Article by Erin Janus| Toxic, abusive and controlling relationships aren’t always as they appear to be on the outside. To the rest of the world looking in, and even sometimes to yourself— toxic, abusive behavior can seem like simple ‘arguments’ or ‘bumps in the road’, but it’s important to acknowledge and recognize serious red flags. Ongoing abusive and controlling relationships, whether it be with a close friend, family member or partner, can have detrimental long-term affects on ones mental, emotional, psychological, and creative stability. Recognize the signs while you still can:
1) You feel like you have to hide innocent, harmless things you do
Whether it be talking to a friend, creating or working on a personal project, you fear being scolded, criticized, guilt-tripped, controlled or limited from your freedom of such things— so you tend to keep certain activities on the down-low. In a healthy relationship, you should feel free to be yourself, talk with friends and family about whatever is on your mind, and spend your free time doing, creating and working on whatever healthy activities you please. Nobody has the right to lord over or limit your personal freedom, growth and development: socially, creatively, etc.
2) They secretly speak negatively of you to your closest friends, family, co-workers or peers
Secretly gossiping or speaking negatively about you to your closest family, friends, co-workers or peers, or persuading them look at you in a negative light is a serious sign of a controlling, toxic and/or abusive relationship. When you are painted out in a negative light by your abuser to those closest to you, those people in your life are less likely to take you seriously if and when you open up or reach out for help regarding your abuser’s toxic behavior. It creates a messy situation where it’s already their word against yours before you even speak up.
3) You avoid telling them how you feel, or what is wrong, (even politely), as it leads to more conflict
Does this person avoid taking responsibility for their actions or behavior by all means, and almost always turn things around on you? Is it easier to just keep your feelings to yourself, or to not bring up issues and dilemmas within the relationship? Do they tend to put attention and focus on other people or issues in your life instead of directly facing the relationship between the two of you? In healthy relationships, it should be possible to directly discuss feelings, issues and dilemmas and come to resolutions. In toxic relationships, rather than accountability being taken, there will more often be immediate blame or disregard— no matter how hard you try to put things out on the table.
4) They divert away from directly addressing their behavior by painting themselves in a positive light
It doesn’t matter how open, honest and upfront you are about what hurt you. In a toxic, abusive or controlling relationship, they will ignore their faults or offenses against you, and instead sob about how much they’ve done for you. News flash: the bad someone commits does not negate the good they do, and the good they do, does not negate the bad. Avoiding accountability for toxic behavior by saying what an amazing friend you are at other times is irresponsible and unfair. When someone brings up what hurt them, it should be addressed for what it is.
5) Tension, aggression, and guilt-trips are projected at you for no apparent or communicated reason
Are you made to feel guilty and treated with passive-aggressiveness for innocent behaviors, misunderstandings, or issues— without first receiving communication about what the problem is? Do your attempts to talk about what the problem may be, or for them to be direct and honest with issues rarely ever happen? Instead of direct communication, “hey, that hurt my feelings” or “hey, I don’t feel very good” — is the weight of what they are going through always put on you before you even know what is wrong?
In toxic, abusive relationships, passive-aggressiveness (including rude, un-called for behavior, sarcasm and sudden agitation), as well and guilt-tripping will be more commonplace than direct, open communication. This is no way to live. You can not read somebody’s mind or put up with their moods just because they are upset. They need to talk to you, not hurt you and make you suffer or bear their emotional weight while you are left in the dark with absolute confusion.
6) It’s nearly impossible to come to long-term solutions, as more toxic and/or controlling behavior of the same caliber or cycle always continues
One can not expect to live a healthy, productive or fulfilling life when solutions are never carried out or taken seriously. Unhealthy, toxic and controlling behavior within relationships are usually fulfilled through repeated cycles, regardless of how many times feelings or solutions are openly discussed. There is only so much you can do to create harmony and peace in a relationship. And if toxic, abusive cycles continue: you have to choose whether or not you are going to put yourself through their rinse-and-repeat cycle. Because after a while, it will take a serious toll on you psychologically, emotionally, physically and creatively.
Five major keys to a healthy relationship (unhealthy relationships will lack):
✓ Open, direct communication
✓ Willingness to take accountability for ones actions
✓ Willingness to put ongoing effort into realistic, healthy solutions and resolutions to conflict
✓ Willingness to forgive without a grudge when the problem has been addressed appropriately
✓ Willingness to allow personal emotional, creative and social sovereignty of their friend/partner
Let’s face it: life is short, and nobody deserves to be stuck in a relationship that drains them of their energy and life force. Let your friend or partner know how much they mean to you, and that you truly want to have a fulfilling and healthy relationship with them. Be direct, open and take accountability for your part in issues you may have. If they are continuously not willing to be open, direct and communicative, willing to take accountability for their actions, willing to put in ongoing effort into healthy resolutions, to forgive you when you are sorry, and to allow you personal emotional, creative and social sovereignty: you may just have to face the question: there are over 7 billion people on the planet— why are you letting one of them ruin your life?
My name is Erin Janus. I’m a passionate vegan, activist, journalist and aspiring musician. You can connect with me on facebook, twitter, instagram, tumblr and youtube. You never know who could be stuck in a relationship that is draining and limiting the best of them. Please share this article on social media, or with family and friends.