It had been a beautiful experience the first time they met. Their souls called to each other, their physical chemistry was off the hook. At first sight, they wanted to have sex with each other. None of those coy moves, when you have barely just met each other. They touched each other’s arms and faces, without even realising it was not normal to do so, for someone whom you had only just met! But so strong was the connection, they couldn’t help themselves!
That was how Luciana (she prefers Lucy), who wrote in, described the beginning of her 5-year relationship, while wondering if her relationship was toxic, and how it has become stuck in the engagement phase for the past two years, because the moments of joy were suddenly becoming more scare, compared to the nice moments
Continuing her story, Lucy said, after meeting him the first time, all she thought about for the rest of the day was him. He had come in and taken over her life, without even her being aware. All she knew was her waking and sleeping thoughts were filled with thoughts of Lekan, whom she nicknamed, in her mind, My Rock.
Considering both had a difficult time sleeping, or living for that matter, they quickly arranged a meeting for the next day and, in the meantime, they both later confessed that they slept with each other’s Facebook page open on their phones. They had looked through pictures, friends, likes, and notes, of the other person.
And no, they did not survive a week before they found themselves in between the sheets. The chemistry was strong! It was mutual and irresistible, and they soon gave in to each other. Unfortunately, after three months of their relationship, sex was the only thing that was still great.
The touches were drying up, the kisses were no longer frequent, instead, instances where Lekan just got angry, became emotional distant, or even outrightly put Lucy down, which sometimes happened in public, were the order of the day. And then the worst happened!
Lucy got pregnant, and got a real taste of what life with him was going to be like on a more permanent basis. Lekan became cold and critical. It was like the pregnancy gave him license to bully her. He wanted to whip her into shape, his shape, and she was not budging. That led to some head-butting between them.
It was during one of their heated arguments that Lucy felt blood dripping down her legs. When she got to the hospital and investigation was carried out, she had suffered a miscarriage and needed an emergency D&C to clear her womb of the remaining parts of the foetus. It was a painful experience for her.
Lucy confessed that she walked out on that relationship that day, but after a while, he came begging, pleading and performing all sorts of stunts to get her back. She had not told anyone in her family about the baby, or how the baby had been aborted. So he got quite a listening ear from her family, when he went there to seek their help in convincing her to give him another chance.
Given the fact that she still loved him, Lucy broke down and accepted him back in to her life, and the romance lasted for all of eight weeks, before he switched back to his nasty self. So nowadays, it is usually a combination of some good days, and many not-so good days. Better described as a vicious cycle. They love each other, but there is so much hurt in there that it is almost impossible to have a day of complete loving and peace.
So, how does Lucy get out of this vicious cycle of reactions upon reactions: First, there is need to identify the signs of a toxic relationship.
1. He/she puts you down
Does your significant other criticize or demean you? Are you on edge much of the time because you feel that you can’t please your partner or do anything right? Does he/she make fun of you, or criticize you in public, in front of friends or family? Does he/she act superior towards you or mock you? These are all warning signs of an unhappy, dysfunctional relationship
2. He/she is more like a parent rather than partner
I’m not talking about the kind who drives you to a girls’ night out. I’m talking about the kind who decides your career, what school you go to, and who you hang out with. When your guy acts like an over-involved parent, he chooses which friends stay, which ones go and what kind of clothes you should wear. You’ve learned from past experiences that your thoughts and opinions do not matter to him and if you express them, you will regret it later on.
3. He/she makes you feel bad about your life and your relationship
How do you feel about yourself in your life and in your relationship? Do you feel bad about yourself when you are around your partner? Do you feel bad about yourself and your life in general while you’re in this relationship? Do you feel like “your soul has been sucked out of you”? Like you’ve been drained of life? Like you wish, you were dead, if it will only take the pain away? If yes, you are in a bad relationship.
4. You get blamed for his/her bad mood
Does he blame you for his own negative emotions/moods (which then causes you to walk on eggshells and worry doing thing because he might be upset)? Instead of doing things for him out of love and enjoyment in your relationship, do feel like you do things for him out of fear and obligation? (You can ask yourself, “If I stop doing this in the relationship, what will happen?”) What’s your answer?
5. He’s your secret lover
And no, that is not in a good way. Your family and friends don’t like the way he treats you. And since they are more likely to give unsolicited relationship advice, which might just be the truth, so you have mastered the act of disappearing and reappearing at convenient times. So, you tend to avoid talking about him, bringing him around, or involving him in any way with your friends and family. Again, what’s your answer?
Those are five out of numerous signs that you are in a toxic relationship. Even if you agree to only one of the five signs in your relationship, it will be a good idea to continue reading. Now, how to get out. Is a toxic relationship beyond redemption? Is it possible to still bring it back from the edge and turn such a relationship into a healthy one? Well, we will just have to find out.
According to clinical psychologist Clinton W. McLemore, PhD, author of Toxic Relationships and How to Change Them: Health and Holiness and Everyday Life. There are four steps, you can take to regain your life and redeem, whatever was left of your relationship, if it’s worth it.
First on the list is tell the person how you feel
McLemore advocates beginning with a calm, one-on-one approach in which you tell your partner, (in this case, Lucy’s boyfriend) how you feel about the way they treat you. For people who are not fully aware of the impact of their actions, this can be an effective way to change toxic relationships for the better.
If this doesn’t work, you may have to get tougher. Sometimes when people are being abusive, as in the case of emotional abuse that Lucy is going through, you just have to put a decisive stop to it. However, if your partner threatens you during this chat, consider it an assault, and seek help. It can only grow worse sisters.
Secondly, set limits
Boundaries are reflections of self-love and respect. Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries are not about getting the other person to change, no, this is about letting your partner know what you will and will not tolerate in your life. It is a gift to yourself, give yourself the gift of healthy boundaries because they are the gifts that lasts for a long time especially when dealing with toxic relationships, as is the current case with Lucy.
Control your responses
As said earlier, there is a vicious cycle of reaction and continuous reactions. Consider how you respond, because you may be continuing the toxicity unwittingly. For example, if you instantly do whatever has been demanded of you, you are furthering the toxic relationship. Or you react in anger, you are merely compounding the situation. It is better to find a way to diffuse the situation and move on with your life.
End the relationship
This is one final way to handle the situation… and at times, it may be quite tempting. But McLemore believes in reserving this for a last step, especially if the toxic relationship is with someone who holds an important spot in your life, like a spouse or family member, but with a boyfriend, like Lucy’s, it might be the only solution. Even with that said, there are times, you have gone in over your head and you just need to breathe, then it is time to stop seeing your family member or even file for a divorce.
Deciding how to handle toxic relationships is difficult, even Lucy admits it’s one emotional roller coaster ride. Your decisions will depend on who is part of the toxic relationship and how much you care for or rely on that person.
Whatever be the case, don’t be afraid to take action. Tell the toxic person how you feel, and if he is unresponsive or if you feel threatened in any way, seek outside help.
And save your life!
Kristine is a member of The Lovelint team. She is a down to earth person, who says it as it is. Having given relationship advice for years in a national daily, she has found out that fear is one of the main reasons holding people back from enjoying a healthy, happy relationship. She is married with kids and is willing to listen to you and help as much as you let her to.