Being in a tumultuous relationship doesn’t just affect your mood—it may also be having an impact on your health. Unhealthy relationships can create a toxic internal environment in your body which lead to depression, stress, anxiety, and even medical problems such as hormonal disorders. A long-term study that examined the impact of negative relationships on health found that people in unhealthy relationships were at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, including fatal cardiac events.
In this article, we discuss some of the signs of a toxic relationship and some strategies you can use to escape and leave the damage behind.
Signs of a toxic relationship
If a relationship is toxic, you may notice some changes in your everyday life or negative behavioral patterns in your significant other.
You feel drained
Instead of feeling happy when you are around that person, you are always on edge and feel mentally and physically drained.
You are always giving
In a toxic relationship you will feel that you are always giving without receiving anything in return. Relationship which makes you feel depleted in your energy reserves without getting anything back is definitely a red flag of a toxic relationship.
If you find your partner being angry constantly, especially towards you, then it is definitely a sign of an unhealthy relationship. Hostility can make you feel unsafe and no one should be exposed to negativity and anger all the time.
If your partner's interest and investment in the relationship is only about how it reflects on him or her, it can be impossible to achieve a balance where you also feel fulfilled in the relationship.
If the partnership is not mutually respectful, then there is no ground for it to develop into a positive one. Name calling, condescending comments, and of course physical abuse all stem from disrespect. Mutual respect is a non-negotiable requirement for any healthy partnership.
Keep in mind that even healthy relationships experience problems from time to time. If the disrespect and imbalances continue even after open conversation about an issue, think seriously about the long-term implications on your own well-being and the future of the relationship. When an otherwise healthy relationship begins to show signs of strain, it may be time to consider outside help from a couples’ counsellor to get an objective opinion on what’s happening.
How can you leave a toxic relationship?
Leaving a relationship is never easy, especially if you’ve been emotionally involved with this person for a while. However, at some point you need to realize that you’re losing out by being in a toxic relationship and improvement in your well-being requires changes.
1. Stop being in denial
Ask yourself some hard questions. If your best friend was in the same position as you are, what advice would you give them - would you ask them to stay in the relationship or get out? Keep a journal of emotions to track the things that make you feel good or bad. Check back on your journal to see if your partner consistently features among the list of things that make you feel bad. If yes, step out of your denial.
2. Figure out what is keeping you stuck
Identify what is keeping you stuck in your relationship. Does your partner make you feel sexy and attractive? Even if they don't treat you well, do they remind you of an abusive authority figure from your childhood thus giving you a level of familiarity and comfort? Find some alternative sources to give you the wholeness and peace that you deserve. Meditation, caring for pets, being around friends, picking up a project that is fulfilling and so on can help you break out of the cycle.
3. Surround yourself with positivity
You need a lot of support from friends and family to come out of a relationship, especially if you have been in it for a very long time. Surround yourself with positive friends who aren’t caught up in their own toxic relationships. Make smart choices about people you choose to spend time with.
4. Allow yourself some TLC
It takes a lot of energy to endure the withdrawal symptoms of breaking away from a toxic relationship that you're addicted to. Be kind to yourself and allow some rest and solitude so you may heal and get back to normal life.
After getting out of one toxic relationship, try not to get caught up in another. Remind yourself that you deserve a healthy partnership and refuse to settle for a toxic relationship for the sake of companionship.
About the author: Brett Farmiloe is a contributing writer for Online Counseling Programs, a comprehensive guide for counseling degree programs and career paths.