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  • Writer's pictureHayley Whitehorn

Are You Stuck in a Toxic Relationship?

There are various different kinds of relationships you could be in and there are also multiple different reasons that a relationship can be toxic. Sometimes when we are in toxic friendships or romantic relationships it feels like being stuck in a self-destructive and harmful spiral. A toxic or unhealthy relationship is based in one person’s need for power and control over another.


Someone may use emotional abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, intimidation, using privilege, isolation, and co-dependency to gain power and control over another. These methods of gaining control also present some warning signs to look out for!


1. Emotional Abuse

- Minimising feelings

- Humiliation

- Gaslighting

- Violation of trust

- Neglect


2. Sexual Abuse

- Forcing sexual acts

- Guilting into sexual acts

3. Intimidation

- Using fear to manipulate looks, actions or behaviours

- Destroying property

- Displaying weapons as a threat


4. Using Privilege

- ‘Man of the house’ mindset

- Having the last word

- Rigid male/female or racial roles


5. Isolation

- Controlling and limiting who you see, what you do, where you go

- Keeping away from friends and family


6. Psychological Abuse

- Threats/ultimatums made or carried out

- Mind games

- Emotional blackmail and/or humiliation


WARNING SIGNS:

  • People close to you are warning you about this person

  • You have developed new bad habits (such as drinking) to cope with the drama of the relationship

  • You are completely drained of all your energy

  • One of you are completely clingy / dependent

  • Much of your relationship is surrounded in jealousy

  • You are expecting this person to change

  • They are jealous of you having other relationships

  • They are hypocritical and liars

  • They will set you up for failure to reinforce their gaslighting

  • You always feel on edge and anxious around them

  • Everything is about them and they are constantly competing with you or putting you down

  • They cross your boundaries


Why do people stay in toxic relationships?

The psychological response to immense strain, stress, and fear is often to avoid and push down all the emotional turmoil going on inside. Some individuals feel that they will not be able to survive alone without the company of someone else, or perhaps there is some sort of financial or family hold over the person. Low self-esteem is another factor which traps people in a toxic relationship, described often by the quote “we accept the love we think we deserve”. If someone is not able to see past the fear of being alone, feelings of low self-esteem, or the stress of possible consequences then this enhances the likelihood of staying connected to a toxic person. It is very easy to intellectually talk yourself into staying friends with someone or being romantically involved with someone when you can rationalise every action and decision.


The strain of being constantly worn down by an unhealthy relationship can have a significant effect on your physical and mental health. It can lead to things such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, substance abuse and more.


How to get out of a toxic relationship

Only the individual involved can confront their fears and anxieties and examine why they’re there in the first place, in the hopes they can overcome these patterns. The person being manipulated and who is emotionally exhausted needs to focus on themselves and build up their confidence and belief in themselves until they are strong enough to leave. The first step is stepping out of denial, and then beginning to build up a positive and healthy support system, sense of self and coping mechanisms.


If you are feeling stuck or feeling like you are in danger, the best thing to do is to reach out for help.


“Be brave enough to say ‘this is not what I want’”

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