Often, we hear and have been told, “Be careful who you allow around you”. Oh, how true this statement is. In fact, it’s a beautiful truth. We have an inherent right to protect our physical space as well as our mental and spiritual space. Sadly, a significant number of people are involved in very toxic relationships and don’t know how to escape. It is paramount to be clear that the victims of toxic relationships aren’t just women; men are also very much victims who often suffer in silence. In other words, toxic relationships are gender-neutral.
There are a plethora of reasons how and why we can easily get caught in toxic relationships (TR). First, let me say that the purpose of this article is to not only inform but to empower you to recognize toxic relationships and why you must get out as quickly as possible. This article is not written to finger-point, blame, or judge.
With 30 years of ministry and counseling under my belt, I have worked with so many people suffering from exposure and involvement in very TR. The relationship dynamic ranges from parental, sibling, intimate, platonic, work, dating, church, and marriage. We underestimate the effects that TR actually has on your overall health and wellbeing. Digestive issues, frequent headaches, fear, frustration, depression, hypertension, high blood pressure, eating disorders, and even suicidal thoughts are just a few issues that people experience when involved in TR.
Catalysts of Toxic Relationships
Gaslighting: Gaslighting is when a person is manipulated by psychological means into questioning their own sanity, memory, and perception. A person who uses this method of manipulation carefully chooses their victim and exploits the affinity that a person has toward them. The gaslighter can commit physical, mental, emotional, and sexual abuse against their victim and can successfully convince them that it never happened, they wanted it, they asked for it, or that what they remember is not the way it happened.
No Reciprocity: Reciprocity is a mutual or cooperative interchange of favors or privileges. However, in toxic relationships, you are always the giver. The listener. The problem solver. Your house is the homeless shelter. You are the rescuer. The moneylender, only you’re never paid back. However, the people you help the most are conveniently unavailable when you need them most. They have no sensitivity to your pain, depression, or needs. They are willfully oblivious and minimize your need for support.
Fear Factor: Fear stimulates the manipulator in TR. The perpetrator exploits the fears of their victims leaving to have several fears. You are afraid to say no to them for fear of retaliation. You are afraid to say no to them for fear of alienation of affection. You are fearful of physical harm when you reject them. You fear family rejection and separation. You fear being judged.
Only a few ways have been presented to identify when a TR exist. However, the essence of this article is to get out of all toxic relationships. The suggestions listed below are what I like to call “the must-do and must-know list”.
- You must know that freedom from toxic relationships can be challenging to navigate mainly because they are generally with people you love, genuinely care for, and have been involved with over time.
- You must know that disregard, insensitivity to your needs, and unreciprocated respect is unacceptable.
- You must establish authentic boundaries.
- You must never relax those boundaries.
- You must be okay with them exiting your life.
In conclusion, you ain’t got no business reaping what you have not sown. If you have treated a person with love, honor, and respect you deserve to have that given back to you in the same measure in which it was shared with them.