You argue, and you argue more, and it feels like a roller-coaster experience. You are constantly anxious, full of contempt and anger, and there is no end. You feel that something is wrong, but you don’t know what.
You have a gut feeling that this relationship needs to end, but you can’t end it because there are moments when you feel like the most powerful and beautiful person in the world.
Does this sound familiar? You are not alone, I have been there too.
These are all signs of a toxic relationship, and it can do a lot of damage to our mental health.
How to deal with it and end the cycle? I will walk you through it based on my personal experience and with a lot of insight from Jillian Turecki’s podcast, a relationship coach I admire and whose work I follow.
1. Recognise the physical signs
First of all, a relationship greatly influences our entire system, and we cannot deny it. Luckily, there are clear psychological signs that you are dealing with something negatively impacting your mental health. You experience it in your body, and you have to trust it.
Some of the warning signs are:
- Digestive problems
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive fatigue
There are more of them, but these are the most common ones.
Listen to your body and believe your feelings. That’s the first step you need to take. You need to feel and accept that something is wrong.
2. Recognize the patterns
Who we decide to be with and how we decide to show up is probably the most important decision in our lives. — Jillian Turecki
Please remember that both people in a relationship can be toxic and do harm. Sometimes it’s not only them. Maybe it’s not your core, but if you are with someone manipulative and abusive, you can become the same to protect yourself. You are caught up in a vicious circle.
So how do you know if you are in an abusive relationship?
It’s not only physical violence, there can also be emotional violence or verbal violence. We manipulate, do things that are not our truth, and want to orchestrate the situation. If it’s done with the intent to do harm, that’s abuse.
There are many forms of verbal and emotional abuse.
Putting people down is verbal abuse. If they say, “Look at you, you are pathetic, you are fat…” that’s verbal abuse. Silent treatments, stonewalling, and gaslighting are also forms of emotional abuse.
Manipulating someone to cross sexual boundaries is also a form of abuse. They can say that they can’t be turned on anymore if you don’t do threesomes, for example, and push you into something you don’t want to do.
Gaslighting is when someone makes you question your reality with “I’ve never said that”, even when you clearly know what they said. It’s done with the intent to confuse the other person and manipulate them.
Abuse is when they want to get power in the relationship and power over you.
How to recognise it? After every conversation or when you are with them, you feel confused, question your reality, and are never sure about them. You also feel all the physical symptoms mentioned above.
3. How to understand why you’re stuck in this cycle
It is hard to accept, but the most important reason you are stuck in this cycle is low self-esteem and self-respect.
You are probably compassionate, full of understanding for other people, and always finding an excuse for someone who did something bad to you. But empathy without boundaries can be very problematic and get you into abusive and toxic relationships.
It’s nothing wrong with you if you are compassionate, it’s a beautiful and powerful thing, but you need to learn how to set boundaries for yourself and not let people hurt you. You can have compassion for someone from miles away. You can say, “I wish them the best, but stay away from me”, and set clear boundaries.
You must learn to respect, love, and trust yourself again. Easier said than done, I know, but there is a way.
Talk to a therapist, to someone you trust, work on yourself, and accept yourself for who you are.
Be compassionate to yourself as you are to others.
Another reason why you can get stuck in a toxic relationship is that they are usually more exciting than healthy ones. There is a lot of chemistry, everything is unpredictable, and they turn our life upside down. You lose your mind, and all your boundaries are thrown through a window. You are hungry for love, and it’s stronger than your standard.
But remember, not everyone we are physically attracted to is good for us, and we need to go for the ones who are.
Chemistry can be extremely unreliable and, at the same time, an extremely strong force.
What you were going through when you met your partner matters. It matters if you were going through a rough time, your life was unstable, and you had been single for a long time.
You probably felt dead inside, you met someone, and there is attraction, a spark. There is something new going on in your life. There is an adventure.
When our life lacks some meaning, and we meet someone new, even if something is not right, we don’t want to return to being alone. We all do that sometimes, but we must be aware of that.
4. How to end the cycle
And finally — how to get out of this painful cycle?
Here is the most important truth about toxic relationships by Jillian Turecki:
The person who is doing the most damage to our self-esteem is also the one who is making us feel like the most important person.
And that’s why it is extremely hard to break the cycle.
When things are bad, you feel out of control; when things are good, you feel in control and very significant to the person.
If you are in an abusive relationship, there is no other way than to get out of it. It’s hard and almost impossible to work and repair these relationships. You can try couples therapy if both of you are for it, but it takes a lot of willpower and time.
You really need to start working on yourself and learn how to become a person who won’t allow what happened to happen again.
Talking to someone who has some experience can help a lot. Part of the illusion is that we don’t see the other person clearly. We only see the good parts. A therapist can help you get a more realistic picture.
You need to have a clear picture of a healthy relationship, and here are some signs of it:
- You listen to one another; you don’t dismiss each other views.
- You honour each other perspective of life.
- You don’t manipulate each other or try to change them.
- You honour your partner’s boundaries.
- You accept them for who they are.
- You honour their feelings.
- You don’t intentionally hurt them.
- You never put down your partner.
- When you are not with your partner, you won’t do anything that you won’t do when your partner is here.
There are more of them, for sure. But I hope you can find here some food for thought and things to think about.
Learn how to make a distinction between healthy and unhealthy relationships, stick to your boundaries, and be compassionate to yourself. That would be a good starting point.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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