Healthy relationships are built on so much more than love alone. Of course, love is the foundation of a relationship, but the truth is, you need so much more than love to make something work. While love is undeniably significant, it should never overshadow the other (just as important) factors such as communication, respect, and trust.
It’s easy to turn a blind eye to toxic love when you are in love with the idea of someone more than that person themselves and you allow yourself to endure mistreatment in a desperate attempt to cling to the relationship, despite feeling unsupported, unheard, undervalued, and unloved. But still, we somehow manage to put up with feeling this way because the thought of not being with them is too difficult to imagine.
If any of the following signs resonate with your relationship, I encourage you to reflect on your current situation and find the courage to understand just how much you deserve and take steps towards a healthier and more fulfilling connection.
1. You find yourself making excuses for their behavior.
Have you ever found yourself defending your partner when a family member or friend has questioned you about something they did that they didn’t agree with? When you are in a toxic relationship, it feels embarrassing to admit to yourself (and to others) that you are feeling mistreated, so you resort to making excuses to try to justify their actions, or sometimes you even blame yourself. You might say that they are just having a bad day, or they are stressed at work or just going through something difficult. The truth is, even if your partner is having a bad day, or if they are going through a hard time, that shouldn’t change the way you are treated, and no matter what someone else is going through, you are still worthy of love and respect.
2. You constantly feel a negative energy in their presence.
Have you ever been in a relationship where your mood takes a sudden dip the moment you’re around your partner? Have you ever felt the confusion of loving someone so deeply, but hating the way you feel about yourself when you are with them? A significant sign of a toxic relationship is when your partner frequently belittles you, criticizes your actions, or undermines your self-esteem. Genuine love can lift you up, it can make you feel free, it can make you feel accepted, and it can help you see all the things there are to love about yourself. Loving someone else should never make you love yourself less, and you should never be pouring so much into your partner that you leave yourself emotionally and physically drained, with nothing left for yourself.
3. The bad times feel more frequent than the good times.
Are you in a relationship where it feels like the challenging times seem to outweigh the good times? When you reflect on your relationship, do you feel like the communication leans more on the negative side rather than the positive, and you and your partner argue more than you are pleasant with one another? If so, I know it isn’t easy, but it might be time to accept the fact that your relationship is toxic and there may not be a positive and fulfilling future ahead of you if you stay in this situation.
4. You feel isolated from your friends and family.
This happens for many reasons. In some cases, this is your own doing because you feel embarrassed to admit that behind closed doors you are unhappy in your relationship so you try to hide it as much as you can, and in other cases, your partner is doing this in an attempt to control you. Whatever the reason behind it, it’s incredibly unhealthy to feel cut-off from your support network and if you are noticing this pattern in your relationship, please remember that your loved ones will never judge you and are there to support. This is your reminder that the connection you have with your friends and family is far too important to sacrifice for the sake of someone who doesn’t value you.
5. You are clinging onto the idea that things might be better one day.
Have you ever experienced the pain of falling in love with someone—not because of who they are but because of who they could be? Are you in love with the way you want things to be and not the way they actually are? Are you holding onto empty promises and waiting around for things to improve? If so, I want you to know that you deserve someone who keeps their promises, someone who has more than just potential. You deserve someone who follows through, you deserve to have every little bit of energy you put in, given back.
6. You have serious doubts about the future of your relationship.
Doubt is a warning sign that too many people ignore. Please don’t sacrifice your happiness for something that you know feels wrong. Love shouldn’t make you feel unhappy, it shouldn’t make you constantly question if the relationship will work long-term. Doubting the future of your relationship can feel like your head already knows the answer but your heart wants to hold on.
7. You notice controlling or manipulative behavior.
A common sign of a toxic relationship (and one that can be quite hard to come to terms with or admit to others) is when you notice controlling or manipulative behavior. If you have experienced isolation, gaslighting, criticism, guilt-tripping, conditional affection, the silent treatment, lying, emotional blackmail or financial control in your relationship, these are all signs of a controlling partner and should not be ignored or accepted. If you suspect you are being controlled by your partner please seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional.
If you have recognized more than one of these signs in your own relationship, please remember that it’s okay to realize there isn’t a future where you once hoped there was. Remember that you need more than love to make a relationship work. Trust that all the love you have given to the wrong people will find its way back to all the people who are truly meant to be in your life. I know that leaving your comfort zone is scary, but there is so much more to life, so much more to love, than a toxic, negative relationship.