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8 Signs of a Toxic Relationship and How to Save Yourself from It

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8 Signs of a Toxic Relationship and How to Save Yourself from It

You know what it’s like to have the honeymoon phase of any relationship die down. It’s fun and exciting in the beginning, but you get comfortable and the relationship can begin to get a little stale.

The longer the relationship lasts, the more ups and downs you will run into. While this is all totally normal, it’s important to be aware of certain negative behaviors you may run into so that you can guard yourself from their toxic effects.

So take a moment to ask yourself,

“Do I know what an unhealthy relationship looks like and how to handle the situation?”

Now imagine how much heartache you can save yourself if you knew the answer to this question more in depth. You’d be able to pick up on things much earlier before it’s too late where the relationship already reaches an unhealthy level.

Keep reading below to learn about the eight signs of toxic relationships to look out for and how to deal with them.

1. Your partner has become apathetic

When you notice your partner being more disengaged, this may be a sign that s/he is beginning to give up on the relationship. You’ll notice either they don’t argue as much with you or they just give in to your wishes because they don’t really care as much anymore.

Your partner has stopped feeling the same highs s/he felt when the relationship first started. And when you work even harder to make the relationship work, this can become even more toxic if your partner just sticks around because now s/he feels guilty. You find that the more of yourself that you keep giving, the less reciprocation you receive.

What should you do?

Before going on and trying to repair the relationship, it’s important here to provide an environment for your partner where s/he feels safe to tell you what s/he is going through.

Asking “Are you okay?” usually isn’t the greatest question. Being candid and open with your own feelings are a great start. You may want to start off with something more along the lines of “It feels like you’ve been so disengaged and distant lately, what’s been on your mind?”

Helping your partner feel emotionally safe with you is the key to starting the process of repairing the relationship that will help your partner feel connected to you again.

Other times, even though you haven’t done anything wrong and you’ve been a great partner, sometimes the best thing you can do at this point is to give your partner some space to work his or her own problems out.

2. Your partner is controlling

An important part when it comes to a healthy relationship is to make decisions together. Not for each other.

People who are controlling feel the need to be in charge of everything and express this need by being manipulative with both their environment and the people around them.

If you find yourself feeling like you need to ask for permission for simple things like meeting up with other friends or even family members, it’s a sign that you’re partner is exhibiting controlling behavior.

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Controlling partners will also use threats to get you to do what they want and they may even go as far as threatening to end the relationship.

This kind of behavior stems from a deep sense of insecurity and it’s toxic because it kills any opportunity for intimacy and connection.

While in the beginning it might feel like your partner is making such strong suggestions because s/he cares so much, you’ll eventually realize the behavior really is more selfish than selfless.

What should you do?

Controlling behavior is usually a reaction to anxiety, jealousy and insecurity. A great place to start is by helping your partner feel safe to talk about this specific behavior.

Sometimes, partners will be able to acknowledge that this behavior is inappropriate and that they should be able to trust and respect you. If this is the case, there is hope for growth in the relationship.

Other times, there may be excuses as to why they act this way. One common excuse is that they are just looking out for your best interest because they want to make sure you don’t run into trouble. It’s likely that partners like this view you as someone to be fixed.

They may try to change things like your behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs in order to help themselves feel more in control. If this is the case, they are in a judgmental mindset and you may want to consider getting professional help if necessary or start setting boundaries (See number six) and keeping your distance from them.

3. Your partner shames you

Do you often find yourself feeling like a horrible person after interacting with your partner?

If you do, it may be time to start paying attention to how your partner speaks with you. If you find that your partner is often criticizing your character, this is a clear sign that s/he is shaming you.

And this will kill your relationship because of one important thing.

Shame makes intimacy impossible.

When someone attacks your character, it causes you to feel shame rather than guilt. And to illustrate the difference, guilt is “I did something bad” versus shame, which is “I am bad”.

Rather than making you feel included in the relationship, shame will make you feel alone and isolated.

