Toxic Relationships: Practical Steps To Help You Cope
Love is not always easy. Every relationship has its ups and downs, but when it turns sour and challenges exceed a certain level of stress, it’s time to pay close attention to its dynamics for it can greatly damage your well-being if not managed properly. Toxicity in relationships is always a sign that something is wrong and we should never try to sweep problems under the carpet and hope that the situation will improve because the chances are, it won’t.
However, although it may be difficult to change a situation when strong emotions are already involved, there are ways to handle a bad relationship with a romantic partner. Here is some guidance on what to do if you think your marriage or love affair has become dysfunctional and you need support.
Accept that you are in a difficult situation
The first thing to identify is whether you and your partner are just going through a rough patch as many often do or if there is something more serious happening. Communication is very important in any relationship, but it may be particularly so when you and your partner are continuously clashing. Quite often women can become unintentionally complicit in bad relationships as they don’t want to cause more conflict or hurt the other person’s feelings: if you do decide to bring up the problem, try to stay calm, keep your voice low and refer to the behaviour you don’t like rather than personalising it. If you have tried communicating in this way but the problem persists, it may be time to look at outside sources of support.
If your partner makes you feel scared, depressed, anxious these are more serious red flags that you cannot afford to ignore. Relationships that involve physical abuse are unacceptable and if this has become a part of your relationship then you need to deal with this immediately. The police, local safeguarding teams and independent family safety units exist solely for this purpose. No one should have to live with domestic violence, even more so if children are involved. Do not wait for the situation to escalate, you need help straight away.
Other signs of toxicity in relationships that don’t involve physical violence may be more difficult to spot but are nonetheless unpleasant and can cause serious psychological problems such as PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) if they remain unspoken. If your needs are consistently not being met, you don’t feel respected or are constantly being belittled, these will eventually take a toll on your self-esteem. Similarly, deliberately being misunderstood or demeaned can also be detrimental to your wellbeing and it is for you then to decide whether the positive side of the relationship is enough to negate the bad. Talking to someone you can trust can be helpful as when we are inside the relationship it can be hard to see what’s not normal, especially if you’re trying to keep things together for the sake of any children.
Relate is an excellent online service specialising in helping couples to get back together or split more amicably so that the risk of long-term psychological damage is minimised. Private family therapy may also be an option albeit an expensive one. The main benefit of therapy is that a couple can air their grievances in a safe space and the therapist can facilitate reflection on both sides. It can also be sometimes easier for someone to tell a partner that the relationship is over when an impartial third party is involved. Sadly, sometimes separation is the only option left to couples whose relationship has run its course.
Very often toxicity can occur in relationships that are all but over and this should never be ignored. Seek legal advice as soon as possible. It may feel very brutal but being aware of your rights and having objective advice can pay dividends later down the line. Get support as soon as you can as this can help both parties come to terms with what’s going wrong and reduce the risk of long-term damage to yourselves and others around you.
Finally, forgive yourself
Toxicity in relationships is rarely down to one person. It’s terribly sad but sometimes, despite our very best efforts and no matter how much we may love our partner, people can just bring out the worst in each other. The most important thing to remember is that we remain loveable and that one bad relationship should not mean any in the future will be the same.