Are You or a Friend in a Toxic Relationship? Distinguishing the Signs

Unpacking abusive relationships is not always easy. Let’s distinguish the signs together.

Are You or a Friend in a Toxic Relationship? Distinguishing the Signs (Getty Images)

AtlantaSometimes, being a young adult can be filled with so much pain and confusion. You could go through constant feelings of “No one cares,” or maybe even “No one understands.” I had to dig deep within myself for this post because it's something that I've just experienced recently. I wasn't going to talk about it because it was so painful for me to dive into my subconscious and pull my story out, but I realized that this could potentially save somebody's life... 

And doing research I found, "College students are not equipped to deal with dating abuse – 57% say it is difficult to identify and 58% say they don’t know how to help someone who’s experiencing it." This post is for those who do not know how to leave their toxic situationships- or friends of those who are being abused and need to help their people out.

Toxic relationships are something that many people, including myself, have silently struggled with. But, it's 2024 and we're stopping this NOW!

The reason why so many people stay in these relationships is because they never started off "toxic" in the first place. In the beginning, these relationships will make you feel like you are on top of the world. There will be gifts, a feeling of an overflow of passion and euphoria, and let's keep it a buck - probably the most amazing sex that you've ever had.

Now, the first step is being able to identify and distinguish when something no longer serves you. While every relationship is different, there may be clear signs that you are in an abusive situation.

Gaslighting: The textbook definition of gaslighting is, "to manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity." Examples of gaslighting include, blatantly lying or denying, projection, or telling you that you're crazy- even when your gut feeling is telling you to get up outta’ there!

@taylordsprag What is gaslighting you ask? It’s emotional abuse. A gaslighter plants seeds of uncertainty to gain power & control over you. If I can lie and deny… I can avoid responsibility and accountability 💯 This is part of a series. Let’s unpack together 😁#gaslightingsigns#gaslighting#narcissism#manipulation#manipulationtactics#gaslighting101#narcissisticmen ♬ original sound - Taylor

Narcissism: "excessive interest in or admiration of oneself and one's physical appearance" The skill of spotting a narcissist will help you in more ways than just romantic relationships. The entitlement that the person has is undeniable. The fact that they expect that you will drop any and everything for them, despite whatever responsibilities that you have may be a sign that you are dealing with a narcissist.

Ask yourself the following questions: 

Do they project their insecurities or anger onto you? Is this a result of you having to swallow your emotions or walk on eggshells to keep the relationship peaceful? Do you ever feel like energy has LITERALLY been sucked out of you? Are you no longer doing the things you love, and solely focused on your relationship? Do you ever hesitate expressing yourself because you're afraid that it will backfire and your feelings will be seen as minimal- or even as you're overreacting? Do you ever fear that YOU are going to do something wrong and be the reason to end the relationship? Do they walk in and out of the relationship often? Do you ever feel responsible for their feelings while they take no accountability for their own? Are they possessive? 

Have they ever damaged your property? Do you make excuses for their actions or lie and blame yourself when your loved ones bring it up? Do you fear that one day they'll get so angry that they will put their hands on you? Do they make you feel like you'll never find anyone else to "love you like they do"? Do you ever feel like you can never satisfy them? Do they make you get out of character? Is there a big age gap? Do they often try to control you and get you to isolate yourself and not go out with friends or family? Do they use your past traumas against you? Do you find yourself apologizing for being the reason that they had an outbreak of anger? If after every attempt to leave, do they find a way to "One Up" their last gift to you? Ex: Flowers, food, poetry, jewelry, etc. Recognize it is a bribe for your heart and forgiveness.

Understand that constant degrading, confusion and lying, yet at the same time reassurance, gifts, and “I love you" will cause a destructive internal tug of war and wound. Also, be careful of saying "That could never be me." Because life will humble you real quick.

Listen to me when I say, I've been told to never let anyone show me twice that they don't want me. My body and my heart are not a revolving door that you can enter when you feel like it. Case closed! 

All in all, if any of these have prompted you to reevaluate your partner. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Acknowledgment is the first step. You are one step closer to choosing yourself and feeling true value and appreciation. 

After all, remember this quote from a scene from one of my favorite teen soapy dramas — “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”

“We accept the love we think we deserve.” 

And you deserve the world.

If you or a friend worry you may be in an abusive relationship, visit the national domestic violence hotline at 800-799-7233

Jeydah Jenkins (she/her) is from Newark, NJ, but is an Atlanta-based journalist who covers the arts and culture. Follow her on Instagram and TikTok: @JeydahFromJersey.

Edited by Nykeya Woods

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