Oh, toxic relationships. This is a biggie and a tough one. I’m not just talking about intimate relationships either, because toxic relationships exist within families, friendships, and at work. And being in any form of toxic relationship is a sure way to learn about boundaries. Most likely, that you have none! Or that maybe you’re struggling to enforce the boundaries you have set. It’s tough, trust me. For sure no judgment here.
Toxic relationships have this conflicting dynamic – this constant back and forth between love and hate. Although, hate is a strong word and not one that I use, but for the sake of this topic, we’ll go with it. And while we’re at it, here’s an ideal song for this love + hate dynamic.
By now, I’m sure it’s easy to tell that I’ve been in this situation before. I admit though, that it’s hard to put that toxic label on a relationship that also taught me so much. And that, my friends, is exactly how one gets sucked into this dynamic – because it becomes reallllly simple to justify all the bad with all the glimmers of good. I’m willing to bet that 9 times out of 10, it’s those small glimmers of good, along with the feelings of love that keep you stuck spinning in circles. And keeps you justifying that it’s okay to stay.Newsflash: it’s not okay.
The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them. – Maya Angelou
This quote. It’s everything. Please, please let it sink in.
I know it’s easy to have hope that someone will change –this goes for any relationship, not just a toxic one. But here’s the thing,they first need to acknowledge there is a problem with their behavior and treatment of you. Then they have to decide to change for themselves, by themselves. You cannot change someone, and you cannot expect someone to change for you, nor can you expect someone to change because of how much they say they love you.
Actions speak louder than words.
If you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship, the words they say to you are what you internalize. Their words have an incredibly negative impact on you. The person hurling these words at you – it’s their behavior, their actions. They ARE showing you who they are through their actions, by making the choice to say such things to you. So yes, they may say they love you, but their behavior and their actions are saying otherwise.
There is a message in the way a person treats you. Just listen.
I have always identified so much with words. And I’ve come to learn that words have tremendous power and can be so damaging. I remember going back and forth, up and down, and in repeated circles. Over and over and over again. And oftentimes for hours. It was exhausting, heartbreaking, damaging. The word soul-crushing also comes to mind. It hurt. I don’t know what else to say besides that – it hurt. In so many ways. And made me question everything I knew myself to be.
When you come across “red flags” in your relationship,pay attention. Don’t ignore the signs, because chances are, you’ll pay for it later. So, let’s talk about signs of toxic behavior + toxic relationships for a moment – those “red flags”, if you will.
- Their words don’t match their actions.
- They make you feel bad about yourself.
- They don’t trust you.
- They repeatedly bring up the same issues.
- They tell you they treat you how they do because they love you.
- They always believe they are right, so they dismiss what you say.
- They are inconsistent and contradictory. They love you and hate you – sometimes both within an hour’s time, maybe even less.
- You’re on edge because you never know what side you’re going to encounter.
- You think you can change them. Reminder: love someone for who they are NOW, not who you think they can be. Don’t fall in love with potential.
- You argue almost on the daily.
Bonus red flag: Your relationship feels like you’re on a constant emotional roller coaster.
Of course, this list is not at all exhaustive – trust, I can add several more. But, I also know everyone’s relationship is different. You may see things differently now than you will 2 or 3 months from now. I’ve been there. And this is also why I emphasize that it’s so important to acknowledge red flags. Any little thing that your intuition picks up on as a possible red flag is something to be alert about.
My friends, you may not like this, but here’s the real kicker – it takes two people to be in a toxic relationship. Yes, two. You and the other person. And all the blame is not on the other person. As bad as that sounds, I think it’s true. And trust me, I grappled with this idea, and I still do. What I do know is that, time and time again, I found myself asking or thinking why am I allowing this, why do I do this, why don’t I just stop, don’t even let it begin. And yet, downhill I went, right into the toxic pattern I’d become so used to. One of you have to stop the madness – to save the both of you. Put an end to the toxic cycle. Easy? Oh my word, no! No one MILLION times over. But I assure you, it’s possible – even if you stumble.
So, I would really love to write more on this topic – maybe they’ll be a part two in the future. We’ll see! This is such an intense, heavy topic with so much to be said. Anyway, for now, I’ll leave you with this.
The best apology is changed behavior.
Otherwise, it’s just another “I’m sorry” that no longer carries any meaning because it hasn’t been met with any real change. And let me tell you, repeatedly hearing “I’m sorry, it won’t happen again” followed by it HAPPENING AGAIN, is extremely exhausting, disappointing, and hurtful.
Walk away. And when you stumble, try again. And most importantly, ask for help from someone you trust. Be well, loves.