Toxic relationship patterns are often handed down to us from our parents. By their way of being in love, our parents give us our earliest (and most lasting) models of relating. Whether these patterns are constructive or not is rarely discussed other than in counselling.
More often than not, parents with toxic ways of relating are completely unaware of being caught up in any negative and reactive patterns. To them, due to lack of introspection and education, this is just how things are… or they blame each other… and any children grow up also believing that this is just how things are. What is really toxic seems quite normal…
It takes a non-conformist mind and a strong desire to change/grow to break from these negative patterns which are often rooted in co-dependency (most commonly with one narcissistic abuser and a someone who has the need to be needed). And at the very foundation of each one of these negative patterns is a lack of self-love/self-respect which makes it impossible to love/respect others. Sometimes a really badly toxic and abusive relationship can be the wake-up call for change. Sometimes we need for it to become blatantly obvious that something is terribly wrong.
Toxic relationships can be deceptively subtle though. Far from all of them include physical abuse. Are you unsure if your current relationship is toxic? If you recognise any of the signs listed below, chance are that you are!
* Your self-esteem has worsened since you met the other person
* You feel like you are walking on egg shells
* You are spending less and less time with friends and family
* You find yourself apologising all the time
* You feel like no matter what you do, it is never quite enough
* You are starting to question your sanity because of constantly being criticised
* You are shrinking your life instead of expanding it, making poor life choices
* You are discouraged from changing/growing
* You don’t feel free to speak your mind
* You spend more time making amends and trying to fix things than enjoying life; the relationship is a constant roller-coaster of highs and lows – the highs are amazing but the lows are more frequent (indicating a childhood abuse pattern that has you addicted to oxytocin according to Dr John Gray, author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus)
Essentially, these are all signs that the other person is treating you with a lack of respect. And the fact that you are accepting this kind of behaviour from them is a sign that you have yet to learn how to respect yourself.
Once you realise that you are in a toxic relationship, you are free to finally begin making healthy choices. The first choice is whether to stay and change the dynamic or to remove yourself entirely from the situation. If you do choose to stay, you need to be realistic about your chances: it takes TWO willing participants to change a relationship dynamic and chances are that you may need some form of relationship counselling for it to be successful.
The only person you can change is yourself. The way to do it is to start by respecting yourself, putting sound boundaries in place and prioritising your own needs.
Sometimes, the most empowering thing you can do for yourself is to simply walk away from the relationship. You don’t owe the other person anything if they have used, disrespected and abused you. In fact, them telling you that you do owe them is just another form of control/abuse. If they are clever at being manipulative, they will have learned to push your guilt buttons early on. Take firm control of those buttons yourself… I recommend disabling them all completely!
Beware of the backlash though. When you finally decide to leave someone who has been draining you of your very life force, they may go for the kill (If they can’t have you, nobody else can either). Most of the time figuratively speaking… but you never know. Don’t make a scene – Be clever about how you exit. Ask a friend to go with you if you need to go and collect your stuff… or just leave the stuff. Stuff is never worth putting yourself at risk over.
THE TOXIC RELATIONSHIP TAROT SPREAD
Please note: I do not offer this Tarot spread as an alternative to seeking professional help. If you have suffered abuse, throwing some cards at it will not be enough – you need help, professional help. If you come from an abusive background and have never been through counselling, hopefully this article is the wake-up call you need to get the help you deserve.
Also, if you do find yourself in a relationship with a narcissist and it is clear that this person lacks empathy completely, staying really is no longer an option. This is a person who genuinely feel they have nothing to benefit from changing, so you need to take yourself out of the equation ASAP.