Look around you at the movies or songs that are popular these days. Do you notice a running theme?
Many of the ones that are supposed to be “love” songs or “romantic” comedies (usually neither romantic nor funny), are mostly about how toxic the relationships are. Euphoria, Normal People, Gone Girl, Grease, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Passengers, Blue Valentine, heck even your Disney stories like Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid.. The list goes on.
Songs on the radiowaves are no different. Songs about bad boys, dramatic “love”, lust/sex/infatuation put above anything else, women being portrayed like objects and supposedly having to love it.
Add to that how online dating/apps has turned proper courting and dating upside down and with the rise of hookup culture..Is it any surprise that toxic relationships are everywhere now? From the movies/songs to public figures, they are being glamourised and worshipped, glorified even… taken apart, laughed at and looked on as entertainment (Johnny Depp-Amber Heard court proceedings).
It is actually downright disturbing how these things have crept into our media and our lives and none of us are actually batting an eyelid. Instead we are saying it is resonating with us and being oh-so-relatable.
Where did we go wrong? Let’s find out.
What is a toxic relationship?
A toxic relationship is characterised by behaviour from a partner that is just not nice, or good for your mental and emotional well-being. There are themes of abuse, disrespect, degradation, control, emotional manipulation, a lack of boundaries, little support etc.
Being in one can really eat into your sense of self – your self-worth, self-image, self-esteem suffers. You start to doubt yourself and you feel gaslit; like you’re walking on eggshells around a partner who is unpredictable and perhaps even abusive.
Overtime, you will feel like a really small and invisible version of yourself and whilst you may have had very normal levels of self esteem before the relationship…toxic relationships can really do a number on you. Your mental and emotional well-being starts to decline.
Also, as a spiritual person I feel like toxic relationships really destroy your soul and they eat into your sense of being in such a way that you end up taking a very long time to recover from it.
Are you able to pick out red flags in dates? Find out below!
Why are we addicted to toxic relationships?
So many people associate toxic relationships with drama, excitement and passion. These relationships look so fun! And you’ll also see that in a lot of movies – the bad boys are always portrayed as exciting people, where life with them is always filled with passion and emotional declarations of love and feeling all the feelings under the sun.
The Notebook – whose hype I’ve never understood – was a classic case of a toxic relationship, where you’ve got the female lead actually turning down an engagement with a good but seemingly boring fiance to get back with her passionate yet volatile and incredibly unstable ex and relationship.
Toxic relationships are usually characterised by volatility, unpredictability, inconsistency, emotional upheaval, drama and fights. Some people find themselves drawn to this type of dynamic because it makes them come alive, makes them feel something, makes them feel wanted.
This is why people in toxic relationships keep going back. The “love” is literally like a drug. Without it, they feel like they aren’t in love.
Are toxic relationships normal?
Although they are common in society today, unfortunately, toxic relationships are anything BUT normal.
If you are in a relationship characterised by abuse, emotional upheaval, unpredictability and inconsistency, you need to start asking yourself:
- What beliefs did you pick up about romance in your life that led you to accepting this relationship, and,
- What types of relationships did you observe around you growing up.
Many people grew up watching the dysfunctional relationship between their parents, which as young kids, forms a strong imprint on us of what love should look like. My parents consistently fought and had a classic toxic and dysfunctional marriage that I grew up bearing witness to.
It went on to affect my romantic life in a huge way, as for the longest time I found myself drawn to bad boys who brought alot of instability and volatility into my life.
Also the media and messages that we get about love is important as we tend to internalise those. Things like “love is hard”, “love means pain” just further reinforces the idea that true love is hard to find and that it is supposed to be super painful.
Another source of our relationship beliefs? The first few relationships you’ve had in your life tend to shape how you behave in romances thereafter and they also shape how you view men and relationships.
The first couple of relationships in my life and even dates and crushes completely shaped how I viewed potential partners for a long time after. Because of how badly most of those relationships went, I came to expect the worst of men – that they were untrustworthy, inconsistent and that I’d never be able to find love anytime soon.
Consequences of being in a toxic relationship
#1 Why does a healthy relationship feel boring after a toxic one?
