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When we’re little we foresee our adult life being quite picture perfect. You know someday you’ll fall in love and meet the person you are just destined to be with. There may or may not be a white horse sort of speak. However, when we grow to be older and start maneuvering through the wonderful world of dating, we soon figure that there are different kinds of love. Practical, head over heels, predictable, deep, undeniable, and well... toxic. We were never prepared for toxic love. We were prepared for flowers, feelings of butterflies and connecting with someone on a level only the two of you are aware of. The tricky thing with toxic love is that it in fact begins that exact way.
Toxic, abusive, unhealthy... whatever you want to call it, it exists and has major warning signs that will be left unnoticed by a naive heart.
Signs you’re in a toxic relationship:
1. The Relationship Moves Fast
One minute you’re flirting and the next you haven’t left his house in five days because you’re too busy "falling in love" and discussing future plans. He (or she) goes completely out of their way to make you feel so comfortable that you never want to leave. Everything you’ve ever suggested you were interested in comes to fruition and your partner begins to show intense passion for your same interests. You think you finally found your soulmate, but really are becoming more blind to the red flags.
2. You Begin to Feel Isolated
You’re spending all your time with your new love and haven’t called mom or gone to lunch with friends in awhile. You suggest taking a day apart to connect with other aspects of your life when you’re hit with a pretty intense guilt trip. You leave the conversation feeling horrible that you could even suggest such a thing and now worry you’ve damaged the relationship, which leads us to number three...
You begin to feel confused about how you feel about anything. You almost feel a little manic. You can sense yourself making excuses and reminding yourself that this is what love is supposed to be like. After every argument, you beat yourself up mentally for being wrong again and start worrying your partner will leave you.
4. The Tables Begin to Turn
He suddenly, and I mean suddenly, does a personality 180. You went from being the center of his world to maybe making eye contact once a day. You start to feel in the way and grow to become more insecure. Spoiler alert: this is where he wants you. You begin going over and beyond. Cooking fancy meals, cleaning his house, buying him things, sending sweet texts, but somehow it only leaves you feeling worse because he clearly shows no signs of gratitude and actually seems less interested in you. You finally bring it up and have the conversation, but then find yourself apologizing and feeling, yet again, even worse.
Well at this point he’s got you all turned upside down. Not only are you confused and permanently insecure about what’s going on, but you actually believe it’s your fault. This is the perfect window of opportunity to let the abuse really settle in. This can occur in many forms. He might start calling you names, bringing attention to you vulnerabilities, disrespecting people you love, discouraging you, making you feel like you’re never enough, and even physically hurting you. This stage is the most dangerous due to the mental state your toxic love partner has manipulated you into. It’s hard to see around it. In fact, you may think you deserve it.
So, how do you get out?
From someone who has survived this exact scenario, you have to try to remember who you were. There is always a way out, but you may need to be strategic. Your partner should be the last person to know you’re leaving them. When I finally made the decision to leave and “woke up” from the horror I was living, I called the police to stand at his front door while I got my things out while he was at work. I filed a report and called my family to disclose the relationship I had been lying about. For me, the more people who I loved that knew, the less likely I was ever going to go back. I cut all ties. Every social media outlet, email, texting and even Venmo, he was blocked. The silence was scarier than knowing what he was thinking and where he was. I knew, during that time, I needed extra help. I began to see a psychologist who, to this day, I claim saved my life. She not only cured me of my PTSD, she brought me back to earth and kept me grounded. Most importantly I learned about why I got myself in this situation to begin with and what to look for to avoid this situation happening again with someone else.
No matter how horrible of a relationship you find yourself in, the most important thing you can hang onto is yourself. Your happiness and psyche should never be questioned and losing yourself should never be an option. Real love will encourage and inspire you to relish in who it is you’re meant to be veiled with caring support and a sense of safety and trust.