How to identify a toxic relationship
23 April, 2023, 5:30 pm
Bula Fiji! Thank you for taking time out to read Bula Vakasaama, a column dedicated to enlightening readers about practical strategies to experience optimal mental health and mind wellness.
Today’s topic is about identifying toxic relationships and understand our thought patterns around remaining in or leaving a toxic relationship.
Human beings are complex creatures and needless to say, our relationships with each other, whether in our own home or in our professional space, or even within the community, can also have complex aspects.
We often have disagreements and try to resolve them through healthy, respectful conversations or at times through external intervention such as guidance from elders or a spiritual advisor. But every so often we all experience relationships where we feel trapped, suffocated, constantly disrespected, insulted, and feel like our voices have been stifled.
These are obvious signs of a toxic relationship.
Being in a toxic relationship brings about death. Death to peace, love, light, joy, laughter, and abundance. It slowly sucks life out of you until you start mirroring toxicity in your thoughts, words, and deeds.
In some extreme cases, even literal death. Not all toxic relationships are physically violent. Emotional torture, insults, money-control, spying (hacking into social media accounts, or checking phone messages), and constant accusations are some of many signs of a toxic relationship.
In my personal experience of a decade long toxic marriage, I ignored all these toxic behaviours because a part of me convinced me of two things; one, that I deserved them because my own perception of my self-worth was low.
I was in the habit of taking blame and making excuses for his violence, somehow convinced that I was the one at fault. It’s not that I wasn’t educated and didn’t know what to do. Of course, I could have left.
I was just too blindly in love with him. I found comfort in his possessiveness – misconstruing it as love. His every push, shove, threat, every act of spying on my phone, ultimatums to choose him over my family, every apology that immediately followed those countless fights, convinced me that it was my fault.
I vowed to improve myself to please him – talk less, laugh less, stop complimenting others, start complimenting him, never discuss my family in his presence, always praise his decisions, always agree with his gambling and drinking habits, never criticise, never question.
Never, ever question. And the second reason I ignored all of these red flags of a toxic relationship was that I fooled myself into believing that I could change him if I tried harder.
These two reasons were a clear indication that I lacked self-worth, selfrespect, self-love, self-compassion, and gratitude to God for the beautiful life that He had blessed me with, where instead of choosing love, light, peace, and joy, I was choosing toxicity and perpetuating it further.
When parenthood happened, the excuse to stay became even more ridiculous: convincing myself to stay because my child needed a complete family with both parents.
To leave or not to leave, that is the question
God created you to live your life to your fullest potential. Every day we are given an opportunity to reflect on our actions and reactions, and to understand the difference between merely existing and actually living.
When there is unhealed trauma of the past, we begin to live with a deeprooted fear of abandonment and loneliness. This fear creates a block in our growth and begins to create disharmony and sometimes disease in our mental health and mind wellness.
Self-transformation is only possible when there is self-reflection and awareness of patterns of thinking. Self-sabotaging thought patterns that trap you into staying on in toxic relationships (marriages, friendships, employment, and business partnerships) only bring about darkness, ill health, resentment, and fear.
Before you know it, you become addicted to this toxicity and fear propels you to find excuses to remain stuck in this stagnant existence. Comfortable thought patterns such as;
- If I leave, the children will suffer;
- What will people say? They’ll blame me and call me a failure;
- Who will love me again?;
- Who will hire me again?;
- At least this is better than other people’s stories; and
- It’s too scary out there and I don’t like change
The decision to leave a toxic relationship comes from clear thinking, not fear-based or comfort-based-thinking. Choice is the most fundamental and crucial part of decision-making. No one can make you leave.
You need to decide that for yourself. People sometimes say things like, “If it’s that bad, just leave.”
But it’s not that simple because you need to understand that in order to leave a toxic relationship, you need to first and foremost become aware that you are in fact living in one. So, ask yourself these…Where are you in your life right now?
How do you feel about your growth? How is your relationship helping you grow?
Is it helping you grow? If not, why not? Identify which side of this box your life resembles most and then make the right choice. Do you want to remain in the box or move?
• PRINCESS R LAKSHMAN is a counsellor, clinical nutritionist, writer, narrative therapist, and certified lifecoach. She is passionate about mind wellness and an advocate for kindness and self-care. She lives in Sydney and will soon open mind wellness hubs in Fiji to provide free mental health counselling and workshops exclusively to Fiji residents. The views expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of this newspaper. She can be reached at email@example.com