Don’t ignore signs of a toxic relationship

Helen Le, Editor-in-Chief

A toxic relationship does not always appear obvious to the naked eye — manipulation and deception can easily be masked by sweet phrases or empty reassurances of love.

In an article called “A Diary of Toxic Love” in “The Atlantic,” Olga Khazan follows the relationship of Lauren and her unnamed ex-boyfriend. Much of the behavior exhibited by her past partner follows identifying patterns of verbal abuse.

“Her ex had a controlling streak,” Khazan said about the ex-couple. “She remembers him as highly critical even of her efforts to better herself.”

Similarly, teenagers who find themselves in an unhealthy relationship admit to ignoring doubts from the start. As Wander Pierce in “Bojack Horseman” said, “When you look at someone through rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags.”
Sometimes, teenagers even delude themselves in hopes that the relationship will eventually work out.

“I decided to ignore the [warning signs] even at the beginning because I thought things [like] she would change for the better,” senior Jacob Fry said of his toxic experience with another female student.

“I convinced myself that my goals were the same as his and ignored it when I realized they weren’t,” senior Chloe Johnson said of her past relationship.

According to a list by SafePlace Olympia, common signs of a toxic relationship include controlling behavior, unrealistic expectations, isolation, always and only blaming others, verbal abuse, and any type of physical force during arguments. In Lauren’s case, her ex-boyfriend always put her down and never accepted blame while making obnoxious comments and being insensitive to her feelings.

“My ex was constantly telling me what I could and couldn’t do,” senior Aryssa Tadena said. “He tried to manipulate me by threatening to do bad things.”

When Lauren had thought about breaking up with her boyfriend, the same thought always stopped her: “Who else would want me?” She found the strength to break up with her boyfriend after having dinner with a friend who was in the middle of a difficult divorce; Lauren realized that she did not want to be in that situation.

Escaping a toxic relationship may seem like common sense, but it is not always so easy. The abuser often has control of the other partner, most likely breaking down the latter’s self-esteem to the point of feeling unwanted, and the victim usually needs support from elsewhere in life, whether that be from friends or family or even a therapist.

“I had to realize that I had to put myself first for once rather than the girl… although this did take me many times as I did revert back,” Fry said. “It took me finding and talking to other people for me to realize I was so much happier without her.”

Sometimes the victim feels guilty enough to stay in the relationship despite the mental and possible physical toll that the abuser inflicts.

“Even though you feel like you can’t leave the other person, you should always think of yourself and how it is affecting you,” Tadena said. In her case, Tadena attempted to end the relationship multiple times before resolving to try to stay friends, knowing that her ex-boyfriend was struggling with personal issues at the time.

Leaving the abuser is always possible, though. Those who find themselves trapped in a toxic relationship should find avenues of assistance and realize that they are worth more than what their partners claim.

“You must put yourself and happiness first,” Fry said. “If you’re sacrificing your own happiness for a relationship, then you must get out. Nobody should expect you to do that for them.”

Final advice from students who have been in toxic relationships culminates from their mistakes.

“Don’t ignore the signs, and don’t be afraid to admit that you’re unhappy and let go,” Johnson said.