TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS AND 11 WAYS TO IDENTIFY IF YOU ARE IN ONE

Relationships are all about love, trust, communication, respect with a healthy dose of compromise involved. A healthy relationship would be one that has these essentials invested in equal or near-equal levels from both the parties. An imbalance in any of these would make a relationship less healthy, but still workable if the parties involved are willing to rectify it. But a toxic relationship is a heavily skewed relationship where generally only one party is giving it all they’ve got, while the other uses the relationship as a tool of manipulation.

In the book and the movie ‘Gone Girl’, Amy, the seemingly perfect wife, was a murderous, manipulative, selfish person who fed on the unsurety and emotional immaturity of her husband. She first pins her own murder on Nick, then manipulates him into staying in the marriage because of her pregnancy. He agrees only because he’s afraid of facing criticism and exclusion from society.

This movie is an extreme as far as toxic relationships go; one would have to be blind not to see it. But how about the children’s classic ‘Beauty and the Beast’?

A poor and selfless girl, Belle, is abducted by the Beast, and then falls in love with him. Why? Because Stockholm Syndrome dictates so. The beautiful mansion housing talkative, conniving clocks, candlesticks, tea-pots and spoons, goad her to bear the angst, isolation and pressure from the Beast, who keeps her perfectly happy in all material matters except in the things that should matter.

While the overt message of the story is that love overcomes all flaws, love should not come at the cost of self-effacement or debasement. Toxicity can be a result of personality (Amy in Gone Girl) or circumstance (The Beast), but in both cases, the relationship becomes a blackhole that feeds on mistrust, lies, fear and subjugation, resulting in the demise of the relationship or the emotional mutilation of the vulnerable party.

Before you think – that sounds like my in-laws, make no mistake, toxic relationships are not limited to relationships where there is an intrinsic imbalance of power. They go beyond that into the realm of parenthood, family, friendships and professional relationships too.

Your clingy best friend, who absolutely needs to have you around for everything, no matter what your emergency, is using you as his emotional crutch. The boyfriend, who physically abuses you in private but tags you in all his love-poems on his Instagram profile, is bad news. Your PHD guide who drives you insane just to get a kick out of seeing you suffer is a Narcissist (please look up this term; Narcissists are the ultimate in toxic personalities). Blood relations, who manipulate you into being no more than a vehicle for their desires, are not family. In fact, after suffering three narcissists in my life from family alone, my definition of ‘family’ has changed. In many cases, family is a veil that hides all kinds of misdemeanours and manipulative behaviour, but that is a discussion for another article.

Realizing that you are in a toxic relationship is the first step towards making a better relationship because you are willing to admit that there is a problem that needs to be resolved. These pointers may help you confirm your suspicion:

