The truth about toxic relationships is... you don’t realize you’re in one until you're in one. It's strange, right?
We all know what a toxic relationship looks like. We can all advise our friends if they’re in one themselves. We all agree with the posts we see online.
BUT when it comes to our own lives we don’t see the warning signs and we end up staying in relationships that are clearly toxic.
So, what does a toxic relationship actually look like and why do we convince ourselves to stay in it?
Toxic relationships don’t start off as toxic.
Obviously if they did we'd be much quicker to act.
A toxic relationship becomes toxic slowly. It becomes draining slowly. It becomes manipulative slowly. It becomes lonely slowly.
The biggest warning sign I've seen is your partner starts to make everything about them.
Are they less and less focused on your accomplishments and more on their own?
Are they less and less caring about what you need, how you feel… and more about them?
This sucks and is often tough to notice because as they become less and less interested in you they act as if nothing is different in the relationship. They act as if nothing has changed whatsoever.
Consider what happens when you bring this up with them.
Do they make you feel crazy? Do they give you non-answers?
Do they get defensive? Does it turn into an argument?
Do they resort to doubling down saying you’re wrong and they’re right?
If your partner responds to you with aggressiveness... that is very telling.
Someone who is good for you will NOT avoid conflict.
They will embrace it because they want to find resolution even if that means taking a look in the mirror and realizing they're at fault.
But someone who blows up the conversation and doubles down on why they're right on you’re wrong… that is someone who doesn't want resolution. They want control. They want to win. They want you to be wrong.
And when you decide you don't want to see another conversion become a disagreement so you keep quiet - THAT is how you end up in a toxic relationship.
BUT here’s the thing... if you know your partner is going to discredit your feelings... and your answer is to not bring it up anymore… the real answer HAS to be to leave.
I hate to make things so black and white because I certainly know life is anything but that simple... BUT if your partner is NOT willing to see your side, is not willing to listen and is not willing to discuss your feelings… how is your reality going to improve?
How is that relationship going to become anything but toxic?
It won’t magically get better - and that is the trap of a relationship that slowly turns toxic.
You’re made to think you’re the one freaking out, you’re the one being unreasonable and you’re the one making it all about you.
And to avoid making it worse… you back off. You take a step back to try to keep things normal.
But there is nothing normal about a relationship where your partner won’t listen, won’t hear you out and won’t apologize. If your partner is incapable of apologizing even if they still think they’re right… that is NOT your person.
If your partner hurts you in some way and has no idea they did but you tell them... and their response is not I’m sorry, I didn’t know I did that - I have some serious doubts about that person.
I know that’s a critical and sweeping statement but a healthy partner will want to hear you out, they’ll want resolution and they'll accept your side of the story as valid.
But if they don’t and you continue to accept that… that is how a relationship becomes toxic.
So, why do we stay in relationships like this?
It’s because of the stories we tell ourselves. In the case of toxic relationships, the stories we tell ourselves slowly change. They change from a story of respecting ourselves to something that very much forgets our worth.
We tell ourselves that things will change. And when they don't... we evolve our story.
Time is both a gift and a curse. The more time we give ourselves in toxic circumstances, the more we become numb to the truth of what we’ve gotten ourselves into.
Time heals you a bit - it no longer hurts as much as it used that your partner invalidates your feelings, makes you feel lonely, etc. Time takes the edge off and so your story changes...
It's not so bad. It doesn't hurt so much. So what? I can deal with this. I have someone. I’ve invested a lot of time into this relationship. It’s better than starting over. I can deal.
THAT is why we stay in toxic relationships.
BUT... no amount of rationalizing and no amount of changing the story you tell yourself is going to deliver the partnership you deserve.
No one deserves to be manipulated into lowering their standards.
No one deserves to be manipulated into changing their perception of reality.
No one deserves to be manipulated into changing their vision of hope and worth for themselves.
You never deserve to change your expectation of what you deserve because you feel drained or lonely.
If you find yourself slowly slipping, accepting less and changing the story of what you deserve… do something about it.
Don’t sit around for it to get better. Don’t rationalize it and don’t settle.
I’ve never seen selfishness turn into a healthy relationship and I’ve never seen disrespect turn into a healthy relationship.
Remember the story you used to tell yourself - a story of what you deserve and don't forget it.