Toxic relationships and toxic traits are things that have recently become a part of a large scale conversation. And as important as it is to have this conversation, I have significant worries as well.
Toxic relationships whether romantically or platonic are not built upon mutual respect; there is often times a struggle of power and abuse of power. They don’t always start off this way and there are experiences of both immeasurable joy and horrifying fear or disgust or anger. The hard part about toxic relationships is that 1. you may not know you’re in one until it is so far into the roller coaster that it is hard to get off, and 2. there is not only one person at fault for the ride. In order to have a toxic relationship, there has to be two negative poles like magnets. They repel and they push back on each other allowing the individualization of power and lack of effective communication to overcome the relationship. It is ugly and it is hard to walk away from.
Side note:Toxicity and abuse are not the same thing. There is interplay and often times a relationship that is abusive is also toxic but they should not be used interchangeably.
I was in an abusive relationship but even more importantly, I was in a toxic relationship and it has completely changed my ability to build another, a stronger relationship. I brought toxic traits to the table as did he and now I am in a relationship of a completely different caliber. It feels healthy and strong and I see a future with this person. I never saw that in the last one. In the last one, I was constantly trying to convince myself that everything was normal, that couples fight, that certain things were happening because trust is hard to come by and its normalized for infidelity to happen: what I was experiencing was what I deserved.
And I am still so lost. I am still very much overcoming that mentality. My current relationship is built on friendship and strength and a mutual desire to push each other. It is strong and beautiful. But there are moments that I completely lose sight of that and I revert to the toxic habits I relied on a couple years ago. I didn’t trust this last person at all. I knew I was being lied to, I knew I was being cheated on and I found sneaky ways to confirm those suspicions. And every now and then, I find myself doing a similar thing in this relationship. There are times when I say to myself, “I’m being treated too well right now. He’s being too nice to me so something has to be up. He must be lying to me somehow. And then I get so mad at myself for doubting that I deserve to be treated as a human who is shown love and compassion from another person.
But that is what a toxic relationship does to you. It breaks you down as far as you can go before you are completely submerged underwater. And then it makes you question how you were able to start swimming again.
I took almost 2 years to myself after breaking off the relationship that nearly broke me to focus on healing and bettering myself, to work and to spend time with those that supported me and to count my blessings. I thought I had overcome the hardships and toxic habits of being in this relationship. And then I found someone I wanted to share my life with and ALL the habits came back. I had to and am still having to learn ways to overcome the bad habits I formed and used to cope. It has been a unique journey and not one that very many people have been able to stand by nor support me with. There are a lot of decisions and in the moment doubts I have that only I can address with enough confidence to overcome. It has come with a lot of isolation and internal battles. Even when confiding in others who have experienced similar journeys, there are still battles that cannot be shared or overcome in pairs. It is personal and independent- neither of which toxic or abusive relationships allow for.
It is this personalization and distinctiveness of the battle after the fact that scares me about the conversation coming to spotlight. I think when topics become over-exposed, they lose their power and influence. We run the risk of becoming desensitized and then the conversation, empathy, and support that is so desperately needed around this conversation disappear for good. Because this topic and the experiences people have around the words toxic and abuse are so near to my heart, the overexposure scares me. I will listen and read and write about this topic until the day I no longer can but I fear individuals will get lost to the bigger story. This isn’t just a narrative, it is a life and an everyday battle that me and probably most of you are having with yourselves every single day.