July 31 2019 Erie, PA
Far too often good folks enter and stay in toxic relationships with people that harm them. I am not preaching as I have done it also.
For over thirty years I have been working in the public mental health system. I have seen people entering and staying in toxic relationships. The only thing I have found more curious is my own proclivity for doing the same on occasion.
Toxic relationships have a negative impact on mental and physical health. This is especially true of people like me, who have been given a mental health diagnosis.
Toxic relationships need to be recognized and exited. However, when a person is in one it is often hard to recognize it or exit it quickly without the help of a third party. "The third party can be a close friend, family member, clergy, or yes even a good and trusted talk therapist." For this reason, I decided to do a quick read of some professional and popular literature on the subject.
I learned that often people stay in toxic relationships because they provided some level of comfort and delude people into thinking they cannot do better or deserve better. Sometimes this is done on one's own and far to often it is done by the toxic partner they choose.
A toxic partner will manipulate you by many ways and many means. One sure tell that you are being manipulated is that you do things you would not normally do just to keep your partner happy.
"Gaslighting" is one tool employed by toxic partners. The "light" they shine into your eyes makes you doubt your own perception of reality.
One common technique is "false remorse" or "apologies." This is when the toxic partner promises that the bad things, they have done to you will never happen again. Sadly, often the bad behavior gets worse, more frequent and pronounced.
Yet another indication that you are in a toxic relationship is when things move unusually fast. For example, when you move in with a partner or allow them to move in with you a week after you first meet.
These relationships are prone to extreme jealousy, all give and no take, and unreasonable expectations. These relationships can become overly controlling quickly. A person is so turned around that they stop making their own decisions or doubt their ability to do so. Making it harder to exit.
While pleasant and comfortable at first, a toxic relationship quickly has you "walking on eggshells." They become "unpredictable and volatile." One example I have read about and experienced is when a partner blows up routinely for things you have no control over. Such as a life crisis like job loss or yes even when it rains or snows.
Nicknames are fun if affectionate but not when they are nasty or demeaning. As are jokes. But not when they are mean, especially those that are made in front of others. Hyper critical is no fun either.
Economic control takes place when a toxic partner prevents your access to jointly owned assets, or your own assets. As in not being able to make small purchases, write a check, or access savings. Economic domination makes it hard to exit a toxic relationship. And the toxic partner knows this.
Another wicked trick that a toxic partner will use is guilt. As in "If you leave me, I will kill myself."
Another even darker strategy is when a partner threatens to harm or kill those you love.
Toxic relationships can put your very life in danger. Trust your gut or listen to the observations made by a trusted third party.
Be careful who you give your heart to and I will try to do the same. Stay safe. As you are more valuable than you might think or know.
Brian Patrick McLaughlin MS/CPS
MH Consumer Advocate
Erie County, PA.
© 2019 Mental Health Association of Northwestern PA