Recognizing Relationship Toxicity

By Marina Krivonossova on July 16, 2020

Relationships are an integral part of the college experience. As we leave our high school years behind and begin embracing adulthood, we catch ourselves involved in all sorts of relationships. The ones I’m here to talk about today are the ones that go beyond friendship and into the romantic sphere. However, keep this in mind: not every relationship is created equal. It’s so important that we begin to discern the good relationships from the bad, as we spot toxic behavior in our partners. Recognizing relationship toxicity isn’t always easy. So, as someone who spent much of her last year of undergrad involved in what turned out to be a toxic relationship, I’m here to give you some pointers on signs to look out for when you’re romantically involved with another person.

If they aren’t as hyped as you are when you’re finally accepted into the grad program of your dreams, they aren’t the right person for you (image via pexels.com)

(1) They try to limit your potential and growth. If your partner isn’t supportive of your academic, personal, and professional endeavors, there’s a good chance you’ve caught yourself in a toxic relationship. You might have great ambitions to get your master’s degree, to move abroad and go after your dream job, or to switch majors and study a subject that truly piques your interest. These are all valid and reasonable choices to consider for a young adult figuring out their place in the world. However, if your partner is unsupportive of your desires to try something new and better yourself, they aren’t somebody you want to keep around in the long-term. They may make excuses like, “It’s just that I want you all for myself!” Or the classic, “Change is difficult, and I want to protect you from making the wrong choice.” While you may be inclined to view their lack of support as caring or sweet, the reality of the situation is otherwise: they’re simply a toxic influence.

Spending all the holidays with your family and not theirs? Might not be a good sign… (image via pexels.com)

(2) They never introduce you to their family or friends. Have you noticed that despite living a mere twenty minutes from your partner’s family, you’ve never actually met them? And they never seem to give you a direct reason or explanation as to why you can’t visit, even though you’ve been dating for what feels like forever. Or perhaps you’ve noticed that while your partner has met all your friends, you’ve never actually met any of theirs. A clear sign of relationship toxicity is when you do your best to include your partner in your life (friends, family, the whole ordeal), while your partner puts in no effort to integrate you into theirs. It could be an indicator of your partner hiding your relationship from their friends or family, or it could show that your partner isn’t set on committing fully to your relationship quite yet. While this sign alone doesn’t guarantee relationship toxicity, it is important to sit down and discuss with your partner why you two spend every holiday at your parents’ house, why every party you go to is hosted by your friends, and why they’re comfortable addressing your parents by their first names, while you haven’t even seen their parents in real life.

If they’d rather be passive-aggressive than discuss the problems in your relationship, you’re better off without them (image via pexels.com)

(3) The gaslighting never seems to end. If you’ve never heard of this term, gaslighting is defined as a manipulation tactic in which the perpetrator makes the victim question their own reality. Simply put, it’s when your partner mistreats you but reframes the story in such a way that makes them seem like the victim. This can be tough to spot until after you’re out of the situation (because as they say, hindsight is 20-20), but I’ll give you an example. Imagine your partner broke your favorite mug, in response to which you display evident sadness. You don’t yell, you don’t insult them — you just get sad. In response to your sadness, your manipulative partner gets even more upset (instead of simply apologizing), saying things like, “You always try to make me feel bad for things that weren’t my fault.” Now, you know this isn’t what you were doing. But your partner gaslights you into thinking you’re being a bad person, even though initially they were the one who upset you. Sound familiar? Then you might be in a toxic relationship.

Letting go is never easy, but it can be so important for your own well-being (image via pexels.com)

(4) They act passive-aggressive instead of telling you what’s bothering them. Perhaps you notice sudden, unwarranted changes in your partner’s behavior that lead to them acting impatiently, aggressively, or maliciously towards you and the surrounding world. When you ask them what’s wrong, they simply tell you “It’s nothing,” or “Go away.” Communication is key in a healthy relationship, and when you catch your partner mistreating you instead of being willing to openly confront issues, you’ve most likely caught yourself in a toxic relationship. The toxicity is only amplified when the passive-aggressive nature of your partner transforms into a blame-oriented approach, during which they start blaming you for everything going wrong in their lives. A healthy relationship includes an “Us vs. the problem” approach, rather than one in which it’s you vs. your partner.

If you noticed one or more of these traits as characterizing your past or current relationship, then it may be safe to say you’ve caught yourself in a toxic situation. It’s so important that as we transition from teenagers to young adults, we remind ourselves that while relationships can be important to our emotional and mental growth, staying in those characterized by toxicity isn’t a healthy choice. If you’re in a relationship where you don’t feel safe, happy, comfortable, or if you’re constantly making excuses for your partner’s illicit behavior, it may be time to do what feels the most difficult: walk away. Even if it hurts at the moment, I promise you that you’re doing the right thing.

And if you catch yourself struggling to cope with the loss of a relationship that you so valued in the moment, feel free to check out my article about coping with heartbreak. It’s what got me past a critical stage in my life during undergrad, and I hope it can do the same for you.

By Marina Krivonossova

Uloop Writer
Now that she has completed her undergraduate degree at UC Irvine and graduate degree at Leiden University, Marina is spending her time working in corporate communications and marketing. She has an educational background in business, economics, teaching, and politics. Her passions include creative writing, experimenting with new baking recipes, and traveling the world.

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