Defining Such a Relationship
Toxic love, unhealthy relationship, toxic relationship, and bad relationship are all different names for the same thing as I see it. Therefore, I’ll really be talking about all of them in this article, but only from the point of view of a romantic love relationship.
Toxic love is a sickness in the hearts of the participants. It is a union of unhealthy and needy individuals. It is a parasite of the human spirit. It uses another person’s weakened spirit to survive. It is an emotional cancer that destroys the healthy parts of a person until there is nothing left except an empty shell– unless its progression is stopped!
A person in a toxic love relationship can fool themselves and their partner into believing that they are protectors, givers, nurturers, or enlighteners. The condition of the relationship is one of uncertainty, anger, neediness, insecurity, and suspicion.
Once a person is deeply involved in a toxic love affair, they gradually lose the ability to recognize behavior that is unhealthy and unacceptable. They eventually lose touch with the concept of a healthy relationship.
In these relationships, each partner’s central role is either as a parasite or as a victim. However, these roles can switch periodically if an emotionally charged situation arises like a bitter argument. When this happens, a repressed sick part an individual can come shooting out like red-hot lava from an angry volcano!
The degree of sick behavior by either partner can vary. One of them may be sicker than the other. One or both of them may abuse their partner. They may abuse in different ways. Their abuse might be blatant or indiscernible. It might be unintentional or subconscious or both. Whatever the method of delivery it is equally damaging to the recipient. The sinister aspect of imperceptible abuse is that it’s difficult to identify and explain. This makes it hard to gain support from family and friends.
Any relationship that makes you feel bad is or has the capability of becoming a toxic love relationship. It doesn’t necessarily mean that one or both partners have to be psychologically ill for this to occur. Just being with a person who’s wrong for you can lead to a toxic love relationship.
Recognizing a Toxic Love Relationship
So how do you know when you’re in a toxic love relationship? During the early stages of these relationships, it’s hard to spot. If either partner has unhealthy tendencies, they usually repress them. As a person becomes more involved, especially if they are at a low point in their life, it progressively becomes more difficult to determine. This is particularly true if one or both partners are getting sicker as a result of their involvement in the toxic love affair.
One of the best ways to know if you are in a toxic love relationship is to look at how you feel. Since you have been together, do you feel better or worse about yourself and your life? When you spend time together, do you feel uplifted, relaxed, and confident or do you feel depressed, nervous, and unsure? When you’re apart, do you feel certain and at peace about your relationship or do you feel confused and anxious about it? If you feel like the second part of these comparative questions more often than not, you may be in a toxic love relationship.
Another, and perhaps more reliable, method for determining whether you are in a toxic love relationship is to tune in to what your intuition, or gut feelings, are telling you. (Intuition and gut feelings are different names for the same thing.)
Even if you grew up in a home with parents who had a sick relationship, you do know better. Certainly, you’ve known at least one couple who had a relationship that you could use as a healthy relationship model.
If you grew up with parents who fought a lot, as I did, there certainly is the inclination to fall into unhealthy relationships, but we have a choice. The best one we can make is to take 100% responsibility for our adult relationships. This means not blaming our parents or anyone else for the outcome of our relationship choices.
I have fallen into a number of toxic love relationships in my life, but I have also managed to have quite a few healthy ones as well. I can tell you one thing that I discovered from these highly contrasting experiences. There is absolutely no comparison in terms of joy, fulfillment, and productivity than when you are in a healthy relationship as opposed to a toxic one. It wasn’t until I was in an extremely healthy relationship that I understood the meaning of true love. The most profound aspect that I found, which amazed my friends, was a shift in my consciousness to being more concerned about her happiness than I was about my own. The more I gave without measure, the more I received. The point here is that one of the characteristics of a toxic love relationship is self-centeredness!
One of the most amazing things about being in a bad relationship, which I talk about in this article entitled, “Breaking Up! How to Ride the Pain to Gain,“ is how I felt about them once I broke free. It’s was almost impossible for me to figure out what I ever saw in them. While I was deeply entrenched in the turmoil of the relationship, I couldn’t see the futility of the situation. Nor could I clearly recall how I felt the last time I broke free from a similar involvement. Eventually, I did learn how to use these experiences to my advantage and I got over future break ups much easier and quicker.
Your intuition, or gut feelings, is the most reliable way for you to decide if you’re in a toxic love relationship, but you may not have access to this information right now for two reasons: (1) You have not developed the ability to tune in to and trust your intuition, or gut feelings. (2) The sickness of your relationship may have progressed to the point where you can no longer distinguish between healthy and unhealthy behavior.
If you have not developed the ability to tune in to and trust your intuition you can learn! Everybody has this capability. Have you ever had a strong feeling about a particular person or situation that turned out as you had thought? This is your intuition speaking to you. To learn more about intuition, read this article entitled, “Intuition – How to Access, Recognize, & Trust It.”
If the sickness of your relationship has progressed to the point where your mind has turned to mush, read this article entitled, “What is Love? Defined by What it Is and is Not!” It might give you clarity. It includes a list of what you will NOT feel, think, share, and experience when you’re “truly” in love. This list is a perfect description of a toxic love relationship.
Escaping a Toxic Love Relationship
So what do you do if you find yourself in a toxic love relationship? You need to find a way to separate yourself from the relationship immediately! If you cannot handle the thought of permanently ending your relationship right now, then propose to your partner with conviction that you take 30 to 90 days off under the conditions described below.
Both partners agree to…
- Cut off all contact and communication for any reason for 30 to 90 days.
- Reset the clock if either person violates these conditions for any reason.
- Meet in a neutral location (park, restaurant) at the end of 30 to 90 days.
- Write a letter to each other and present it during the meeting. (Optional)
- Honor the wishes of either partner who wants to end the relationship at the conclusion of the meeting without any argument or repercussions.
Agreeing to meet at the end of a 30 to 90 day period will provide the sense of security that you both might need at this point. Most importantly, it will give you the space and time you need to regain your personal power. It will also give your partner a cooling off period.
There is one caveat to making this 30 to 90 day agreement. There’s a good chance that your feelings for one another will change or switch by the time you meet. For example, you may have initiated the separation but later you decide that you want to give the relationship one more try. At the time of your separation, your partner may have begged you to stay together. But when they arrive at your meeting they want to end your relationship permanently. The only thing you need to do is prepare yourself for any outcome and not have any expectations.
If you are not sure whether you should leave your partner, consider these things. In your current state, you have nothing positive to give to this or any other relationship. The same is true of your partner.
The best thing to do for yourself, and your partner, is to break away from the relationship completely or at least in the manner described above. Your goal is to put some time and physical distance between you and the relationship. This will give you the opportunity to regain your emotional equilibrium. Once you’re away from the stress and sickness of the relationship for a while you’ll begin to see it for what it truly is: toxic love, perhaps? The only person on earth who can truly decide is you!
If you feel your relationship may be salvageable, you might consider reading this article entitled, “Couples Communication without Confrontation!” Completion of the communication exercise described in the article may give you the starting point you need.
If you feel that your relationship is not worth any further investment, then I would encourage you to look at this transition as an opportunity for personal growth! To support your efforts, read as much information as you can on topics related to your needs and goals. There are many good books on the recommended books page that you might consider.