Toxic relationship culture is rampant amongst teens today, so it's important to discuss how to recognize and avoid it. I was involved in a toxic relationship once, and I hope to help others identify if they too are in one.
When someone is "toxic", it means that they are not doing things in your best interest. This is especially prevalent in the LGBTQ+ community and amongst minority teens in today's society since they are more likely to experience domestic abuse and toxicity from their partners statistically.
How To Identify a Toxic relationship
Verbal Abuse and Boundaries
One aspect of toxic relationships is verbal abuse. Often a sign of a toxic relationship is an overall controlling nature, like not letting you hang out with other people, or spend any time away from your partner. This controlling nature can be visible through signs of jealousy, but if it gets to the point where your partner explicitly says you can't do something or go somewhere, that's emotionally manipulative as well. Another part of verbal abuse is making you feel like you are nothing if you aren't with your partner, saying that "Without me, your no one" and phrases similar in nature.
If your partner doesn't respect you, you'll know that the second that they tell disregard something you're excited about or say snide comments about you. Comments putting one another down is something most couples do as playful banter, but if you don't like it and tell them that, and they don't stop, then it becomes toxic.
If you repeatedly tell someone that you don't like the behavior they do such as yelling or making fun of you but they continue to do it anyway, that's toxic and needs to be stopped. No one should make you feel bad for wanting some alone time or space, especially if you are upset or stressed out. If you need a break from people to wind down, but they refuse to let you, that's a common toxic behavior. If they refuse to change or aren't putting any effort into making themselves a better person, then you should take a break from them.
I recall dozens of times when I had to leave for work, but my ex-girlfriend started to freak out and say "If you love me, you'll stay". She never wanted me to leave, even for a small amount of time to take a shower or get a snack. I knew she was overly controlling but I didn't speak up for myself because I thought it would make her mental state worse. I didn't recognize that breaking up the relationship would help both of us in the long run, and allow me to escape from all the toxicity of it.
Dating Someone Who Is Mentally Ill (Depression, Anxiety, etc)
I have depression, anxiety, and ADHD, so I'm well-informed about mental illness. I want to make this clear that if you or a loved one has a mental disorder, that doesn't affect your love for one another, you two will most likely be strong enough to get through it. If you are afraid of leaving your partner because of their toxic behavior but are afraid that you'll make their illness worse, you should still leave them. If it's at the point that you are taking breaks from your relationship and feel as if you are helpless, then a split might be for the best.
The reason I write this article is that I know how hard it hurts. Leaving someone emotionally vulnerable is one of the worst and saddest feelings imaginable, even if you know you're putting yourself first. You should always put yourself first when it comes to emotions because in life there's a lot of things you can't control, like how others feel.
You are important, and so is your mental health. If your partner does not stop saying or doing triggering things, with the knowledge that makes you upset, that isn't okay. No one should be poking fun of your mental health, no one should knowingly hurt you in such a way. If it happens repeatedly, I implore you to tell them that if they don't stop, you'll leave them. If they really, truly, love you, then they will have your best interest at heart.
My friend once was talking to me about how she wanted to break up with a girl but thought she shouldn't for fear of making her depressed. She talked to the girl about it anyway, and the girl actually understood and took it very well. She realized and identified toxic behaviors she had and welcomed the break, showing that sometimes the outcome really isn't as bad as what you think will happen.
Fights (And what to do for suspected physical abuse)
Everyone has fought with their partners, and it's normal to have a small argument occasionally. What's not normal is if these fights get physically, emotionally, or verbally abusive. If you're fighting almost every day with your partner, and you always end up crying after these altercations, then it's best to end it with them. If your partner is being physically abusive, slamming doors, shouting/screaming/yelling, breaking things, hitting/kicking/punching you, or anything around you, then you need to talk to a trusted adult about it. If you do trust your parents, please tell them. If not, tell another trusted adult. These include school teachers, family friends, your friends, and their parents, your therapist, or a school counselor. Especially, anyone who works in a school setting, can report your abuse and make sure you and the person who hurt you get the help that they need.
If you do not trust anyone, then I want you to take a leap of faith. It's better to tell someone who is nice and kind to you, even if you don't yet trust them. They might surprise you by being kind to you still, and trying to help you through it. If you or someone you know is going through physical abuse, I will put down the hotline at the end of the article for you to call or text.
If someone you know someone is being physically abused it's best to alert the authorities and tell the person to call these hotlines. Not every person knows exactly what to do in these cases, but if you're able to get on a phone, then you're able to get help. These numbers work for payphones as well.
- (United States) https://www.loveisrespect.org/ Has numbers for call, text, and video chat with someone who can help you. They have options on the website for you to be discreet when talking to them, and easy ways to exit the website if your abuser comes in. This is specifically made for young adults and teens. It has articles about dating abuse as well as a resource for you to read.
- (United Kingdom) http://www.refuge.org.uk/get-help-now/phone-the-helpline/
- (Australia) https://www.whiteribbon.org.au/Find-Help/Help-Lines
- (Brazil) www.mndh.org.br
- (Costa Rica) www.inamu.go.cr
- (Mexico) Tel: 56 82 79 69; Cel: 59 04 70 65; Fax: 55 43 47 00 www.laneta.apc.org/adivac
- (Europe) https://ec.europa.eu/justice/saynostopvaw/helpline.html
- (Middle Eastern Countries) https://www.hotpeachpages.net/mideast/index.html
- (African Countries) https://www.hotpeachpages.net/africa/
The above websites are not sponsored or promoted by Teen Magazine but are here to help you.