  1. Exhaustion: All relationships are hard work but toxic relationships leave you feeling enervated. No matter what you do or say, everything is rebutted, trampled upon, or never enough. You keep telling yourself, telling them, next time you’ll do better, but every single time leaves you feeling like you are on the losing side. There is a never-ending sense of loss and tiredness and your best is not good enough for them.
  • No Communication: No matter how many times you try to resolve an issue or even just talk about it, you face a wall. Every discussion becomes a fight. There is no reasoning with a toxic person because they are always right. They do not respond well to ‘no’s from you. In fact, you don’t have a right to say no to them. You either acquiesce to them or face the music.
  • Avoidance: Healthy relationships nourish you and you want to spend more time with such people. In a toxic relationship, you may appear willing to spend time but only because you have no other choice. Because the alternative is facing their wrath. This may happen because you have external, apart from internal pressure, to keep up pretences (like Nick in Gone Girl) or because you are trauma-bonded to the toxic person, by trying to appease them so that their ‘good behaviour’ phases last longer. But sub-consciously, you avoid that person. Being in the same space as them makes you fidgety and anxious, which is the next point.
  • Beware! Landmine: Being around them is like stepping into a field riddled with hidden landmines. You learn to keep your mouth shut, to do whatever they want you to do, to keep the anger and the fits at bay. You internalize behaviour patterns and responses that give you moments of peace even if it comes at the cost of your own humiliation. You begin to avoid everything and anyone who threatens to disturb this notional peace. Your relatives are coming over, who your spouse doesn’t like? You tell your relatives to come over when he’s not around and hide it from him. Your bestie is jealous of your new friend? You contrive ways to keep them apart. They keep bombarding you with passive-aggressiveness like snide comments, below-the-belt-jokes, your incapacities and faults are shoved in your face every day, but you take it all and don’t retort because you are in survival mode, and with an abuser, this is the only way you can survive. Eventually you give up trying to be who you were and try to be content in being who they want you to be, because it keeps the Hulk away.
  • Loneliness: Outwardly, you may seem like a team, but within the relationship, you feel bottomless loneliness. You feel isolated in your misery that no one else can see because you have been perpetuating the farce of a happy relationship. Narcissists are especially good at isolating their victims. They monitor who you interact with and what you talk about. Your previous relations may be denounced and you’ll be pushed to limit your interaction with them. You must be the perfect other half of the relationship at all times, but from the abuser himself, you’ll get no companionship because they are not in the relationship for your company. They are in it because they love wielding their power over you, which brings me to the next point.
  • Power-play: Ideal relationships have no imbalances of power but no relationship is ideal. A parent-child relationship is the best example of a skewed relationship. In some cases, even after attaining adulthood, parents may still manipulate a child because inherently parenthood forces a sense of inferiority in the child. The child, now an adult, always perceives the parent’s superiority as a part of a ‘normal family’ set-up.  In toxic relationships, the abuser has always an upper hand in the relationship, due to monetary, physical or intellectual superiority, or a better status in society, or family hierarchy, to name a few reasons. Conversely, the abuser may act like a harmless victim while propping you up as the big, bad wolf to coerce and shame you into doing their bidding. Over-possessiveness, over-jealousy, competition are all indications of an abuser’s need to control their victims.     
  • No Boundaries or Privacy:  There is no space for respect in a toxic relationship. You don’t have a voice, you don’t get to have opinions. You will be ‘advised’ which you must take and act on it. Your needs may be just barely met, but you will often be told how you should be grateful that they considered your needs. You may be allowed to do things you like to do, but your space, time and self-esteem does not exist for them. Many daughters-in-law in Asian cultures will admit that they feel like they are only earning their keep as in the marital home because their families are providing them essentials. A toxic person will claim all of your time and resources often giving you excuses like – “You aren’t working; you will do housework.” “Your money is my money because we are a couple, but my money is not your money.” “I get a say in your matters because I’m older than you and family, but you must hold your tongue.”
  • Gaslighting: The term means manipulating someone into questioning his or her own sanity. Even if you do voice your disapproval in how they treat you, you will be told you are ‘going insane’, ‘splitting hairs’, ‘can’t take a joke’, ‘too sensitive’ or something dismissive like that. Remember, a toxic person will NEVER agree to being wrong. If they do admit, they always seem to have a reason for it that you must excuse. “I acted that way because I had a shitty day at work.” “I have personal problems going on; have some shame.” “I never had a good family so I don’t know how to be a good person.” In the end, you will second-guess yourself and conclude that you were the one at fault for even bringing it up when they are going through so much.
  • Endless Sacrifices and Compromises:  You find yourself making time for all their needs, all their whims too. But when it comes to you, it comes out as, “This is the way I am”, “I’m too old to adjust”, “I don’t have time for this” or “I’m going through so much myself!” Victims often find that they expend all they have over the abuser and still not get them to even appreciate what they’ve done. Toxic people are blackholes with a never-ending appetite and you are their feed because you still cling on which makes them feel that they must be superior to you. Hence you must sacrifice, never they.
  1. Distrust: You think you must trust them in the relationship but your gut reaction is wariness and fear. In a healthy relationship, trust comes effortlessly, but in a toxic relationship you never willingly trust the abuser because subconsciously you know the cycle of trusting-breaking of trust.
  1. Abuse:  There should never be any room for unprovoked physical violence in any relationship but often, toxic relationships get physically abusive. If not physical, then there is always some sort of emotional manipulation or harassment involved. Stray incidents of superiority, narcissism, silent treatment and anger are there in every relationship. But if your relationship consists mostly of dark, depressing days, if you are constantly fearful for your life or sanity, and if you have depression or suicidal thoughts because of the abuser, get help immediately and please remember, there is nothing wrong in seeking out help.

