Sigmund Freud once said, “We are never so defenseless against suffering as when we allow ourselves to love,” and he couldn’t have been more right!
Human as we are, we all long to connect with those around us and to belong to something much bigger than ourselves. We spend so much of our lives trying to find our place in the world that it can make us desperate to be with someone, anyone – even if it’s the wrong person.
Relationships can be a tricky thing to navigate, and love is often an emotion too complicated to understand. Sometimes relationships turn toxic without meaning to, and we might not recognize the dysfunctional patterns and dynamics we have with someone until it’s too late. That’s why we need to do our best to distinguish between what’s healthy and what’s not healthy in a relationship, and stop a toxic relationship before it does too much damage for us to ever undo.
With that said, here are 8 adverse effects toxic relationships can have on your life:
1. It makes you more guarded
Our experiences teach us a lot about life, and sometimes we can learn the wrong thing from a bad situation. In this case, your experiences with toxic relationships may make you warier and more suspicious of others. You’re afraid that if you get too close to someone, they will hurt you, too, so you build walls around yourself and become more guarded with your feelings. But in doing so, you are setting all your future relationships up to fail by treating them as if you’re just waiting for them to make a mistake so you can have an excuse to leave.
2. It makes you more pessimistic
Even if you’ve already cut ties and ended things with this person, your view of the world and outlook on life changes after being in a toxic relationship. Where there was once optimism and joy, there might now be anxiety, fear, and distrust. You might grow cynical towards love and relationships and distance yourself from those around you. You’re also likely to struggle with feelings of guilt, loneliness, and other forms of emotional distress that usually follow a break-up. That kind of psychological trauma is hard to get over, and it can stay with you even after you’ve moved on.
3. It breeds negativity
It’s hard to be happy when you’re in a toxic relationship. You often feel like there’s a dark rain cloud following you wherever you go and making you see the worst in yourself, your day, your situation, and just about everything else going in your life. You’re constantly feeling down or in a bad mood because spending so much time with someone so negative will make you have a negative attitude as well. After all, you become like the company you keep.
4. It emotionally exhausts you
Toxic relationships are emotionally draining because you spend so much of your time and energy dedicated to making the other person happy and fulfilling their needs instead of your own. You feel anxious and stressed out whenever you spend time with this person because they’re narcissistic, overly critical of you, and they make everything all about them. They suck you into so much of their pointless drama that, some days, just being around them is exhausting.
5. It destroys your self-esteem
Our relationships with others and the way they treat us tells us a lot about ourselves, and it’s one of the most important foundations of a person’s self-image. So when you’re in a toxic relationship with someone who doesn’t care about you, it’s hard not to feel bad about yourself. You’re constantly denied the love, support, and reassurance you seek, and it really takes a toll on your self-esteem. You lose confidence, stop believing in yourself, and struggle to feel a sense of self-worth when you’re in a toxic relationship.
6. It hinders your personal growth
When you’re trapped in a toxic relationship with someone, there’s not much room for you to grow. In many ways, it may even change you for the worse instead of for the better. You stop thinking for yourself because the other person always tries to control you and dominate you; you let them convince you that you’re not good enough to get what you want and you shouldn’t even try; and they will trick you into thinking that you need them and you’re nothing without them.
7. It distorts your idea of a healthy relationship
One of the worst ways a toxic relationship can hurt you is by making you believe that you deserve it. Being mistreated and taken advantage of by someone you once cared so much about distorts your idea of what a relationship should be like. You might internalize your pain to the point where it starts to feel familiar. You’ll seek out similarly harmful and dysfunctional relationships because it’s what you feel most at home with, and over time, you will lose your ability to recognize when a happy, healthy relationship comes along.
8. It negatively affects your health
While it’s clear that toxic relationships are extremely harmful to your mental health, you might be surprised to learn that it can also negatively affect your physical health as well. Studies show that toxic relationships often result in greater risk of heart problems, higher blood sugar level and blood pressure, and a weakened immune system. Over fatigue and low energy is also common, given the stress and anxiety that most people in toxic relationships experience on a regular basis.
In the end, while we all know being in a toxic relationship is never a good idea, sometimes we’re simply too emotionally invested to leave. But for the sake of your personal health and emotional well-being, you need to understand the kind of toll it can take on you. It’s hard to admit that the people we love don’t love us back in the way that we need, and that they might not be right for us, but it’s something we have to accept if we ever want to be happy and find some peace of mind in our lives.