It is 2019 and we have been witnessing more health-conscious people than ever. People scrutinize every single substance before consuming it, follow vigorous exercise routines and some even meditate. However, despite all this, they come back home and feel more drained than ever. Amidst all this hustle, we tend to forget that our health is also affected by the people with whom we’re connected. Sometimes, coming back home to the same people and the same relationships is far from ‘healthy’
It is disheartening to know that most people ignore the hidden health-both mental and physical-hazards caused by such relationships or ‘toxic relationships.’ Unhealthy relationships give birth to a toxic environment that can cause stress, depression, anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental illnesses. Unhealthy relationships can also cause heart problems, high blood pressure and an increase in the chances of a cardiac arrest. While it is important to note that all relationships have highs and lows, toxic relationships have a different league of their own. Such relationships can inhabit any form- toxic partners, toxic friendships, toxic co-workers, toxic parent and child relationships.
Before diving further into unhealthy relationships, it is important to know the characteristics of healthy relationships first. Healthy relationships consist of contentment, compassion, security, openness and respect. In a healthy relationship, two people complement each other rather than being wholly dependent on each other. On the other hand, toxic relationships are often characterized by abuse, manipulation, control, irrational insecurity, criticism and disrespect. If your partner emotionally drains you, makes you seek their approval 24×7, threatens you physically and emotionally or doesn’t hesitate in manipulating you- He/she is toxic for you.
People who are involved in a toxic relationship not only find it difficult to identify, but also find it difficult to get out of one. Often times, they get so used to the toxic traits, they don’t even realize that it’s extremely unhealthy. They get accustomed to the abuse, manipulation, emotional depletion, etc. that everyone around them sees their suffering, except for their own selves. They start to believe that this is ‘love’ and this what they deserve. And thus, their mental and physical health begins to spiral downwards until no diet or exercise makes them feel better.
As children, a lot of us are told that displaying our emotions is a sign of weakness. Whether love or hurt, we are taught to keep it bottled up. When our parents used to shout at us or beat us, we were told it’s being done because they care for us. We were told that the harsh scolding is a sign of love. So, we grew up to believe that sometimes it is alright to tolerate being mistreated because it is love in disguise and that it’s completely normal to bottle it all up. We beat the language of love out of our hearts and confused it with abuse, control and manipulation. This is why most people find it hard to realize that their relationships are toxic. They believe that this toxin is love.
Unhealthy relationships make people lose their self-worth to such an extent that they begin hating and doubting themselves. They start to believe that the toxic traits of their partners are solemnly their fault and a lot of them need to take therapy to recover from the trauma inflicted on them. These people also feel unusual when they enter a healthy relationship as it becomes difficult for them to comprehend this new environment; to comprehend this new version of love. We also can’t ignore the fact that all of us carry certain toxic traits and sometimes they can harm us internally as well. Our constant need for attention, silent treatment instead of communication, exceedingly high expectations from our relationships, keeping ‘score cards’, etc. are all toxic traits as well. Just like we identify unhealthy food items, we should also identify unhealthy mannerisms in all our relationships and if possible, work on them. And if they become so unbearable that they break us down, we should leave.
Love is not shown through violence or anger; it Is shown by affectionate gestures and safety. It is supposed to nourish and rejuvenate your soul not deplete it. Love shouldn’t be used against you; it should be used to make you better. At the end of the day, your relationships are all you have and they should give you comfort and make you feel at home. If they are acting as a burden and are exhausting you every second, then notice the red flags and leave. Abort mission. I repeat, abort mission.