How do I know I am in a toxic relationship?
Well, to put it quite simply, you’re just- unhappy. There is consistent doubt in the relationship or environment that you’re in. You know that “gut feeling” when something just doesn’t feel right? Being in a toxic relationship can often feel that way. However, there are other times signs can be more subtle. But mama! You deserve the best and if you’re in a toxic relationship- listen up!
Whether it’s a friendship, family, significant other, work environment- it can get toxic. Unfortunately, there are no exceptions. Sometimes, people in said categories don’t respect boundaries you set. Here’s the kicker though- they are crossing your boundaries because you’re allowing it, whether you realize it or not! What we want you to understand is you have the voice to say no! Only you know what makes you feel comfortable or uncomfortable. Granted, toxic relationships help us grow and learn to be strong individuals, but you should NEVER allow yourself to settle.
Your most valuable parenting skill is learning to manage yourself first.
-Dr. Laura Markham
If you’ve made it this far into this blog post, then that’s the sign that you truly want to help yourself or someone you care about. The fact that you are asking questions about what makes a relationship toxic, makes YOU a strong individual. It’s a deep dive, but we bring this topic up because in motherhood, we have little ones looking up to us. What they see will be reflected in their everyday life. We have survived through some tough times but we believe that we have gone through the bad to get to the good. Our every intent is that we teach out kids strength, empathy and respect! Our hope is that some of what we say resonates with you! Cheers!
Wait… but what does a toxic trait look like?
Here are a few common red flags that may arise:
Equality is out the door when it comes to something that they want. Let’s put this into perspective, shall we?
Sally and Joel are in a relationship. Sally is Christian, Joel is Muslim. Sally often guilts Joel into not spending time with her when he just wants to follow and respect his religion. Sally will often make Joel think he is a bad partner for choosing his religion over their relationship. When we flip the script, Joel respects Sally’s boundaries on going to church on Sunday’s. He has even made an effort to spend time with her and her family to show support. Who’s the manipulative one there?
M.O.M. ‘s note:
In this particular example, no religion is better than another. All religions are accepted. But what isn’t acceptable is not being equal and being selfish. When two people are in a HEALTHY relationship, it shouldn’t matter as long as you see their perspective and offer your true support. In general, if it’s important to someone else, you should respect that it’s important to them and mind your business! In hindsight, you shouldn’t be manipulated to do or stop doing something that is not within your boundary. So ask yourself, “Is this something that feels equal to both of us? Do I feel respected and heard?” If not, then have a little smack down and knock some sense into them! KIDDING! Don’t do that!
Do-sit down with the person that is manipulating you and say “This is important to me and I need you to respect that and respect me. Or I’m out!”
People have different ways of living. When I had a roommate, I liked to keep things clean and my roommate needed to be reminded to pick things up. My roommate would often label me about my cleaning habits with comments such as “you have OCD”. This was mild at first and I allowed it, but it led to a toxic behavior of him being able to patronize me with more severe comments such as “You probably like to clean because you’re Mexican” or “Well you’re the one who wants it clean so bad, you can do it”. When I brought guests over, my roommate would judge how “messy” and “loud” they were. Despite the negativity, I still cleaned up after guests. When my roommate brought guests over, he would not clean up after them. I was often dismissed with justifications when the situation was brought to his attention. After many attempts in trying to come to a resolution, I decided that I was better off living alone.
M.O.M. ‘s note:
Judgement given is more often about the person that is giving it. It’s normal and quite healthy to get constructive criticism in any relationship. However, make sure that you’re weeding out negative feedback. Don’t confuse it! Oftentimes, the judgemental trait will have people deny their bad habits rather than owning their faults. Being judgemental can often go hand in hand with narcissism. Don’t be afraid to speak up and say “I don’t like you saying these things”. Avoid saying “you” or “I”, deflate the tension and use “we” in order to come to a solution!
*Narcissists will justify their acts that may have hurt others and can be dismissive, lack of empathy, act of superiority.
Lack of support:
More often than not, not having a support system in any situation is a lack of even having a relationship. Lack of support can happen when needing attention whether it’s a good situation or a bad one.
In the real world: Fatima and her mother never had the best relationship. She’s always had to hide things from her mother due to judgement. Fatima got accepted to work in a law firm far from where she lives with her mother. When Fatima shared her news with her mother, she turned the good news into bad news and guilted Fatima for wanting to move far from her mother.
“Jealousy is an ugly trait”- it’s a common phrase. But it’s true. Jealousy will often look like being envious of someone because of an advantage that has happened and it is not happening to them.
