Why do people stay in toxic relationships?
Most people love the idea of a relationship more than the relationship itself. A relationship to a large extent defines an adult’s place in the society. You are as much a husband or wife as you are a man or a woman for the society. This creates a lot of social pressure for people to get in relationships or even stay in toxic relationships. The idea of being single is downright scary for people because of the judgemental eyes of the society. You could be terribly lonely and sad in a relationship and no one cares. The moment you are single, people start imagining a forlorn person even if you on the inside feel liberated and happy being on your own. Thousands of people stay in bad relationships that do them more harm than good. Such is the power of social censure.
Toxic relationships are common
On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States alone. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.
Intimate partner violence (IPV) is considered a human rights violation and public health issue throughout the world (Campbell, 2002; Garcia-Moreno, Jansen, Ellsberg, Heise, & Watts, 2006; Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000).
When toxic and abusive relationships are mentioned, we often think of physical violence. One of the most common forms of abuse is psychological or emotional. Emotional abuse is any nonphysical behaviour or attitude that is designed to control, subdue, punish, or isolate another person through the use of humiliation or fear (Engel, 2002).
Signs of a toxic relationship
The biggest travesty is that often people in toxic relationships do not even realise that they are stuck in one. They are not cognizant of how this toxicity is harming them and they carry on. This is particularly common in relationships where there is no physical violence. So the toxicity of the relationship is not palpable and gets pent up. This threatens a person’s very being over a period of time. Here are some signs of toxic relationships to look out for:
- You have lost yourself - True love does not require you to change. If you have had to transform yourself into a completely different person, it is not love. Every relationship calls for compromise and adjustments. But a toxic relationship tries to wipe away the very identify of a person. This façade of being a different person takes its toll and leads to severe mental and emotional issues in the concerned person.
-Your gut tells you so - Never underestimate the power of gut feelings. If your gut tells you, something isn’t right, though you cannot put your finger on it, listen to it. Sometimes, you just feel uneasy in a relationship for no apparent reason. The person might be ticking all the boxes on your checklist, but there is something amiss that does not reveal itself. This is a sign that you are not in the right relationship and need to move on.
-You are just trying to live up to an idea of a normal relationship - While routine & mundaneness are natural, do not just go through the motions. Do not stay in the relationship to just check a box. A large number of people make this mistake. They stay in an ornamental relationship that serves no real purpose. The partner does not add emotionally, psychologically, or physically to their life, but it is just easier to let the show go on. And so, they let it go on. This means a lifetime of missed possibilities and all those things that could have been.
-Your partner does not respect you - If your opinion does not matter to your partner & it’s always him/her first, it is a give-away sign that you are being short-changed. Relationships are give & take. But if you are the one giving in all the time, it is not right. The whole objective of a relationship is maximizing shared happiness. This means concern for mutual well-being and desires. A relationship that is tilted towards one person’s happiness only will not work. It takes two to tango.
-You are abused - Abuse is not just physical, it can be verbal, emotional, or sexual. There is no explanation or justification for this. You need to walk out. This one is more visible and prominent than the other signs which might require you to introspect a bit. But your desire to stay in the relationship could get you to rationalise your partner’s abusive behaviour. Don’t let your emotional insecurities get in the way of your basic human rights. Stand up for yourself, else no one else will.
All relationships go through ups & downs. Disagreements & fights are natural. And in a healthy relationship, we can work through those. Look out for these red signals to spot a toxic relationship. Reach out to a relationship counsellor should you spot any signs or are confused.
Types of toxic partners
Toxic partners come in many shapes and sizes. And they have more than fifty shades of abuse mechanisms in their arsenal. Here is a detailed look at the different types of toxic partners categorized on the basis of their preferred abuse strategy:
-The Brutal Belittler – Rather than being the wind beneath your wings, this partner tries to clip your wings. He/she belittles everything that you say or do. Discouraging and ridiculing you is their habit and makes them feel powerful in the relationship.
-The Temper Tornado – Rational adult arguments are beyond them. The moment there is different in opinion or disagreement, their temper soars. High decibels and rationale don’t flock together. So they sabotage any attempt at a discussion.
-The Guilt Giver – This one takes the path of least resistance. He/she knows the surest way to have their way is to put you on a guilt trip. They make you feel bad about exercising your basic human rights to rule over you.
- The Over-Dependent One – These people do nothing so that you can do everything. They make you feel that you are in charge of everything and hence responsible. They play dumb and relax on the side-lines while you are out playing alone in the arena.
-The Independent Individual – Their independence often comes at the expense of your rights. They are not bound any commitments towards you and think that by having expectations you get in the way of their freedom.
-The Possessive Sherlock – These people feel like they own you and as a consequence give you no space. They drive you away from your friends and family and exercise full rights on your lifetime. They might even spy on you.
A healthy relationship is built on mutual trust and love. It is not devoid of conflicts and can also get awfully hard sometimes. But a toxic relationship is awful most of the time. undesirable and abusive behaviour is more of a norm than exception. That is when you need to pull the plug. Relationships are supposed to enhance your life and well-being overall and not downgrade it. If it does not do that, most likely it is toxic.
It is possible to step out and recover from a toxic relationship. A therapist can help you find your footing back and make sure that it does not color the canvass for your future relationships. Sign up with Felicity and book your therapy session at the earliest.
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