Signs of Toxic Relationships
In a relationship, signs of physical abuse are relatively prominent, but indicators of emotional abuse are subtle. Emotional abuse is embedded in psychological manipulation and behavioral exploitation. It is harder to recognize such abuse for family, friends, even the victims themselves. When you don't see the marks, you don't realize that they are there. Recognizing signs of toxicity in a relationship can be confusing as they are inherently inferred as caring behavior.
The relationship starts with kind and thoughtful gestures, the period referred by psychologists and trauma specialists as a "grooming process." And the truth of the matter is that when we are showered with attention and consideration, we become to trust and when we trust someone, a person we consider a loved one, we become less guarded and more vulnerable. And this is the point where a relationship can turn toxic, and our loved one can become an abuser.
If you or your family member, friend, or even an acquaintance is in an emotionally abusive relationship, you can't see any visible scars, but the psychological damage can be deep. Physical scars can heal quickly, but emotional ones stay with us for a long time – even last for a lifetime. Victims of emotional abuse can experience depression, anxiety, insomnia, aggression, moodiness, chronic pains, and even PTSD.
Psychological abuse is driven by the desire to gain absolute power and control in a relationship and to make the victim feel isolated and scared. There can be many forms of emotional abuse – insulting, criticizing, name-calling, threatening, shaming, intimidating, ignoring, patronizing, belittling, and the list goes on. Whatever form of emotional abuse there is, the victim's psychological perception towards herself/himself and other people is altered, damaged which makes it harder for them to get themselves out of the situation or even let others help.
There are many signs of a toxic relationship, and if you feel that some of them apply to you or someone you know; it may be time to get help and get out of the relationship. Now, it is by no means an easy task, but if you don't take a stand for yourself – who will? If you don't take care of yourself – who will? Remember: a healthy relationship with many "I love you" or "you make me complete" can turn toxic with time, euphoria of love is not enough if you don't feel safe or content and admitting that you are in a toxic relationship doesn't mean you are weak but just in an unfortunate situation which is not your fault.
Here are some signs to look for in a relationship to save yourself from permanent heartache and damage.
1. Are You Afraid to Disappoint Your Partner or Make Mistakes?
No two people can be complete in sync and every now, and then something happens that may disappoint your partner – that's normal. But how your partner handles that can be an indicator of toxicity. If your partner freaks out at every little mistake and turns what he/she doesn't like into faults and then uses that to humiliate you – publicly or privately, there is a problem.
2. Do Your Partner Plays Blame Game?
Forgiveness and understanding are the pillars of a healthy relationship. And blaming or accusing you is a psychological tactic to create a hierarchy with them on top. It is time to reassess your relationship if it is full of ridiculous notations like:
· jealousy - you seem overly comfy with your colleague,
· accusing - you rather go out with friends than stay home with me,
· denying - I only reacted this way because you made me,
· trivializing - you always overreact,
· blaming - you don't appreciate what I do for you or
· guilt - you don't understand what I go through; its time to reassess your relationship.
3. Are You Being Gaslighted by Your Partner?
In case you don't know, gaslighting is a common psychological abuse where your partner psychologically manipulates to make you question what is real. Your partner may deny, fabricate, or mispresent the facts of a situation to mold your perception to suit them. Sayings things like "I never do that," "you don't remember correctly" or "you are so dramatic" to every situation is a way to make you feel senseless, foolish and self-doubting which makes it easier for your partner to control you.
4. Are You Expected to Constantly Check-In with Your Partner?
If your partner wants to know where you are, that's a caring gesture – a concern for your well-being. But when this becomes a constant and relentless need, that is emotional abuse. Keeping tabs constantly on your whereabouts is a psychological way to control you. A sweet message to know if you have eaten or a casual call to know where you are is fine, but multiple messages or call is harassment. Your partner may show up unexpectedly to see if you are where you are supposed to be. They may check your text messages, internet history, or even demand your passwords, which is all toxic.
5. Do Your Partner Set Restrictions for You?
You are entitled to your personal space, do pursue your interest, and spend time with your friends and family. If your partner has strong opinions on how long you can stay out or who you should see – that's another red flag. Your partner may want you to break up with friends and not see family much, so they can control you without any interference from your support system. Now, it is reasonable if they have an issue with you spending time with your ex, but if they outright forbid you to see a certain person with no room for discussion, that's unhealthy. Relationships are not a series of ultimatums or threats; it needs dialogue and compromises.
6. Does Your Partner Have Hot and Cold Behavior?
Your partner may be warm and caring one moment and distant the next; explore with anger out of nowhere and shower affections suddenly; be moody and dark one day and upbeat the next – and you don't know why? And the worst part is, they deny it - you worry, panic eventually starts blaming yourself. Attempting to fix the issue can turn you into an anxious pleaser, which is what your partner aimed for -psychologically manipulating you into submission.
7. Does Your Partner Refuse to Discuss or Consult?
Whether you're a talker or not, it is important to be able to discuss matters issues in the relationship. You shouldn't have to shy away from topics, say buying a house or having a baby, out of fear of their reaction. Your partner shouldn't be keeping all decisions in their hand – big and small – and not consult with you. And if occasionally you do express your feelings, they dismiss it by accusing you of being overbearing – "gosh you want to know my every move" or "you don't let me breath". All these behavioral exploitations are meant to keep you under their control.
8. Does Your Partner Belittle Your Accomplishment and Deny Your Strengths?
Every person has strengths and weaknesses, and everyone has achievements to show for their time here. And there is no doubt that you have a wide range of them. But when your partner start implies that you have achieved nothing, downplay your accomplishments, or make degrading jokes – don't dismiss them. This is a specific approach to put you mentally in a defensive state, take away credit from your strengths (especially those they are threatened by) and gain control in the relationship. Ask yourself this:
· Do they avoid appreciating or celebrating your achievements publicly?
· Do they try to ignore when something good happens to you?
· Do they make sarcastic or insulting jokes, especially in front of company?
· Do they bring up topics focusing on some humiliating incident or your failures?
· Do they constantly make degrading and belittling comments or call you names?
If the answer is yes to most of these questions and ones like them, your partner is systematically and psychologically making you lose self-confidence and self-esteem. If you can't grow as a person, maybe its time to move on.
Relationships require work, compromises, and understanding, but if you are the only one doing it – there is a problem. Don't for a moment think that if your relationship has become toxic or psychologically abusive, it is somehow your fault or weakness. That is what your partner wants you to think – but it's not true. If there are one or two signs, talk to your partner. Sometimes you can make it work by conveying your feelings. But if there are repetitive trends and patterns that just get worse and conversations are pointless, get help. Talk to a trusted family member or friend. Reach out to support groups. And most important, take control back in your hand. You are a beautiful person who deserves respect and love; anyone who makes you feel otherwise does not deserve you.