Most of us have found ourselves in an unhealthy, even toxic relationship at one or more times in our lives. It’s an experience like no other. It can rock you to your core, in ways that are more painful than you could have ever imagined, and yet you desperately want to hold onto it.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to even identify what is happening. You know you feel drained, insecure, and unsupported, but you wonder if this is all normal. You’ve been told that relationships are work, so you aren’t sure if what you are experiencing is a normal relationship. Being in a love relationship is very important to so many of us; we crave finding our person and living happily ever after. We wouldn’t want to accidentally let them go, so little by little, we accept behaviors that violate our boundaries and leave us feeling worthless. And before we know it, we’ve lost ourselves in a toxic relationship.
A friend of mine gave me an excellent piece of advice after I found myself disenchanted with single life and dating. I had begun to wonder if my expectations were too high and if my two choices were to tolerate subpar behavior from a partner or become a crazy cat lady. (The latter, by the way, did not seem to be the worst option, considering some of the dates I went on!)
As I complained to my friend that there was clearly no one of quality left in the Seattle Tacoma Metropolitan area—an area with close to 4 million people—she said this: “You don’t need to worry so much. You can’t miss the one.” Sure. Easy for her to say. She’d been married for 20 years. What does she know? I thought. However, deep down, I knew she was right. And it reminded me of the very simple but impactful quote from Rumi: “Whatever you are seeking is seeking you.” I believe that if you truly desire a great relationship, then it is for you. I know it isn’t always easy to believe when the great relationship hasn’t shown up yet, but it’s absolutely true.
If you are seeking clarity and aren’t quite sure if you’re in a toxic relationship, ask yourself these five questions:
#1: Does my relationship empower me to be a better version of myself, or does it drain me and bring out my crazy? Yes, toxic love makes us crazy. I have a friend who once booby-trapped her own apartment because she was so infuriated by her cheating boyfriend. It makes for a funny story but is not pleasant if you’re experiencing that level of emotion.
#2: Do I feel like my partner is an equal, or is there an imbalance in the relationship? Truly look at your relationship to see if one person is consistently giving and the other is consistently taking.
#3: Do I feel respected and valued in my relationship? After thinking over that one, ask yourself the opposite to determine if you feel respect and value for your partner.
#4: In my relationship, do I feel like myself or do I highly censor myself as to not upset my partner? Really examine your behavior to determine if you’re walking on eggshells much of the time and diminishing your personality to keep peace in the relationship.
#5: How do I feel in my relationship—am I generally content, even happy, most of the time, or do I mostly feel anxious, uneasy, and depressed? The 80/20 rule in relationships says that you’ll get 80% of what you want, and it’s so good that it far outweighs the 20% that you don’t want. The caveat here is that this is for healthy relationships. In a toxic relationship, that 20% could be absolute misery and is NOT WORTH staying.
How did you do? Are you making choices to enhance your spirit and your life, or did you find that you’re giving your power away? Trust your instincts. And to all of you singles out there, I can’t emphasize this point enough: Please don’t settle! Identify your non-negotiables and when people don’t meet your standards, feel free to let them go. This will create space in your life to connect with the partner you want and deserve!
Want more? Listen to “Tainted Love: Identifying and Letting Go of a Toxic Love Relationship” from On the Verge Radio with Laura Richer.