I thought things would be different with me. I thought we could be better together. I knew that there were problems. But what relationship doesn’t have problems? Initially, it was ‘one’ mistake. Nobody can change overnight. So it was more mistakes. Then it was “Stop bringing up the same things!”. So I did. And there were a hundred more mistakes and no more sorry’s. When I finally brought it up, things got broken and abuses were hurled. And I don’t know how it got to a point where we couldn’t even just talk anymore without hurting each other.”
– A client describing how things went wrong with their partner
Nobody walks into a relationship wanting it to be toxic. So, what happens between the beginning and all the hurt?
‘Beware of the camel’s nose’ goes the metaphor.
This metaphor refers to a story of an Arab and his camel. The Arab is sleeping inside his tent and the camel requests to put its nose inside the tent as it is too cold outside. Over the night it slowly puts in its head and shoulders as well. Soon, it requests to put its fore legs inside the tent. And eventually it asks to fully move inside the tent. The story ends with the Arab waking up and finding himself outside the tent.
Usually, relationships don’t turn toxic overnight. It’s one small incident that is easy to dismiss. And then it’s another which can be rationalized. And then it’s more but it doesn’t feel odd anymore because it’s the norm now. And it builds and it builds. Until one fine day you wake up and see a monster that you never let into your house.
The first step to making things better is to evaluate red flags in your relationship. Very often, people are not able to even identify that they are in a toxic relationship. These questions will help you with that.
1. Are you abusive or being abused?
[Abuse means repeatedly or regularly being treated in a cruel or violent manner.]
- Verbal: bad words, lewd comments or remarks, sarcastic statements, etc.
- Physical: pushing, pulling, shoving, beating, scratching, slapping, strangling, gripping tightly, kicking, etc.
- Sexual: Any sexual act without mutual consent.
- Emotional: lying, gaslighting, evoking guilt and shame, lowering self-confidence, causing feelings of inferiority, etc.
2. Are you afraid about how they’ll react to something?
3. Do you justify their actions time and again to people who are concerned for you?
4. Are you unable to speak with others, move around freely, buy things, meet people by yourself?
5. Do you feel like a punching bag when they are frustrated, angry, upset?
6. Are you unable to regularly keep in touch with your friends and family?
7. Are you unable to be honest about your relationship with your friends and family?
8. Are you ignored, made fun of, or dismissed and made to feel like your thoughts and opinions don’t matter?
9. Do all your fights end with them being right and you exhausted of fighting anymore?
10. Are you able to make choices and decisions for yourself?
11. Have you sacrificed something only because they insisted you to do so?
12. Do you feel scared that they will leave you or throw you out?
13. Do you have evidence that they are dishonest with you but they have denied it?
14. Are you able to confide in them honestly?
15. Do they show interest in you and your needs?
If your answers to these are more of yes’s, it’s important that you evaluate your situation. You need to prioritize your safety over your relationship. Reach out to people who can help and support you. Seek professional help for your mental health.
People struggle to remove themselves from toxic relationships although it seems as simple as ‘pack your bags and walk out the door’ to the rest of the world. Over time, they have chosen to stay with their partner who has been exhibiting bad behaviour. And in doing so, over and over again, they are slowly disillusioned into thinking that staying is the only choice. And because they firmly believe there is no escape, they continue to stay and suffer. This is what is known as learned helplessness.
Learned helplessness is often seen in those experiencing mental distress. Due to previous experiences and learnings, they are convinced that they cannot escape. It sometimes becomes challenging to help them see that they are in an unhealthy environment and that they need to leave.
It’s important to remember that toxicity is not solely a masculine or feminine trait. Any individual can be a toxic person and any individual can become a victim to their toxicity. Toxic relationships can exist anywhere – in personal, social, or professional relationships.
The first step to getting out of a toxic relationship is to identify whether you are in one. Sometimes, even though you have identified this it can be hard to accept it.
Finding yourself stuck in a toxic relationship doesn’t make you stupid or weak. You’ve acclimatized to the toxicity. It’s happened to you slowly without you even knowing it. It is also okay to feel disappointed in yourself. We can never change things that have happened but we can always do something about now and henceforth. So now is the best time to reach out and get help.
It can be difficult to remove yourself from a toxic relationship. And simply removing yourself does not fix things. The experience changes how you think and feel. These changes might not be very apparent to you. But they still exist and they affect who you are and how you interact with others.
There is a lot of acceptance, forgiveness, unlearning and relearning that goes into the process of becoming okay again. And this can be overwhelming to take on alone. But there’s no need to do it alone. Reach out to a counsellor at Lostalittle today.