I’ve lost two best friends to toxic relationships.
I’ve witnessed my friends cry because they put their self-worth in the hands of someone who didn’t deserve it.
I’ve experienced the pain of wondering why I wasn’t good enough for guys who I thought were Prince Charming.
Then, something crazy happened: I met someone.
I, the self-proclaimed crazy cat lady, was relentlessly pursued by the first (and only) suitor. He called me Princess and made sure he treated me like one. We are almost three years in and he has never stopped, no matter what happens in our lives.
For the last few years, he has shown me how exciting, scary, and worthwhile it can be to let my guard down and be vulnerable. I never expected how loving him and being loved by him could make me want to be more honest, kind, giving, and more committed to my friends, family, and God. He has always been intentional, Through every surprise coffee, compliment, joke, and conversation, he continues to pursue me and remind me that I am worthy of a love that challenges and empowers.
From talking to friends, family, and coworkers, I have discovered that there are many “alternative facts” that dominate how we view relationships. These ideas have distorted relationships into the polar opposite of what they were designed for. I want to show you these manipulations for what they truly are: lies.
LIE #1: You are not complete until you are in a relationship. I see this all the time with people who hop from relationship to relationship without any time to spend getting to know themselves. As much as I hated when my Mom told me that, she was actually right (Don’t tell her I said that!) The more secure you are as in individual, the happier and stronger your relationship will be. Why? Because when you begin a relationship, you will notice that your insecurities and characteristics as an individual will translate into the characteristics of your relationship. We’ll talk more about this later.
TRUTH #1: You are worthy of fairytale love. You are more than what you can offer the world. Your sense of humor, compassion, intelligence, wisdom, charisma, and empathy are only some of what makes you special. You are worth it just simply for being the person God created you to be. It’s as simple as that–and there are no exceptions.
LIE #2: Being in a relationship will make your life easier. It’s like people actually think a boyfriend/girlfriend will act as a magical band-aid and heal the broken parts of life. What is interesting about this statement is that it’s a half-truth that is twisted out of context. A healthy, empowering, God-honoring relationship will help you in a lot of areas in life. However, we tend to “forget” that people are all imperfect. Relationships take work, forgiveness and trust. We have all grown up with the saying “I’ve found my other half” but that statement is a scary way to look at relationships! Co-dependency, or leaning on someone else to make you feel whole, is the result of living this alternative fact. This type of life is complicated and actually does more harm than good.
TRUTH #2: You can function apart but thrive together. One of the best decisions I have ever made was to establish a core group of girl friends who would protect my heart and tell me truth. By the time I got to know my boyfriend, they were (apparently) asking around about him to make sure he was trustworthy and spent time with us to get to know him better. These types of friends will not only bring pepper spray and tasers (true story) when they meet him, but will support you and help you stay grounded at all times. Of course it’s great to be able to share hobbies and interests with your significant other, but having lives apart from each other keeps you a well-rounded person. Two individuals choosing to love each other is a more powerful testament than two halves of a person trying to squeak by on their own.
LIE #3: You have to give up your life to be in a relationship. Just like any area of life, you need to learn how to balance it with your other priorities. Your significant other is a part of your life, not your entire life. This goes hand in hand with pretty much everything I’ve said, but it’s still worth saying! We can all think of at least one friend who you’ve never heard from after they met their significant other. This lie usually presents itself when a friend decides to bail on your planned dinner because she hasn’t seen her boyfriend since that morning. Time is the most valuable thing you can offer anyone in any type of relationship you have. Learn how to use your time wisely and your relationship will be that much more successful.
TRUTH #3: A relationship should be a gain-not a loss. If you’re spending so much time with your SO that your friends are catching up with you on their social media feeds and your parents have to use “Find My Friends” to figure out if you’re alive, there is a problem. You should be able to spend time in groups with your SO and your friends/family. Intrinsically speaking, you should notice that you’ll gain a better sense of kindness, respect, compassion, and understanding of others that encourages you to become a better person. At the very least, you can use all their jokes and seem like a funnier person 😉
LIE #4: It’s okay to be a psycho girlfriend/boyfriend. Let me be very clear: JEALOUSY AND POSSESSIVENESS IS NOT CUTE. It is absurd to me to see how many people are laughing off and trivializing this issue. Being “psycho” is a major red flag of an abusive partner. I’ve been noticing a trend where women-and sometimes men- flippantly joke about how possessive they are with their partner. Jealousy is a human response to a threatening situation, but the problem is when everything becomes a threat and this behavior results in isolation and belittling of the partner.
TRUTH #4: Trust issues and insecurities are not funny, nor are they a trend. Honestly, the fact that I have to even talk about this is very upsetting. Earlier in this blog I mentioned that your characteristics translate into healthy or unhealthy relationship behaviors. This is probably the most underrated idea considering it’s normal to hear statements like “my boyfriend won’t let me….” or “my girlfriend said I can’t be friends with you….” I realize that jealousy itself is a normal human characteristic, but we all know that this kind of jealousy far surpasses the norm and is transformed into abusive and/or destructive behaviors. Stop joking with your friends that you’re a “psycho” girlfriend for not liking the way another girl looks at him. Stop telling your partner that they can’t hang out with friends of the opposite sex because you have trust issues. It’s about time we start calling these people and behaviors out because it enables serious physical, mental, and emotional abuse.
LIE #5: As long as you’re happy, everyone else should be happy for you. Emotions aren’t always reflective of reality. Most people are trapped in this lie because they believe that their rose-colored glasses can see better than everyone else’s crystal clear lenses. My friends that have lied, manipulated, and hurt people in their life all to support their relationship have angrily told me this lie. If you are having to tell people to support you against their better judgement, you aren’t only hurting yourself- you’re actually undermining the relationships you currently have. Why would you even want that?
TRUTH #5: A good relationship makes you better, so if this is not happening, your friends and family will be able to tell. After watching a few of my friends let their lives explode for a SO, I decided to make sure that all my friends and family approved of my relationship. I made sure he got to know my friends and my family while he was still getting to know me so he could understand what truly matters to me. It also gave my loved ones a front row seat to how my relationship with him affected my life. As I stated before, one of the best things I ever did was to form a close-knit group of friends and has made my relationship that much stronger. If I ever reached a point where someone needed to step in, I knew my friends and family would tell me that I needed to end it. Your loved ones care about you, so that’s why you should listen to them if they come to you with concerns about your SO.
I think it’s time to see these alternative facts for what they are: characteristics of an abusive relationship. (i.e. isolation, guilting, belittling, and manipulation) If we started to recognize the motives behind the behaviors, maybe we would see an increase in healthy self-image and relationship behaviors.
Remember, you are beautiful, special, and worthy of healthy, empowering love.
If you think you or your loved one is in an abusive relationship, please get help now. Click here to learn more about the signs of a toxic relationship or contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline.