It can be difficult to separate various relationships in your life, much less to find time to unpack some of the dynamics operating within them. By this I mean the language used, the power shifts, and who initiates the arguments or just generally influences the trajectory of the relationship most.
Sometimes, it can take stepping back and taking a breather to clock just how pervasive or toxic these influences are. Maybe you need to talk to your family or friends about a particular relationship you might be having doubts about.
But either way, that's the first step. Recognising things. No longer turning a blind eye to the nonsense that you put up with on a regular basis. Another person's trauma is not something for which you should bear the consequences.
Here are a couple of ways to prevent yourself from just being someone's punching bag, emotionally or physically. Or a doormat. Neither are good, healthy options.
But if there's one golden rule before we start, it's that if they show you red flags or toxic flaws, please be open to them.
See them, don't explain them away or dismiss them
You are worthy, valued, and important and so are your feelings. They don't only exist in relation to another person, or in a way to ensure that you maintain your relationship with them. Prioritise yourself and ensure that you keep track of yourself.
1 – Don't let someone make you feel unimportant
This can be achieved in a variety of ways, either through verbal language, abusive gestures, or even the dismissal of your interests. If you have people that constantly undermine your hobbies or interests, then they're stunting your growth as a person.
They're stopping you from living your life if they're turning you against things that bring you joy. If you enjoy things, enjoy them! Don't let someone else disrupt that.
You'll find that as you get older, it's harder and harder to throw yourself into something new, so when you find it, treasure it.
Abuse isn't always hitting and punching. Sometimes it's emotional manipulation and subtly conditioning. Over time you will realise that you don't feel in as much control of yourself as you used to. You're asking your partner if you're allowed to do things. It's ridiculous and you of 2 years ago would have scoffed. It sneaks up on you if you aren't seeing their toxic flaws and acknowledging them.
2 – Hypocritical double standards
It's a classic example of a controlling person – it doesn't mean that they care that much if they're consumed by you. Obsession isn't healthy, nor is it a basis for a relationship.
If they expect absolute transparency and truth from you about all your whereabouts but don't care about your emotions or needs, then leave them.
Vulnerability is a two-way street, and intimacy can't be gained through sheer force of will. It has to be forged symmetrically by two willing parties – you can't be tricked into a relationship. If you have, you aren't in a real relationship, I assure you.
If they also demand all of this but don't give anything of themselves in return, then reflect on the implications of that. They have all the information, all the power – you have none.
There's nothing keeping them there, barring their own strange controlling nature. If you haven't met their parents a year in, that's a sign. Make sure you acknowledge and see it, and don't ignore it or find excuses.
3 – If they aren't prioritising you or compromising, step out
Relationships are all about the give and take – if they're just taking, then you aren't in a healthy relationship. If you aren't getting anything out of it and noticing more and more their toxic flaws, you know what to do.
If they show their true flaws, listen to them and act on these red flags – it's in your interest, I promise.