You will have to reassess some of your past relationships during your recovery. You must reflect on relationships that may have contributed to your substance use. It can be hard to notice the signs of a toxic relationship when the person has been in your life for a long time. Toxic behaviors may not register as such if you are repeatedly exposed to them. It may seem normal that a loved one is being dismissive of your feelings or ignoring your expressed boundaries. You might make excuses for the person to justify their actions.
Some people’s toxic behaviors may be out of ignorance, while others might have harmful intent. Either way, you need to think about why you have these people in your life. Are they worth putting in the emotional effort to maintain a relationship?
Symptoms of a Toxic Relationship
Understanding the signs and symptoms of toxic relationships can help you communicate when you’ve been hurt, understand your feelings about a relationship, and potentially give you the knowledge and strength to leave a relationship that is detrimental to your well-being. Some symptoms of a toxic relationship are more severe than others.
The earlier you notice a toxic behavior, the easier it will be to confront your loved one and correct the issue if possible. Unfortunately, some people resort to toxic behavior when they don’t know how to express their feelings; when confronted with their behaviors, the person may or may not be understanding and apologetic and want to rectify the situation.
Emotional Abuse: Control and Dependence
Not all abuse is physical. If a loved one makes you frequently feel uncomfortable or worthless, you could be a victim of emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is used to gain control in a relationship. For example, a partner constantly asking you detailed questions about your whereabouts and discouraging you from seeing other people is exhibiting toxic, controlling behaviors.
Controlling behaviors may include:
- Keeping tabs on your whereabouts
- Frequent expressions of jealousy
- Making decisions about your life on your behalf
- Encouraging/forcing isolation
- Being demeaning
- “Love bombing”
- Ignoring set boundaries
This need for control could come from a dependency on your relationship for emotional or physical support. For example, a loved one might attempt to explain controlling behavior away through “love bombing,” a term used to describe emotional abuse disguised in constant excessive forms of affection, such as excessive gift-giving, compliments, or attention. When a person love bombs you, you will feel like you owe the person for their constant affection. This is how they gain control.
A common method of emotional abuse is gaslighting. Gaslighting is a deceitful behavior where a loved one might deny your feelings or memories to make you feel crazy or reliant on them. A person could gaslight you by denying the details or existence of an event. The event could be an emotionally charged argument or an instant of a harmful behavior they exhibited in the past. Another form of gaslighting may involve convincing you that your feelings are insignificant and ungrounded.
Gaslighting is usually accompanied by isolation and demeaning. Finding ways to keep you isolated prevents you from getting an outside opinion of your relationship. It makes it more complicated to resist the person’s lies. A person might discourage you from seeing friends and family or become upset when you spend too much time with someone else.
If a loved one calls you names or makes you feel small, that’s a form of demeaning you. This could be to make you feel incompetent and dependent. It gives the person more control, making it more difficult for you to leave the relationship.
Physical and Sexual Violence
Any type of unwanted physical or sexual advancement can be considered physical abuse. A loved one should never cross an expressed boundary. They should never physically touch you without your permission. Any physical altercation or threat is a major red flag in a relationship and gives you good reason to cut a person out of your life.
Addressing a Toxic Relationship
Some relationships may have toxic elements to them but can be repaired with a productive confrontation about the person’s behavior. If the person is receptive to your criticism, you may be able to repair the toxicity and move forward with the relationship. However, not all relationships are meant to be repaired.
Getting Out of a Toxic Relationship
Sometimes you have to cut people out of your life for the sake of your mental health. You can’t force people to change. Some of your loved ones may need to take their own personal journey before they can construct nontoxic relationships. It is not your responsibility to fix other people’s misgivings, especially if it affects your health or causes trauma.
Recognizing a toxic relationship is the first step toward fixing the relationship or leaving it behind. Restoration Recovery Center believes finding community and positive relationships is imperative for a successful recovery. We offer family therapy and contact with the outside world for three hours a day so that you can continue to strengthen your outside relationships. Our mental health professionals can help you develop the skills necessary to recognize and navigate toxic behaviors in relationships. We understand that every person is complex, and we look forward to getting to know you as a unique individual. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use disorder, please call Restoration Recovery Center at (888) 290-0925.