As someone said, ‘No relationship is all sunshine. But two people can share one umbrella and survive the storm together.’
Such a beautiful description of what it is for two people to be together.
But the keywords here are sharing and being together, which may not always be true. And that’s when one may have to pause and reflect on the relationship, on the being together.
What is a Relationship?
A relationship is the coming together of two people, of their minds, thoughts, and emotions. As human beings, we forge different kinds of connections during our lifetimes. We are born with some; those are the family relationships where we don’t have a choice, and they are there for life. But then there are other kinds that we form with friends/spouses/partners where we do have a choice, and therefore they don’t have to be permanent.
In choice-based relationships, we form associations with people with whom we have something in common. It could be a romantic association or just a friendly one. But whatever be the reason, the bottom line is that there is a connection with the person, a bond that tends to get deeper and stronger with time.
But the strength and depth can only come if the relationship is fulfilling for the people involved. It has to give joy, happiness, a sense of security and belongingness to both. Otherwise, it will just be a superficial connection.
But what if a relationship that is supposed to be deep and strong isn’t that? What if it is exploitative, toxic or damaging? What is a person supposed to do then? Should the person being exploited continue with the relationship, or should walking out be an option?
According to me though walking out should not be the first option; it should definitely be an option, especially if things go wrong.
But then how does one make a decision one way or the other? How does one know when to make the decision?
There are several signs/ indicators of a toxic/ unhealthy relationship that should not be ignored. Yes, one must try to save the relationship but should know where to draw the line.
That knowledge to begin with comes from recognizing and accepting the signs. One should not ignore them for too long because that could lead to misery and suffering.
So what are those signs?
Here is my list of signs/indicators of an unhealthy/toxic relationship; the signs that signal that it is time to end the relationship.
A Gut Feel
A relationship is supposed to be mutually satisfying, giving joy and happiness to both persons. But sometimes, your inner self, your gut, tells you a different story. You start feeling uncomfortable, unwanted or generally think that all is not well. It is not necessary to be able to put a finger on something; sometimes, it is just how you feel, how you are made to feel. If a relationship doesn’t make you feel fabulous, then it is not for you. If your gut tells you all is not well, then listen to it.
This sort of a sign is pretty invisible. There could be other visible signs as well.
Lack of respect
One of the most critical requirements of a healthy relationship is mutual respect and understanding between the partners. But when you realize that your partner has no respect for you, for your views or opinions, all is clearly not well with the relationship. If your partner is not willing to acknowledge your worth, you need to sit up and reflect.
If all you are doing is toeing the line and all your partner is doing is imposing their line, then it is time you smelled the coffee.
Lack of caring
A relationship, a bond is about loving and caring for each other. But if you have a partner/ friend who is self-centred and cares only about his needs/ requirements, you cannot ignore this. In a healthy relationship, the needs and requirements of both are equally important. Whether the needs are physical or emotional, they have to be considered. But if they are not and yours are the ones to be always sacrificed, then it is time you woke up. Don’t let your desires be quashed just because you want the relationship to last. A relationship can never be bigger than the person and especially if the person is you.
The feeling of being taken for granted
When between two people, it is always assumed that everything everywhere is your responsibility, you should not ignore this. It is too heavy a burden to carry and is never going to be sustainable. Eventually, you will realize what’s happening and then start resenting the other person, the free-rider. Resentment is not what a healthy relationship needs.
Lack of Trust
The importance of trust between two people can never be overemphasized. Trust is the most critical building block of a relationship. If/ when that goes missing, there is nothing left. If you cannot believe your partner or are always suspicious about their intentions, you will not be able to carry on for too long.
The feeling of being used
A feeling of being used and abused is not something that can make a relationship work. If you feel that you are just a means to an end for your partner/ friend, then those warning bells should start ringing. The end could be money, connections, emotions or anything which you bring to the table. If and when you realize that that is who you are, it is time to drop it all.
Lack of space
For two people to thrive together, space is critical. You can’t always be breathing down each other’s neck. If you cannot get that time out, you will feel hemmed in and stifled. The relationship will become claustrophobic. So do something about it.
Lack of support for your goals/ dreams.
All of us have dreams and aspirations in life. Your relationship should enable you to follow your dreams, your passions. If you can’t, do it because your partner’s goals are more important and have to take precedence; put your foot down.
Listen to your loved ones.
Since we are so emotionally invested in our relationships, we cannot spot the signs most of the time. We let our heart rule our head. We become champions at adjusting, compromising it all in the name of love/ friendship or whatever is the basis for the relationship.
We don’t see or don’t want to see the signs. We imagine ourselves to be in an ideal relationship when actually it is a toxic/ unhealthy one.
That’s the time we need others who are not part of the equation to guide us. Being outsiders, they can be objective about the situation and can help you see the signs.
So when they say something listen to them.
But the question is, when should one pull the plug.? When is too much really too much? How does one know what the right time to move on is?
Now before pulling the plug, here is a little test which I call the Mirror-Image test. Start doing to those people what they do to you and see what happens. Start treating them the way they treat you. And if they fail, you know what to do!!
Remember, there are ups and downs in every relationship, but if all the ups are theirs and all the downs are yours, then you need to wake up.
If all attempts to make the other person see your point of view fail, then you need to walk away.
You need to do it for your dignity and self-preservation because the more you allow yourself to be treated as such, the more they will do, and you will hate yourself.
A relationship should nourish you, let you grow, be like a safety net around you. It should not stifle you, control you or make you feel worthless or useless.