Sometimes the signs are there from the beginning and the choice is made to ignore them. Other times the signs creep up, slowly, unexpectedly.
Most humans operate with compassion, love and forgiveness. When those we are connected to or love make a mistake, we want to believe that they didn’t mean it. That it was a mistake. That they hear and understand how much their actions hurt. That they feel remorse for hurting us and are actively learning how to be better versions of themselves. Unfortunately, toxic people prey on that compassion, love and forgiveness knowing that the more their atrocious actions are forgiven, the more they will be able to get away with.
Before we go further I’ll say that healthy relationships include compromise, respect and boundaries. Relationships with toxic people that include: narcissists, manipulators, gaslighting, abusers etc. will not include the aforementioned.
While one can exhibit toxic traits, the difference between a healthy working partnership and one that is toxic is simple to decipher. Toxic People will continue to repeat their toxic patterns, passing blame, taking zero responsibility and will participate in a denigration campaign that slowly chips away at the self worth and self esteem of their target.
Can someone who is toxic change? I’d like to believe so. But only when the toxic individual takes the time to reflect, assess and take ownership for their toxic behaviour. This takes work. It takes self reflection. It means actively participating in intensive therapy. It means asking for forgiveness from those they hurt. It means taking responsibility without assigning blame. It also means that the toxic individual doesn’t pick and choose who they are toxic with. If you or someone you know isn’t toxic with you but is toxic with someone else, they are TOXIC period. They are also really good at being manipulative by wearing different masks with different individuals to help support their own agenda.
If you think you may be in a toxic relationship and you feel like you can’t leave or that it’s all your fault, please find compassion and forgiveness within yourself. It is only when the dust settles that you will have a moment to evaluate the after math of ending a toxic relationship. You may actually recognize the warning signs had been there all along. That their toxic abusive behaviour has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. Their toxicity is a direct reflection of them, their childhood wounds, their lack of self worth and their lack of self love. The biggest lesson you’ll learned? The actions of this toxic person aren’t your fault, but it is your responsibility to be part of change and create actionable next steps that mean leaving the relationship behind.
Please value yourself enough to find a support system that includes a therapist, trusted friends and community that will help you during this time.
Finally, please know that toxic relationships are not just romantic. A toxic relationship can be applied to all sorts of connections between two people.
Here are signs you may be in a toxic relationship.
In the beginning, when you are both getting to know one another, they shower you with love and adoration. They are overwhelming with their actions, behaviours and words. They butter you up every way they can. They are Mr. or Ms. Charming. They tell you things like “You are perfect”, “Where have you been all my life?”, “You belong on a pedestal”, “I think you are my soulmate”, “You are the best employee I’ve ever had”. They overly invest in you and the relationship without ever really getting to know you. Love bombing is a form of manipulation and conditioning so that the target has a false sense of security. Once the toxic partner feels they have love bombed enough, they will slowly start removing these grandiose forms of affection leaving you, the target, wondering what you did wrong to no longer feel that kind of love and affection.
In the case of a romantic relationship you meet, maybe your friends for a little but as soon as the romantic relationship begins everything happens at lightening speed. You say ‘I love you’ fast. You move in quickly. Maybe you buy a house together when you haven’t even been dating for a long time. If one of you has kids, they are introduced very early on in the relationship. The child is tossed into a dynamic between you both almost instantly. You start spending every waking moment with the toxic partner very early on in the relationship. You meet specific people very quickly. Before you know it, you’re fully invested and you haven’t been dating for very long at all. While it’s true some relationships move faster than others, the important thing to note is that there are important psychological factors to take into account around romantic relationships, especially when children are involved. These factors are often completely disregarded by the toxic partner. In the case of a friend/employee relationship: the relationship also moves really fast. You become friends fast, your lives get intertwined really quickly, boundaries start to blur and the opportunity for organic connection or growth doesn’t exist.
When you met them they may have looked and behaved a certain way. As your relationship progresses, their identity slowly shifts to reflect your life and the things you love. They may change their appearance, they may take up all your hobbies and interests. It’s like you found your exact match, except they weren’t that person before they met you, they become like you because of the relationship. You may find them praising you and thanking you for all the positive habits you’ve instilled in them. It’s like you are a God/Goddess that has saved them. Mirroring is also a form of manipulation to gain your trust. A solid, secure, healthy person doesn’t have to change when they are with you, they would have already be the best version of themselves before meeting you or they are individuals who are continuously working on becoming better versions of themselves. Once the toxic person becomes comfortable in the relationship the mirroring seizes to exist. This is when their true self starts showing up. They will revert to their original habits, patterns etc. which may leave you confused asking yourself if you even know the person you are dating/ married to.
