Love, Heartbreak

5 Signs You're In A TOXIC Relationship (That's Going To End Badly)

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signs you're in a toxic relationship

When we’re in the thick of our day-to-day life with an Asshat, we don’t see the long-term negative impact our relationship has on our mood, self-esteem, self-confidence, values, goals and our other meaningful relationships. We can transform from a motivated, healthy, happy person into a miserable, sniveling wreck no one wants to be around without even knowing it’s happening.

This is reminiscent of the story of the frog who is put in a pool of cool water. He doesn’t realize it’s actually a pot on a stove that is slowly coming to boil. He’s cooked and ready to eat before he even knows it. And I don’t think we want to turn into a delicious pair of frog legs on our toxic roustabout’s silver platter.

Here are 5 signs you're in a toxic relationship that show through changes in yourself.

1. Friends and family don't like who you've become when with your man.

It’s a red flag when your family doesn’t like your guy, but that reaction can cut both ways. Have you ever had someone who really loves you, someone who truly has your back, say something like this to you: “It’s not that I don’t like your boyfriend/lover/spouse. It’s just that I don’t like who you become when you’re with him. I feel like you’re not being your true self”?

I can’t tell you how many times I heard some variation of that line from friends and family while I was dating each of my heartbreakers. But I was in denial because I was neck-deep in an oxytocin-dopamine tsunami of addiction to the relationships and didn’t want to look too closely at what they were costing me.

My relationship with The Greek God encompassed most of my college years. And along with the damage he did to my body image, he dinged me in other ways, too. After several months of dating, he began having questionable relationships with other women. Consequently, I morphed from a carefree, fun-loving, popular co-ed to an isolated, loner who developed spy skills on a par with the CIA, doing those patented, codependent 3 AM stakeouts.

This was accompanied by digging through his personal papers and letters, driving hours to see if he was really where he said he was, then driving back without him even knowing I’d been there. My friends and family noticed how I transformed into a neurotic Geisha when my guy was around and a complaining harridan when he wasn’t in sight.

They tried to intervene, which made me pull away from them. And once I’d marginalized the closest people in my life, I further isolated myself in the toxic relationship.

2. You become unreliable and inconsistent.


When the man we love is inconsistent and unreliable, we can often mirror him, becoming unreliable and inconsistent with everyone except our Romeo. For him, we’ll make ourselves available at a ping, waiting hours or days for him to deign to see us. But then we start being late for or canceling appointments with friends, family, and colleagues in order to be forever on-call for our unpredictable Asshat.

And as we wait at the beck and call of our lover, other meaningful relationships fall by the wayside. People stop calling because they know we’ll throw them over the second our rascal crooks his little finger. Pretty soon our lives become small, insular and lonely. And isolation is the worst thing that can happen to a relationship addict.

3. You do weird things to manage or affirm the relationship.

If you live in Venice Beach, as I did, you might seek the wisdom of a Shaman, a psychic, or a hypnotist. Anyone might predict a wonderful future for you and your heartbreaker if you can just figure out how to control him. Worse, you might rely on the wrong self-help book that affirms your choice to stay in your heart-stomping situation with the false belief you can influence your man by applying the tools presented within.

For a time John Gray’s still-popular Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus was my Bible. I’ll give you an example of the absolute time wastage that occurred when I invested in using the tools in Gray’s book.

Gray writes: "When a Martian (men) gets upset, he never talks about what is bothering him. He would never burden another Martian with his problem unless his friend's assistance was necessary to solve the problem. Instead, he becomes very quiet and goes to his private cave to think about his problem, mulling it over to find a solution.”

Gray explains that Venusians (women) need to be patient and let men come out of their cave when they’re ready. So I waited. And waited. And waited.

What I didn’t realize was that when you’re the only one scratching and fighting for the relationship, Gray’s advice can prolong your tolerance for very bad behavior and keep you in purgatory indefinitely. The reality is, a relationship is only as good as the person who tries the least.

4. You turn the narcissist's breadcrumbs into a rustic loaf.


The longer we stay in toxic circumstances, the more we deplete our jet fuel and self-worth. Until soon we’re giving the scoundrel credit for doing the absolute minimum to keep our relationship slogging along. Women trapped in soul-numbing situations are extraordinary bakers. They can take their chap’s breadcrumbs and whip them into a rustic loaf because they desperately want to justify staying with him.

For example, Caroline moved in with Toby, her boyfriend of three years, because she was certain that grappling him into a shared domicile would evolve into a marriage proposal. Toby, a non-commital, workaholic, traveling salesman, was emblazoned with red flags. But Caroline thought getting Toby to the altar would solve all of their problems.

Toby’s moping, lying, cheating and stonewalling would disappear, as would Caroline’s nagging, bitching, spying and auditioning for a wife. Predictably, once Caroline moved in, Toby’s moping ramped up. He hedged like a hedgehog against making plans with Caroline’s family and friends. And his workaholism doubled.

Their first Christmas together, Caroline tried to harangue Toby into helping her decorate their house for the season. She thought that if they hung tinsel, wreaths, and garlands together they’d morph into a “real” couple. Toby managed to be busy whenever Caroline wanted to decorate. With Christmas Eve fast approaching, Caroline decided to decorate the tree and house alone. She then scolded Toby for not helping her.

The next morning, she found Toby heading off for an extremely early work meeting. Caroline rolled out of bed to start another painful, obsessive, tiny little day. Then she discovered Toby’s contribution to their holiday home. There on the mantel, above their fireplace, he’d hung a teeny, tiny, fig leaf-sized Christmas stocking. He’d helped her decorate! That diminutive red stocking, with the white faux fur trim, made Caroline’s heart swell.

Sweet Jesus! He was trying! He loved her! He wanted to make her happy! Just look at that microscopic, imperceptible little boot! Any infinitesimal gesture on Toby’s part was a gem polished to a fine luster in Caroline’s heart until she began to expect less and less and less... until she finally gave him credit for almost nothing at all.

I’m happy to report that Caroline pulled herself up by the Christmas bootstraps and moved out of the home she made to catch Toby. She spent last Christmas decorating with her new roommate, minus drama, with lots of delicious hot chocolate and mildly inedible fruitcake.

5. You become addicted to the cycle of abuse.

It’s important, that I make it very clear that I’m talking about emotional abuse. If you’re in a physically abusive relationship put this down right now and immediately seek help. The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is at 1-800-799-SAFE


Purchase Shannon's book She Dated the Asshats, But Married the Good Guy.

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