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My mother always told me that God will continue to give you the same situation over and over again until you learn how to deal with it. Well, for me, that situation is toxic relationships.

Let me make it very clear that no one deliberately goes looking for a toxic situation. If you have personally experienced a toxic relationship, it can be very hard to move on from and it may feel as though no one understands what is happening to you. In part, you are correct. No one truly knows your feelings and level of attachment, but at the same time, be appreciative of their attempts to help because they really do mean well.

I have dealt with my fair share of toxic and manipulative relationships, both with friends and those who I considered to be more than friends. As I began to think about my experiences, I realized there were “warning signs” that appeared in each of them, and I repeatedly ignored them. In my most recent toxic relationships, I began to recognize these warning signs:

Warning Sign #1: They make you feel guilty for not doing something you aren’t comfortable with.

The last boy I talked to was notorious for this. He often asked me for “certain pictures,” something I was not comfortable with at all. I spent several weeks trying to change the subject to something less intimate, in the hopes that he would eventually give up and move on. He didn’t. He would say that I didn’t love him, or that I was being mean because I did not want to share private photos of myself. His choice to equate affection with photos of my body proved that he did not actually care for me, but rather what I could give him physically. He sought to emotionally manipulate me by making me feel guilty for his own personal pleasure. I knew deep down that someone who truly cared about me, would understand my hesitations and avoid putting me in situations that made me uncomfortable, but I fell for his game and I felt like a fool for it.

Warning Sign #2: They constantly send you mixed signals.

Toxic people live for making people confused. Unfortunately for me, I am easily confused. Someone who I considered to be a very good friend of mine never treated me consistently during the time we spent together. One day, she treated me like was her only friend in the world, sharing personal thoughts and stories with me, and the next day, she’d ignore me, not even acknowledging my hello and goodbye. I thought maybe I had done something wrong. I began to feel like I was walking on eggshells around her; I never knew when she was going to be upset and rude to me, or if she was going to want to tell me everything about her day. I didn’t know it at the time, but I didn’t deserve to feel like any of it was my fault that she couldn’t consistently treat me with the love and respect I deserved.

Warning Sign #3: They are very demanding and needy.

This I believe is the hallmark of a toxic relationship. I experienced this with both the toxic friends and partners I have had in my life. With partners, they often demanded physical acts from me, telling me how much they needed it, and most shockingly, how they DESERVED it. It was my choice to decide who was and was not deserving of me and my body, and they took that from me. They constantly told me how they felt so miserable when they weren’t with me and how I could make everything better. That was a lot of pressure to put on one person. With my friends, it would be just as difficult. I would do anything for those I love, especially when they were hurt or sad. I could spend every waking second consoling a good friend through an emotional event, but to my toxic friends, I was never good enough. Some of them sought to manipulate me, saying how desperately they wanted to hang out and then when I couldn’t, I became a terrible friend in their eyes and they felt the need to remind me that I was never there for them. That hurt me beyond belief that someone would think I was never there to offer at least some form of support. Toxic people cannot be satisfied, you will never meet their demands, regardless of how capable you think you are.

So how do we combat this?

First, we have to understand that toxic people are a part of the human experience, but we should never accept it. No one deserves to be emotionally manipulated or treated so poorly. Secondly, there is not a one size fits all approach to dealing with toxic relationships. I encourage any readers dealing with toxic and abusive relationships to reach out for help and support. You will not be judged, and you are so loved. So, that being said, if you are experiencing a toxic situation, you need to step back and evaluate your thoughts and feelings on the matter and decide how it is best to proceed. If you’re anything like me, this is how I handled the toxic waste in my life:

I prayed for a very long time. It crushed me that God would allow me to be treated so rudely on multiple occasions, but I realized that perhaps this was God showing me that I had a great deal to learn. I learned a great deal from the toxic people in my life and I even learned about myself and how far I was willing to go to make people like me. I recognized the warning signs and now I can tell when a person truly cares for me and when they just want to use me. I began to open up more to my friends and we had so many “girl weekends” and movie nights that I realized that I had more healthy relationships in my life than toxic ones, even though it didn’t always feel like that. I had other people in my life who cared for me and wanted to be around me. I knew I was better off without that kind of toxicity in my life.

I like to think I learned to love the toxic people that have come into my life, as they not only taught me about how sad life can be for others, but also how thankful I should be for the healthy relationships in my life, like with my wonderful family and beautiful friends. I made peace with the toxicity in my life and rather than fight it and wear myself out, I have learned to thrive when confronted with a toxic situation as I know it will never develop like I allowed it to with the toxic people that have already come into my life. Instead, I make a conscious effort to seek out healthier, more positive, and more supportive people in my life. I am thankful for the lesson the toxic people have taught me, and I hope God sees that I’ve figured out how to deal with toxic relationships and won’t feel the need to send a toxic situation my way any time soon.

 

HCXO,

Catherine

History and Secondary Education Major at Saint Vincent College.
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