For some, falling in love with someone forms a big part of their future happiness.
Humans are social creatures, and a lot of us seek that social fulfillment in our intimate relationships. Unfortunately, though, true love isn’t always easy to spot.
Many of us struggle for years with that special someone, only to realize they were never the person we thought they were.
There are a number of toxic, manipulative behaviors that we’ve been taught to treat as love.
Rather than seeking to build equitable, stable, and steady relationships — we rush headlong into our passions and can find ourselves crashing into a wall.
To be truly happy in a love that suits, we have to be honest.
Are they actually treating us with love? Or are they seeking to control and take advantage of our happiness?
Love shouldn’t create discomfort.
We have to get a handle on our definitions of true love before we can find it in someone else.
That doesn’t come from the movies, or what our friends and family tell us should make us happy.
Love can only be defined by us, but within that definition should always come a base of understanding, respect, and compassion.
Our parents should love us for who we are, not who they are able to mold us into.
Love shouldn’t create discomfort.
We shouldn’t have to suffer for it, or give up who we are and what we love for it.
Sure, every relationship faces challenges.
The relationship itself should not be the primary challenge in your life, though.
It’s time to be honest with ourselves.
Are we hopping from one relationship to the next?
Do we find ourselves struggling against partners who keep tabs on us?
Demand that we give them our power?
Is your loved one overwhelming you with gifts or an obsessive presence that’s forcing you to lose touch?
This isn’t loving.
It’s toxic behavior that will undermine your long-term autonomy and joy.
If you want real love, you have to get real.
The toxic behaviors you’re mistaking for love.
Does your partner keep constant tabs on you?
Do they overwhelm you with gifts, or insist on hoarding all the power in your partnership for yourself? While these can seem like loving or flattering behaviors in the early days, they can become
corrosive and toxic over time.
If we want to safeguard ourselves from this kind of manipulative behavior, we have to first be honest about how we’re being treated.
Does your partner insist on knowing where you are at all times?
Do they demand constant updates, or blow up your phone whenever you go out with friends?
While this can seem like a caring gesture, it’s actually quite controlling.
Of course, our partners should know where we are, but they don’t have to be in the middle of every experience that we have.
Overwhelming with gifts
Are you in a relationship with someone who showers you with gifts?
We’re not talking a little something here-and-there to make you feel special.
We’re talking about the kind of gifts which make you feel bad.
The kind of gifts that make you feel guilty or powerless; the gifts that keep you quiet.
Believe it or not, our partners can shower us with presents in order to overwhelm us or keep us from confronting them.
It’s a power play and distraction from the real issues.
A sense of humor is so important in any relationship, but as with anything else, there’s a line that can’t be crossed.
Does your partner weaponize their humor to make you feel small?
Do they use backhanded jokes and then brush it off as “nothing serious”?
Jokes made at your expense are serious, and they can erode your self-esteem.
You should feel safe enough with your partner to know that you’ll never be the butt of their jokes.
Over-the-top affection after a conflict can be a very toxic warning sign of a partner who’s trying to manipulate you.
While coming back together after a fight is important, it’s equally important to do it in a measured and healthy way.
A partner who tries to smooth things over with extreme affection can often be one who wants to glaze over much-needed resolutions.
Maybe they lean into physical affection rather than talking things out when there are issues.
Jealousy is one of the most common behaviors that we can mistake for love.
Being jealous is not being in love.
That’s because our jealousy comes from a place of insecurity.
When we doubt that we’re worthy of love, we start to fear that our partners are moving toward someone more worthy.
This inspires jealousy, which causes us to lash out.
We don’t rage at our partners with jealousy because we love them.
We use jealousy because we’re afraid they won’t love us.
Becoming the boss
Every relationship has its own power dynamics, but happy relationships recognize the value of equality.
When we come to the table as equals, we are able to resolve conflicts and face adversity together. Handing one partner all the power leads to resentment and heightened conflict.
We don’t always realize the imbalance either.
Many of us find ourselves very willing to give up our own power for the simple gift of someone agreeing to “care” about us.
Rushing the finish line
When you’re someone who has really specific visions for your future, it can be great to meet someone with the same visions.
The excitement of meeting this person can often blind us to some hard truths, though. Is your new partner rushing you to the finish line?
Do they tell you how much they can’t wait to be married or start a family (even though you haven’t been together very long)?
Question their motives and why they’re so intent on getting you across the finish line.
Does your partner demand to be physically close to you at all times (especially when it comes to other people being around)?
Is it bordering on obsessive?
Do they refuse to go anywhere without you?
Do they refuse to let you go anywhere without them?
Rather than a loving behavior, this is an insecure and controlling behavior and one which will lead to major resentment and contempt in your relationship.
Inability to go without
One of the most toxic behaviors we often confuse for love is the age-old “I can’t live without you” manipulation tactic.
This is used most often when you find the courage to stand up for yourself.
Your partner will tell you that they can’t live without you (which implies that they would also take extreme measures if you were ever to end things with them) and then expect you to back down on
whatever demands you were making.
When they see you walking away, they’ll use this technique to pull you back in.
What you need to do next.
Are you waking up to a relationship (or partner) that is less than ideal?
Have you realized just how unhealthy their obsession with you is?
You’ve got to own it and take action, and that starts with rebuilding your self-esteem and getting focused on your own happiness and wellbeing.
1. Build a base of self-esteem
Waking up to the reality of a toxic partner isn’t easy, but it is necessary.
Unless we learn to see them for who they are, we’ll stay stuck forever in a cycle that leaves us miserable and broken.
