Romantic relationships are never perfect, often challenging and always educational. Amongst others, relationships teach you about your values, boundaries and the areas in which there’s room for personal growth. These are things that you can learn in both healthy and unhealthy relationships, and in that sense, every relationship has a certain purpose. But there are relationships that are not just a bit complicated, but toxic. The toxic relationship can be difficult to identify, especially if you are in the middle of it. That is because the toxicity usually does not manifest itself from the start, but gradually. Because of that you gradually get used to things that are not normal and/or healthy. Or perhaps you know deep down that your relationship is toxic, but you have difficulty acknowledging it. Whatever your situation: with this blog article and the signals I highlight, I help you to investigate whether your relationship is actually toxic.
Your world gets smaller
When you’re in love, it is of course possible and normal that you want to spend as much time as possible with your loved one. Therefor, it’s normal when your world temporarily becomes smaller. As long as this orginates from joy and love you don’t have a thing to worry about. It’s a different story when you feel forced to make your world smaller. For example because you’re afraid that your partner will leave you if you don’t. Or because your partner feels jealous or tends to claim you. It is also possible that your partner talks negatively about your family and friends, so that you feel less free to meet up with them. A good check for yourself is the following question: has my world become smaller out of love, or fear?
You become more insecure
Falling in love usually involves a certain amount of uncertainty. In a healthy relationship, that uncertainty largely disappears over time. You feel at ease and you trust your love. In a toxic relationship, the uncertainty does not disappear and may even increase. You keep wondering if your partner likes you and if you are a worthy partner. You are increasingly weighing things up: is it okay if I do or say this? How will it be interpreted? You may feel that you’re walking a fine line and that you’re constantly adjusting yourself to prevent yourself from doing something ‘wrong’. It is possible that the people around you also notice that you’ve become more uncertain.
You make yourself smaller
Because of the uncertainty, you may tend to make yourself smaller. People who make themselves smaller in their relationship often do so to avoid unpleasant confrontations with their partner. They do this by ignoring their own needs in order to maintain harmony. They speak up less for themselves and keep their feelings and emotions to themselves. If you recognize this, you may also recognize making yourself smaller in terms of attitude and appearance. Your personal growth is limited, because growth and having to stay small cannot be combined. It is possible that at a given moment you no longer know who you really are, what you stand for and what you want.
Your boundaries seem to fade
Boundaries are strange things. You may think at one point that you will never accept something, only to find out later that that thing has happened and that you let it. Boundaries are stretchable. Little by little they can stretch like rubber bands. At a certain point you may ask yourself: how on earth did I end up at this point, accepting this? It is because the toxic relationship usually builds up slowly and your boundaries stretch gradually and unnoticeably.
You do things that aren’t you
It’s nice to do things that make your partner happy. Sometimes that means doing things that you would not immediately choose to do yourself. For example, you go see a movie that doesn’t appeal to you so much, or you wear something that you’re not crazy about yourself, but your partner loves. There is nothing wrong with that. It becomes worrying if you do things that do not suit you very often and in many areas. For example, if you adapt your complete style to the taste of the other, express opinions that you do not fully support, or do things sexually that you actually don’t like. In general you may have the feeling that you have lost yourself.
You feel controlled by your partner
Do you feel free to go your own way and do you feel trusted? If yes: that’s a very good thing! Or do you feel like you have to justify the things you do? Does your partner check on you a lot? Do you feel like you need approval from your partner to do something? If the answers to (some of these) these questions are yes: this is without a doubt a red flag.
You’re the only one investing in your relationship
Loving is a verb and investing in your relationship is important to make sure you keep enjoying each others company. This is something that both partners should do. If you’re working hard to make the relationship work and you’re partner isn’t at all, the balance is lost. What about your so-called emotional bank account? Are you both depositing on it or only you? In short, are you the only one investing?
You argue a lot
Occasionally arguing is not so bad at all. It can even be healthy to speak up about what’s bothering you. It can strengthen your connection. However, if you argue very often, that is not a good sign. Maybe you just aren’t a good match, or maybe one of you has a deeper problem that manifests itself in aggressive communication. It’s also possible that the both of you just haven’t learned to stand up for yourself in a constructive way. In that case I advise you to delve into nonviolent communication.
Your relationship is violent
It is a no-brainer and yet so important to mention: in a healthy relationship there is never violence. When thinking about violence, you may initially think of physical and/or sexual violence and it is indeed very alarming if this is happening. But do not underestimate the impact of verbal and/or emotional violence. It is more invisible and creepy but oh so bad and harmful. If there is violence in your relationship, I urge you to seek help.
You feel bad a lot of the time
Ups and downs are very normal in relationships. There really doesn’t have to be anything wrong if you find yourself having negative thoughts about your relationship every now and then. However, it is not normal and healthy to often feel bad (anxious, insecure, worthless, unhappy, etc.) in your relationship. You may think that it’s not possible to feel better, because feeling bad has become your new “normal”. Or you think that it’s not even possible for you to meet someone with whom you feel comfortable. I can be brief about this: these thoughts are not true. You are worth as much happiness, love, appreciation and respect as everyone else.
If you recognize anything in this article then I hope that you at least start to reflect on your relationship and start thinking about a new, healthier perspective. Is it time to put an end to it? Is relationship therapy perhaps a good idea? Or do you need to work on yourself, for example on your self-image? I also hope that you will find the courage to talk about your relationship and what you need. You can of course approach me for coaching. Together we will see if and how I can help you. But above all, please talk about it with people around you that you trust.
I wish you wisdom, courage and new happiness!
Intuïtief Life coach | Hart & Ziel Coaching | The Hague