How To Spot and Deal with Toxic Relationships

How To Spot and Deal with Toxic Relationships

One common thing most single parents face in their marriages before getting a divorce is dealing with toxic, narcissistic, and controlling partners.

The sad truth is that these negative energies don’t end with a divorce. As a single parent, you find out that you still have to deal with your toxic ex-partners. You will most likely continue to deal with them for the rest of your children’s lives.

How do we heal from abusive relationships and navigate maintaining healthy boundaries for those overly controlling people? How do we spot and avoid excessively controlling toxic relationships?

Kimberly and Robert share their experiences about dealing with toxicity with their ex-partners in their former marriages and the lessons they have learned over the years.

What attracts toxic people towards people?

Co-dependency

According to Kimberly, toxic people tend to be attracted to nice people. In her case, she couldn’t recognize a toxic person because of the love and peace she experienced growing up in a Christian family. It has been difficult for her to spot any toxic or narcissistic traits in her ex-husband.

She believes toxic people are drawn to compliant, agreeable, and co-dependent people.

Lack of boundaries

Robert adds he didn’t have healthy boundaries in his relationship with his toxic ex-wife. Instead, he was accommodating and co-dependent. He felt responsible for his ex-wife’s happiness. “I did everything I could to make her happy. Even if she didn’t agree with it; I would beat myself up.” says Robert.

How long until you realized your partner was toxic in your marriage?

Kimberly realized during her honeymoon that she might have married a controlling and toxic man. Kim discovered that if she was not in total agreement with everything, then there was a problem. “I had my opinion and personality, and that was not okay,” Kim adds.

Why do people stay in toxic relationships?

When dealing with a toxic person, leaving is often tricky because you eventually submit, go along with whatever is going on, or completely lose yourself.

In Kim’s case, she got to the point in her marriage where she had completely lost herself but put up a façade of a happy wife. In her words, “I remember being curled up in bed at night not knowing who I am, but I would get up, put a smile on, and go sing at church.”

Secondly, she stayed because she believed in the hope and life-transforming grace of Jesus. However, she realized there’s free will, and people who don’t want to change, won’t change.

Thirdly, being a preacher’s kid, Kim remained in her marriage because she didn’t want to look like someone who had failed because she really did believe in marriage. Robert adds that it’s common for preacher’s kids to always want to right the ship in some way or form.

Robert stayed in his toxic relationship because he felt he could somehow fix his toxic partner. He says he had to change his lifestyle at some point. They even renewed their wedding vows in Italy, but she didn’t change. “I somehow believed I could fix the situation and that I was responsible for the other person’s behaviors and feelings,” he adds.

Kim adds that people in a toxic relationship go the extra mile to try to fix things and their partners because they feel that is what they signed up for. “This is what I chose, so I better fix it somehow,” says Kim.

When to walk away.

Walking away from a toxic relationship or marriage requires courage. Kim says although she was embarrassed for not being able to make her marriage work, she had to leave for the sake of her children.

Robert stayed, but his ex-wife left. However, he says he sometimes thinks about how he would have saved his family a lot of stress if he had taken the bold step of leaving earlier. According to Kim, narcissists and toxic people will never leave because they need someone to blame.

Trying before walking away.

According to Robert, there’s a time and place when you have to end a relationship, especially a toxic one, but you will never regret trying to make things work. He believes that the culture makes divorce look too convenient, where people just leave and move on.

Kim shares her story of when she was going through counseling during her marriage’s turbulent times. She says her counselor told her that she shouldn’t get a divorce until she got to a point where she could boldly and honestly say to her kids years later that she did everything she could to keep her marriage.

How did you avoid toxic relationships after a divorce?

Have a sound support system

Kim says she had a good church community and a great family she could trust even after her marriage experiences. However, she had a friend who was great until she disliked or disagreed with her decisions. The friendship ended.

Kim believes God allowed her to pass through stuff so she would be in a better position to guide her kids and show them signs to look out for in a toxic relationship.

Take time to know yourself

One thing Robert did to avoid toxic relationships after his divorce was taking the time to know himself. He believes that the years he spent as a single parent before going into another relationship gave him the time to look at future relationships or friendships. “It’s knowing myself and being okay with myself,” Robert adds.

Kim agrees that single parenthood was the first time she actually got to know herself. She had always been either a pastor’s kid or someone’s wife. “Growing up, I was always something else,” Kim adds.

Find a healthy community

The second thing for Robert is finding a community of people that knew him well and would be there for him. Robert says belonging to a community helps with loneliness and helps you spot toxic people easier because you are surrounded by healthy people and truth-tellers.

Robert adds that being in deeper relationships with people that really know you will stop you from jumping into a shallow relationship that might be unhealthy. “I got married within three months of meeting my wife. It was so impulsive and idealistic. I thought we’ll just figure it out.”

How did you spot that your new relationship wasn’t going to be toxic?

After spending some years as a single person, Kim says she now has boundaries. She adds that her new partner is amazing, loyal, faithful, kind, and shows love by action. “He is nothing like my first husband.”

Love God, Love Yourself

Kim says that she loves her husband, but she loves Jesus more. She wants her husband to love Jesus more than he loves her. She doesn’t look to him to make her happy but for Jesus to make her happy.

Robert adds that solo parents have the opportunity to find themselves. Who they are in God diminishes the deficit they are trying to satisfy in another person. “If you get married, and you don’t have that, you are not going to be satisfied,” Kim adds.

According to Robert, in any romantic relationship or any other form of relationship, until you have peace with who you are, you will be prone to find yourself in toxic situations because you’re scratching an itch that can only be satisfied by Jesus. “I think what makes our solos keep going to toxic relationships is that we’re trying to satisfy this craving that we have for intimacy that can only start and end with God,” Robert adds.

Be grateful for your partner but don’t let your relationship become an idol. “When our relationships become idols, that’s when we run into trouble,” says Robert.

If you are trying to avoid and spot toxic relationships, start by looking inward, understanding who you are, trusting God, and having a safe community who is willing to tell you the truth and listen to your truth.

Kim adds that trusting and loving God as a solo parent is one of the best things you will ever do for your children. Your children will follow your lead if you keep jumping from one thing to the next. Focusing on Jesus and figuring out your relationship with Him first will make you the best parent you can be.

How do you heal from a toxic relationship?

Counseling

Kimberly went to a female Christian counselor for a year after her divorce to help clear the negative voices in her head.

Positive Affirmations

Secondly, Kim practiced positive affirmation by denouncing negative thoughts, and things said to her and affirming what Jesus says she is.

Robert adds that although it might be hard to get the negative and horrible things that were said to you out of your head, you need to know that time and healthy relationships help remove those negative thoughts.

Hurt people, hurt people.

This is not an excuse for letting someone abuse you in a relationship, but the more you hold on to the negative energy, the hurt you experience affects you more than it affects the toxic person. “It’s hard to forgive those that don’t ask for forgiveness, but it’s the best thing you will ever do,” says Kim. Learn how to extend grace to people because “the more grace that we can extend, the more grace that we can receive,” says Robert.

Takeaways:

  • It begins with you. One way to not fall into toxic relationships is to know yourself.
  • Surround yourself with people that speak truth into your life and listen to you.
  • Have grace for yourself and others. Receive the grace God gives you.
  • Be careful of what you say to yourself. Stop beating yourself up.

Resources:

The Voice of the Heart by Chip Dodd

Link: https://www.amazon.com/Voice-Heart-Chip-Dodd/dp/0615300359

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