In the beginning it may be small things like “don’t sleep at your place, come stay at mine” or “I get bad vibes from this person, don’t talk to them”, they drop tiny hints that seem harmless at first, however it slowly escalates. They may begin to tell you who to follow or unfollow on social media. They may want you to block certain people because it’s “for your own good”. You may find they say things like “oh are you sure you should be wearing that” or “I don’t like how you handle this customer, you need to change to…” They may ask you to stop doing things you love and that are healthy for you and disguise their reasoning as concern. You’ll start questioning yourself, how you act, what you say because you don’t want the toxic person to be upset with you. The only things that stay consistent in your life are things that the toxic person wants. As the months pass by your life will have moulded into the life they want for you and your old life as you would have wanted it will slowly begin to disappear.
During arguments or disagreements there is never compromise or healthy resolution. Rather than using ‘I statements’, the toxic person will continuously use ‘You statements’. “Because you did this”, “you are crazy”, “you heard wrong”, the blame for any obstacle will always be directed towards the target and deflected from them. When the target points out that something they have done has hurt them, the toxic person will triangulate the situation and bring up something the target has done. Toxic people will gaslight the target, they will dogwhistle, they will do anything they can to make the target question their reality. It’s all a manipulative game to have the target questioning themselves.
If you are in a relationship where your boundaries and privacy are not respected, it’s time to start questioning why you are still in the relationship. Respect is critical in a loving, healthy, relationship and when respect is broken, especially repeatedly, it’s very hard to mend. All solid, stable relationships require compromise. A balance of respect that meet the needs and wants of both individuals. A non toxic person will understand that you have your own boundaries and privacy that is important to you. For example, let’s say you are in a romantic relationship, you are exhausted and are not interested in being intimate one night, if your partner does not respect your boundary, this is cause for concern. If they throw a tantrum, get passive aggressive with you or get angry because they are not getting what they want, they are not only disrespecting your boundary, they are also not respecting your body, nor your current needs around your body. If a person goes through your phone, your email, your personal things, this is not only a breach of your privacy it’s also a form of control. When you communicate your needs around boundaries and privacy and they are not respected, you are in a relationship with a toxic person and it’s time for you to leave.
Often times the relationship has you feeling awful and those same feelings pour out into other areas of your life. You may go to sleep hoping tomorrow will be a better day for your relationship only to wake up to another fight, another problem, another day of walking on egg shells. You catch yourself in the mirror and you don’t recognize who you have become. You find yourself asking what happened to the person you were. You feel like you’ve changed or you’ve lost yourself. You’re tired of constantly feeling unheard and or having the same obstacles in the relationship over and over again. You may feel that you carry the burden and weight of keeping the relationship alive. You cry alone. You feel depleted. You feel worthless. You feel stuck.
It’s one thing to have romantic relationships that don’t work out, it’s another thing to have a pattern of “my ex’s are all crazy”. If you are dating someone who has said that line to you, it’s time to run, especially if you notice a pattern of “problematic” ex’s. Remember there are multiple sides to every story. You need to ask yourself if you are only being shown one side. If you are dating someone who has kids, observe their co-parenting relationship. Do they have multiple kids with multiple partners? Do they share horror stories of their ex’s? Do they seem to have problematic co-parenting relationships? Observe how they treat the other parent. Do they have an amicable relationship focused on the child? Do they respect the other child’s parent? Do they encourage you participate in actions that disrespect the other parent? It’s very easy in the beginning to want to believe the person you are dating is all they show you to be, however as time goes on if you continue to see concerning behaviour around their language or engagement with ex’s it could potentially be time to seek professional support. In a work/friend environment pay attention to how much drama this person has in their life. Do they always seem to have challenges with everyone that go beyond the norm? Is everyone out to get them? Do they have lots of friends? Healthy people are capable of having healthy connections, toxic people are not necessarily able to maintain healthy long term connections.
If you experience any type of abuse in the relationship: Emotional, verbal, financial, physical. It’s all abuse. Abusive relationships are toxic relationships. If you recognize the signs of an abusive relationship it’s time to find a support system that will help you and get out of the relationship.
Please know you are not alone. Please know there are women and people who believe you and are available to help you. At the bottom of this article I offered a links for support system to help you out.
Toxic People are incredibility manipulative and very slick when it comes to their controlling behaviours. In a toxic relationship the target will end up changing who they are as they lose sight of their values, wants and needs because they are replaced by what the toxic partner wants them to be.
You are a toxic relationship. As humans we are an ever evolving and changing species so it’s natural for us to change certain things about ourselves over time. The key difference in a toxic relationship is that a person changes who they are not for themselves but to fit the mould that the toxic person wants.
Please know that if you have determined you are in a toxic relationship you are not alone, it is never too late to get help. There are many resources that will support you in your journey to leaving the relationship and starting your life over living as you desire and deserve.