As someone who’s been happily married for going on three years, it’s hard to think we were ever in a toxic relationship. But prior to COVID there was a time when we didn’t even want to be near each other. We lived in the same house, and that was it. Everything else was separate apart from dinner. And to be honest, I’m very lucky that Ryan still cared enough to support me during meal times during that time.
We were very much in hate with each other, wherein you love the person so much, but hate them at the same time. He had started spending more time at work to avoid me, and I was just riddled with mental illness, grief and trauma. And while I knew it was bad, it’s only now writing this article that I realise just how bad it was.
12 Signs you’re in a toxic relationship.
Toxic or lack of communication.
A healthy relationship is filled with mutual meaningful and supportive conversation. Of course, it’s not unusual to have small ‘tiffs‘ or a raised word or two. But if your conversations are filled with nothing but ridicule, sarcasm and bitterness, then you could be in trouble. And things can be equally as bad if you’re not speaking at all.
I remember a time when Ryan and I would go days without talking to each other. And when we did, it was often sharp and, sometimes, terrifying. We would argue about the smallest things, and sadly these would often end in one of us leaving the premise.
Looking back, I’m in no doubt that we were stuck in a cycle of mutual abuse, and I’m so fortunate that we were able to break away from that.
You feel worse when you’re with them.
When you love someone you want them to be with you. You don’t want to stay at work longer just to avoid them, or even sit in separate rooms of the house all the time. I know that while Ryan and I escape to our corners of the house to do our own thing, we still love to sit in bed together and watch television. It’s our way of winding down in the evening, and quite often we talk the whole way through until we drift to sleep.
But there was a time when the toxicity in our relationship meant Ryan stayed out more or that I would sleep on the couch. We didn’t even want to see each other, let alone spend time together.
A toxic relationship can also trick you into thinking you need to be with them. But, when you do, you feel down or insecure. It could be the words they’re saying or how they treat you when you’re together. Maybe you don’t know what it is, all you know is that when you’re with them for even a short period of time, you don’t feel like yourself.
You’ve lost other relationships.
If you’ve stopped spending time with friends and family outside your relationship, it could be a sign that things are array. Of course, there are perfectly normal explanations for this. It could be that you’re too busy with work or life, in general, has gotten in the way. But if you’re avoiding others out of fear of conflict in your relationship, then something’s not right. While it’s lovely to spend time with our partners, we can’t spend every waking moment with them. It’s healthy and recommended, that we maintain relationships outside our significant other so that we can experience the space we need to continue to grow.
There’s a lack of support.
Being in a healthy relationship means watching the other succeed in life with little to no jealousy. You want to see each other thrive, and in doing so it makes you happy also. Likewise, your partner should want to see you succeed too.
Problems arise when you or your partner no longer feel positive about supporting the other in their endeavours. Perhaps you’re shrouded in jealousy, or you simply no longer care? No matter, when they want and need to support your partner dwindles to nothing, it might be time to get out!
But support doesn’t stop there. It’s also about meeting each other’s needs, and I don’t just want in the bedroom. While it’s great to go along with what your partner wants, problems present themselves when it’s against your own wishes or comfort zone. Making you do something you don’t want to do or go somewhere you don’t want to go can be a sign of a lack of mutual understanding.
A prime example of this would be your partner planning to leave town with their friends over your birthday or anniversary. If you genuinely don’t mind, then that’s fair. But if you repeatedly stated that you had plans arranged for said dates, and they left regardless, this is a sheer lack of respect.
While this is nothing that I’ve dealt with on a personal level, I’ve experienced it in the course of friendship. And it feels like a real kick in the teeth.
Lack of self-care.
While stuck in a toxic relationship it’s not unusual to forgo your own self-care. This can include things like withdrawing from hobbies and external relationships, neglecting your health, and even giving up your free time. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but the most pressing could be that your partner is standing in your way.