In common perspective: Ally and Benji are in a relationship. Ally made friends with a male co-worker, they often eat lunch together in a group. Benji becomes aware of this and questions Ally everyday after work. His jealousy grows as the male co-worker comes up in conversation with mutual friends. Benji starts to become more than just a little curious about this friendship and starts to call her during her lunch. If she doesn’t answer, he calls repeatedly or even shows up at her job. Thus, proving no trust. The behavior isn’t stopped because Ally doesn’t speak up, which causes a pattern. The jealous behavior plays a role in Ally getting upset with Ryan, creating resentment, and manipulation. She feels like its “her fault”, which creates anxiety and a spiral effect.
That’s pretty self explanatory, right? It can actually be something that can be seen as a joke at first. But in hind sight, it could actually be the little sprouting of negativity in the relationship.
In the real world: Mayra and Theo have been in a relationship for a few months. Mayra and Theo often joke about their celebrity crushes, which makes it comfortable to talk about other people they are attracted to. When Mayra and Theo go on dates, Theo will often look at other girls he finds attractive. When Mayra brings this to his attention, Theo will gaslight her and say, “We can look but can’t touch”. Mayra will flip the script and tell Theo about a client that flirted with her at work. Theo deflates her comment and confidence by saying, “you’re too ugly for him. He was just trying to hustle”.
I know what you’re thinking- physical abuse. However, abuse doesn’t just mean physical. It can also mean mental, verbal, financial, and emotional. It can be subtle and no one may ever know, unless you speak up! Your feelings are real and important. NOBODY has the right to finish your light! Recognize that it’s either disrespectful or abuse.
Work can contribute to being a toxic environment. It can be a tough situation to speak up for yourself when uncomfortable because you don’t want to lose your job. At least that is how it was for a friend who was constantly abused verbally by her supervisor. She managed to call to vent but when advice was given to speak up for herself, she would back out in order to keep her job. Her supervisor used many words in the book that would undermine her such as “idiot”, “dummy”, “brown noser”. She created anxiety for herself and second guessed herself on decisions she would make because she believed the insults. She would lose self confidence when it came to standing up for herself or asking for a promotion. Instead, she took in the verbal abuse and tolerated being overworked. Eventually, she left her job for a better one after she realized how much she worked and how little time she spent home with her family.
When it comes to your relationship, don’t let abuse slide. We constantly see this on the news about the woman who was physically hurt by her husband. Insensitive comments are thrown around such as “Well what did she do to piss him off?” or “Why didn’t she put her foot down sooner?”. It’s hard to even fathom that a person you trust and have fallen in love with would hurt you. You can become so blind and scared that you start to make excuses for the person hurting you like “He needs a lot of help” or “He’s had a bad past”. Even if you were trying to “help him out”. You are not their therapist, you are not their punching bag! You are their partner! There should be respect and love. The bruises on your arms weren’t from “playing around”. Ever heard of the old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog, new tricks?”- it applies here.
If there is any kind of abuse in any relationship-including work, GET OUT! Again, you have the choice and decide what is a boundary for you. And if you have marks on you and justify them with “love taps” or “It was an accident”, there is no respect from them and you’re definitely not giving yourself any respect! Please, please, please- wake up, love yourself and get the hell out. Recognize your worth and know you deserve the grass that’s greener on the other side of the fence.
When do you know it’s time to walk away?
Friends, relationships, family, work- Like we said, it could be any of the categories. The moment YOU don’t feel right, your relationship isn’t right. Not saying anything to stop the behavior, only causes a pattern. While walking away may hurt like hell, you need to realize that you’re doing yourself a favor because you love yourself. First try speaking up! Calmly and respectfully, of course. “Hey you know when you do/ say ____, it makes me uncomfortable. I’d like to move forward in a healthy manner and not have that happen again.” Or straight up “I don’t like what you said/ did. If this behavior doesn’t change then I don’t think I can continue being with you.” Speaking up for yourself doesn’t mean you have to put up a fight.
But if it does, then please reach out for help, even if that means professionally. Don’t know where to start?
Phone a friend or confidant!
National Domestic Violence Hotline Call: 1-800-799-7233
Visit online: thehotline.org
Our toxic relationship stories:
“My example of a toxic relationship, among the many I’ve encountered, is my father. Unfortunately, I could not consider myself as ‘daddy’s little girl’. My father was borderline narcissistic, and I don’t mean to be insulting. He would really think everyone was below him or that he was superior to everyone around him. My whole childhood was based off of his toxic behaviors as he judged me. If I ever had a boyfriend, he would call me a series of different choice words that I can’t even imagine saying to my daughters. He would often say “you should work on the streets when you get older.” Mind you- at the time, I hadn’t even been intimate with boys. He would often judge my friends before even getting to know them and assumed they were “Drogadigtos” (drug addicts). If I ever told him good news about me getting a job or going to school, it would always lead to “You’re wasting your time. Go to the army, like I did.”
