Living life (and relationships) through filters

In today’s world of online dating, swiping right, gaining followers and hiding flaws with a filter, has it become too easy to curate the perfect digital persona for yourself and can the same can be said about our real life relationships?

As we approach Valentine’s Day, how much effort do we put in maintaining the look of our relationships no matter how toxic it may be?

“In a healthy relationship, everything just kind of works. Sure, you might disagree from time to time or come upon other bumps in the road, but you generally make decisions together, openly discuss any problems that arise, and genuinely enjoy each other’s company,” wrote Cindy Lamothe and Crystal Raypole in an article for healthline.com. “Toxic relationships are another story. In a toxic relationship, you might consistently feel drained or unhappy after spending time with your partner, according to relationship therapist Jor-El Caraballo, which can suggest that some things need to change.”

The website shared its list of 14 signs you are in a toxic relationship:

Lack of support – The time you spend together no longer feels positive. You don’t feel supported or encouraged, and you can’t trust them to show up for you. Instead, you might get the impression that your needs and interests don’t matter, that they only care about what they want.

Toxic communication – Instead of kindness and mutual respect, most of your conversations are filled with sarcasm or criticism and fuelled by contempt.

Envy or jealousy – While it’s perfectly fine to experience a little envy from time to time, Caraballo explains it can become an issue if your envy keeps you from thinking positively about your partner’s successes.

Controlling behaviors – Does your partner ask where you are all the time? Maybe they become annoyed or irritated when you don’t immediately answer texts or text you again and again until you do. These behaviors might stem from jealousy or lack of trust, but they can also suggest a need for control — both of which can contribute to relationship toxicity.

Resentment – Holding on to grudges and letting them fester chips away at intimacy.

“Over time, frustration or resentment can build up and make a smaller chasm much bigger,” Caraballo notes.

Dishonesty – You find yourself constantly making up lies about your whereabouts or who you meet up with — whether that’s because you want to avoid spending time with your partner or because you worry how they’ll react if you tell them the truth.

Patterns of disrespect – Being chronically late, casually “forgetting” events, and other behaviours that show disrespect for your time are a red flag.

Negative financial behaviours – Sharing finances with a partner often involves some level of agreement about how you’ll spend or save your money. That said, it’s not necessarily toxic if one partner chooses to spend money on items the other partner doesn’t approve of. It can be toxic, though, if you’ve come to an agreement about your finances and one partner consistently disrespects that agreement, whether by purchasing big-ticket items or withdrawing large sums of money.

Constant stress – Ordinary life challenges that come up — a family member’s illness, job loss — can create some tension in your relationship, of course. But finding yourself constantly on edge, even when you aren’t facing stress from outside sources, is a key indicator that something’s off.

Ignoring your needs – Going along with whatever your partner wants to do, even when it goes against your wishes or comfort level, is a sure sign of toxicity, says clinical psychologist Catalina Lawsin, PhD.

Lost relationships – You’ve stopped spending time with friends and family, either to avoid conflict with your partner or to get around having to explain what’s happening in your relationship.

Lack of self-care – In a toxic relationship, you might let go of your usual self-care habits. You might withdraw from hobbies you once loved, neglect your health, and sacrifice your free time. This might happen because you don’t have the energy for these activities or because your partner disapproves when you do your own thing.

Hoping for change – You might stay in the relationship because you remember how much fun you had in the beginning. Maybe you think that if you just change yourself and your actions, they’ll change as well.

Walking on eggshells – You worry that by bringing up problems, you’ll provoke extreme tension, so you become conflict avoidant and keep any issues to yourself.

If you feel as though you or someone you know is in a toxic relationship and need help, here are some things you can do suggested by Caraballo.

View your partner with compassion. “When you find yourself wanting to blame your partner for all the problems in the relationship, try taking a step back and looking at the potential motivators behind their behaviour,” Caraballo said.

Find support. Support might involve talking to a close friend or trusted mentor.

Practice healthy communication. Pay close attention to how you talk to each other as you mend things. Be gentle with each other, and try to avoid sarcasm and even mild jabs.

Be accountable. “Both partners must acknowledge their part in fostering the toxicity,” Lawsin said.

Relationships do not get better overnight. Over the next few months, work together on being patient and flexible with one another.

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