This is possibly the scariest part of a toxic relationship, and I’ve personally been on both sides of this. I was once the controlling partner and I have also been controlled. While I’m self-aware and well enough to understand how toxic my own behaviour was, this doesn’t excuse my actions. Even though both my husband and I know it came from a place of mental illness, I still find myself cringing every time I think about it.
Controlling behaviour is one of the most common signs of a toxic relationship and presents itself in many ways. Perhaps your partner is overbearing in regard to where you’re going and who you’re with. Or it may be something simpler like getting irritated when you don’t respond to texts right away.
Quite often such behaviour can stem from jealousy, a lack of trust, low self-esteem within themselves or, simply, a need for constant control.
Envy is an ugly emotion, yet it’s something so many of us deal with. It’s perfectly natural, even if not welcome. But once it stops us from feeling positive about our partner and their experiences in life, things can take a nasty turn. If your partner constantly suspects you of cheating, then you may need to have a difficult conversation.
Dishonesty and lying.
This can go both ways. Things aren’t good if you’re constantly lying about where you’ve been or who you’ve been out with, even if it’s perfectly innocent, to avoid an argument. Likewise, if your partner is lying to you about their whereabouts. Both of these things are major red flags and need to be addressed if you plan on staying together.
A healthy relationship, romantic or otherwise, simply can’t be built on a foundation of lies. This only leads to mistrust and suspicion going forward, and no one wants that for the rest of their lives.
Your friends and family are expressing concern.
The ones we love will stop at nothing to protect us. And sometimes that also means protecting us from the person we fall in love with. There’s nothing worse than your friends or family disliking your significant other, and while this can sometimes be for the wrong reasons, for the most part, they’re often able to see things we can’t. When you fall in love your vision becomes blurred by ‘rose-tinted glasses.’ So we brush certain behaviours under the rug, feigning it off as nothing. And while we may be able to do that, luckily our friends and family can’t.
It’s perfectly natural to feel like you’re being attacked when your loved ones react this way. But it’s important to take a step back and assess the situation as a whole. Have they done this before when unwarranted? Do they react like this all the time? If not, then it’s reasonable to say that they just might be seeing something you can’t.
You’re under constant stress and feel like you’re walking on eggshells!
I can vow for my husband when I say that life prior to covid for us felt like we were constantly tip-toeing around each other. My life was in a very dark place, and because of that so was his. We lived together, and I had no friends outside him, and ultimately everything had become too much. Nothing felt right anymore and the little time we spent together was thick with toxicity. Looking back, I’m honestly surprised we survived, never mind thrived both during and post-COVID.
When you don’t feel happy in your own home or with the person you’re, apparently, going to spend the rest of your life with, things start to break down. Your mental and physical health can take a hit, and you can feel stuck in a hopeless situation. At least, that’s how my husband felt.
[Quote from ryan]
Always hoping things will change.
Staying in a toxic relationship purely in the hope of change isn’t uncommon. Quit often we stay because it’s familiar or we remember how much fun it was at the beginning. Some of us hope that if we just change this or that, or even ourselves then things will be better.
But like many other aspects of such relationships, our judgement is often clouded. We end up putting all our hopes in change that simply might never come.
You don’t feel positive or happy about your future.
Once you start dreading your future, things have gone too far. No one should ever fear their future with the one they love. Instead, you should be feeling excited, happy or even, simply, at peace with the life you both can have together.
You should be eagerly anticipating moving in together, having children, owning pets and even getting married. Not worrying about the next argument, or whether they’re going to cheat on you or not.
Can you think of any other signs you’re in a toxic relationship?
Ryan and I are fortunate that COVID happened and forced us both together in fear and isolation. Things changed so much that we said our vows in November of that year, and we’ve never looked back. Yet, it’s only after we have a disagreement, that I realise just how far we’ve come as a couple. Instead of it getting progressively worse, we’re able to talk it out. And if we’re not, we’re able to apologise and move past it within minutes. No one sleeps in the spare room or walks out. We get to communicate, sit with it and move forward in our way.