“What fascinates me about addiction and obsessive behavior is that people would choose an altered state of consciousness that’s toxic and ostensibly destroys most aspects of your normal life, because for a brief moment you feel okay.” ~Moby
Sometimes, love really is a drug.
It’s a fact of life that some relationships go through the occasional rough patch. In most cases, these are worked out; either through rational discussion or some arguing, but the issues get resolved. But when there’s a narcissist involved, the “rough patch” can be a lot less of a patch and more of a cold, wet, heavy blanket that seems to cover your whole life.
This is often referred to as a toxic relationship – but how do you know the difference between a simple rough patch in your relationship and and a very toxic situation? The differences, sadly, can seem subtle at first.
Here are some signs to look for to see if your relationship is toxic – whether you’re sure you’re involved with a narcissist or not.
In a toxic relationship:
- Your mate attempts to force you to be dependent on them for basic needs.
- You have made changes you normally wouldn’t have to keep them pleased.
- They control your life and check up on you to make sure you’re doing what they think you should.
- They verbally put you down in front of other people.
- They are physically, mentally or emotionally abusive or manipulative.
- There’s no evidence that they actually love you, though they may say otherwise. (Actions speak louder than words!)
- What it all comes down to is that narcissists (and other types of toxic people) are not healthy, and they’re inevitably on a mission to feel better than the people around them. Essentially, they’re soul poison – and if you stick it out too long, you might find yourself feeling dead inside.
So, how does anybody get into such a relationship, and why do they stay?
Clearly, the easy answer is that nobody would or should, but the reality is that they do.
And there’s a good reason for that – toxic relationships run in cycles.
There are three basic stages: the honeymoon (often includes love bombing), where everything seems good and there is lots of hope for a happier future; the problem stage (often includes gaslighting, devaluing and discarding), this is where the actual problems occur; reconciliation, where the offending party makes up for what they did wrong (often includes hoovering). This then leads right back to the honeymoon stage and it starts all over again.
Does that sound familiar to you?
Once you know about this cycle, it’s easier to understand how even very smart people get trapped in emotionally and mentally abusive relationships with toxic narcissists.
There is really only one stage where things seem bad. After that, they see their toxic mate is trying to do better and is sorry for what they did.
Everybody deserves a second chance, right? (Hint: Second chances are great – but giving someone unlimited chances to change? That’s called insanity – remember, that’s defined as doing the same thing and expecting different results!)
Then the honeymoon phase is going great, they’re happy again, and willing to forgive and forget. But, inevitably, the problems start again.
Well, if you think about it, you can see that they already have proof that their partner can change. This proof comes in the form of the prior reconciliation stage. From the perspective of an “outsider,” that can be hard to believe, but that’s how you tend to see it while you’re stuck in the middle of the relationship.
And, hey – there’s always another honeymoon stage right around the corner.
What’s the key to getting out?
Therefore, if you are in a toxic relationship, you must break out of it at the problem stage.
Do whatever you need to do to get the respect you truly deserve. It will be difficult, but you will have a happier life when you do.
You feel me? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section, below.
Need help taking back your life? You might want to try my free 5-day email course – you can change your life in a few minutes a day! Sign up right here.
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.