Understanding Toxic Relationships – Signs, Impact and Action Plan

Our idea of love is shaped by the way we have been raised, the attachment style we develop as a result of it and the relationship dynamic we witness between parents and other adults around us at a young age. Add to this the media portrayal of what ‘true love’ looks like over the years and we have a pretty warped idea of how relationships are supposed to be. Books, movies, shows, and now social media have all contributed to romanticizing toxic relationships

Is it really a surprise then that adolescents and young adults today find it difficult to first recognize a toxic pattern and then walk out of the equation? While it is believed that 90% of people have been in toxic relationships at least once in their lives, statistics show that 60% of people stay in bad relationships. ‘Abuse’, ‘toxic’, ‘unhealthy’ – these are strong words to describe the nature of our relationship with other people, whether they are family, friends or romantic partners. Unfortunately, though, our definition of healthy relationship is so vague, that anything else that comes even close feels like a win. 

In MTV Nishedh Season 2, Prerna’s relationship with Mehul classifies as a toxic relationship. He manipulates her emotionally, dismisses her concerns, and tries to control the relationship in a way that is best suited for him. However, her naïve view of love stops her from recognizing the signs of toxic behavior and convinces her that he loves her. 

But how to identify toxic relationships? Before delving into that, it is first important to understand the types of toxic relationships.

Toxic relationships are relationships wherein one partner tries to control and exert power over the other. The relationship becomes abusive when the behavior occurs more than once and seems like a pattern.

Below are some common types and signs of toxic relationships:

  1. Physical – Any kind of physical violence in the form of hitting, slapping, kicking, choking, throwing things, spitting, etc. is called physical abuse.
  2. Emotional – Contrary to physical abuse which is more overt, emotional abuse is covert in nature and is very hard to recognize. It includes dishonesty, severe anger, threats, jealousy, isolation, mistrust, gaslighting, and manipulation.
  3. Sexual – Any form of unwanted touch, pressuring the partner to engage in sexual activities against their will, pressuring the partner to have sex without condoms or protection, etc. is a form of sexual abuse
  4. Financial – Financial abuse aims to incapacitate the partner and leave them dependent on the toxic partner for their needs and necessities. It includes preventing you from getting a job or going to work, forcing you to quit your job, taking control of your paycheck/bank account, controlling how you spend your money, etc. 

The impact of being in a toxic relationship is severely traumatizing and long-lasting for the victim. It causes mental health issues ranging from depression, anxiety to PTSD and trust issues. People who have been in toxic relationships have also reported sleep and weight changes, low self-esteem and self-worth, poor performance at work or school, negative moods, high levels of stress, and worsened friendships. 

The best option when it comes to dealing with toxic relationships is to leave the relationship. However, ending toxic relationships can be really difficult – it can be scary and feel almost impossible to get out of. But when your own health and well-being is affected and the relationship does more harm than good, then you know that it is time to walk out of it.

The first step towards ending toxic relationships is to seek support from the people you trust. It can be a therapist, a close friend, a trusted colleague or a family member. Make a safe exit plan for yourself and stay committed to it. It is likely that the abusive partner will try and convince you to stay, but you must will yourself to end the relationship and prioritize your well-being. It is also important to understand that you may experience a range of emotions from anger and grief to guilt and hopelessness; all these emotions are valid and will eventually be resolved.

At the end of it all, remember that you deserve to be treated with genuine love, kindness, and respect, and that any behaviour which doesn’t stem from these values is unhealthy and unacceptable. 

Watch MTV Nishedh Season 2 on MTV India, Voot or Fully Faltoo to follow Prerna and Mehul on their relationship journey, how Prerna navigates his toxic behavior and the consequences of their choices. 

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