If I ever stood up for myself for not wanting to do certain tasks, such as hug a stranger or fetch him a beer, it was definitely more than a ‘love tap’ to say the least. Going to school with welts on my arms, I remember having to wear long sleeved shirts on days that felt like summer. I didn’t want my teachers looking at the obvious bruising, so I would deal with the heat. I was always losing hair with anxiety that was built up from coming home to him. Every time he would come home from work, I would immediately hide or make myself busy as I feared confronting him. There was always an issue with my appearance, even if I tried to look presentable.
I was sixteen when I decided to “walk away”, it was more like run away. Home should feel like a sanctuary but it felt like prison to me, with my dad being the warden. I felt that no one could help me so I decided to go seek help in California. (I lived in Maryland at the time). Of course, it took years for me to feel safe and happy. But I’m glad I left. I felt that I found my true self in the process of healing-therapy, meditation, yoga, gardening.
Today, I find myself at peace. I’ve even forgiven my father for the sake of my daughters. We talk often and I’m proud to say that we have a healthier relationship. I think going through a childhood where I was reprimanded, allowed me to view how to parent differently. It allowed me to understand my daughters for who they are and accept them. It also allowed me to understand that their life is not mine and I am simply their mother to guide them throughout life not control them.”
” I am 29 years old and I didn’t know I was abused until my ex boyfriend cheated on me. We met when I was 19 and working at the same job. He was older, funny, loved his family, goal oriented, sweet and honest. When we dated, I felt so lucky to have him by my side. To say I was in love was an understatement. I trusted him completely. There is nothing that he didn’t know nor didn’t want him to know. It felt like a dream as it led to reality. He met my family, laughed with my mom, helped my grandma with some manual labor, and played with my niece. I was even the first girl he ever introduced to his family. For him to do this was me being treated like royalty. Years passed, and before I knew it we were living together but then he started to owe me money. A lot of money. I had this illusion of being “equal partners”. I didn’t notice how bad the relationship had become because of this. I was so kept to myself, let it all bottle up that no one noticed.
As time went on, I started to notice other negative changes. I couldn’t call him or text him good morning at 10 am without him replying back with a rude comment. There was constant yelling for everything (which created the anxiety attacks later on). But you know, I wanted us to be happy- so I stayed quiet and let it slide. I made excuses for him. “Oh maybe he is tired, maybe I am just nagging him.”
After 6 years, I was determined to find the courage to try to fix us. I became vulnerable when trying to communicate with tears in my eyes and trembling while speaking. Eventually, he agreed that we needed to work on us. These types of conversations kept going until I realized that he wasn’t even looking at my eyes anymore. When we talked he had his back towards me. Again, he would insist that he didn’t want to break up. But I could tell that there was something more than just “us”. As my suspicion grew about him going astray, the angrier he got. He would be dismissive-call me psycho, crazy and dramatic. Whenever it was “too much” for him, he would leave me, alone, sad and scared. This went on for months to year. It wasn’t until SHE found me on Facebook and told me the truth. When I confronted him, it was a big scene. I kicked him out.
Not that long after, I became pregnant with a beautiful baby girl. Despite my feelings, I had the intentions of co-parenting as long as he showed that the baby was his priority. During my pregnancy, I was always tired. Yet, he never offered help financially or any moral support. While pregnant, I worked 40 hours a week to pay for my apartment that I now live in alone with 3 dogs, a car I still pay for and other bills. Sometimes, I didn’t have enough for food. But his mental abuse left me hiding my mental state to my own mother. It was almost as if he believed that a pat on the back was enough. This played a role in not having the pregnancy of my dreams. However, none of that mattered months later. I met my baby girl and my heart was full. She was, is and forever will be my everything. He rarely made any effort to see her, much less support her. He brought a child into this world with me, however being a ‘father’ is more than paying for a box of diapers every now and then. I don’t think I will ever forget what he has done but I forgave him. I did it so I can have peace. I deserved better. Being a mom gave me purpose in my life, strength, a love like no other and being able to answer my past doubt when I would ask myself, “how the hell am i going to do this?”
Let’s Drink To That:
You is kind. You is smart. You is important.
-(The Help 2009)
As an individual, you are allowed to say “Hey, this is not okay!” or simply walk away. It is your life and you have got to live it! Friends, family, work, relationships have come and gone but the bottom line is- a true and healthy relationship will show love and respect.
Thanks for tuning in! Cheers!
For those ‘hard days”
- orange juice
- mix one part OJ to one part champagne