I am a bad-boy addict.
One thing I’ve always been really bad at is falling head over heels in love with people who are oh-so-bad for me… the type that are like an addiction. You know they’re bad for you but there’s that gooey, warm, nice feeling that keeps reeling you back in.
The one you desperately wait to text you first, the one that makes your heart skip a beat when you see his name pop up on your caller ID. It’s these guys that make you question who you are and can really affect your mental wellbeing.
I want to make sure you, being the amazing, beautiful human being you are, are surrounding yourself with people who are good for your mental health.
I’m setting the record straight.
It took me five years to realise I was in an unhealthy relationship.
I wasn’t sleeping. I was nervous all of the time. My work was suffering and my confidence and self-esteem was at an all time low. I had isolated myself from friends, and I found myself tolerating more and more unnerving, escalating behaviour.
So how do you spot a toxic relationship? Well, let me tell you.
1. Watch for signs of control.
Does he monitor your phone and Facebook? Does he give you curfews of when you should be home? Does he tell you what you can and can’t wear? Does he make all of the decisions about what you guys do as a couple? If he is treating you like his child, or a possession, this is a BIG sign you are in an unhealthy relationship.
2. Listen to what your family and friends are saying.
“I’m worried about you.”
“I don’t like the way he is treating you.”
“You don’t seem happy.”
Your family and friends know you better than anyone. They love you, they care for you, and they can see what’s happening from a different perspective. If they are making comments about the relationship, don’t ignore them.
3. If you’re keeping him a secret, then something’s up.
If you find yourself lying to family and friends about seeing him, or you feel uncomfortable telling people you are seeing him, this is not a positive thing to be doing.
4. Know your boundaries, and be assertive if he oversteps them.
In my mind there was a clear line in healthy, happy relationships – black and white – and I knew what overstepped that boundary. I’d make excuses and minimise his actions.
I realised my boundaries had shifted so much over years that when I had hindsight, I realised my boundaries had been crossed time and time again.
5. If there’s a cycle or negative pattern, don’t ignore it.
Unhealthy relationships aren’t bad 100% of the time. In fact, you could be in a relationship where 99% of the time everything is great. He kisses your forehead, he makes you breakfast in bed, he tells you how amazing you are.
Things are good, and then there’s a build up. It then turns into a full blow-out. There’s a ‘breaking point’ where something happens where a boundary is crossed. He might lash out at you, or say something really awful. You may decide enough is enough and end the relationship, or become assertive in your ways and tell him you won’t tolerate something like that again.
Then come the gifts. The flowers. The apologies. The “I’m sorrys”. The “I’ve got to change”.
However, there is a negative pattern that occurs over, and over, and over again.
6. He won’t change.
In some cases, guys do change, or they’re genuinely remorseful and demonstrate this by not overstepping your boundary again. But in most cases, he won’t change. No matter how many times he says he will, he won’t in the long term.
7. Don’t jeopardize your values.
Stay true to you. Stay true to what you believe in and what you value in your life.
8. Listen to your gut.
Is there a feeling deep inside of you that something just isn’t quite right, and for the life of you, you can’t put your finger on it? Listen to it. Don’t ignore it. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
It’s not your fault. You are not alone.
If he’s blaming you for everything and not taking responsibility for his actions, or saying “you made me do it”, this is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. You are not alone, and there is support.
9. Don’t beat yourself up for not being able to leave.
Unless you’ve experienced an unhealthy relationship, it’s sometimes difficult for others to understand why you won’t just leave.
Unhealthy relationships can be complex things. And when you’re experiencing a range of emotions, feelings, persuasion and even fear of leaving, it can be a tough road ahead.
Be kind to yourself, slowly build back confidence in you, and do what you can to love yourself and value your wellbeing enough to build up the courage to make positive changes for your life.
If the relationship makes you feel anxious, fearful, upset or sad, it’s not a healthy relationship to be in.