Over the last few years, there have been countless people that have come into my life. Some are around for the long run, some were just passing through, and I’ve found that others were never really there at all. But the good ones- the one that have been there all along, that I can always count on, I simply can’t imagine living without anymore. So how can you tell a diamond in the rough from a complete dud? Any relationship that does anything but add positive energy and happiness to your life could be on its way to becoming a “toxic” relationship. Yes, every relationship will have the occasional ups and downs, but there are a few red flags to look out for when embarking on a new (or even continuing with an old) relationship to make sure it doesn’t get derailed. Whether it’s a friend, best friend, or even a boy/girlfriend (or more!), it can’t hurt to keep your eyes peeled for any of the following.
It’s not me, it’s YOU.
Toxic relationships can come in many shapes and sizes, but I have listed some of the more common types here. Sound familiar?
The Black Cloud
First and foremost, any person in your life who is holding you back from your goals is probably not a good addition to your life. They can do this by being overly judgmental, overly critical/harsh, or otherwise inhibiting you from feeling successful and satisfied with your achievements. A black cloud can also be in the form of what I like to call a Negative Nancy (my apologies to any non-negative Nancys out there). They never have anything positive to say, and usually nothing neutral either. Black Clouds/Negative Nancys operate in complain/whine/ I’m angry/upset mode 100% of the time. You may not think it bothers you much now, but these culprits can slowly change your own outlook on life and make you into a little bit of a Nancy in the process. They make a habit of clouding up your otherwise sunny days. And hey, they don’t call it “raining on your parade” for nothing, you know.
Watch out if he/she is an attention hog (and no, I don’t mean the kind that you can’t peel away from the mic at karaoke night). What I’m talking about is the all encompassing, needy behavior that makes you feel trapped or even ‘suffocated’. If someone insists on spending every minute, every hour, and every day with you, it may be time to head for the hills. Especially if said person refuses to “allow” you to have personal space or gets upset when you suggest it. In addition, this brand of attention hog can also try and isolate you from friends/family/activities in order to have you all to his/herself. A telltale sign you’ve got a toxic hog on your hands? S/he gets irritable, “hurt”, or picks fights when you spend time talking, socializing, etc. with anyone but them.
Helicopters like to hover; that’s what they do best. They like to keep an eye on things and make sure everything is humming along according to plan. Or more specifically, THEIR plan. They can turn on a dime and change directions completely, and a human helicopter has all the same skills. One telltale sign you’ve got a ‘copter in your life? Invasion of basic privacy. As with every relationship, mutual trust is an essential component to make it all work, but a helicopter does not agree. To them, you are guilty until proven innocent. Once you have established any sort of connection with this person, you are no longer a “you”, but a “we”. And that means that everything that is your business is now his/hers as well. Take your cell phone or email inbox- you will share (or not share) them as you see fit because they are exclusively yours. Wrong. You hop in the shower or leave your computer open (without giving them any reason to go through your personal things), and your ‘copter companion is likely to snoop through all your text messages, emails, facebook interactions…you name it, and it’s probably already been investigated. In extreme cases, a helicopter may pick fights, become angry or otherwise upset and question you extensively on what they’ve found.
That Funny Feeling…
Sometimes, if the relationship in question doesn’t have anything obviously wrong but still just doesn’t feel quite right, listen to your gut. There are a lot of ways that a toxic relationship can take it’s toll ‘under the radar’, so to speak. That is by negatively affecting your emotions, mood, self-confidence, and even your nerves. Take caution if you find yourself checking ‘yes’ to any of the following warning signs.
– You are nervous to bring this person around your other friends/family or out in social groups because you can never be sure how they will behave. You may also discover that you are making excuses for behavior that you KNOW is unacceptable (e.g., becoming physical in a fight, damaging property, social issues, etc.). You may also purposefully keep details of the relationship that you would normally share with others a secret because you know that whoever you tell them to would disapprove (and you probably would to, if someone had told you the same things).
– You feel the need to ‘walk on eggshells’ or be on your best behavior at all times around this person to avoid upsetting them. His/her emotions are oftentimes extreme and can change quickly.
– You find yourself agreeing to things/giving in to situations that you normally wouldn’t. This could be something as simple as picking which movie to see, or as large scale as picking a career/place to live, or otherwise major decision. Agreeing to things exclusively to try and keep the other person happy isn’t a fair (or healthy) situation to be in.
– You don’t feel like yourself around this person. You behave differently around them than you do around your other friends/family, or feel that you HAVE to be a certain way for them to like you.
– The bad times far outweigh any good. You may think it’s a phase, or the person will change, but if your relationship with someone has consisted of primarily negative experiences with only a few “good” ones sprinkled here and there, it might be cause for serious concern. Continuing in such a relationship could result in excess stress and negativity that you just don’t need.
– You are a convenience relationship. Unless this is something you are purposefully looking for, being someone’s anything, be it friend, bf/gf, etc., exclusively when it is at a good time for that person is probably not in your best interest. Can’t decide if this applies to you or not? Would the person in question bail on plans if ‘better’ plans came along for them? Would they not think twice about breaking promises, letting you down, or being ‘flaky’? Is s/he there for you in the same ways you are for them? Be warned if any of these apply to you.
At the end of the day, you are the only one who can tell if your relationships are truly toxic, or are simply in a rough patch and headed for greener pastures. And if you do need to purge your life of a few duds, be happy- now there’s that much more room for truly great people to take their places. 🙂