No one deserves relationships that leave them feeling unloved, uncared for and incomplete but unfortunately, ours is not a perfect world. Now that you have identified that you may be in a toxic relationship, please work towards removing the imbalance. Communicate your feelings and your desires, talk, fight for the relationship, seek help and if everything else fails, leave as soon as you can.

A healthy relationship sets you free, helps you breathe, gives you space to grow.

It should never feel like a cage.

Pradita Kapahi, 2021. @praditachandola

Disclaimer: This is not an exhaustive list of signs of a toxic relationship. Remember that as times change, the definition of a toxic/abusive relationship changes too. These are helpful pointers that may assist you in identifying that you have a problematic relationship requiring immediate attention. This is not meant to replace medical/ psychological advice.

IT COMMENCED WITH A COMMENT

https://world4womencom.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/should-learn-to-say-no/?preview=true

Above mentioned is a link to my first ever blog on WordPress platform dated 15th April 2016 “Should Learn To Say No“. My post followed many congratulatory comments on Facebook page and other social media which I am part of. But one comment that not only caught my attention but handed over me delight and made me ponder over the thought “how different you can think yet stay effectively relatable with masses”. Giving you all a glimpse of the comment that earmarked my journey on board with Candles Online.

The man you see there is the reason why I am writing this 😁, Mr.Chiradeep Patra, founder of Candles Online with a motive of igniting thoughtfulness thereby warding off the darkness of ignorance.

15 years and counting, a beautiful family virtually and emotionally connected and innumerable posts on various issues concerning the human psyche, behaviour, relationships, tendencies, their societal effects, social issues on micro and macro levels, questions hovering in our minds pertaining to the purpose of our existence, identity and how the almighty chose to answer them….. basically everything under the sun that matters A LOT. Apart from the serious issues it highlights there’s a fun facet too – humourous articles mostly real life experiences of the writers, short story challenges (shortest being 7 lines story), poetry weeks, story relays (don’t miss out on them), caption challenges, personal interviews and a lot more – just as a whip of fresh air when things are embroiling all around us with seriousness, negativity and gloom. Whatever the tone of the writer is or issue being spoken about is here at Candles one thing that is never taken for granted. It’s the “underlining message” that is being conveyed. Our writing should drive home a point, set the thinking wheels of the minds of the readers churning, communicate effectively.

So coming back to my journey with Candles family – it’s been fantastic to say the least. I remember my first post on Candles Online was “Reinventing – makeover of inner self” (link mentioned below). And it started with a bang!!! No it wasn’t that great but I made a goof up. Here in Candles we have a set time of publishing articles and they get published only after the administrator reads them, gives a nod to go ahead. In fact its him/her only who pushes the “publish” button if every criteria is met – language, tone, message. And novelty in writing is always welcomed. And I surpassed every such regulation by self publishing it. I still remember the fiasco it caused, how it was retrieved to be re-published. Then my co-writer , Aastha explained how it works on Candles. I must say – lesson learnt😁.

https://candlesonline.wordpress.com/2016/06/01/reinventing-makeover-of-inner-self/?preview=true

What I have learnt? Or let’s put it this way – What Candles taught me. Makes more sense, I guess. Since June 2016 I have been regularly (almost) writing for Candles. To be Frank with you all, I am procrastinator of highest order. That’s the reason after a good start on my personal blog I slowed down miserably. But my commitment to write once a week to Candles kept the writer in me alive. It not only furnished me with topics to ponder over and write about but pushed my thinking abilities, to present in a different manner about the things everyone already knew. “Thinking out of the box” I would say is Candles gift to me. At least I tried to think, and trials do succeed at some point of time, what say? Deadlines kept me on my toes which I would say is a good contribution to my life.

What excited me? We, the writers on Candles online have a WhatsApp group with the same name. Apart from the commotion of topic discussions we used to have poll results for “Best Article Of The Week” adjudged by the number of views and other criterion. That was really exciting for me. This in fact gave me the impetus to write better (excuse me for this little unapologetic competitive streak in me🙈😁).

