Sometimes in our lives, we become a part of a toxic relationship without realising it. Sadly, it is particularly common for toxic relationships to be between two people in a romance.
Here, we look at what exactly a toxic romance is and how to free yourself from it. Importantly, we also identify the characteristics of a toxic romance so you can be sure if you are part of one or not.
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What is a toxic romance?
A toxic romance is a relationship that has soured to a place where either one or both of you are no longer happy. In fact, relations between the two of you will have become so bad that you bring out the worst in one another. Commonly, a toxic romance will make a person feel drained and suffer from anxiety or insecurity.
Characteristics of a toxic romantic relationship
There are several characteristics of a toxic romantic relationship that typify what may be the negative dynamic between two lovers.
A toxic dynamic will often transpire between two lovers if one starts to become very controlling of the other. Importantly, for this to materialise into a toxic state, one of the partners will not only allow that controlling behaviour to continue but give in to it, too. While giving into a controlling lover’s demands may be done with the best intentions, it enables this behaviour, thus making the situation worse.
It is common in a toxic romantic relationship for there to be a great deal of belittling on one or both sides. Belittling is when a partner consistently puts the other down by dismissing their achievements. The result is making the other person fall small and insignificant so that they feel their needs do not matter. This is one of the biggest reasons why a romance can descend into such negative territory. When one person does not feel as important as the other, an imbalance occurs that can become very unhealthy.
Lack of trust
A romance will often become toxic if two people do not trust one another. Trust is one of the most critical elements to have in a relationship, and without it, there will often be a very shaky foundation from which to build happiness. If you cannot trust your partner, be it with other people, with money or with your feelings, the chances are that this relationship will flounder. The ones that continue despite a lack of trust are the ones that are likely to descend into toxicity.
Lack of communication
All the above characteristics are likely to become more prevalent in a relationship if there is a distinct lack of communication between the two of you. Communication is key to working through problems and issues as and when they arise. If two people struggle to talk to each other constructively, then problems will often become much more significant as a result. Without talking through issues, like a lack of trust or controlling behaviour, a couple will never be able to move on from it.
How to let go of toxic romances
It is hard to let go of any toxic relationship, particularly romantic ones. That is because, despite all the negative parts of the relationship, it will have started in feelings of love and other positive emotions. Plus, you may not even realise the true state of the relationship and how bad the dynamic between you and your partner has become. Toxic relationships don’t start toxic. They become that way over a certain period as a couple slowly descends into a rapport that is far from positive.
Susan Leigh from Lifestyle Therapy told Age Times: "If we went on a first date with someone who was rude or unpleasant, we wouldn't see them again, but over time we may gradually pretend not to notice, shrug off our partner's behaviour, make excuses for them or feel that we're somehow to blame. Fear of being alone again can be a factor too, and that's why it's important to retain some independence. Enjoy some outside interests and friends, look after yourself and maybe update your appearance as well as ensure you've financial independence. Then you're better able to step back and assess how your relationship's going."
Here are our four key steps to letting go of a toxic romance in your life.
The most crucial step in letting go of a toxic romance is identifying that you are in such a partnership in the first place. Bearing in mind that romances only sour over time, you may not have noticed how far your relationship has fallen into negative territory. Therefore, have an open and honest conversation with yourself. Ask yourself, are you content? Does your relationship make you truly happy? Do you find your relationship a drain on your energy? Do you look forward to seeing your partner?
Answering any of these questions will help you realise and identify the true state of your relationship with your partner.
Talk to your partner
An excellent way to ascertain the state of play in your romance is to bring up any issues you have with your partner. Doing so as soon as possible is vital. It could be that you can work through your problems. Or it could be that your partner does not want to take any ownership for their actions that have materially affected your happiness.
Importantly, it could also be that you learn how your actions have negatively affected your partner, too. Prepare yourself to hear some home truths when you open up lines of communication.
Decide a course of action
After you have spoken to your partner at length about the state of your relationship, you will have a better understanding of what you want in the future. You might both be willing to work on the issues that caused your relationship to turn toxic. It could be, however, that you see that your partner will never change - and also realise you don’t want to change, either. If that is the case, you may decide to walk away from the romance altogether.
Learn from the experience
Finally, you must try to learn what you can from the experience so that you can be sure a similar situation does not arise again. Despite your best intentions, there may have been things that you could have done a little differently that would have changed the course of your relationship. You could have addressed issues earlier, or you could have realised that you were not best suited to one another in the beginning stages of your relationship.
Whatever the circumstances, looking back and analysing what went wrong is only helpful if you learn from your findings.
Leaving a toxic romance behind for good
Sadly, the reality is that if a relationship becomes so bad between two lovers that it is toxic, it is tough to turn it around into a happy one. Most people will probably do better to walk away from one another, even if they are still in love. A toxic relationship can take over so many different aspects of your life that it can become all-consuming, leaving you drained and depleted of any energy to live your life to the fullest.
Without a doubt, the critical step to leaving a toxic romance behind for good is identifying it and recognising that it is not a healthy connection. Once you have done this, you can take action and ownership of the situation to get your life back on track to a place where you can be happy.