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

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 .

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 March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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