There is no particular year or time when it occurs, but a lot of people get into toxic relationships in their 20s. In the beginning it's usually great, but eventually you start to see the cracks and things begin to seep out. You literally get a taste of their poison (thanks, Britney), and slip under their spell. They're addicting and they keep you coming back for more, even long after realizing the relationship is not really working out. The red flags are there, but sometimes it doesn't seem to matter to you. You make excuses, while wearing your metaphorical rose-colored glasses: You're determined to make your love last, but maybe it's time to realize that you may be in a toxic relationship.
A survey by YourTango revealed that 89 percent of relationship experts believe half (or more!) of all people are in toxic relationships — currently. This means that all of us, or the large majority of us, have been in at least one toxic relationship during our dating lives.
We seem to miss the signs, especially because so many of our relationship habits are baked in our heads. We desire dizzying romantic love that ends up with us wanting to throw dishes at their heads. Popular culture has, in a way, taught us to believe that relationships are not worth a damn unless there is some kind of hurdle to jump or problem to solve. What is love or a great relationship worth without heat or fiery passion that constantly leaves us on edge wanting, and coming back for more? But this constant feeling of being on edge can be misconstrued for passion, and may in fact just be toxic.
We also live in a culture where we objectify our relationships — as so many of us know from going on Facebook and Instagram for a minute and seeing couples displaying how happy they are together. So much goes on behind closed doors and closed apps.
Our families and friends may see it, but we don't see it — or we just don't want to see it. It's completely normal to want to be in a relationship that is mutually respectful; however, if we're not in that type of relationship, we may do one of two things: We blame ourselves for the problems in the relationships and go to extreme efforts to change it, or we try and change the person rather than acknowledge this: The relationship is toxic and dysfunctional.
Understanding the nuances of a toxic relationship, as well as the types of behaviors by a partner that are considered toxic, is the first step in evaluating your potentially bad relationship, or if not your own, helping a friend out who is literally at her wits' end and about to rip every hair out of her head. That's why I reached out to Barb Boschetto, a life and relationship consultant based in San Fransisco, about what behaviors to look out for if you think you're already in one.
The Early Signs Of A Toxic Relationship
At the beginning of a relationship it may appear to be all sunshine and rainbows with the constant feeling of being swept off your feet. Toxic people tend to mirror their good behavior at you. When you're in a toxic relationship and you have your good days, they're really fantastic. However, when you become upset or agitated, your partner will show their true colors and basically reveal all their toxicity to you. More likely than not, you'll excuse the behavior.
"Watch out for too much too soon," Boschetto tells Bustle. "No one ever enters a relationship knowing or believing they are entering a dance with the devil. Toxic people are among us in such numbers that it is almost normal to hear about sabotaging and controlling behaviors in relationships." This may also be the reason why we hold onto toxic relationships for so long, because we know deep down how hard and rare it is to have a connection with someone, and once we find it, it becomes the focus of our relationships. In other words, we turn our heads to focus on what's going right, ignoring what's wrong. Boschetto pinpointed and names the types of behavior that are indicative of a toxic person below.
1. The Fault Finder
If your partner is making you feel like you can't do anything right, it's time to reconsider the relationship. Boschetto says this is one of the first red flags that your S.O. is toxic. "Focusing on your faults, you begin to lose your value and your self worth slips away," she says. They may blame you for their difficulties or their problems and make it seem like they are always in the right, while you're always in the wrong, but they'll somehow manage to keep you hanging on.
2. The Controller
Although you may confuse their jealousy and possessiveness for lust and love initially, realize that these are not signs of someone who cares. "The toxic person seems to know all aspects of your life and always have an opinion on it. He or she may want to know exactly where you are going and why. Again, at first it feels like they are interested in your life and truly care. That caring feeling will soon slip away to reveal that you are in a controlling relationship," says Boschetto.
3. The Not So Funny Person
This is the person that takes themself too seriously, not being able to take a joke about themselves or make fun of themselves either. Some people tend to overlook this kind of behavior because they're sensitive, but it turns out this person will put you down to gain control over you. "Oddly enough they may sarcastically insult you then pass it off as a joke. Beware of put downs on your hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. This is not a joke as they attempt to get you under control," Boschetto says.
4. The Person With The Missing Empathy Button
Boschetto notes that this behavior might be the easiest one to spot. Your S.O. might come across as a cold fish, lacking empathy or sensitivity towards others, and they certainly won't be directing sensitivity towards you either. A person lacking empathy is difficult to reason with, and will not care about your feelings and most likely will not notice your emotions or the way you're feeling.
5. The Victim or Martyr
This person will never take responsibility for their actions, and either you or someone else is always to blame. In this case, it's important that you be on the lookout and listen to what they have to say about past relationships. Boschetto says, "This is a great indication of who they truly are. The toxic person uses his or her sad story like candy to a toddler to get you to take it. There is never just one story. Before you know it, you are the next story."
Although relationships are not easy, healthy ones require effort and balance from both parties, and of course, a healthy dose of love. If you notice that you're in a toxic relationship, and the signs are all there, it's important to sit down and talk to your partner, and voice your concerns. You don't have to walk away that very second.
Boschetto advises to have a list and stay on track with voicing your concerns. "Always refer to how certain behaviors make you feel. Name the emotion that comes up for you. Refrain from using the word 'you.' This will put the other person on the defensive and is accusatory. If the conversation moves in that direction, then you know immediately that this person is toxic."
If you find that you can't seem to break away from them despite realizing that you're in a toxic relationship, you need to look inside yourself and try and understand why you can't let this person go. What need is this person filling inside of you that you can't for yourself? Only once you become self-accountable can you begin to let go and start again without them in your life.
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