How to Recognize a Toxic Relationship and Know When It’s Time to Leave

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“Your heart knows the way. Run in that direction.” ~Rumi

Have you ever found yourself questioning the health of your relationship, unsure if what you’re experiencing is normal or if it’s veering into toxic territory? It’s a common dilemma that many of us face at some point in our lives.

But how do we know when it’s time to walk away?

Toxic relationships can be insidious, often starting out innocently enough before gradually morphing into something destructive and harmful. The warning signs may be subtle at first, but they can become impossible to ignore over time.

Flashback to 2016, I was traveling the world with my best friend. I was having so much fun at only twenty-one, and the whole trip felt like a dream.

One night on my twenty-first birthday, I met a beautiful local boy playing drums in a bar. We had a magnetic and electrifying connection, and it really felt like we were soul mates.

He was kind, sensitive, and understanding. He looked after me, too, buying me food and coconuts when I said I was hungry. I fell madly in love.

But time passed, and the relationship came to a heartbreaking end when I realized I couldn’t live there forever. I had to go to university and go back to see my family.

Seven years passed, and we both had fleeting lovers but kept in contact. Neither of us ever found a connection with another like ours.

He was my reference point. The one I compared everyone to. “But they don’t love me like he did!” I was frequently in tears, at least once a month, even seven years on, to my parents. Crying my little heart out, petrified that I would never find a love like him again.

Fast-forward to this past year, and I had the opportunity to go back. We said we were going to be best friends… but obviously, that didn’t happen. We immediately fell straight back into our deep love for one another.

It was wild to think that after seven years, we were back here again, still tangled up together and wanting this to work.

The first few weeks were perfect. Full of so much love, joy, and laughter. Until we went out one night, and we were both very drunk. I saw a side to him I never had seen before.

He got so angry with me for no reason, blaming my culture for ruining their culture, and was so fuming mad that I started to become really scared.

Who is this person? Why is he so angry? Have I triggered this? What did I do wrong?

I went to bed feeling pretty gobsmacked and terrified about what I had just witnessed and prayed that it was a one-time, drunken mistake.

But as much as I tried to tell myself that, the gut-sinking feeling in my stomach had already begun.

I wish I had a happier story to tell, but frankly, I do not.

We carried on full of love and magic but also with these drunk outbursts of anger and deep, deep resentment, clearly caused by a lot of unresolved relationships and cultural trauma.

I found myself constantly trying to mediate the situation and calm him down. That was draining.

On top of that, I was trying to navigate how someone who claimed they loved me more than anything in the world could use such violent words toward me and belittle my character as much as he was doing.

I felt confused and heartbroken.

What is this? Who is this? Is it me? Am I to blame? Is this the man I have loved all these years? Do I even know this man at all?

These are some of the heart-wrenching questions you might ask yourself if you start to suspect that your relationship is turning toxic or you are starting to see surprising acts of violence from your partner.

There is no feeling in the world more intense than that of shock, disappointment, guilt, fear, and heartbreak rolled into one.

And the longer you stay, the harder it gets to leave, more often than not.

So, what are the warning signs you should look out for?

Lack of Respect and Boundaries

This is one of the earliest red flags. In a healthy relationship, both partners should, at the very least, feel valued, heard, and respected. If you find yourself constantly feeling belittled, criticized, or invalidated by your partner, it may be a sign that the relationship has become toxic.

Manipulation and Control

Another common warning sign is manipulation and control. Toxic partners may use guilt, coercion, or emotional blackmail to get their way, leaving you feeling powerless and trapped. They may also isolate you from friends, family, and social situations, making it difficult for you to seek support or perspective outside of the relationship.

Erosion of Self-Esteem and Self-Worth

Perhaps one of the most insidious aspects of toxic relationships is the gradual erosion of self-esteem and self-worth. Over time, you may find yourself doubting your own judgment, questioning your reality, and feeling unworthy of love and respect. This can make it incredibly difficult to leave, even when you know deep down that the relationship is unhealthy.

So how do you know when it’s time to leave?

While the decision to end a relationship is deeply personal and nuanced, there are some clear signs that it may be time to walk away.

Trust your Instincts

First and foremost, trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Listen to that inner voice telling you that you deserve better and that you’re worthy of love and respect.

Pay Attention to Your Emotions

Pay attention to how you feel in the relationship. Are you happy and fulfilled, or do you constantly feel drained, anxious, and unhappy? Your emotional well-being should always be a top priority.

Look for their Patterns

Look for patterns of behavior that are unlikely to change. While people can and do change, it’s important to recognize when your partner’s actions are consistently harmful and toxic. Suppose you’ve tried to address the relationship issues, but nothing has improved. In that case, it may be time to consider walking away.

Realizing this is what compelled me to finally walk away from my relationship. Desperately wanting someone to change is just fear, trying to hold onto hope.

Above all, remember that you deserve to be in a relationship that brings out the best in you, not one that diminishes your worth and undermines your happiness.

It takes tremendous courage to leave a toxic relationship, but the freedom and peace that come with reclaiming your life are worth it.

Recognizing a toxic relationship and finding the courage to leave is a profoundly personal journey. Trust yourself, prioritize your well-being, and know that you deserve love and respect. The path to healing and happiness may be challenging, but it’s always within reach.

**Image generated by AI

About Charlotte Burke

Charlotte is a passionate advocate for mental health and well-being who believes in the power of self-love and self-compassion. Through her own journey of healing and growth, she hopes to inspire others to prioritize their emotional well-being and cultivate healthy, fulfilling relationships. She writes about her spiritual travels from here on. (Sacredfootprints.com)

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