Some cases where toxic partners might shame you is by directly attacking your character with verbal abuse through yelling, berating, and judging.

Other times, partners may shame you in more subtle ways through making demeaning sarcastic comments or saying hurtful jokes about you. This is cold violence.

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What should you do?

People who shame others really do it to make themselves feel better about themselves.

If you find yourself feeling hurt because of the comments your partner makes, it’s important to reevaluate if this relationship is one worth staying in. People who shame others are usually are emotional bullies and will often make you feel like you’re stupid or overreacting when you express how hurt you are.

If you find yourself feeling small, isolated and alone, first go find someone who your trust and love and share the story of what happened. The reason for this if your partner isn’t someone who validates your feelings, you need to find someone who will.

Then it’s time to start thinking about how to either repair or end the relationship. Speak with your partner and if s/he isn’t willing to listen or try to understand how the toxic behavior is affecting you, then it’s probably best to distance yourself from the relationship.

4. Your partner is passive aggressive

Have you ever had a situation where you ask partners if they’d be willing to do something for you and they say yes, but do it in a resistant way? While they’re helping you, they are half-hearted, making harsh complaints, and resentful at what you asked of them.

This is passive aggressive behavior.

It’s like those times you ask someone if s/he is okay and you get the reply “I’m fine,” but you get the silent treatment the whole time.

Passive aggressive behavior will show itself through procrastination, resistance and sabotage. You’ll also notice a lot of passive aggressive behavior the most through non-verbal communication. People will be holding expressions of contempt and anger during their interactions with you.

Here’re 12 Ways Passive-Aggressiveness Can Slowly Killing Your Relationships.

What should you do?

People who are passive aggressive don’t know how to clearly communicate their feelings. They often expect you to read their minds and already know what they are going through.

The reason they have so much trouble being open and honest is usually because of the fear of disappointing others. They are worried that if they say no to you, that you might end the relationship.

So they would much rather say yes when you ask of a favor that they would rather not do. This causes them to do it unwillingly while resenting you because they feel you should’ve known not to ask in the first place.

When dealing with a passive aggressive partner, the key is to help them feel safe enough with you to be honest about how they really feel.

Open up conversation to reassure partners that you value their honest opinion and that you would never hold things against them for it even if it means having to have a hard conversation about it. Then express how hurt or troubled you are by the behavior so this can open up the conversation on how to improve the relationship.

5. Your partner holds grudges

People who bring up the past issues you’ve already settled over and over again usually means they haven’t gotten over it yet. Partners who hold grudges like this mean they have never truly forgiven you.

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As more time passes in any relationship, there will come a point where you get hurt. And unless you’re planning to ditch every relationship that you started whenever you get into a conflict, forgiveness will play a key part in keeping the relationship healthy and growing.

The strongest relationships are strong not just because of all the positive situations they have, but it’s more-so because of how they handle the negative ones together.

You’ll find that these couples know how to tackle the tough conversations and always try their best to find a healthy way to use forgiveness in effort to move towards reconciliation in times of conflict.

What should you do?

If you’re partner often holds grudges that s/he can’t let go of, this can lead to a toxic situation.

If you notice your partner subtly or obviously bringing up past issues you thought were already resolved, it may be time to have a conversation about it again.

You will probably need to dig deeper to see if your apology wasn’t enough and if it wasn’t, you may need to first figure out what is expected of you to help you reconcile with your partner.

If the expectation is unreasonable, there may be a chance the grudge is not only towards you.

You’ve probably triggered a reaction to some painful experiences your partner has gone through because of other people that s/he has still not gotten over yet. If this is the case, professional help may be required. But the key first step is to really validate your partners feelings as s/he express them.

6. Your boundaries aren’t respected

When you get comfortable in a relationship, it may be easier for your partner to try and pressure you to do something s/he wants. It may be okay with you the first few times to give in, but the more frequently this kind of situation occurs, the more toxic the relationship becomes.

