Relationships are, in a word, complicated. A bad relationship though can do more than just hurt your feelings.
Oh, Matt, where were you 4-6 years ago when I could have really used this advice?
Okay, guys. Pay attention to these five signs you’re in a toxic relationship and hopefully, you’ll avoid people like these. Or at least, know that you’re not crazy when you recognize the signs.
Relationship coach Matt Hussey is describing my ex-husband to a tee here!!
How I fell for it
To the world, he’s meek and soft-spoken so I didn’t see the toxic BS for what it was until years in. I thought it MUST be my fault. He’s a nice meek guy and I’m Miss Confident over here. I learned a lot from Matt on this topic and could identify with most of the points he made. This is my experience in a toxic relationship.
Toxic people try to inflict damage
My ex-husband played the race card quite a bit and inferred I was an angry black woman. He is white so he wouldn’t come out and say it, he just suggested it ever so hurtfully and artfully. I now wish I had been an angry black woman! He used this trope to silence me, and instead of being angry at him, I would get angry at the cable company and credit card reps on the phone.
Toxic people make you the problem
Another toxic behavior was the manipulation. When he asked me to give up male friends early in our relationship, my Jamaican background registered this as normal. There was also the insinuation that I couldn’t be trusted. I’m outgoing, therefore I’m more prone to temptation and promiscuity. I didn’t pay attention to how much this request hurt me. It hurt a lot, yet I gave up 3-4 friendships anyway after little objection.
Most men don’t like knowing you’re still friends with exes and many people believe men and women can’t be platonic friends. I didn’t agree but I accepted that that is expected in committed relationships. I didn’t stand up for what I believed or walked away. There were a lot more situations where I was made to feel like the problem. Some are too personal and embarrassing to share on the internet.
Toxic people are uncomfortable with your success
I asked my ex-husband many times to help me put together a website. He had some experience from doing his own so I wanted his help. It took him a while and a lot of negotiating to get his help and when he did, he wanted full control. By asking for what I wanted, I was being ungrateful. Because I was ungrateful, he wouldn’t help me and give up after a few hours. I should add that my ex was amazing and generous in other areas. He was generous with birthday gifts and Christmas gifts, which I loved. He also took care of me when I had excruciating cramps or was sick in any way. There were many examples of him refusing to help and being uncomfortable with any success I had. I did though, truly value those times when he was caring and can only see them as thoughtful.
Our silence is cooperation
Instead of sharing what was going on behind closed doors with family, friends, and others, I hid it. Hiding, I later found out, is one of the ways we cooperate with these personalities and encourage poor behavior.
What I learned from my toxic relationship
The most important lesson, I believe, is recognizing our own part in these relationships. If it feels hurtful, it doesn’t matter what the other person’s intention was. You shouldn’t lighten up or be understanding when behavior goes against your values or make you uncomfortable. I also learned:
- Many of these people cannot help who they became and are not “terrible people.” I don’t believe my ex is.
- Their behavior is often a coping one. Hurt people often try to regain their power by hurting/controlling others.
- We, the people in relationships with them, have to be healthy enough to recognize what’s happening.
- We must be more prepared to walk away than to stay.
- Seeing the good in others is great, but we can’t do it at our expense.
- When we are in touch with our needs and values, we will recognize when ours are not being met.
- We must learn to trust our intuition and listen when it tells us something doesn’t feel right.
I don’t believe we “attract” these people. There are so many of them out there, one or two are bound to come into your orbit no matter how healthy you are. Knowing how to manage them when we can’t leave (such as in work situations) and leaving bad relationships early, is more practical. We must work on our social, emotional and other needs so that we don’t fall victim to the effects of toxic behavior.
The effects can be quite damaging, let me tell you.
Christine is a lifestyle coach living in Los Angeles. She believes the way we live predicts our future health and motivation. Email email@example.com to find out about working with Christine.