There are some relationship behaviours that are easily assumed to be healthy when first they begin, and it’s not easy to spot the signs when they morph into something altogether different. It’s true the lines can be somewhat thin and occasionally blurred but for the sake of your emotional health and mental sanity, it really pays to know the warning signs and what to look out for. When healthy becomes toxic, here is what you need to know.
Possessive vs. caring
It’s natural to feel special when someone makes a real and concerted effort to take care of you. The great part about relationships is that we spend more time with our partners than anyone else, so of course, we take an interest in what each other is doing outside of this and who we’re doing it with. The difficulty, however, enters when the opinion of your significant other turns into direct orders or judgements, over whom you can and should spend your free time with.
When we care about people it’s perfectly okay to advise them, whilst allowing them to make their own decisions. Support means being there for each other and offering a shoulder to lean on, rather than ultimatums. If someone begins to show signs of jealousy or discomfort when you spend time separately with friends, family or colleagues, pay attention to their motives.
Controlling vs. interested
This may sound similar to the issue with someone being possessive, but there are some very subtle differences that it’s useful to be wary about. For example, a partner who is controlling may let you go out with your friends and family, or to that work Christmas party, but there may be some quite clear conditions associated with it. It may be that you have to wear certain clothes, be back at a strict time, or give them regular updates on your movements.
Remember that with a partner who is controlling there could also be a strong element of manipulation to it. They may make you think you’ve upset them by not taking their fashion advice, or that it was your idea to stay home after all. Maintain a high level of self-awareness in your relationship and stay autonomous. You don’t have to agree to anything that you don’t want to.
Letting go vs. gaslighting
So, we all have occasions when we find it difficult to let an argument go, or we brood over things we thought we had forgiven. The healthy stance is to obviously try to deal with your emotions, to heal from whatever hurt has been caused and then move on. This, however, should not be confused with gaslighting which simply put, is one partner pretending something never happened at all, or that it’s mostly in your head.
When gaslighting happens you may be confused and convinced into thinking that you’re overreacting about an event, taking things too seriously, or holding a grudge for no reason. In a mature and respectful relationship, your emotions deserve to be acknowledged and discussed, if that’s what you need. Do not confuse a genuine request to let something go with someone gaslighting you into believing it never happened in the first place.
Honesty vs. cruelty
We all want a partner who’s honest and tells us the truth, but this is only healthy when it’s done with our feelings taken into consideration. If someone constantly puts you down, is mean to you, or demeans you under the guise of ‘just being honest’, then you need to reassess your relationship and the boundaries you have in place. The saying ‘you’ve got to be cruel to be kind’ is out-dated. Love should hopefully predispose your partner to at least try to treat you in the kindest and most tactful way possible.