What differentiates a toxic relationship from an abusive one is the fact you don’t realize a relationship is toxic until after the damage has already been done.
Toxic relationships poison you slowly and quietly. That’s what makes them so dangerous.
You don’t stay in a toxic relationship because you lack self-worth, or don’t have the guts or the strength to leave, you stay because you see a silver lining. You stay because you’re convinced that person is your soulmate. You stay because alongside the painful dismissal of your feelings, they pacify you by making promises, highlighting the signs that you’re meant to be. The hope they give you eclipses your pain and then your ability to reason.
You stay because you’re trying to be strong. You stay because you’re taught that there’s no such thing as a toxic person, and that you should take control of your own emotional experience. You stay because someone tells you that the problem is you.
But “toxic relationships” are not the same thing as “wrong” relationships. There are manipulation and diversion tactics at play. These people gaslight, project, twist your words and use them against you. It’s a psychological trap that is designed for you to lose, and the single most pervasive symptom of it is that you find yourself constantly trying to justify why you’re even together in the first place.
The most common sign of a toxic relationship is that it’s one you must constantly, tirelessly defend. Do you know why you’re so defensive? Because you know. Deep down, you’ve known and you still know that something is wrong.
Toxic relationships carry on because you become convinced that you need them. That’s why your brain tries to convince you that you should stay. If you actually felt that you should, it wouldn’t have to work so hard to prove it.
Toxic relationships are blinding, compelling and insidious, and they can take everything from you, but they cannot take your instinct. They can rob you of your joy, your money, your time and the life you once knew, but nobody can take that little voice away from you. You just have to learn to listen to it.
The victims of toxic relationships are not stupid women (or men) who were so desperate for companionship that they wouldn’t let go. They are victims because they were intentionally manipulated for sake of someone else’s gain. They are victims because they were brainwashed to trust someone else’s words over their own instincts, and they are victims because they were baited to keep coming back for more.
But the thing about these kinds of relationships is that they usually do not go on forever. At some point or another, the inner voice wins out – it always does. At some point, victims reach their saturation point, and snap. At some point, the last straw is thrown and they wake up and put all the pieces together.
At some point, they realize that they were blinded by their hope and strength and will, and that someone took their good nature and used it against them.
And what they realize, in retrospect, is that they always knew something was wrong. Being in denial means knowing and not wanting to know – and that’s exactly what a manipulative partner would want. Not for their victims to be content with however they treat them, but to see them weather the most brutal acts, and to still come back for more.