Here’s How Your Past Toxic Relationship Might Still Be Messing With You

By: Zeina El Bakry

In 2020, many of us took a vow, no more toxic relationships; just Toxic by Britney Spears. However, like most things, it is so much easier said than done. Toxicity can be in any of our relationships, from romantic partners to friends, colleagues and even family members. There are multiple warning signs to identify you might be in a toxic relationship, some examples are; excessive jealousy, keeping a ‘scoreboard’, being blamed for their emotions and constant drama. A toxic relationship can hurt more than just your feelings, so it’s very important to be aware of how your relationships affect your mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing, in addition to how it may also affect the relationships you have with those around you.

Many sources have identified and determined what toxic characteristics are and how unhealthy they can be, but what we don’t really talk about is the aftermath of being exposed to this kind of behavior.  So we’re here to help, here are a few signs you can use to determine if your past toxic relationship might still be messing with your head.  

  1. You’re more guarded and feel afraid of commitment 

Experience is probably the best teacher in our personal lives, but sometimes we learn the wrong lessons from a bad situation. Often, people who have experienced toxic relationships intuitively feel more mistrustful, paranoid and suspicious of others. Understandably, because you have come out of an unhealthy relationship; you’re afraid that if you get too close to someone else they will hurt you. So instead, you build these walls to protect yourself and become very guarded with your feelings, however, in doing so you are unintentionally pushing those around you away and holding back any possibilities of blossoming new healthy relationships.

I know it’s hard, but you need to realize that shutting everyone out and hiding behind these walls is just setting all your future relationships to fail, because you are treating them as if you’re just waiting for them to make one wrong move so you can have a reason to leave. Opening up again and feeling secure enough to create new relationships, is one of the main things people find difficult after departing from a phase of toxicity. 

  1. Your health is at risk

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and taking care of yourself is significantly important in so many ways, which is why it should be alarming when a relationship is taking a toll on your health. It may be difficult for you to comprehend the ways in which an environment of negativity and toxicity can impact your health, so I’ll leave it to an expert to unfold. Shahida Arabi, a best-selling author of Power: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse, explained that, “It is common for toxic relationships to not only affect the mind and spirit but also the body. Not only can we become biochemically addicted to the chronic highs and lows of a toxic relationship; trauma takes its toll on our physical well-being.” As Arabi clarifies, there are a few physical manifestations commonly seen in victims of toxic relationships. She expands saying, “many people have told me that they have struggled with health issues in the aftermath of a [toxic] relationship. They might gain or lose a significant amount of weight, struggle with sleep issues, or even develop chronic health conditions as a result of the stress. They are also likely to struggle with depression and anxiety, as these relationships can affect our mental health. Our immune system and psyche both take a hit from the impact of the toxicity.”

Whether it’s trouble going to sleep or an escalated occurrence of anxiety, the state of your health can be one of the main indicators that you may still be suffering from the mistreatment you endured. 

  1. You’re becoming more pessimistic 

Sometimes we go through things that change our perspective on the outside world and life, this is something many who have been through an unhealthy relationship go through, even if they’ve already ended things with the cause of their distress. After being in a toxic relationship, you may feel like the light that was in you has now been dimmed. Where there was once radiance, optimism and satisfaction, there might now be misery, distrust and angst. You may feel like you have distanced yourself from those around you and grown cynical towards the prospect of love and relationships.

Most victims of unhealthy relationships remain with feelings of despair, loneliness, and other forms of emotional distress that often come with a break-up, this type of psychological trauma is hard to get over and something many have suffered with during and after a toxic relationship. 

  1. Your self-esteem is shattering and you always feel the need to apologize 

One of the most significant foundations of a person’s self-image is their relationships and how they let others treat them, you learn so much about yourself from the interactions you have with others. Evidently, this is why when people are in a toxic relationship with someone who doesn’t care about them, it makes it incredibly difficult for them not to feel bad about themselves. If you are continuously being denied the comfort, encouragement and love that you keep trying to attain, it really takes a toll on your self-esteem. It makes you feel like you are not good enough, you lose your confidence and stop believing in yourself. Those who are in an unhealthy relationship, always find it a struggle to feel a sense of self-worth and this remains a difficulty for many even after they have ended their relationship.

Yes, plenty of people can feel insecure and have low self-esteem, but for others this kind of trauma can cause permanent insecurity. Victims of maltreatment find themselves constantly dealing with doubts and insecurities, even after they’ve moved onto new and healthier relationships the toxicity still somehow messes with their head and they always feel like they are wrong and need to apologize all the time. 

  1. You have a distorted perception on what a healthy relationship looks like

There is nothing worse than feeling like you deserve the pain you are enduring, and somehow being in a toxic relationship sometimes makes you think this. Being a victim of any sort of abuse by someone you have once loved and cared about distorts your perception of what being in love and in a relationship should be like. Your past toxic relationship can mess with you so much that you may start to involuntarily scout for similar dysfunctional and destructive relationships because you are so used to it, and you wouldn’t even be able to register or apprehend when a healthy and happy connection comes along.

Those who haven’t given themselves enough time to recover from the trauma of their last relationship, might find themselves immediately starting a new one, but one that is equally toxic. You should not allow your past toxic relationship to mess with your head, instead give yourself time to heal and learn about what healthy relationship behaviors look like so that you don’t accidentally walk right into a harmful one again.

Sigmund Freud couldn’t have been more accurate when he affirmed, “We are never so defenseless against suffering as when we allow ourselves to love.” We are all human and we all search for a special  connection with those around us in hopes of becoming a part of something much bigger than just ourselves. A huge portion of our lives is spent trying to fit in and find someone who understands us, someone who we think we can always be with, and sometimes in our desperate search we unknowingly find the wrong person.

If I had to describe relationships with one word, it would be; complex. Finding a connection with someone and maintaining it, whether it’s with family, friends or a partner, is a very difficult thing to navigate and grow accustomed to. It’s often the case that relationships become toxic unexpectedly and unconsciously, and we may not always immediately realize the signs and dysfunctional patterns we have with a person until someone gets hurt. Which is why we need to always do our best to stay alert and recognize the differences between what’s healthy and what’s not healthy, and stop a toxic relationship before it causes irreversible damage that no one can ever undo. We also need to realize that sometimes loving someone isn’t enough if you aren’t getting the same love in return.

Don’t waste time on the wrong person just because you feel insecure or because you think you don’t deserve happiness. Realize that you do deserve happiness and love and that the time you waste holding onto the wrong person prevents the right person from coming your way.

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