In today’s world, toxic relationships are the norm, and healthy is almost unrecognizable. In fact, it’s not uncommon to hear healthy relationships referred to as ‘boring’ or ‘passionless’.
But how did we end up here? What makes us normalize and idolize toxicity? Short answer: social media, and pop culture. Many popular TV shows, such as Pretty Little Liars and You showcase toxic relationships. (Spoiler alert: It is not romantic for a man to be obsessed with you that he kills people). Kids, teenagers, and even adults watch shows like this, and believe the unhealthy treatment portrayed in the show is normal and okay, because it’s romanticised. It goes beyond TV shows as well; movies such as The Notebook; for example, when Noah dangles from the ferris wheel until Allie agrees to a date is a classic example of toxic behavior. Even songs including Love the Way You Lie by Eminem and Rihanna, represent toxic relationships.
It can be hard to recognize toxicity as something not to be desired, when we’re bombarded with it every day via shows, movies, and music. But we also see it daily on social media. People sharing posts laughing about their ‘overly jealous’ boyfriend who won’t let them go out with their friends, or girlfriends throwing objects at their significant other because they are upset. Even if we manage to ignore pop culture, it can be easy to normalize poisonous relationships when we see it posted all over social media by every day, real people. Unfortunately, 1 out of 3 young people will end up in a toxic, or abusive relationship. Beyond romantic involvement, 84% of women and 75% of men report having at least one toxic friend in their lifetime.
It helps to know what signs to look for when determining if your relationship is toxic or not. The biggest signs include:
- A lack of trust. You should feel safe and secure within your relationship, and if you don’t, that’s a sign something is wrong.
- You feel drained. Your relationship is tiring you out and/or you spend all your energy on trying to fix it, to the point where you neglect yourself and your other social connections, such as friends and family.
- Hostile communication. Name calling, frequent yelling, the silent treatment, constant interruptions are all classic signs of a toxic relationship, and they are not okay.
- Controlling behaviors. Your partner never has the right to control where you go, who you’re with, or what you’re wearing.
- Lying. If your partner lies to you, whether it’s small or big lies, they don’t respect you.
- You make excuses for their behavior. Constantly defending your partner and their behaviors to the people who care about you indicate a problem.
So how do you get out of a toxic or unhealthy relationship? Sometimes the relationship can work out, if both partners are willing to acknowledge and work on the unhealthy behaviors. However, most of the time it’s best to go your separate ways. It’s best to start with a plan of action, especially if the relationship is abusive. Talk to friends, family, and even counselors about your plan. Once you’ve taken the step to walk away from the person, cut off all communication if possible. It can be easy to forgive and fall back into the relationship if they continue to have access to you and are able to talk to you. Take some time to get reacquainted with yourself; pick up new hobbies or get back involved with old ones. Spend time with your friends and family, and spend time with yourself. Remember it takes time to heal, but you will be okay one day.