A close friend came to me in tears and said “I think I am in a toxic relationship. When my partner is around I find I am on edge and feel unloved. I find it hard to talk in a calm way. He belittles me and makes me feel depressed. What should I do?”
Are you in a toxic relationship?
Consider the following four symptoms.
1. Emotional symptoms;
When your partner is around…
Do you feel unattractive, unintelligent, depressed or drained?
Do you feel tense, nervous angry or upset?
Do you feel judged or disrespected?
Do you feel relief when they have gone?
2. Behavioural symptoms;
Do you feel the need to drink when your partner is around or has left?
Do you feel the need to over eat or not eat at all around them?
Do you become submissive or aggressive around them?
Do you try to avoid them?
3. Physical symptoms;
Does being around your partner give you a headache, a racing heart or inability to catch your breath?
Do you recoil or flinch if they touch you?
4. Communication symptoms;
Do you choose your words carefully or use harsh words around them?
Do you stutter or stammer in their company or raise your voice and become angry?
Does your partner belittle you or verbally abuse you?
Here are some steps to take to bring back love.
While some relationships can be toxic from the start and just continue to worsen, most relationships gradually degenerate over time, creating frustration, anger and resentment.
Little annoyances creep in and you may find the loving bond you once had has become an unhappy relationship, strained to the point you often wish you were single again.
The decision has to be made whether you want to restore your bond and bring back love or break up and move on.
Break up and divorce is often messy and unpleasant so take a close and unemotional look (yes that will be difficult) at how you interact and whether you are prepared to put in the required effort to undo the damage of time and indifference.
If you decide to try and restore the love you once had, keep in mind that you cannot ‘fix’ your partner, the solution must come from you.
You can’t change your partner, but you can change how you react to what they say.
1. Develop better communication tools.
Once you know how to effectively communicate with your partner your life will become so much easier, less frustrating and happy.
My first suggestion is that you try to be calmly assertive and confront your partner without being aggressive or abusive.
This will allow you to stay in control, state your case and ask to be treated with respect.
There is a big difference between being assertive and being aggressive.
If you are assertive, you have power, if you are aggressive you have lost control.
To be assertive you need to be conscious of what you are doing and saying when speaking. You need to go into the moment clear about the outcomes you want to achieve. It is essential that you maintain an even tone of voice and be clear about what you want.
Phrasing your requests with an ‘I …’ as in ‘I need’ or ‘I feel’ rather than using the accusatory ‘You …’ is also important.
You also need to be able to switch off your emotions and respond to potential criticism in a calm manner. If you cannot separate your emotions from the words being said, you will become defensive and reactive and this will not help you resolve any issues.
This Mindfulness technique is a useful way to effectively manage stress and learn to live in the moment.
Mindfulness helps you separate yourself from what is happening and allows you to become more objective and less judgemental. This doesn’t mean you let yourself be abused without defence, but instead allows you to stay calm.
To practise mindfulness, take a mental step back, breathe slowly and listen without judgement to what is happening.
This will allow you to see issues from both sides more clearly and respond in a non-aggressive way, thus allowing you to make the right decisions about your relationship.
Once you are in control of yourself, you will be able to discuss the issues of concern.
Remember, your partner also has to feel there is hope for improving your relationship. If this is so, you can then calmly proceed to a resolution of conflict. If you remain in control of yourself, and show warmth and love, your partner will respond in similar fashion.
All relationships must be founded on trust and openness and good communication can help you achieve that.
Regularly take stock of the relationship you have with your partner and analyse the way you respond to teach other. This awareness and vigilance will give you the best chance to change your toxic relationship into one that provides you with harmony and joy.