Toxic relationships—a term that many are just now hearing about, but has been around forever. Figuring out whether or not you’re in one might be tough. You might really appreciate spending time with a friend, but find that the two of you drag one another down more often than not. Or maybe you feel stuck in a relationship that you know isn’t healthy, but can’t put your finger on why. By definition, a toxic relationship is one characterized by unhealthy behaviors coming from and being deflected onto one or both partners. Signs of an unhealthy or toxic relationship can be the other person bringing you down, making you feel belittled, or not respecting you as a person.
Whether it’s a partner, friend, or family member, toxic relationships can creep up on you without you realizing it. Oftentimes it can get to a point where it feels impossible to get out of. However, it is in fact never too late. Our community members opened up to us about cutting ties with toxic people and how it ended up affecting them.
Peyton Whittington, a student at the University of Florida, realized that she and her childhood best friend differed politically since the 2016 election. However, when the friend consistently reposted blatantly racist things, she came to the conclusion that their differences were not just political, but on a moral level as well. After unfollowing him on all forms of social media and having their families split as well, Peyton felt as if a weight has been lifted. She said, “Seeing his hateful content was angering and heartbreaking, [but now] I no longer have to make up excuses to justify his or his family’s actions. I’ve found it easier to cut off other people who differ from me on a fundamental moral basis. A healthy difference of opinions should be welcomed in all relationships, but not differences in the most basic values concerning respecting other humans.”
Cutting ties with a relationship is difficult, especially when it is with a significant other, which Derrian Douglas, a student at the University of Westminster in London, had to learn the hard way. Her long-distance relationship turned toxic when her ex-boyfriend accused her of cheating on him. This made her realize she had to leave. She said, “He manipulated me horribly and that caused anxiety, trust issues, and depression. A lot of people turned against me because they believed all of his lies. Now, I’m very conscious of the people I date and the red flags. I’ve gained a lot of self-awareness and confidence because I overcame such a dark place.”
Even when you know that you need to leave a toxic situation, it still might be challenging. An anonymous community member had broken up with her ex-boyfriend over two years ago, but just recently cut all ties with him. She says, “Throughout our relationship, he was manipulative, negative, and controlling. Being young, I didn’t realize these traits in him and thought it was ‘normal’ for a boyfriend to treat their girlfriend like this. After we broke up, he would text me occasionally, finding any excuse to talk to me. When I did, it was exhausting and draining.”
Another anonymous community member found the opportunity to cut ties with her high school best friend when they ended up going to different colleges. She said, “She was a very jealous person who always put down others when she didn’t receive attention. Now that I stopped responding to her texts, I am a lot less stressed because I don’t have to spend time worrying about her yelling at me.”
Jamie Batres, a student at the University of California Irvine, learned how a close friendship could turn toxic when they went from platonic to almost being in a relationship. It went from him wanting to date her to pretending not to know who she was. “I didn’t understand how much toxic relationships could affect you until I experienced it myself. After we stopped talking, I began to understand my worth and how a friendship should always be a two-way street, especially if you’re about to be in a relationship. I gained a lot more clarity with my mental health and got closer to my best friends because I hadn’t realized we had distanced all because of this,” she said.
A boyfriend, a bestie, a family friend—you name it and our community members have most likely dealt with a similar situation. Just as they made it out of their unhealthy relationships, know that you can too. Plus, in this community we are right here to support you if you ever need us.
Have you ever been in a toxic relationship? How did you handle it? Let us know in the comments below.
Opening image by Gabby.