You may think that your relationship is perfect, something out of a movie, and your love is undefeatable– but you can never be too sure. Studies say that over 50% of people worldwide are in toxic relationships without even realizing it. Are you one of them?
While there are several extreme red flags that everyone talks about, there are some subtle ones that we fail to notice or don’t take them seriously.
Let us now discuss these signs of a toxic/ unhealthy relationship, and see what you and your partner can do to improve your relationship.
1. The first and most basic sign of a toxic/ unhealthy relationship is you feeling drained all the time. This includes you feeling mentally exhausted and lashing out at other people every time you've spent some time with your partner– and this shouldn't be the case because time with your partner should feel like fun and not work. Yes, ALL relationships do involve work but if you feel like a dementor sucked your soul dry every time you hang out with them, then you need to reconsider if your significant other is healthy for your mental health!
2. The second sign that we will discuss is lack of two-way communication. You may feel like you're the only one making an effort to talk, and your partner is often dismissive of your feelings or makes you feel like you're overreacting. They keep telling you that you're blowing things out of proportion, or that you have very high expectations. And they gaslight your thoughts and make you feel that something is wrong with you!
3. Another sign that we're going to talk about today is a clear imbalance of power. It is your partner who always seems to decide what you two are going to do– do they feel like going to a restaurant? Do they just want to stay at home and order something? Subconsciously, the decision is always theirs. Sometimes, you have to wait for ages for them to confirm plans, or they make you feel like they're doing you a favour by spending time with you.
4. Something else that is normalized a lot in relationships is possessiveness and jealousy. Jealousy is okay to a certain degree, but if these feelings are not checked, they can grow to be unhealthy. Not allowing your partner to be friends with certain people, checking their messages constantly or setting curfews for them is not okay in a healthy, trusting relationship. Gaslighting is also common in such relationships– this means lying and manipulating someone until they believe they're the one who is wrong.
5. The fifth sign that we are going to talk about is fluctuating behaviour. Your partner may be incredibly sweet one moment, and then push you away and seem disinterested the next moment. When you're with them, you're constantly trying to gauge their mood and please them. Before you see them, you hope that they're going to be in a good mood today. This is extremely difficult to handle, and without doubt, abnormal.
6. The sixth sign is something that sounds very cliche, but is also true. This is you not feeling like yourself around your partner. You subdue yourself or mould yourself according to how your partner feels, and you feel like you're walking on eggshells around them. They sometimes say little things like “I don't think you should wear that” or “You're getting way too excited about this” that make you feel worse about yourself. These are subtle put-downs that lower your self-esteem without you even realizing it.
7. Last but not the least, you feel like you keep waiting for your partner to change– to be permanently nice, to get better at communication, to stop repeating the same mistakes over and over again. You hold out hopes, and keep reminding yourself of all the good things they have said and done until now.
So, these are some of the signs that you are in a toxic relationship. Now, what if you are? Can this change? Is there still hope?
Well, as difficult as it may seem, it is possible to improve an unhealthy relationship.
For this, firstly, you and your partner need to be on the same page. If one partner seems disinterested, then one-sided efforts will not change much.
Some of the ways of doing this are by making it a point to communicate regularly, to discuss how you feel about certain actions and behaviour, and most importantly, to listen to what your partner says and work on it. It is important to say positive things as well, instead of solely focusing on the negatives. It is also important to admit your mistake and apologize if you have done something to hurt your partner. Covering up things or lying/ gaslighting is not an option. Honesty is the foundation of a healthy relationship.
It may seem unnecessary, but spending time apart and learning to give each other space is also important. Too much time spent with any person can cause irritation and feelings of suffocation.
When you and your partner are arguing, it is important to remember that it is not you against each other, but both of you together, against the problem.
Remember that connection is a two-way street. Have you both tried everything you can? Is there anything else you can do? If your efforts seem one-sided or things still don't seem to workout out, maybe it is time to rethink your relationship. Relationship therapy is worth the investment! Don't be ashamed to consider therapy/ relationship coaching.