When we are in a healthy romantic relationship with another person, we feel supported, loved, respected, and cared for. We feel that no matter what challenges we face in life, we have a teammate, a best friend, and a lover to go through it all with. Healthy relationships have an incredibly positive impact on both our physical and emotional health. Strong relationships have been found to strengthen immunity, increase lifespan, and offer us a precious and safe space to be completely ourselves.
But sadly, we don’t always end up in these ideal, healthy, romantic relationships. Instead, we can find ourselves, sometimes repeatedly, in toxic relationships. Toxic relationships are often insidious, creeping up on us without our awareness, and we don’t even know we are in one until the physical and emotional side effects are already manifesting themselves. Most toxic relationships start off as whirlwinds of passion and excitement, and we use the memories of these early moments of lust and intense joy as a reason to stay when things start to take a turn toward the unhealthy side. When we are in these types of relationships, we are endlessly trying to get back to the days before it became toxic and damaging. Like any addiction, we are constantly trying to recreate that first hit at the expense of our own well-being.
Some of the physical side effects of a toxic relationship are disrupted sleep, poor nutrition, digestive issues, muscle tightness, fatigue/feeling constantly worn down, and immunity issues (getting ill more often). Some emotional health effects are anxiety, feeling unworthy/unheard/unseen, living in fear, emotional exhaustion, low self-esteem, co-dependency, and depression.
Relationships play a vital role in our overall well-being, so understanding and recognizing if the one you’re in has become toxic is extremely important. Here are some signs that may indicate you are in a toxic relationship:
1. You notice a significant change in your behavioral patterns. Examples below:
• You isolate yourself more, neglecting other relationships in your life, such as with your family and friends.
• Your performance at work is affected as the relationship is causing you distress or taking up all of your focus and energy.
• You feel more tired, unmotivated, and disinterested in life outside of your relationships.
2. You experience fear around expressing your own feelings or opinions.
3. You are repeatedly lied to and made to feel that you are being “crazy” when you question their actions. This is also known as gaslighting (don’t worry, we have a full article on this manipulative topic).
4. You find it impossible to set and maintain healthy boundaries in your relationship.
5. You don’t feel safe to be yourself in your relationship so you begin to mold yourself into what you think your partner wants you to be.
6. You find yourself trapped in repetitive negative cycles.
7. You lie to your friends and family about the details of your relationship to protect your partner.
Toxic relationships can be difficult to break away from, but awareness, as with any type of recovery, is the first step. Every one of you reading this deserves to be in a relationship where you feel heard, seen, respected, loved, and cared for, and I hope that if you recognize that you are in a toxic relationship, you can find the strength to begin that journey to free yourself.
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