It's hard to identify if your relationship is toxic when the signs are subtle. You might think some behaviours are simply 'normal' and that you're 'sensitive'. You may have gotten used to this type of relationship and don't know what a healthy relationship is. This article will give you some tips on how to identify whether your relationship you're in is healthy for you.
1. When you feel uncomfortable saying 'no'
You get anxious and uncomfortable voicing out why you disagree because when you do, there is a recurring pattern of your partner invalidating your feelings. It can look like ridiculing your objection or responding to it in anger. Either way, your gut knows a bad reaction will come up when you say no.
2. You begin accepting behaviours that were once not acceptable
And this leads to the second point. Because you are uncomfortable in voicing out your disagreements and saying no, you begin to slowly accept behaviours that you knew were once unacceptable. For example, your partner keeps mentioning how stupid your hobby is and you have learned to accept it as normal because when you voiced out your frustration, your partner instead turns it around so that you are at fault for feeling upset. As a result, you shut down in voicing out and you learn to accept their behaviour.
3. Problems are forgotten and not resolved
This leads to my third point. You bury issues under the rug and you suck it up because you have learned to accept unacceptable behaviours, and you get a horrible reaction when you say no. You have learned to simply 'accept it' as it is the way 'your partner is' which leads to problems not being solved. Just because you tolerate it, doesn't mean it is healthy nor solved.
Other ways in forgetting a problem is buying things or doing an exciting activity to further bury the issue. These distractions can only distract you and your partner for so long before another problem arises.
4. Your efforts and compromising is one-sided
Your partner keeps criticising your personality, behaviours and attitude, so you do your best to make changes for the relationship. And no matter how much you improve yourself, your partner somehow keeps finding your faults. You feel tired, guilty, and burnt out from all the changes you had to do to make your partner happy. Your partner, on the other hand, did not make any effort in compromising for the relationship due to excuses #1, #2, and #3.
5. Your life feels controlled and manipulated
Your partner keeps manipulating you to make decisions that are not for you but it's rather for the best interest of him/herself. I had an ex who persuaded me to buy an expensive car because it sounded like it will be the best decision of my life. And I bought it. Did I feel happy about the purchase? Absolutely not! I forced myself to be happy but I knew deep down, I didn't want that car. If you feel uncomfortable with a choice under your partner's persuasion, then chances are, the decision was not made for you, but it is for the other party!
Another form of control is when your partner wants you to behave exactly the way he/she wants you to behave. Any behaviour that is deviant from what the partner wants results in a backlash. For example, if you do not text back your partner within 10 minutes, you won't hear the end of it. Your life and how you behave are controlled to make sure you make your partner happy, but not yourself.
So what do you do now?
There is also nothing wrong with leaving an unsatisfying relationship because everyone has the right to a happy relationship. At the same time, not every relationship that has some toxic characteristics warrants a break-up because you see your partner improving or you have other valid reasons to stay.
However, when you notice your partner has never improved and your mental health is worsening due to the relationship, then I will really urge you to ask yourself "is this relationship worth fighting for at the expense of my happiness? What am I looking for in a relationship?" After some deep reflection, I believe you will make a wise decision for yourself!
About The Author
Jasmine Tsang is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) under the College of Registered Psychotherapist Ontario (CRPO) and the founder of Reflections Therapy. She specializes in providing counselling services for people facing challenges in their adulthood such as relationships, self-esteem issues, school & career stressors, anxiety, and depression. For more information about Jasmine, click here to read her bio.