An Unfair Love

What happens when a relationship grows toxic?

It’s 8pm on a summer afternoon, as you walk along the sidewalk with your hand intertwined with that special someone, you watch the sun change. Yellow, orange, red, to the dark skies with glistening stars. Your eyes twinkle just like the stars, when your eyes meet, your stomach tingles and that big smile creeps up on you no matter how hard you try to hide it. As the night comes to an end your heart aches at the sound of goodbyes, and then the cycle repeats.

Love. The sweet love everyone longs for. One that makes you feel invincible, giddy and warm inside. Formally known as the honeymoon stage. Unfortunately, when the honeymoon phase passes what happens? Well, luckily for some, the care for one another grows and you move forward in life together.

For others it’s the beginning of recurring, painful cycle. While not all relationships end poorly, some simply grow apart as life becomes complicated. In some cases you feel as if your airway is being constricted by the one you love most.

A Toxic relationship is a relationship characterized by behaviors on the part of the toxic partner that are emotionally and, not infrequently, physically damaging to their partner.

“There were ups and downs in my relationship, which is normal for any relationship. Our good days were great, I never wanted to leave his side. However, the feeling I had on bad days made me forget how happy he could make me.  We constantly argued, and he blamed me for everything wrong in the relationship. I would break out in tears so often and he would just sit there as if nothing was happening.” Sena Demir, 16, a high school senior who was in three year relationship, said. She suffered emotional abuse and manipulation from her partner, as he would call her names, shame and patronize her.

Another college student who was in a two year relationship says she not only did she suffered verbal abuse, but physical abuse as a threat tactic to make her stay with her boyfriend.

“In the very beginning I thought it made sense for your boyfriend to tell you what to do, what to wear, and what time to be home. The longer I stayed, the more I saw what he was doing to me, over time I began to feel sick to my stomach, and I had this tight feeling in my stomach that would never go away,” Izeta Radoncic, a 19 year old college student at Lehman, said.

To imagine everyday you wake up unsure of how your partner will feel today. Will they be happy, aggressive or calm, but no matter what they were feeling you swallowed what you felt because you loved them.

You dismiss their harsh comment, allow them to displace anger, and you don’t  hangout with your friends because you know it will make them upset. These constant thoughts and actions make you feel as if you’re walking on eggshells. Not only that, it can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety, eating disorders and self esteem issues.

“Thinking about him made me sick to my stomach. I lost 30 pounds throughout our relationship because I was so anxious all the time. I thought I couldn’t do better, so I stayed,” Izeta said.

They say love makes you do crazy things and it does. Many people who are currently in unhealthy relationships, are oblivious to the fact they are in one. Love makes them blind and feel weak.

“When I found out my girlfriend cheated on me, everyone thought I was crazy because I was willing to stay with her because I loved her,” Lawrence Quirk, 20, who was in a one year relationship, said.

Which comes to show women are not the only victims of these toxic behaviors.

In the late 60s, Martin Seligman, an American Psychologist, came up with a theory of why people will not avoid certain stimuli even though it caused adversity in their lives. He called his theory “Learned Helplessness.” Seligman’s research showed that people believe they can not escape the stimuli or bubble they are stuck in so they give into the abuse, ultimately accepting it. Even when opportunities arise to escape, he found their learned helplessness prevented them from doing so.

Seligman’s researched also showed learned helplessness as a major source of depression, which connects to the cycle of why the abuse can continue without consequences and why people cannot leave a relationship.

This may not be the case for all, but it’s important to recognize how far unhealthy behaviors can hurt one’s self love and respect. It’s also important to take back control and regain confidence. Friends, family, and self awareness are key factors in achieving freedom.

“The toxic relationship that I was in for about three years made me who I am today. It has been a long journey, I can say it was not easy because I did love him. I cried a lot, hurt a lot, but I pushed through with the support of my friends and family. I realized my own value, teaching me the wrong and the right in any relationship, teaching me to start putting myself before others, I grew into the woman that I am right now,” Sena said.

Each individual finds their own path to remove themselves from toxic situations. They grow within themselves as their learn their self worth and express their needs and wants rather than attending to everyone else’s.

Love is a great thing, a vibrant feeling of excitement, adventure and warmth. However, when this “love” turns into manipulation, control, and or abuse, similar to Seligman’s theory, it’s important to take action to protect one’s self.   

A toxic relationship can take a mental, physical and emotional toll on you. So, the next time you find the one who makes your heart skip a beat, make sure to reflect on they way they treat you and be sure those are the things you want from the relationship.

– by Valerie Ryan ’19