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Being in quarantine with our partner can tell us a lot about them and the nature of the relationship.
While some are viewing this alone time with their significant other optimistically, it can also be blinding to the toxicity of the relationship. Social distancing makes it more difficult than ever to escape these relationships. If you find yourself suffering in a relationship or feeling like your needs are not considered, try asking yourself these questions:
Do you like this person?
Are they good for you?
Do they bring out the good in you?
Do you find you generally feel positive in their presence?
Is there more compassion than criticism?
If you cannot answer yes to all (or most) of these questions, the odds are that your relationship is toxic. You may wonder, how can my relationship be toxic? I thought toxic meant physically and verbally abusive.
While physical and verbal abuse are ace-in-the-hole indicators, there are still many other ways that toxicity manifests in relationships:
1. The other person makes you feel bad.
In a toxic relationship, the other person is a source of negative feelings about yourself. The way they may make you feel guilty, uncomfortable, and inadequate. Perhaps they keep score and bombard you with retellings of your failures and mistakes. Or they may relentlessly dig into what they see as your flaws. In a healthy relationship, the other person will strive to be compassionate, even about flaws.
2. The other person’s needs are always prioritized.
The core of a healthy relationship is having a “give and take.” No two people will ever be perfectly matched, so there must be a compromise. There is a consideration for one another’s dreams and a desire to help each other accomplish those dreams in a healthy relationship. However, in a toxic relationship, a healthy compromise is rare. Needs and wants are often ignored or, even worse, mocked. Resistance in meeting their needs can result in them becoming intolerable. They may fight, sulk, or make passive-aggressive comments until they have worn you down to give up your needs and only consider theirs.
3. The other person is always trying to one-up you.
“One-upmanship” is not a good look on anyone. With a stranger, it’s easy to roll your eyes. But in a toxic relationship, one-upmanship can become cruel. It doesn’t matter if your experience is positive or negative. If you’re having a hard time at work, the other person will insist that their job is worse. If you receive praise for something you’ve done, the other person will insist they did the same thing better in the past. No matter the situation, they have to prove it’s more extreme for them.
4. You don’t like yourself anymore.
As a toxic relationship progresses, you lose things. Confidence. Independence. Self-esteem. As a result of the negativity surrounding your relationship, you struggle to like yourself the way you once did. The negative messages and emotions have seeped into your self-image.
5. Because you don’t like yourself, you stop being yourself.
Lack of self-esteem can drive you to stop expressing yourself and asking for your needs to be met, especially around the other person. You may conceal parts of your personality. Things you used to like (and if you’re honest, still do like) stop getting discussed. You may even hide or discard objects associated with your hobbies and passions. Things you once found enjoyment in and shared freely with others are rendered invisible.
6. Your communication is broken.
In a toxic relationship, communication is rarely about mutual understanding. Ellie Lisitsa of the Gottman Relationship Blog details the “four horsemen” of dangerous communication patterns: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.
>> Criticism becomes toxic when it is pervasive and done to cause harm as opposed to helping.
>> Contempt is when someone belittles or mocks another. It belies pervasive negative thinking toward the other person.
>> Defensiveness is when someone always has an excuse. Often the excuse involves redirecting blame.
>> Stonewalling is the absence of communication. It’s when one or both parties completely refuse to talk and listen, or emotionally withdraws.
If these patterns define your communication with the other person, the relationship has grown toxic.
7. You have lost your privacy and control.
In a toxic relationship, your privacy often gets invaded. You may have to check-in frequently, prove where you are, or let the other person vet your friends and schedule. Hand in hand with these privacy invasions are other forms of control. The other person may dictate your appearance or diet. More subtly, they may attempt control through backhanded compliments and manipulation. In the end, you’ve lost freedom of self-expression and self-thought.
Toxic relationships are painful and can have devastating effects on your life. Fortunately, if you find yourself in a toxic relationship, those effects don’t have to be long-term. Seek social support and therapy to provide healing and guidance on ending a toxic relationship.
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