Best Article So Far (going purely by views) : I am not sure how good it is but even after a couple of years this article has been posted I still see views coming everyday leaving me to chuckle and astonished at the same time – don’t know how 🤷‍♀️. Link mentioned below:

https://candlesonline.wordpress.com/2017/08/16/marriage-for-you-a-bond-or-bondage/?preview=true

About the Candles Family: Can you ever judge your family? I guess no, but I don’t have to. Co-writers by status, sweethearts by nature, family by bond – do I need to say more. @chiradeepnf @aastharao @aditirranade @avinashdas @kuljeetsaini @prabhjotvarsha @praditachandola @preetacreations @sakhibansal @sizzlybizzly @sonyr1 @sreepriyamenon – few names to mention that cheered me up, motivated me, been together in thicks and thins, making my journey with Candles a memorable one, one that I yearn for, one that I would continue in future too.

Last thing to say before I sign off: Thank you is a small word for what you have done for me Candles : made me realise “I am never Nothing”. I thank that moment when I accepted your proposal to join Candles Online @chiradeepnf. Hope this union nurtures further strong in future.

Stay blessed.

 

THE ‘HUMBLE’ PULAO N THE GOAN SAUSAGE

My tryst with cooking started when I decided to detach from the umbilical chord and stay away and live in another state, doing something different and well… learn to survive on my own.

From burnt chapatis to the extra-salted curries, over cooked rice to cooking a mean bowl of Maggi, I’ve experienced a little of what it means to cook – or as I would refer to it then‘Survive’

I’ve come a long way since then… from what I could refer to myself as the ‘maggi phase’ to what I can call now a phase of a decent meal-preparation [3 dishes still constitutes a meal right?] which includes a salad. Food is never quite complete without salad

A lunch on Sunday in Goa has to include the famous Goan sausage-pulao – it is almost a given. Not sure of what the relation is, between “Sausage – Pulao – Chicken and Sunday”  – but it just fits well. Rice on a Sunday just doesn’t seem right.

I’m gonna try my best to write a recipe of the above mentioned ‘Goan sausage-pulao’ a.k.a in Goa as Chourico Pulao

So what ingredients do we need.. let’s see

2 cups of rice (Basmati they say is best – but I choose whatever is available) which means you have to double that with the cups of water [2 cups of rice = 4 cups of water] anything between 10-20 sausage beads (depending on your preference) 2 chopped onions, 1 chopped tomato, 1/4 tsp turmeric powder, 3 or 4 small maggi cubes (I do not use salt) – number can vary (which eventually gives the taste to the pulao) and oil of course. The cloves thingy – about 4 of them, a couple of bay leaves. I personally don’t mix (but you can do) the peppercorns and cardamoms and all… (by this time I’m already hungry… so this needs to get over soon)

Let’s cook: My favorite part..coz we’re coming to the end..and basically my cooking means mix everything and wait…

With the heated oil (about a tsp) in the pressure cooker, add the chopped onions, chopped tomato and wait a little (u can check your mobile for new whatsapp messages till the spluttering starts) add the sausages, the washed rice, turmeric and maggi, now add the 4 cups of water and mix, stir etc… close the pressure cooker, put the whistle on (I used to forget that initially) wait for 2 whistles, after the 2nd whistle count up to 50 real quick…. switch off the flame and voila! you’re ready – I mean, the Sausage Pulao is.

You can choose to garnish the same with fresh coriander or simple dig in!

Chicken curry is prepared by mom.. lol. You’d think my contribution of making the pulao is enough for the day and yes.. there’s the salad I’ll get ready too… maybe papad as well.
What else? Done no?

You see!? Cooking is simple… if I can do it.. you can do it too. All you need to know is what goes where and in what quantity – you know the basics and everything else is just a mix-n-match, who knows you might just come up with a new dish all together and name it after yourself

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a dish named after you? ..I cooked a Savio today! Of course there’s a clear difference between ‘I cooked Savio’ and ‘I cooked a Savio today’ – for the grammar lesson, please enroll your names at the earliest – seats filling up fast 🙂

This is what a dish of Sausage Pulao should look like after ready:

Goan Sausage Pulao

..and let’s remember cooking is an activity enjoyed by both males and females. Of course the women take it upon themselves as a responsibility, to cook delicious food for their loved ones – but for when we cook – we may not be as good as them, it does show that we are equally capable of whipping up a meal as much as they can, giving them the option of maybe sleeping in late one day, while we prepare  it in our own style for them and also more importantly “We are in this TOGETHER”

The salt might be less or the dish may be a little burnt – don’t worry! As long as there is Love put into it – everything will turn out JUST FINE! ..and who knows we might just have a much needed laugh over it too.

Happy Cooking!