We have to wake ourselves up and find the courage to stand up for ourselves, but that requires first building up a solid base of self-esteem from which we can launch a defense of self.
Separate yourself from your relationship and learn to love who you are inside and out.
Your body is beautiful.
Your soul is gorgeous.
You have so many skills and so many talents that can bring the world (and the people around you) joy.
Identify those things and love them, embrace them, and start celebrating yourself.
Fall in love with yourself for a while.
Learn how to love every inch of who you are and celebrate the gifts you possess. Look in the mirror every morning and name 3 physical characteristics you love.
Each night, write down 3 things that you do well.
As you fall for your strengths, learn how to embrace your weaknesses and see them as the full picture of who you are.
You are worthy and deserving of happiness, but it will continue to elude you until you embrace this truth.
2. Be honest about their behavior
Self-esteem is a great place to get started when it comes to assessing your relationship, but it’s only a first step.
Once you’ve started believing in your right to be happy and loved, you need to step back and take an honest look at your partner’s behavior.
You need to look beyond the “I love you” and the “It’s just because I care.”
Rather than listening to their words, look at their actions.
Who are they proving themselves to be?
Question the motives behind their need to be close, their need to control what you do or who you see.
When you imagined being loved by someone, did you imagine that it would make you feel so bad?
Or that it would make you feel anxious or nervous?
Be honest about their motives.
Do their demands serve you or them more?
When you start to see how one-sided things are, you’ll be able to better stand up for
yourself and take action.
Fixing things isn’t going to happen overnight.
You need to first acknowledge their behavior and the impact that it’s having.
Toxic partners aren’t inspired out of a desire to make us happy.
They’re motivated by a need to get their own way in the world.
Peek behind the curtain and question every motive.
See them for who they are.
3. Consider the future you want
We cannot build long-term relationships without simultaneously considering the quality of our futures. They go hand in hand.
The person you decide to build a life with is the same person you set-forward facing goals with.
Our partners play into our happiness in a big way, and a bad partner can cause damage that costs us decades of joy.
Rather than settling for someone who doesn’t treat you well, you need to consider the future that you want.
What does your ideal relationship look like?
When you consider your future, what do you imagine?
For us to get where we want to be in this life, we have to have a very clear vision of the relationships, careers, and even families that we want to build.
Does this person treat you like the perfect partner would?
Do they value you and respect you?
You can’t change anyone but yourself.
Holding on to someone toxic will only bring more toxicity into your future.
Who they are now is very well who they could be forever.
Are you willing to settle for that?
Do you want this person to treat you this way for the next 40, 50, or 60 years?
You need to look to your future and safeguard by taking action in the name of your authentic happiness.
4. Set boundaries for yourself
Boundaries are so important in every relationship, but they become especially
important when we find ourselves dealing with a toxic partner.
Our boundary lines are the limits by which we protect our wellbeing and our needs.
They allow us to communicate our expectations, and to keep our environments free of the things that erode our happiness.
Are your relationships turning toxic or vile?
You need to start setting boundaries for yourself.
Instead of wasting more time and energy with conflict, spend some time setting boundaries for yourself and building the courage to communicate them explicitly.
Think about what your ideal relationship looks like. How do you want to be treated?
Where is the “do-not-cross” line for you?
Take time setting boundaries that matter.
Once you’re clear on where your limits lie, sit your partner down and communicate with them.
Tell them how their behavior makes you feel and tell them that you’re not willing to settle for feeling inferior or unhappy anymore.
Communicate that you have a right to stand up for yourself and also make it clear that disrespecting your boundaries will result in removal from your environment.
5. Put your happiness upfront
When we chase love, a lot of us chase this idea that someone else can (or will) make us happy.
From the youngest age, we’re taught by movies and even our parents that the love of another person is the ultimate means of validation.
Unfortunately, though, this just isn’t true.
We are the only ones who can make ourselves happy, and we are the only ones who can validate our sense of self-worth.
Start putting your happiness up front.
You deserve to be happy just as much as your partner does, just as much as anyone else
on this planet.
You don’t have to settle with being a second-class citizen in your own relationship.
Prioritize yourself and know that you are just as worthy and worthwhile as anyone else.
Stop chasing your partner’s approval.
Stop worrying about whether they will love you or not if you stand up to them.
Do you love yourself?
No one else’s opinion of us should matter more than the one we have of ourselves.
We deserve to be happy.
We deserve to have fun, and we deserve to be respected and honored by the people that we love.
You have to put your happiness first and do what it takes to protect yourself and provide the future that you want.
Putting it all together…
While many of us spend our lives chasing love, we often find ourselves settling for partners and behaviors which are anything but loving.
An inability to live without you isn’t romantic.
Insulting jokes and constant criticizing aren’t aimed at making you better.
These are all toxic behaviors that we confuse for love, and in order to overcome them, we have to accept them (and our own self-worth).
Rebuild your self-esteem from the ground up.
You need to believe in your self-worth to see how you’re really being treated and how it’s truly affecting you.
Be honest about their behavior.
Are they showing signs of love, or are they proving that they want to possess you?
Look to the future and consider what you really want.
Is this the partnership you imagined?
Are you willing to accept this level of unhappiness for the rest of your life?
Set some boundaries for yourself and communicate them explicitly.
If your partner can’t respect these limits, take a step back and make some more serious considerations.
Above all else, make sure that you’re happy.
Your joy is valuable and deserved.
Only you can guarantee you get the future that you want, though.