Whether it’s with controlling partners, “frenemies” or unbearable relatives, we’ve all been in toxic relationships— where the negative moments outweigh the good ones. But sometimes this can be difficult to realize.
“The relationship feels draining, one-sided and confusing,” explains Leslie Forsyth, LCSW, with Main Line Health’s Women’s Emotional Wellness Center. “You might feel like you’re walking on eggshells and you can’t be your true self when you’re with them.”
Some characteristics of a toxic relationship include:
- You’re on an emotional roller coaster. One day, your friend is so happy you’re in their life. The next, they’re refusing to talk to you—and you don’t even know why. The inconsistency leaves you feeling full of doubt.
- The stress affects your body. You might have new headaches or an upset stomach. The thought of interacting with this person makes you feel anxious.
- The person has red-flag behaviors. Some are obvious: lying, never admitting wrongdoing or putting you down. But they can also be more subtle. For instance, does your partner minimize things that are important to you, while expecting you to prioritize his or her needs?
So what can you do? First and foremost, if you are in physical danger, seek help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 for guidance at 1.800.799.7233. But even if the characteristics of a toxic relationship aren’t physical, you should still seek guidance for making the next step.
Ending a toxic relationship is almost certainly the healthiest option. “Integrating mindfulness and pausing to pay attention to our needs, feelings and experiences is often the first step,” Forsyth says. “Find a trusted friend, a supportive group of friends or a professional to help you through the process. Focus on your needs while setting clear boundaries with the other person.”
Main Line Health serves patients at hospitals and health centers throughout the western suburbs of Philadelphia. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.