There are few things more frustrating than watching a good friend of yours in a horrible relationship. No matter what you say or the advice you give, they seem to have all of the emotional survival instincts of a depressed sea captain, determinedly going down with (and on) the HRMS Douchebag all the way to the bottom of the Atlantic.
I should know. My friends love reminding me about mine.
Back in the bad old days, I was notoriously prone for my poor-decision skills when it came to women and relationships. I was a bubbling stew of low self-esteem, a defeatist attitude towards dating and the dogged belief that I couldn’t do any better, and that was never more evident than in the way I related to the opposite sex. If I wasn’t chasing after women because I thought I could get what I wanted from them (i.e. sex) without giving a damn about how it might affect them, I was enduring relationships with women I should have long broken up with because I thought… well, because I didn’t know any better.
It was a period of extreme frustration for my friends and family because they felt so damn helpless watching me piss my self-worth away and not knowing how to wake me up to what was really going on. At the risk of quoting song lyrics, when a man thinks he loves a woman, he tends to be willing to overlook a lot… and I was willing to overlook the fact that I was fucking miserable. I had convinced myself that I was in love with the woman I was dating – and to an extent, I was – and that meant that I was willfully blind to just how bad the relationship was and how much damage it was doing to me and to my friends. Part of it was, admittedly, because I thought that this was the best that I could do but another part was the fact that I just couldn’t see how toxic my relationship with this woman had become.
After all, like the poet says: the more you suffer, the more it shows you really care, right?
I spent years in complete misery because I couldn’t see the signs that my relationship had turned to poison… and everybody knew it but me.
Ever since then, I’ve seen far too many people caught in the same relationship death-spiral that I was, blind to just how bad things were and convinced that maybe this was just how relationships were supposed to be. So in hopes of opening a few eyes, I give you 5 signs that you’re stuck in a toxic relationship.
5) They Undermine You At Every Opportunity
You dread hanging out with your significant other and her friends because you know that it’s going to be a non-stop parade of jokes… most of them at your expense. No matter what you do, somehow you become the punch-line of every joke and insult that gets flung about. Even a compliment gets followed up with another put-down because hey, can’t let you get a swelled head, now right?
Of course, you can’t complain about it because all that means is that you’re just a wuss who can’t take a joke. Be careful, we don’t want to hurt their widdle feewings, gang!
There’s seemingly nothing you can do without getting a ration of shit from someone who’s supposed to be your partner; there’s rarely a moment where he doesn’t take the opportunity to get in a dig at your insecurities or perceived flaws. You can’ t talk about your dreams or ambitions without his taking a giant shit on them, telling you how rediculous you’re being for even imagining that you could pull them off or bringing up all of your previous failures. Everything you do is subject to constant criticism… but hey, it’s all for your own good. He’s trying to help you, after all.
It’s one thing when you and your honey playfully give each other shit.
It’s another entirely when they seem to take every possible opportunity to cut you down.
There are plenty of relationships out there that seemingly thrive on a playfully antagonistic vibe but there’s an undercurrent of genuine love and affection and the awareness that there are distinct limits. For all that you may enjoy needling or teasing each other, your partner in a relationship is just that: your partner. They’re the one who is supposed to have your back no matter what, not the one making the point of cutting your legs out from under you whenever they get the chance.
4) They Suck The Life Out Of You
One of the surest signs of a toxic relationship is often one of the hardest to recognize in yourself… but odds are good your friends have seen it.
You may have been lively and outgoing once, but lately it just seems like you don’t have any energy at all and you just can’t put your finger on the reason why.
All of your friends can, though. They may not have said anything (or you may not have been listening when they did) but they’ve all seen how you become a different person when you’re with your hunnybun then when you’re on your own. You’re lively, happy even, when you’re out on your own, but when he’s nearby, you just… deflate. You’re quieter. You seem subdued. You insist that no, you’re having a good time, but your slumped posture and monosyllable answers tell an entirely different story.
Even when he’s out of town, there’s no escape. You’re acting like your old self again and having a good time… right up until your cell starts to ring and you know letting it go to voicemail just means an even bigger ration of shit to deal with later. So you pick up and everybody around gets to watch you transform to a shadow of your former self.
You’re using so much emotional energy dealing with your partner and the stress your relationship causes that you have virtually none left for yourself afterwards. Your partner is almost literally draining the life out of you… and the odds are good they’re happier that way. Some people thrive on the attention, on the emotional charge of conflict and and drama, and all that energy’s gotta come from somewhere, right?
If even the thought of them leaves you feeling emotionally exhausted, it’s time to plan your exit strategy.