As an energy healer and meditation teacher, I have the privilege of helping people in all different stages of life. Often, through energy work and self-reflection, people realize they are engaging in toxic relationships that they didn't recognize until they started really digging deep. This story is a typical example of the toxic relationship process.
Lydia was a hotshot real estate agent—a go-getter with a history of closing top deals. She was confident and happy with her work and relationships. When she met Jake, she thought she really had it made.
He wooed her with dinners at fancy restaurants, two dozen roses on her birthday, and "happy hours" that alternated between margaritas (her favorite) and tequila (his favorite). He was smart and funny. He said he appreciated her independence. She fell hard.
It was several months after meeting Jake that she managed to sneak out to lunch with two of her girlfriends. It wasn't easy for them to get together. Lydia had stopped joining her friends to go shopping, have brunch, or just chat on the phone.
When they asked her about it, Lydia broke down. Through her tears, she told them how hard Jake made it for her to pursue her own interests, how jealous he would get if she even talked to someone else on the phone. He constantly hovered around her, and it had gone from flattering to scary.
She told her friends how she’d started to realize her strategy of "people-pleasing," which worked so well in her job, spelled disaster in her relationship. No matter what she did, he found fault. He was always putting her down. "I don't know who I am anymore. What should I do?"
Some of you might already realize that Lydia’s relationship was a toxic one. But it took self-reflection and the help of her friends for Lydia to get out.
Is it possible that you or someone you know is in a toxic relationship? Think about it. It doesn't necessarily have to be with an intimate partner. You can be in a toxic relationship with anyone from a parent to a sister-in-law to a co-worker, but the warning signs are pretty much the same.
Here are five red flags that your relationship might be toxic:
1. You don't feel good about yourself.
You hardly recognize yourself. You have stopped trying to defend yourself against your partner’s criticisms. He believes he's always right, so you must be wrong. You aren't free to speak your own truth. You used to be happy and full of energy; now you're emotionally drained and exhausted. In a healthy relationship, the other person supports and encourages you to be yourself rather than putting down your ideas, opinions, and ambitions.
2. You don't communicate.
When you two disagree, your partner ignores the problem or simply refuses to discuss it. You're ready to talk it through until you resolve the issue. But in a toxic relationship, arguments—even petty ones, like what to watch on TV—can lead to verbal, physical, or emotional abuse.
3. You find yourself falling into negative habits.
What sent Lydia to that lunch with her friends was the realization that she was drinking far too much. The "happy hour" Jake liked so much was merely an excuse to start chugging it down for the rest of the evening. What had been fun at first became an anxiety-inducing situation in which Lydia felt pressured to drink far more than she was comfortable with.
This could be embodied in any type of addictive behavior—not just drinking—like smoking, drugs, shopping, or gambling, or not going to work, isolating in the house, etc.
4. You are being controlled by the other person's jealousy.
At first, you thought it was love. You had found your "other half"—the person who would make you whole. Instead, their jealousy has cut you off from your friends, your family, and, in fact, from anyone who isn't your partner. They don’t even like you talking on the phone to anyone but them. This is not love; this is unhealthy control.
5. Your friends and family don't like your relationship.
No, they aren't blind to his charms. Chances are, they see what's happening more clearly than you do. Instead of being so defensive, really think about what they say (assuming you give them an opening to even speak about it).
As a spiritual teacher and healer, I can see/feel when someone is caught up in a toxic relationship. As always, my advice is for them to bring their attention to their inner world through meditation, journaling, and other forms of self-expression.
A consistent meditation practice can get you in touch with your true self and help you to release old patterns of thinking and behavior as well as releasing traumas and emotional wounding. A spiritual mentor, good therapist, or energy healer can help.
When you can connect to your own authentic feelings, you will know whether your relationship is helping or harming you, and you will know what your next steps should be.
Your core self has tremendous wisdom when you learn to listen to it.