From Toxic to Thriving:
Navigating the Signs of Unhealthy Relationships and Cultivating Healthy Ones
As a woman, I have experienced a diverse range of relationships in my life, from cherished friendships and romantic partnerships to the unbreakable bonds of family. While relationships have the potential to bring immense joy and fulfillment, there are moments when I had to confront the daunting decision of letting go of people that I truly loved and cared for. Ending relationships for me has always been painful, hard, and very sad. When I love someone I have given everything of me to them. I can’t say that I was always the best person but what I can say is that I know in my heart, I tried my hardest to be a good, caring, individual.
My goal in writing this is to empower women like you by shedding light on the signs of an unhealthy relationship and offering guidance on finding the strength to move on. Sometimes we get so used to the unhealthy routine of not having our needs met or worse yet – being abused, that we think this is normal and the way all relationships work. Additionally, I will explore the defining characteristics of unhealthy relationships and healthy relationships. As you read on, try to imagine someone who is closest to you in your life and see which category they fall into. It may be eye opening.
Recognizing Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship
- Lack of Respect and Disregard for Boundaries: In a healthy relationship, mutual respect is a cornerstone, where both parties acknowledge and honor each other’s boundaries. However, when disrespect becomes a recurring pattern and boundaries are consistently disregarded, it serves as a clear indication of an unhealthy relationship. Whether through belittlement, controlling behavior, or the dismissal of your opinions and feelings, such actions erode the foundation of respect. We often see this in families and even work settings.
- Emotional and Physical Abuse: As a survivor of childhood and adult domestic violence, I have learned that any form of abuse, whether emotional, verbal, or physical, is completely unacceptable and should never be tolerated. If you find yourself subjected to manipulation, threats, intimidation, or physical harm, it becomes crucial to prioritize your safety and well-being by mustering the courage to end the relationship and seeking support. This type of abuse most often occurs within family systems as well as intimate partner relationships. As Tina Turner once said, “Sometimes you’ve got to let everything go—purge yourself. If you are unhappy with anything… whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. Because you’ll find that when you’re free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.”
- Constant Negativity and Draining Energy: Through the years, I have really come to understand that healthy relationships thrive on positivity, support, and encouragement. When a relationship becomes a consistent source of negativity, criticism, and draining energy, it takes a toll on my mental and emotional health. Choosing to sustain such a relationship hinders my personal growth and stifles my happiness. Sometimes I refer to these type of people as “energy vampires”. They suck all my positivity out and leave me feeling exhausted after the interactions I have with them. It is painful to end these relationships because often the person does not realize they are demoralizing and exhausting to be around.
- Betrayal of Trust: Trust is the bedrock of any strong relationship. When trust is repeatedly shattered through lies, infidelity, or breaches of confidentiality, it becomes exceedingly challenging to rebuild and maintain a healthy connection. The wounds inflicted by repeated betrayals leave me feeling insecure and emotionally scarred, emphasizing the need to let go. Betrayal can come in many shapes and forms. The easiest way to identify someone who is untrustworthy is identifying that person who talks about you behind your back – confidentiality is ideal. Betrayal can have deep layers and can damage one’s psyche and confidence. Sometimes gaslighting can creep in here as well.
- Lack of Communication and Unresolved Conflicts: Healthy relationships thrive on open and honest communication. If I find myself unable to effectively communicate or witness conflicts going unresolved due to avoidance, defensiveness, or an unwillingness to address the underlying issues, it perpetuates a cycle of discontent. This cycle undermines the growth and stability of the relationship. Those closest to me know that I am honest with the good and the bad. My best relationships include friends and loved ones where we have really honest conversations about when our feelings are hurt or we need something more. There is nothing like having a friend or loved one reflect to you an area you need to grow or heal. I once had someone tell me, “Listen to their intention, not their words”. Sometimes people get the words wrong but if it is coming from a loving place, it is important.
Understanding Signs of a Healthy Relationship:
A healthy relationship is one that cultivates my growth, well-being, and happiness. Here are the key characteristics I have come to recognize in a healthy relationship:
- Mutual Respect and Support: In a healthy relationship, both individuals respect and support each other’s goals, aspirations, and individuality. An environment of mutual encouragement and unwavering belief in each other’s potential sets the stage for growth. When in this type of relationship, you will feel energized and excited to be around this person. You admire and are excited to spend time together.
- Effective Communication: Healthy relationships thrive on open, honest, and non-judgmental communication. Both parties actively listen, express their thoughts and emotions, and work together to resolve conflicts and challenges, fostering a deeper understanding of one another. For me, good communication is everything. We are human and we will make mistakes. The essence of a good relationship is being able to talk about the hurt feelings and the other person takes it in.
- Trust and Honesty: Trust forms the foundation of a healthy relationship. Trustworthiness, honesty, and reliability create a sense of security and emotional intimacy that allows the relationship to flourish. In a healthy relationship, there is no room for lies or half-truths. If you don’t feel like meeting up for dinner, then say it. There is nothing wrong with being truthful and setting healthy boundaries. In fact, I have found people often respect me more when I put healthy boundaries into action. It doesn’t mean I want to hurt the other person but what it does mean, is that I am taking care of me and my emotional wellbeing.
- Independence and Interdependence: A healthy relationship strikes a delicate balance between maintaining individuality and embracing shared experiences. Each person has the freedom to pursue their own interests, while also nurturing a sense of interdependence. Both people in the relationship support each other’s personal growth and development. In psychology we use the words such as enmeshment, codependent, as opposed to having autonomy. It is important that you break free and can do your own thing without fear of judgement or negativity.
- Equality and Fairness: A healthy relationship is built on equality, where both partners share responsibilities, make decisions together, and hold each other accountable and responsible for their actions. This is the best type of relationship because there is balance within.
Recognizing the signs of an unhealthy relationship and mustering the courage to let go is a powerful journey of self-discovery and empowerment. As women, we deserve to be in relationships that uplift us, nurture our well-being, and support our growth. It is essential to understand that letting go does not signify failure but rather a profound act of self-love and self-preservation.
By acknowledging the red flags of disrespect, abuse, negativity, betrayal, and communication breakdown, we can protect ourselves from further harm and create space for healthier connections to enter our lives. It is through this process that we reclaim our power, embrace our worth, and pave the way for a brighter, more fulfilling future.
As we let go of what no longer serves us, we open ourselves up to the possibilities of genuine love, support, and happiness. We find solace in nurturing relationships that value mutual respect, effective communication, trust, independence, and equality. These healthy connections become the foundation for personal growth, emotional well-being, and the fulfillment of our true potential.
Remember, you are deserving of a relationship that brings you joy, inspires you, and helps you become the best version of yourself. Trust your instincts, listen to your heart, and have the courage to let go when necessary. By doing so, you create space for the extraordinary relationships that await you on your journey.
In the words of Steve Maraboli, “The truth is unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.” Embrace the freedom that comes with letting go, for it is the gateway to a brighter and more fulfilling future.
So, let go, dear woman, and embrace the beautiful possibilities that lie ahead. Your happiness and well-being deserve nothing less.
- “10 Ways To Let Go and Love Again” https://tinybuddha.com/blog/10-ways-let-go-open-love/
- “Toxic Relationships: How To Let Go When It’s Unhappily Ever After” https://www.heysigmund.com/toxic-relationship-how-to-let-go/
- (n.d.). Steve Maraboli Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/3162013.Steve_Maraboli
- 11 Signs of a Genuine Friendship”, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/qualities-of-real-friends_n_5709821