While it appears to be an obvious question, the signs of a toxic relationship can be covert. Toxic relationships have a way of draining our energy and preventing us from fuctioning at our best. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I often witness the aftermath of the experience of such relationships. It can leave a person feeling broken and depressed.
I continue to witness many people recover from the pain of toxic relationships. If we are honest with ourselves, our inner voice speaks to us when we are in situations that do not serve us best. Here are a few signs that you may be in a toxic relationship... and life hacks to help you get out.
You don’t know where you end and where your partner begins.
In the clinical world, we refer to this as enmeshment— a relationship where personal boundaries are blurry or permeable. Often, enmeshed partners are the last to know. In an enmeshed relationship, we depend on others to fulfill our emotional and self-esteem needs. When our partner fails to fulfill this impossible demand, we often feel anxious, frustrated, and unhappy. We are so preoccupied with managing the other's emotions, that it creates an unproductive cycle. We try to meet our partner's need, we fail according to our partner's (and our own) expectation, which results in more compulsion to meet our partner's need.
Healthy relationships have healthy boundaries. When we are in a healthy relationship, both partners demonstrate a healthy sense of self-differentiation.
Self-differentiation requires us to distinguish our thoughts from our emotions, and our experiences from the experiences of those to whom we are connected. Together both create a level of self-awareness that is needed to thrive.
If you feel obsessed with making your relationship work, try taking a step back and revisiting your personal goals and aspirations. Refocus your attention on factors that contribute to healthy self-esteem and self-concept. Remind yourself that a loving relationship does not require obsession. It will unfold in a manner that does not require fixing, manipulation or force.
You obsess about making it work.
You eat, sleep, breathe and live your relationship with your partner. It is the first thing that you think about in the morning, and the last thing that you ponder upon before bed. You read articles, books, watch videos and ask advice from a counsel of friends about how to make your partner happy.
You have become obsessed with changing aspects of your personality to please your partner. You are convinced that something is wrong with you. So, you question your partner about things that you can change or improve to make the relationship work.
Nothing seems to work.
When we are obsessed we allow our idea of the perfect relationship or mate to consume our mind. Obsession always results in a level of anxiety. It is grounded in our need to control a situation. The reality is that we can only control ourselves.
The first step is to get clear about your personal values, beliefs and desires. This is the foundation for personal boundaries. Create a list of the boundaries that you need to thrive in a relationship. If you need permission to execute your boundaries, this is it. Remember, boundary-setting is a loving action and a necessary tenet of self-love.
You obsess about making it work.
You have become obsessed with changing aspects of your life to please your partner. Perhaps, you are convinced that something is wrong with you. So, you question your partner about things that you can change or improve to make the relationship work.
When we are obsessed we allow our thought or idea of the perfect relationship or mate to consume our mind. Obsession always results in a level of anxiety-- rooted in our need to control a situation. The reality is that we can only control ourselves. We can not control others.
If you feel obsessed with making it work, try taking a step back and revisiting your personal goals and aspirations. Refocus your attention on the factors that contribute to healthy self-esteem and self-concept. Remind yourself that a loving relationship does not require obsession. It will unfold in a manner that does not require fixing, manipulation or force.
You are on an emotional rollercoaster and can’t get off.
Your emotions have consumed you in such a way that you find it difficult to manage. Some days you struggle to get out of bed, or even call into work because you simply feel like you just “can’t do it anymore”.
An emotion is a feeling that is experienced both psychologically and physically that can influence your thoughts or behaviors. You feel > you know that you are feeling because your body or mind tells you so > those feelings influence what you think > what you think influences what you do.
Here’s the good news- you can get off of the emotional roller coaster. First, you must decide that an inconsistent emotional state is unhealthy FOR YOU. It does not serve you well. When your emotions are too high or extreme, your logic is low. A balance of logic and emotion is required to make good decisions.
You are indecisive.
Prior to this toxic experience, you made decisions easily. You were able to determine your likes and dislikes. Before you met your partner, you were able to articulate your expectations and values. Now, you feel confused and unsure. You do not know what you want. Or, you have lowered your expectation to avoid conflict in the relationship. Simple decisions feel impossible.
Let’s revisit the emotional roller coaster concept. It is a worthy explanation of why we experience indecisiveness when we are in toxic relationships. The body and mind is experiencing such drastic shifts, that it is has difficulty settling on a decision.
Take some time to step away from the situation and allow your emotions to settle. Does your current relationship align with your values, expectations and beliefs? A healthy relationship will complement who you are, but it will not hinder progress and growth.
The journey to wholeness is a sacred and lifechanging path. Extracting yourself from a toxic relationship is not easy. If you feel alone or overwhelmed, a mental health professional can help you move forward. Take the first step, choose your wellness and make a call today.