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We're never getting back together: understanding toxic relationships

Sep. 27, 2017
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You’ll never feel as lonely as you do when you are in a toxic relationship. Honestly, most of the time, you can’t even realize you are in a toxic relationship until it’s too late. You become too attached to let go of who you think you love; you refuse to let go due to all of the time and effort you’ve spent investing in the relationship.

I’ve spent my fair share of time googling the definition of a toxic relationship in an effort to deny my being in one. According to HealthScope, “a toxic relationship is a relationship characterized by behaviors on the part of the toxic partner that are emotionally and, not infrequently, physically damaging to their partner.” 

There are many types of such relationships, too, and a variety of common stereotypes tend to be brushed upon in the media. There are the physical abusers. Then, there’s the belittler, whose toxic behavior is often disguised by social norms that dictate lopsided gender dynamics. Isolationists are those who isolate you from your friends and family, making sure you don’t have anyone to talk to who could help you realize that you’re in a toxic relationship. The territorial figure acts as though they own you, showing explicit jealousy by lashing out. Then, there’s the tantrum-thrower. From the second things don’t go their way, they yell at you, blame everything on you, and make you think their mistreatment of you is your fault, gaslighting you until you agree with them—that somehow you’re the one that’s messed up. And the puppeteer controls everything you do: who your friends are, who you talk to, and what you do during the weekends. They will threaten to leave you and tell you how dysfunctional you’d be without them.

Toxic relationships comes in all shapes and sizes. Besides the plethora of aforementioned personas, there are still plenty of relationships that can be categorized as toxic but aren’t represented as such in mainstream media. Is that why we don’t realize we’re in toxic relationships? Are we looking for role models of love in the wrong places? We romanticize having a Romeo and Juliet kind of love, one so thrilling that it kills both parties within three days. We root for couples that we know are doomed from the start because we want to believe somehow it will be different. We go into relationships thinking we can fix the other person, and even when all signs point to no, we insist on trying anyways.

As you begin dedicating a large amount of your energy to another person, worrying about everything you do, and fearing that they would leave you if you messed up, the dynamic becomes more complex. When you finally leave, it might drain the life out of you—it did for me. I am still trying to find the person I was before I was in a toxic relationship.

Toxic romances eventually become relentlessly agonizing for both partners. Neither member is truly happy or in love; rather, they remain focused on holding on to each other, breaking each other’s hearts, and hoping love will somehow happen.  It’s not your job to fix other people, but sometimes it feels natural. I had this idea of what I wanted in a relationship and so I began building it all up in my head. I began holding in my resentment and anxiety because I was afraid of confrontations and conflicts. I never told anyone what I wanted because I thought it was selfish, but by not asserting myself, I was acting more selfish than ever.

You can’t change other people. If you’re in a toxic relationship, the only change you can make is to leave. Resist the voice in your head that wants you to go back to them, because you can never truly be yourself until you leave them behind.