Country of Origin: Argentina
Nobody wants a toxic relationship, but they just happen sometimes. Most people go through one at least once in their lives, and it has probably happened to you. Well, at least it has happened to me.
One reason for this could be because every single person has a different perception of how dating relationships are supposed to be. This can usually be seen in movies, song lyrics, or you can even get the wrong image from your friends’ love lives. It can mess up your conception of how couples are supposed to behave and how they are expected to be treated, and these expectations can often lead to a misunderstanding.
My First Toxic Relationship
I remember vividly how I got carried away by my own preconceptions during my first relationship, and the fact that I am part of the LGBTQ+ community made it even more complicated: the lack of representation in the media can subconsciously get into your head to follow the heteronormative rule. This mistaken idea undoubtedly added some weight to my already toxic enough relationship.
But queer or not, we can recognize a duality when it comes to relationships: on one hand, we have the ideal and exceptionally healthy ones, which we all aspire to have, and on the other, the toxic-dysfunctional relationships, which are conventionally romanticized.
“Unconditional love” doesn’t exist even with all the damage and mental harm that your partner can bring. Many typical aspects of a toxic relationship are noticeable from the outside, but they are often hard to recognize if you’re the one in the relationship. When you’re in love, some red flags can go unnoticed. Sometimes you might even gloss over it, turn a blind eye in hope that you’re mistaken or it was a one-time thing.
This is romantically portrayed in the teenage book After: “He repeatedly breaks my heart, even when I don’t think there are any more pieces to break. And I love him.”
It is unbelievable, right? I think that if the author is trying to portray a toxic relationship to raise awareness, she did not succeed. When I read the book at the age of thirteen, I did not find myself reflecting upon how toxic Tessa and Hardin’s relationship was. I just wanted them to end up together and have a pleasant life.
I even aspired to have that “enemies to lovers” kind of relationship. Unfortunately, that quote stuck with me in my teen years:
I remember telling myself during my first relationship that despite the fact that she was not returning my phone calls or not answering to any of my texts, I still loved and cared about her and I was a hundred percent sure she was going to change.
Because at the end of the day that’s what they make you believe. Spoiler alert: she did not. And in this novel, Anna Todd is constantly normalizing and romanticizing toxic situations or behaviors between the two lovers.
Jealousy And More
One of the most common toxic behaviors is jealousy, which usually happens when insecurity takes over in the relationship. This can lead to obsession, and eventually to possession. As healthcare provider HealthScope states, “A toxic individual behaves the way they do essentially for one main reason: He or she must be in complete control and must have all the power in his or her relationship.”
Jealousy can indeed be reflected in controlling behaviors, like questioning the other person about where they are, or getting angry when they do not respond immediately to a text, and this can end up destroying trust.
And once trust has fallen to pieces, there’s no going back.
In Fifty Shades of Gray, E. L. James illustrates toxic personality traits in which not only psychological abuse is romanticized but physical ones too. The main character is obsessed with having absolute control over his partner’s personal life. The expression “he’s changing” is used frequently in the film and the books. The victim forgives his abusive partner repeatedly while he plays the victim by saying “those things won’t happen again.”
This is supposed to be a book about romance, and many teenagers will probably believe that this is normal behavior, a younger me included. Something similar happens with HBO’s Euphoria series, the only difference being that it is a queer show. The toxic relationship between the two main characters is sugar coated with pretty lights and a seductive soundtrack.
I found myself repeatedly romanticizing the show because of this. How dangerous is that? The reality is that their relationship is based on a lack of communication: Rue lies to Jules about her relapse with drugs, and Jules cheats on her… with a male friend. That caught me off guard. My queer heart was screaming “go back with Rue!” till the end of the show.
This actually shocked me because something similar happened to me: my blond, ex-girlfriend cheated on me, a curly brunette. Watching these episodes may lead young viewers to wonder why they still get back together, and many will try to follow their path because “that’s how it is portrayed in Euphoria.”
My ex and I went back and forth a million times and the series was a comfort to me at that time, and now that I think about it from a distance, I can see that I was just another victim. But it could also act as an awakening for those who are going through the same stuff, and if you’ve been in that kind of situation, you’ll find yourself relating to these characters and feeling sorry for them, as I did when it aired.
Toxic relationships are real and unfortunately it’s more common to see one of them than a healthy one.
It’s important to know how to recognize the signs and listen to the people that surround you; those who are able to see the situation from the outside.
Luckily, I had the support of my friends and my therapist to get out of that loop; it takes a lot of effort and great emotional maturity to get out of a relationship you’ve been in for years.
You know it hurts, but you know it will affect you in the long run more if you don’t get out on time. It’s also necessary not to get carried away by toxic relationships that are camouflaged as “romantic” in movies, shows, and books. They are often thought of as a waste of time, but they’re actually not if it’s possible to get out of them with a new perception of how relationships truly are, and with a new vision of oneself.
If I managed to get out of one, you can do it too.
Thank you to Johana Htwe and Julianna Wages for their inspired edit on this piece and everyone else on the Lifestyle & Relationships team.
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