One of the biggest consequences of being in a very toxic relationship is that you start to normalise what toxic romantic behaviours and dynamics are, which then makes it very difficult to actually really recognise what Healthy Love and healthy relationships look like.
When you get conditioned into thinking toxic dynamics are normal, it starts to feel very familiar to you. So much so that being treated well by a man who wants to build a healthy bond with you feels really strange and unfamiliar. This is how people tend to end up screwing up healthy relationships, because they have not made toxic love unfamiliar.
The key to healing from and not attracting anymore toxic relationships into your life is actually…Self-love. Grab this gentle how-to guide and workbook and start connecting better with yourself 🙂
#2 Losing your sense of self, identify and power
Toxic relationships can really destroy your sense of self. And because the human mind is great at adapting to external circumstances, overtime you will start to “adjust” to the toxic situation so well that… you may start to question your own decisions and thoughts in the relationship.
It can feel incredibly hard to get out of a toxic relationship because of this reason as well. The sense of trust in oneself has been so damaged that you will start to second guess and doubt yourself constantly.
How can we be safe from toxic love?
#1 Be careful of the content you are consuming
Be very discerning about the types of music, movies and online content that you consume from popular culture. Consuming them as pure entertainment is aye-ok, but internalising the messages they put out is not.
The effects from the messages can be subconscious and sometimes it’s very difficult for the mind to actually separate pieces of fiction, which these movies and books, are from reality.
#2 Be discerning about the crowd you hang with
Besides just content we consume, it is also important to be mindful of the company that we keep. Friends can actually have a huge influence on your outlook on love. Recently, I’ve started staying away from people that have pretty negative attitudes towards romance. Like the types to say that all men suck and relationships are impossible etc.
If you are constantly sitting around during your hangouts and discussing how the other gender is terrible and how sad the dating scene is in your city, and how painful all your relationships have been… overtime it can create this sort of echo chamber where you start buying into each other’s negativity.
#3 Looking for positive relationship role models in your life
Look around you, there definitely would be a particular couple that you sort of look up to and admire for having a very healthy and wholesome relationship. If you know them, find out what their secret to sustaining such a relationship is.
When you see positive relationships around you, it can offer a great contrast and insight into what is healthy and what is actually toxic. You’d then know what are the healthy relationship “markers” to look out for.
#4 Working on your love patterns
Another thing to work on would be your love patterns. Patterns are very stubborn and hard to kick because it is a very automatic thought process that you find yourself falling into given the right triggers and events. They occur subconsciously and very quickly, hence we are usually not aware of them.
If you haven’t already, today might be a great time to start reflecting a little deeper on your romantic patterns thus far.
One practice that I’ve learnt from Katherine Woodward Thomas and her brilliant book, Calling in “The One”, you can start by identifying several toxic love patterns that you have been carrying around. Write them down in your journal. As you go through each one again, start to notice where in your body you feel this discomfort.
Start to notice as well how closed-off and disempowering alot of your statements and thought patterns are. “What’s wrong with me?” Why doesn’t any man love me?” are statements that don’t really inspire.
From there though, start to create an empowering question that could lead to growth in your relationships and attitude towards love. For example, instead of repeating that you will never fall in love, ask yourself “How does it serve me to be with a partner in life? What is the deeper truth about me and how can I align my actions and choices?”
When you start to explore these questions, you will start to understand how and why these patterns exist and they will start to lose their power on your life.
#5 Work on strengthening your sense of self
Your self-image, worth, how you feel about yourself and so on. Because no matter how disempowering and toxic each relationship is, we do play a small part in enabling them.
We need to take a look at how we’ve been treating ourselves and how we’ve actually been allowing such people into our lives and why. So it’s time to take a good look at how we can rebuild the connection and love from within.
#6 Be mindful of who we give attention to
I’ve always said this to friends and clients, but a guy can be the most horrible person on earth, or a casanova or whatever; as long as you do not pay him any attention and let him into your life, he can’t give you any trouble or affect your mental health.
Relationships are a mixture of energies between two people, we need to be more mindful of who we are mixing our energies with. Not everyone should be let into our existence, we need to start gatekeeping better.