People in healthy relationships understand each other and know how to respect the other’s boundaries. When partners start to cross those boundaries, it’s a sign that they no longer respect your own needs and values.

What should you do?

Being firm with your boundaries can be really tough to do especially with people you love and care about. Nevertheless, it’s ultimately your responsibility to set them. Otherwise, people will never know and may often cross them without even knowing.

You will end up being the one suffering the most because you might end up in situations where you are resentful, exhausted and overwhelmed.

If your partner crosses a boundary, first thing to do is to speak up about it. Let the conversation flow so you can get on the same page and let your partner know how you would like him or her or to adjust the behavior.

If you find that your partner repeatedly crosses your boundaries, you will have to make the tough choice and take action to prevent him or her from doing it again whether it’s taking a break from the relationship or cutting it off entirely.

7. You feel like you’re always walking on eggshells with your partner

If you find yourself in fear of how your partner will react to something reasonable that you’re wanting to do, you’re likely in a toxic relationship already.

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For example, you might be hiding certain text messages you received from certain people because you’re afraid of how your partner may react. Or maybe you’re afraid to go out with certain friends from work because you’re afraid your partner will get jealous.

Assuming that you’re a loyal and caring person, if you find yourself constantly feeling this kind of fear and anxiety when making decisions, it means you don’t feel safe to share these things with your partner. Hence, at times it leads you to be secretive and even dishonest about some things.

What should you do?

The healthiest relationship are always built upon a foundation of trust and open communication.

If you’re frequently thinking about how you might make your partner mad and you intentionally avoid doing those things, it is an unhealthy relationship; especially when you end up avoiding doing things that are reasonable and something you normally would want to do such as hanging out with new friends or going to new events.

This will be tough, but since the relationship is probably moving towards a toxic one anyway, it’s important to have a discussion with your partner how you have been feeling. If your partner’s jealousy and anger are causing him or her to engage in irrational behaviors, it’s important to understand and address why s/he is doing so.

These situations often stem from your partner’s fears and insecurities because of previous painful experiences from other relationships. The key here is to help your partner feel safe enough to talk about those things first. So then you can then open up the conversation about how it’s been negatively affecting you and discuss how to improve things.

If you can’t get to a place where you feel safe enough to be yourself around your partner because of how s/he is behaving, the relationship is probably not one worth investing in.

8. Your partner is overly dependent on you

If you’ve been feeling like you always have to tend to your partner’s needs at a moments notice, you have a partner that overly depends on you. This usually occurs in partners who who don’t have a strong sense of identity and struggle with a low sense of self worth.

This kind of relationship is toxic because you don’t feel the freedom to be yourself. Instead, you start taking on the role of being a servant rather than a friend or partner.

You’ll start to feel guilty for wanting to spend time on yourself when it’s probably one of the most important things for you to do at this point.

What should you do?

It’s important for you to care for yourself too and if you find it difficult to express this to your partner, it’s only going to end up for the worst.

Express how you’ve been feeling to your partner. It will be a difficult conversation so if the first few ones don’t go too well, you may need to seek professional help or worst case scenario may be to start considering ending the relationship.

Either way, if you’re finding yourself stretched too thin and starting to feel like this is a one-sided relationship, it’s important to get the conversation about it started with your partner. It’s the only road that leads to the possibility of reconciliation and a healthier relationship.

Final thoughts

The healthiest relationships are formed from people who continually build up a safe environments for each other in order to make it feel okay to be vulnerable.

Toxic relationships always cause people to feel unsafe to express their opinions and really be their genuine selves .

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Review the 8 signs mentioned here and if you feel like you are stuck in a toxic relationship, the first step is to acknowledge that this is a problem. Seek professional help if necessary, take care of yourself and most importantly, stay true to yourself.

Featured photo credit: The HK Photo Company via unsplash.com

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Eugene K. Choi

A life coach who helps people discover how to best utilize their passions and talents through a proven process.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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