gaslighting someone is trying to make them feel crazy for expressing what they truly feel, and therefore wiggling out from underneath any responsibilities. Toxicity can also be seen when one person tries to control the other, and limits how they spend their time or who they spend it with. There are so many elements at play in toxic relationships, so it’s important to analyze the details of your specific situation.
So if you’re wondering, “Is my relationship toxic,” I encourage you to ask yourself these questions:
Does your partner constantly make you feel worse about yourself?
Does all the love and compromise ALWAYS come from you?
Do you feel like you’re always walking on eggshells but are blamed for everything anyway?
Are you two always threatening to leave each other?
In my experience, in the majority of cases, when a person was wondering if their relationship was toxic, it was because it was. Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t exceptions to the rule. In some other cases, a person can be blaming their partner for unresolved emotional trauma or because they aren’t where they want to be in life. So they take it out on their relationship. If you have a feeling that this might be the case for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or a member of my team for one on one guidance by clicking here.
How do I know if I’m in a toxic relationship: What to keep an eye out for
When it comes to identifying a toxic relationship, it’s extremely important to pay attention to your gut feeling. In addition to the points I went over above, like the feeling that all the compromise comes from you, you’re always walking on eggshells, you’re always being blamed for everything, and you’re always being made to feel small, there are a few more things to pay attention to.
A toxic relationship will have a profound impact on your self-love and your self-respect. A toxic partner will make you doubt yourself, your abilities, and your lovability. In the most extreme cases, this is a manipulative tactic that makes you feel like you have to rely on your toxic partner for validation. They’ll make you feel small and your sense of self-worth has been so broken down by them that they’re the only ones who could make you feel worthy. It becomes a cyclical thing that sends you straight into the arms of emotional dependency. Emotional dependency within a toxic relationship is very dangerous and it goes hand in hand with emotional abuse.
Emotional abuse is something very hard to recognize because it plays on our own self-doubt. The characteristics of it are being made to feel “less-than” in the relationship, like you’re 100% responsible for all the bad in this relationship, like you’re crazy for feeling the way that you genuinely do (gaslighting). It is when you’re constantly insulted or criticized. It is when your partner incessantly threatens to leave the relationship every time there is an argument. It is when your well being, safety, or security is threatened. It can also be seen when your character is being defamed to your friends and family.
Toxic partners: Why do people end up with them?
In my line of work, I have noticed that there is a common theme of people being addicted to emotionally abusive, or toxic relationships. As I began saying, a lot of people wind up in these situations and then don’t understand why they stay in these relationships. Many of them feel stupid or weak when they realize that they can’t figure out how to leave a toxic relationship. They know it seems like a no-brainer and that it’s obvious that they should leave, and then they feel bad about themselves for having a hard time exiting.
I want to explain why this happens because you might be experiencing the same thing right about now. If you can understand what’s going on, you will have an easier time letting go. It’s all about the adrenaline rush that I was discussing above. Fights followed by love, followed by fights, followed by love… It creates a rush that you get hooked on. Interestingly enough, many of our clients who succeed in leaving toxic relationships and settle into new, healthy relationships wind up feeling “bored.” This is because they had become addicted to the spikes in their emotions when they were in the toxic relationship, and they didn’t do the work to work through the trauma that came from experiencing this. It’s really important to work on creating a deep understanding that the tumultuousness of a toxic relationship was not “passion.” It IS possible to have a profoundly fulfilling relationship that doesn’t have to follow the spike and fall pattern of a toxic relationship, and we are here to help you achieve this.
Typically, toxicity in a relationship doesn’t tend to go away with time, it tends to get worse. If you are noticing toxic trends in the relationship, it’s important to leave before it gets worse. I know that many people subconsciously become attracted to the abuse because it makes them feel alive. So even if a relationship feels different with another person, it does not mean that it can’t be better than what you’re experiencing right now. It most certainly does not mean that you should return to a toxic relationship.
So, let’s take a look at how to exit a toxic relationship.
Ending it when you see toxic traits in a relationship
I want to explain to you how to leave a toxic relationship with dignity. The issue is that when you have a toxic relationship, there is no dignity or respect. In many cases, I see people breaking up and getting back together. Exiting a toxic relationship requires strength, and I know that it can be really hard to not want to hurt someone back who is hurting you. There is pride, ego, and a sense of wanting revenge, but to exit a toxic relationship with dignity and peace of mind, you have to rise above.
I know it’s hard. Hey, if this was easy then there would be way fewer toxic relationships out there.
So the first step was to define whether or not this relationship is toxic. Identify if you’re truly unhappy and want out. Next, don’t rush. Unless of course, you’re in a physically abusive relationship. In this case, the sooner you get out the better. When it comes to toxic relationships, I say not to rush because you need to collect the strength and prepare yourself to leave. There is no respect or dignity in these types of relationships, and it’s easy to break up and get back together all the time so we need to work on breaking this pattern once and for all. The more time you take to do this well, the more time you give yourself to prepare a plan, and to feel confident in your actions, the less likely you will be to go back and restart the cycle.
One of the best ways to leave a toxic relationship is to write your partner a letter. If they truly care about you, they will let you go and stop holding you down. If they are unwilling to let you go, then you do not answer in order to protect your dignity. The other option is to talk to them face to face. A good tool for this is to practice what you want to say in the mirror. You can coach yourself and prepare your speech. Just remember that the talk shouldn’t be more than 30 minutes because the longer time you spend doing this, the easier it is to doubt yourself and back out. Don’t be dramatic or theatrical either. It’s hard to leave any relationship, so make sure that you incorporate a good support system. Tell the people that you’re close to that you’re planning on doing this so that they can be there for you after.
You CAN leave a toxic relationship with grace and peace of mind
I know that this is one of the most challenging things you have had to go through in your life, but you are never stuck. Remember, the first step is to determine whether you’re seeing the true signs of a toxic relationship:
• Lack moral or ethical principles
• All the love, compromise comes from you
• Feel like you are walking on eggshells
• Yet you are always blamed for everything
• You are afraid to speak out or to be yourself
• Physical or verbal abuse
• You have no privacy
• Being cut off from your loved ones
• Impacting your self-love and self-respect
• If you are asking this question it probably means something is wrong
• It only takes one partner to make a relationship toxic
• Are you always threatening to leave each other?
• Does your partner constantly make you feel worse about yourself?
Then, you must make the decision to exit this toxic relationship so that you can welcome true happiness back into your life. Focus on self-love, self-care, and establishing a new dynamic for yourself. It is always helpful to seek help from professionals and as always, we are here to help you as well so please don’t hesitate to reach out. We understand how challenging this can be, but it is our goal to help you every step of the way. Join the Happily Committed Project and transform your love life starting today.
I sincerely wish you all the very best in life and love,
Your coach when you need to figure out how to handle a toxic relationship