by: E.B. Johnson
Although our partnerships are supposed to bring us love and joy, sometimes they can bring us stress and hardship. This stress can be toxic to our sense of self and even our physical wellbeing, causing us to unravel in a number of ways as the negative feelings compound and drag on. Believe it or not, a relationship that’s fraught and turbulent is one that which can be dangerous to our health as well as our happiness.
If your relationship has started to impact the quality of your life, then it’s time for you to stop and reassess where you’re at. Although we might love our partners, lives which are filled with insecurity and pain are not lives which are aligned with our deeper truths. We all deserve to be happy, and we all deserve to be respected. In order to build these types of stable relationships, however, we have to set boundaries and become determined to master our lives and our emotions.
Not all relationships troubles are harmless.
Every relationship goes through a natural series of ups and downs which challenge and test the connection we share with our partners. While most of these experiences are harmless, some relationship troubles have far more serious implications. Realizing this, we have to take the initiative and work fast to protect ourselves, our health, and our general mental and emotional wellbeing.
Is your relationship plagued by stress? Is your partner engaging in risky behavior, or subjecting you to abuse, enhanced aggravation, or even emotional punishment? All of these things take a toll on your peace and take a toll on your physical and mental equilibrium.
It is up to you to put an end to the chaos that’s eroding your overall happiness. You have to set boundaries for yourself and stand up for the limitations that governs the edges of your fulfillment and contentment. Pay attention when your health starts to decline. Pay attention when your mental state takes a nosedive. Our relationships shouldn’t punish us or destroy us. We have a right to be happy, but that right must be enforced by us through action.
How your relationship risks your health.
Think a troubled relationship is nothing more than a harmless experience? Few things could be less true. Stress and hardship take a serious toll on our mental and physical health. The actions and behaviors of our partners directly affect our wellbeing.
Too much stress
A troubled relationship is one which brings with it a lot of stress. When we are stressed our body produces a hormone called cortisol. This hormone is a part of our fight-or-flight system, which amps us up and prepares us to defend ourselves in the case of trouble. Having too much cortisol in your system can lead to weight gain and even contribute to heart problems and disrupted sleep. Stress is one of the most toxic side-effects of hardships ignored.
Are you struggling with your mental wellbeing? Do you have a mental illness which is aggravated by the coarse or inconsiderate behavior of your partner? Over time, this can impact us in a deep and lasting way. Feeling minimized or dismissed, we might internalize toxic beliefs about our battle, which makes it hard for us to seek treatment. Likewise, we can find the stress of dealing with a problematic partner as an irritant to things like our anxiety and depression.
Abuse and violence
Abuse and violence — in any form — always pose a serious risk to our health and wellbeing. There is no such thing as gentle abuse. A partner who is willing to hit you or terrorize you is one who is willing to escalate themselves to almost any point in order to get what they want. Staying with a partner who is willing to perpetuate violence is putting your actual life into the hands of someone who is unstable, self-centered, and unreliable.
When your partner engages in risky behavior, it can put you and your health at direct risk. For example, a partner who regularly strays outside of the relationship can expose you to STD’s and other health concerns. A partner who engages in a compulsive gambling or spending habit could leave you stranded when it comes time for a major medical emergency. Once in a relationship, our risky behaviors impact our partners.
Not all abuse exists in the physical realm, even if it makes a physical impact on our physical health. Does your partner engage in emotional abuse? Do they hold your relationship hostage? Threaten you or bully you into doing what they want? This leads to mental anguish and toxic stress, which can cause us to shut down and collapse internally in various ways. Our emotional world is directly tied to the physical one. What we feel inside affects how we feel on the outside.
The best ways to protect your wellbeing from a dysfunctional relationship.
At some point, you have to make the conscious decision to stop allowing your health and your life to be destroyed by your romantic relationship. In order for that to happen, though, you have to become a master of your emotions and your future. That happens by setting boundaries, being assertive, and getting clear on your personal worth to everyone around you.
1. Master your own emotions
Emotions are so powerful when it comes to our overall health and wellbeing, but so many of us downplay their importance in life and our relationships. Our emotions guide us and they inform our sense of self and the way we look at the world around us. When someone else gains control over these emotions, though, they then have power over us. In order to protect ourselves, we have to become the master of our own emotions.
Stop allowing yourself to be pushed around, made to feel small, or otherwise pressed outside of your comfort zone. You have a right to be comfortable and secure with the people in your life. A part of that requires that you protect your emotions and ensure you don’t allow them to fall into the grips of another person.
Don’t allow yourself to give in to someone else’s teasings or temptations. Take a step back whenever you feel yourself becoming stressed or tense within the relationship. Detach. Decompress. Then process how you’re feeling. What purpose does your anger or your sadness serve? Your purpose, or your partner’s? Reach out and take charge of your feelings. You’re the only one with the right to decide how you feel.
