(Photo by Selma Komisky)
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS CONTENT FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY
The Dangers of Toxic Relationships
By Zelda Dominguez
“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stop.”
“Never mind…you wouldn’t understand.”
“Can’t you take a joke?”
“You’re just too sensitive.”
“Why do I got to say it, you know how I feel.”
“If you love me you’ll do__________.”
“Can’t you do anything right?”
“Stop over reacting, don’t get so defensive.”
“I wouldn’t do it if you didn’t make me mad”
“No one will love you like I do.”
“That’s such a stupid question, I’m not even going to answer that.”
“Maybe if you didn’t act like a kid, I wouldn’t treat you like one.”
“What would you do without me?”
Have you ever heard any of these phrases? I have, and the sad thing about it is that when I did, I didn’t even know I was in unhealthy relationships.
When look back, I think about how my very first boyfriend was controlling and disrespectful. He literally fed into and nurtured the insecurities and lack of self-confidence I already had, so I would continue to be dependent on him.
Another boyfriend I had, I met at a club. I took off with him to an after hours club and told my friends to follow us. He lost my friends purposely on the freeway and upon arrival pulled over to park until the club opened. I had no idea where we were at 2 AM. He tried to make advances and I pushed him away. He opened the car door and said, “You’re lucky I don’t throw you out of the car and leave you here… but I like you.” He too was controlling and a deceiver. A part of me was scared of him, but the other part liked the sense of excitement of his rebellious nature. I was naïve and thought I had things under control and trusted him. Looking back now, you can see the flags going up, “Warning, Warning!” I chose not to see them until one day my boyfriend attempted to forcibly rape me and it was God’s grace that covered me that night.
What causes a person to stay in a relationship that isn’t good? Here’s some reasons:
- Not wanting to disappoint others/concern about what others will say
- Feelings of unworthiness
- Misconception of true love
- Belief that the other person can change
- Commitment for the benefit of the children
So why do people pick the wrong partners?
A bad relationship often affects the children just as much as it impacts the parents. Children often suffer from the unhappiness and toxic exposure. Also, when children grow up in dysfunctional or abusive households, they are more inclined to accept the abuse they go through as normal, unable to discern what isn’t the harmful part of the relationship.
We have the freedom to choose whatever person we want, and we may not believe it, but our attractions come from our childhood. Our environments and psychological history predisposes our choices for only certain types of people. We look for people that recreate the feelings of love we knew when we were small. The problem is the love we experienced may not have been the right kind. We may have been exposed to various sorts of toxicity. This predisposes us as adults to choose familiarity. It is hard to redirect the internal wired attractions because we are compelled. We have templates of attraction.
Signs to tell if your relationship is toxic
- Violent atmosphere
- Belittling or constant criticism and disrespect
- Passive aggressive/deception
- Manipulation or control
- Persistent unavailability/avoidance
- No communication
- Constant drama and negativity
- Gas lighting
In any type of unhealthy relationship, the change starts with you. You can’t change the other person. Rebuilding does not necessarily mean rebuilding a relationship with a particular person. Rebuilding does mean inviting God to construct a new heart and mind – foundational for healthier choices. God gives us hope in Romans 12:2. It says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
You don’t have to continue the patterns that are ingrained in you. Through the Lord’s power, He can transform us and renew our minds. Pray and make a choice to allow God to retrain our brains. It’s a conscious step of faith and takes effort, but as God is showing me, it’s an ongoing work. I don’t want to stay stuck in my past patterns.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above…”
– Colossians 4:7
When we intentionally do that, we won’t, and should not, rely on our feelings to dictate our actions. The human heart is the most deceitful of all things the Bible says, so we can’t trust our emotions to lead us in the right direction.
We can trust in Jesus. In John 5, He asks a man who had struggled with something for years, “Do you want to be made well?” The man was fixated on his problem, rather than the wholeness Jesus offered. We, like that man, have to want to get healed, leaving our old life, walking into the new. Jesus told him to stand up, pick up his mat and walk. Sometimes getting well means doing something we don’t want to do. The other side of obedience is a brand-new life.