Turning Around Toxic Relationships: How to Know When Enough is Enough

A personal note 

 Before sitting down to write this article,  I asked my closest friends who, in their eyes, would be considered the most toxic person that had ever walked into my life. Unsurprisingly, they named a boy but most of them had differing opinions on what constituted as the “most” toxic. Several names came up, none that surprised me. To dismantle their identities on this platform, however, would not be ideal, nor professional. The whole fact of the matter is that I, even at the age of 20, have been involved in many situations that most would consider “toxic.” To tell you the truth, I could go on about how each of them have made me feel inside; belittled, unimportant, and even useless at times. “I’m over them,” I’d say, until I heard their text tone beep on my phone, making my heartbeat race. My friends would watch, unimpressed, as I’d fall back into it each and every time. While I’m sure I’ve moved on from a lot of it, unfortunately, there are still a few people I’m a sucker for. To write this article and tell you that I’m not deeply involved in any toxic relationship would be completely false: I’m here to tell you that these kinds of relationships inhabit everyone, some more than others. Through them, however, I’ve learned that there is a process to dealing with them and hopefully eliminating them altogether. Here’s some food for thought about toxic relationships: 

 

Defining toxicity 

According to a statistic from 2014, one in three young people are in an abusive or unhealthy relationship. Each toxic relationship, whether with a parent, friend, or partner, begins in similar ways. What does a toxic relationship look like? Many red flags arise, such as the following: 

Lack of Trust - Without trust, a relationship cannot last. Trust acts as a fundamental characteristic of a healthy relationship and works as a two-way street. Are they constantly asking you where you are? Are they checking your phone? Also, are you giving them a reason not to trust you?

Hostility and Judgement - A lot of times, toxicity forms from judgment and jealousy. I used to have an ex-boyfriend who would take their anger out around me, which just led to me being scared and closing up my walls around him for the remainder of the relationship. If there is someone in your life who makes you feel unsafe, it’s time to get out. 

Lack of Communication - This one goes hand in hand with trust; a relationship is only as good as the level of communication between both partners. It is more important to ‘listen to understand’ rather than ‘listen to respond.’ Ask questions if you need clarification and don’t accuse. If this doesn’t sound like your relationship, then you might want to begin to reevaluate things.

Feelings of Entrapment - One too many times I’ve heard friends say “I want to break up with them but I’m scared of what they might do if I end our relationship. I don’t want them to get hurt.” The feeling of entrapment occurs when one might not see a way out of the relationship, either because their partner has threatened them/their own wellbeing or because the “comfort” of the relationship, no matter how toxic, is the only thing they know and quite possibly the only relationship they’ve ever known. Sound familiar yet?  

Unhappiness/Self-Consciousness -  A big part of a relationship is happiness and positivity. It’s natural to fight with anyone, but constant misery is a clear sign of toxicity. Feeling embarrassed by the relationship or not feeling good enough are key signs that your relationship with said person might not exactly be healthy. Your circle of people should be proud of you, not jealous.

Control issues/Manipulation -  Wanting you all to themselves or convincing you to stay in rather than going out could at first come across as “cute,” but really it’s a tactic of manipulation. Do not mistake protectiveness with control issues; once they realize they can manipulate you, they will not stop. Once they know you’ll always be there no matter what, you’ve lost. Read that again. 

Lowering your standards - I’ve always been taught that a relationship only works if the people in your life challenge you. If they don’t encourage you to do better, the sad truth is that you will succumb to a lower standard because you never had the encouragement you needed or deserved. Be mindful of this and look for the diamonds in the rough. 

 

Speaking from experience 

I’m almost positive that reading those toxic traits above really hit home for some of you. Though that was the point, I now want you to understand that if you’ve checked a few of those points off your list, there are thousands of people just like you who have seen instances of toxicity in their friendships and relationships. Everyone has a different story with a different way of dealing with it. You are not alone. 

Carolyn Bridgeman, a third-year journalism student speaks on behalf of her toxic relationship between her and her ex-boyfriend. “Mine and his relationship of a little less than two years was incredibly unhealthy. We were dependent on each other and due to infatuation, I didn’t realize it at the time. After he cheated on me, I broke up with him, though it took me seven months to stop ‘seeing him.’ It was incredibly difficult for me to become independent, however, once I did, I was able to recognize my worth.”

Alyssa, a graduate student at Ryerson University explains how she just got up and left the situation. “Our relationship was toxic in the sense that he was controlling, jealous, verbally abusive, and would hit things. I was worried it was going to be me instead of the wall next, so I finally cut it after three and a half years. This proved to me that you can love someone but it doesn’t mean that they’re the person for you.” 

A third-year journalism student, who wishes to remain unnamed, speaks on behalf of his experience with his previous relationship and how difficult it was to walk away. “We had a lot of toxic downfalls, our inability to compromise was just one. We grew apart, and every effort to improve our communication would be nothing more than cheap talk. Once I told myself this honestly had no chance of working and meant it, I knew it wasn’t worth it. We both wanted our cake and to eat it too and that’s not necessarily how relationships work.”

 

Easier said than done

In order to move past a toxic relationship, you must be able to accept that toxic people don’t change. Obviously some situations are more difficult to escape than others, which is completely understandable. If, however, you recognize that your relationship is unhealthy, the best thing to do is leave it as soon as possible, and leave it completely. Cutting all ties and being firm about it is the only way to be sure they don’t re-enter your life. Some ways to help detach from any negative relationships: 

Acceptance - Sometimes, both individuals are at fault. It is possible for two people to bring out the worst in each other, no matter how much you think you care about each other. Some people just are not meant to be friends, partners, or lovers, and that’s the hard truth. 

Identify the perks of the relationship - All relationships have some sort of pros, or else you would have no reason to stay with said person. Make a pros/cons list of the relationship. Do you find there’s more bad than good left in your relationship with said person? If you don’t think you can work on it, there’s your answer.

Observing MO (Modus Operandi) - Modus Operandi is a Latin term that is defined as the pattern of someone’s habits. Take time to examine how someone acts around you. Try putting in minimal effort for a few days or weeks and see if they try to reach out to see how you are, or if they only come around when they need something from you. You’ll find your answer there.

Surround yourself with positivity - I can promise you that I’ve had a fair share of realizations when it comes to the people I want to be around. Positivity is everything. Walking into a negative environment, whether it be at home, school, or work, quite literally drains you. Once you focus on hanging out with people who work to bring you up, you will become the best version of yourself, allowing you to break free from anything toxic that was once holding you back. 

Consider yourself for once -  The most important factor through all of this is yourself. You need to learn to love yourself before you can ever love anyone else. If you are no longer satisfied with these relationships, it might be time to move on. People outgrow each other over time and more often than not, you’ll go through tons of relationships and friendships before you can truly admit to yourself that you’re happy. Rather than being co-dependent or conforming to what everyone else wants, let your own emotions matter. It all begins with choosing to be the best version of “you” that you can be. 

 

Hopefully, these thoughts of mine were able to help you, whether you’re in the process of eliminating a relationship, or deciding where you stand with someone. I really hope that you put yourself first and you realize your worth. The moment you do that, the world will be at your fingertips!