Once upon a time, I dated a man who was almost twenty years older than me. Let’s call him Mr. O. Mr. O was quite successful in his business so every so often, he would mock me, saying that my family was poor. He would laugh at me for being a poor university student. The shape of my body was always part of our conversation, he would say I was too thin and that I looked like a teenage boy. Mr. O took every opportunity to deride me, to remind me that I wasn’t in his social class and he made me feel like I should be grateful to be with him.
If I made a mistake, or said something he didn’t like, Mr. O would break up with me and I would spend weeks crying and begging him to take me back. I guess at this point you are thinking: what kind of relationship is that? Why didn’t I just leave? Dear readers, I stayed in that relationship for five years. It is clear that Mr. O was emotionally abusing me, yet I couldn’t leave him, I thought I couldn’t live without him. And that, is a classic example of a toxic relationship. A relationship with a person or group of people that constantly brings you physical and, or emotional pain is a toxic relationship.
Anyone can be a victim of toxic relationships because it isn’t limited to romantic relationships only. It can also be with platonic friends and family members. The signs of toxic relationships are broad, but it always involves the following:
- They physical abuse you
- They constantly belittle you and your achievements
- They are never wrong about anything. If there’s a problem, it is always your fault
- They have “anger issues” and would lash at you at the slightest offense
- They subtlety control you. If you don’t do what they want, they take offense
- They are “overly protective” of you and won’t want you to have other friends
- You are “low-key” afraid of speaking your mind sometimes because it might offend them.
From experience, I can tell you that it is very hard to leave toxic relationship. But the first step is to recognize that you are in a toxic relationship. After accepting that, ask yourself everyday if Jesus died for you so that someone will cause you constant pain and sadness? And if you are not a Christian, ask yourself if this is the life your parents and loved ones intended for you.
Next, ask yourself some hard questions, like, why do I think I can’t live without this person? Tell people who have your best interests at heart. Finally, pray about it. It took me five years to reach that point but today I am free. I encourage you to evaluate your relationships with people because a toxic relationship will affect every aspect of your life.
As we start this new year, be decisive about the relationships you keep. Pick a very sharp pair of scissors and cut off toxic people from your life. Amen!