In Summary
  • It is fair to state that our childhood upbringing has left an imprint in the way we think and behave when we are with other people.
  • Other times, toxic relationships may result from entering a relationship with an already damaged person.
  • When you make the decision to separate or end the marriage, terminate any form of communication with them unless you have children and need to co-parent.

There is no week that goes by before you hear of a relationship going sour to the extent of serious crimes of abuse being committed. Nobody really hopes for a bad and toxic relationship.

However, the journey to a toxic and abusive relationship is a series of missed steps that later lead to serious harm. If you are keen enough, you can pick the tell-tale signs of a relationship that is bound to be toxic.

Common signs include, but are not limited to, the following:

Unregulated and hostile environment
According to Dr Marian Stansbury, a feeling of safety and security to express your authentic self is a determinant for this environment. Watch out for signs or actions that border on a controlling attitude, threats, intimidation, manipulation, secretiveness and selfish ambition.

If you begin to experience tension, you are subjected to unnecessary stress by your partner, or you are never given an opportunity to express yourself your way, then your relationship is not healthy. This is the moment you need help to bring things back on track.

Feeling demeaned and put down by your partner

In good relationships, partners encourage rather than criticise each other. If your partner uses excessive criticism and is always putting you down, rather than showing value and encouragement, then you need to stay alert.

Most partners use this as a controlling tool, to keep you on the edge all the time and to instil fear in you. This behaviour can be as a result of many things. In some cases, it could be differences in income or personality, a complex that makes the other person feel insecure, leading them to use various tactics to gain control.

Such treatment is meant to create a level of insecurity and fear where we are not secure enough to stand up to the abuser. We are instead meant to feel inadequate and less significant in the relationship.

Of course this builds up to a level where one partner just walks out of a relationship even without warning. Other times, it may end up ugly, especially when one chooses to stand up for fair treatment. Because of the perceived challenge to his or her authority, the abuser at times may become hostile and even turn physical.

Suspicion and lack of trust

There are cases where trust deteriorates in a relationship because of personal fears one has towards the actions and behaviour of their partner. This happens when a partner feels that there are things being hidden from them.

In most cases, the lack of open and authentic talk in a relationship leaves behind unclear areas where more dialogue could have dispelled any fears and suspicion. For some relationships, these feelings lead to a build-up of inner displeasure or anger.

In other cases, if such feelings persist, they create distance and a deliberate urge to avoid the other. Communication that involves phases of assurance and affirmation can clear the air.

Furthermore, suspicions can only be heightened where either spouse withdraws into their own space. Loving a person and not behaving in a loving manner is hypocrisy. With time, spouses live separate lives because this, as far as they are concerned, gives them a level of sanity. Really? This is a level of toxicity that acts like poison that kills one slowly.

As much as everyone has a right to their feelings, in relationships, open and unhindered dialogue removes ambiguities and wrong assumptions. An environment infested with pride, arrogance, mistrust and secrecy refuses to acknowledge that their partner’s feelings are valid and worth being listened to.

When you express how you feel and ask for what you want, does he/she listen and make an effort to meet your needs?

Turning verbally or physically abusive

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