2. Set better boundaries
No relationship can thrive without the setting of well-considered and well-maintained boundaries. We all need boundaries. Our boundaries communicate what we expect from one another, and they also help us to protect ourselves and our wellbeing. Many of us have a tendency to give up these boundaries, or soften them, when we get into an intimate partnership. This, however, is how we find ourselves in places we don’t want to be.
Get some space from your partner and your relationship. You don’t have to leave the house to do this, just get some alone time for 20–30 minutes each week. In this time, question yourself. Consider your future and what you want from it. Consider your relationship and what you want from it.
Prioritize the things which mean the most to you. When you think about your future who do you see yourself standing beside? What relationship do you see yourself living within happy and contentedly? All of these things can come to you, but they have to start with the boundaries you set for yourself. Eventually, you have to make the decision that enough is enough and put some walls around the things you aren’t willing to tolerate.
3. Be assertive the right way
Once you know where your boundary lines lie, you have to be assertive in order to maintain and protect them. You might cringe at the word “assertive” especially as it relates to your relationship. We tend to associate assertiveness with confrontations — something which we avoid in our romantic partnerships. Standing up for ourselves isn’t always confrontational, though. It’s all in how we communicate ourselves and the partners we choose to stand beside us.
Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself whenever your boundaries are crossed. You have a right to say “no” and you have a right to say it often. We aren’t entitled to carry the burden of our partner’s happiness. We each are responsible for our ultimate joy in this life. Our partners can only support us toward that dream.
Stop hesitating to set consequences for boundaries that are crossed. The people in your life will only respect you when you make it clear that you demand equal respect. Do that by removing their ability to harm you or disrespect you. A partner is not always entitled to your time or your presence. If they cross the line, you are entitled to remove yourself and you’re entitled to explain why you’re doing so. Don’t expect them to respect boundaries they don’t realize they’re crossing.
4. Establish an independent life
Dysfunctional relationships are exhausting and they take up so much of our time and so much of our focus. In many cases, we lose touch with the things and the people we enjoy most, all in an effort to rescue our partners and the lives we share with them. It’s imperative that you re-establish an independent life outside of a toxic partnership or one that’s suffering. In this way, you can meet more of your own needs and remove your dependence on a dysfunctional partnership.
Reach out to friends and family that you trust and reconnect with them. Lean into your support networks, and look to them for inspiration, encouragement, and additional perspective on your situation. Getting back into old pastimes or hobbies is another great way to find fulfillment and connecting outside of your crumbling relationship.
End your tendency to look for joy in your romantic partnerships alone. True happiness is a puzzle. There are many pieces to that puzzle, and while some of them may look similar — none are exactly the same. A relationship is only a part of our happiness puzzle. The people we build those partnerships another piece. Stop piling all your hopes and expectations on something impermanent. You only place more stress on yourself and everyone else involved.
5. Know your personal worth
Personal worth is a powerful thing, and that’s especially true when it comes to our romantic relationships. When you don’t know how capable and important, you are you leave the door open for bad people to come in; people who want to take advantage of you, or steal that internal light that you can’t see for yourself. The best way to safeguard yourself against abusers and advantage-seekers is to value what you bring and your needs just as much as you would value those things in anyone else.
Fall in love with you. Celebrate all those internal and external qualities that make you strong and unique. Celebrate the things you already love, then focus in on the things you don’t love so much. We couldn’t be who we are today without our strengths and our weaknesses. They make us who we are with a fullness that is authentic.
Loving someone else is no hard feat. The true challenge in this life is learning how to love yourself just as much as you love others. Start proving you worth to yourself and stop wasting that value on people who don’t even want the best for you. Until you start to care for yourself, no one else will see the point in caring for you. Be your own biggest champion and stand up for the person you love and respect the most…you.
Putting it all together…
Dysfunctional relationships take a direct toll on our health and our mental and emotional wellbeing. The stress of a high-pressure partnership can disrupt out sleep patterns and even impact our cardiac function. The risky behavior of a partner can put our hope and long-term happiness at risk. In order to protect ourselves we have to be proactive, and we have to set boundaries and assert ourselves in the name of the love we desire.
Master your emotions and stop leaving them open to the whims and machinations of other people. Then work on setting boundaries that align with your expectations and desires within the relationship. All partnerships benefit from having clearly communicated boundaries. Tell your partner — explicitly — what you are and aren’t willing to accept. Communicate the consequences for disrespecting your needs. When the line is crossed, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself, walk away, or say “no”. Build an independent life for yourself outside of your relationship and give yourself interests and support networks to fall back on. Above all else, however, know your worth and know that you are worth a relationship that is loving, respectful, and whole.