When you are in love, or deeply in lust, sometimes the world becomes rose-coloured. You place your loved one on such a high pedestal that your judgment is clouded. You ignore the red flags, and even make excuses for your partner’s bad behavior. Then before you know it, you’re smack dab in the middle of a toxic relationship.
Toxic relationships are just what they sound like: poisonous, noxious, and detrimental to your well-being. So why do we do it?
“The two big reasons I hear from clients are that they are afraid that they can’t do better or they are afraid of being alone,” Dr. Nicole McCance, a Toronto psychotherapist, says. However, often times we’re so far into our relationship that we can’t recognise the signs that it might be a toxic one. That’s why I recruited McCance to help point out the five warning signs of a toxic relationship.
You feel bad more than you feel good.
When you’re in a healthy relationship, you’re a happy dude. Sure, you and your girlfriend might have your share of quibbles, but you’re generally a content person. You trust each other. You feel good around each other.
On the other hand, “if the ratio of negative feelings in your day-to-day interactions with your partner outweigh the good ones, if you are suffering, if you feel like you are always doing something wrong in your partner’s eyes, or always fighting or recovering from your last fight, you may be in a toxic relationship,” says McCance. “Bottom line, if it causes you constant stress, it is an unhealthy relationship.”
You are hiding your relationship problems from your friends and family.
Everyone has his share of relationship problems. Couples fight and disagree. Men sleep on the couch for a night or two. That’s normal. Heck, sometimes fighting is healthy. But if you can’t open up to your bros, or even to your mom, about what’s going on at home in fear of facing their judgment of your relationship or your partner, then that’s a huge red flag.
“The fact that you are hiding aspects of your relationship indicates that there is a part of you that knows that you are in a toxic and unhealthy situation,” says McCance.
You stick around hoping your relationship will change.
Maybe there was a time when you and your girlfriend could sit through a “True Detective” marathon without fighting. Maybe you even used to laugh together, and not at each other (which you usually do now). If you find yourself longing for those “good old days,” you could be waiting for a long time. Another sign of a toxic relationship is when “you find yourself not facing the reality of your current situation but reminiscing about how it used to be really good,” says McCance. “This could be a sign of denial.” And nothing awesome ever comes out of that.
You avoid each other.
Newsflash: when you are in a healthy relationship, you actually enjoy your partner’s company. You look forward to your Netflix and Chill Fridays and Lazy Sundays together, and want to spend practically every waking minute with her. If you’re avoiding your girlfriend because you fight too much, or because you don’t actually want to see her, then, yeah, you’re in a toxic situation. “If you find peace when you are not together, this could be a sign that you might be happier alone,” says McCance. Something else to consider? “If you miss your partner when you are not with her, ask yourself if you miss her or just miss being with someone.”
You question, almost daily, why you are in the relationship.
A healthy relationship should make you feel empowered and secure. You’re able to be your authentic self and you feel fulfilled by your connection with your partner. Most importantly, you don’t doubt neither your or your lover’s commitment to the relationship – you’re all in. However, if the seesaw of your relationship is constantly weighing you down, and you find yourself wondering what on god’s green earth you’re still doing with this woman, then, Houston, you have a problem. In a toxic relationship, you will always find yourself asking whether you should stay or go, and that’s no bueno.
The Bottom Line
If you do find yourself in a toxic relationship, McCance advises to “talk to someone you trust. Get support. This will give you the strength to start healing and possibly leave. It’s also important to journal and document your arguments. When your partner is manipulative they can twist things and, before you know it, you may start questioning yourself. If you write everything down right after they happen, you can reference the facts later. Reviewing your journal will also help you see unhealthy patterns in the relationship.”
Brianne Hogan is a freelance writer based in Toronto, something of a humorist, and considers herself more Bridget Jones than Samantha Jones. Though she won’t reveal which parts, she will admit to liking emotionally unavailable men and drinking lots of wine. You can follow her on Twitter @briannehogan.