“Glamourising love as possession”… recognising the signs that you are in a toxic relationship

One of the most common challenges that people bring along when their relationship isn’t working is that they feel that they have lost some freedom through their relationship. While we can all have different ideas about what love is, when we have different ideas to our partner it can lead us into trouble.

We don’t learn relationships at school

Despite the many hours of learning and gaining knowledge about all kinds of useful things, there is a limited amount that we learn through the formal education system to equip us for our relationship. Where we DO tend to learn a lot is through our environment and especially our parents or care-givers as we observe and model what is going on around us.

Perhaps by some miracle our parents were having an amazing blissful, perfect relationship – but just in case they are not, there is at least a chance that we learnt some ideas and behaviours that could lead us into some challenges if we go on to repeat them.

If we saw a parent with an unhealthy controlling pattern of a toxic relationship for instance we could very easily normalise that and think this is how relationships work.

The Notebook and the Glamourising of unhealthy relationships

This has recently come through in discussion of the notebook, an adaptation of the 1996 romantic novel and one of the most well known love stories of the early 2000’s. The Notebook follows the intense love between Allie and Noah as they navigate a bittersweet journey between love and loss. As emotionally touching as this story is, the movie has recently been the centre of controversy over social media with claims the movie has “glamorised romantic relationships”. Noah takes questionable action throughout the movie, refusing to take no for an answer on several occasions. During the movie, Noah and Allie break up, however Noah continues to write to Allie everyday, which many on twitter have deemed as stalking. Are these acts of love or were Allies boundaries being broken? Would you feel pressured under these circumstances?

Controlling relationships may be more widespread than you think

A recent survey carried out by Mental Health Net found that 17% of participants revealed their partners controlled where they could go whilst 20% stated their partners controlled their time with friends. Read more about these statistics here.

Establishing healthy boundaries

So where do healthy boundaries lie, and how do we know that the uncomfortable feeling that we are experiencing is REALLY an unhealthy level of control, or something else.

“My partner is gaslighting me”, we might think. This is a phrase used to indicate a deliberate attempt to make us doubt our own reality. In a recent podcast episode a guest shared how he was looking for his car keys after being sure he’d left them in a tray next to the door.

“Hey, have you seen my keys please,” he asked his partner.

“No I’ve no idea what you’ve done with them,” she replied.

Almost at his wits end as he turned his bedroom upside down, as he came to the landing he saw his partner calmly place his keys back on the tray where he initially believed them to be.

You can hear about the full story here.

Getting clear on what is REALLY a breach

On the flipside, having a partial understanding of this area can also be problematic. Let’s say that we understand that boundaries are important, and we’re feeling uncomfortable about the way conversations are going with our partner.

“She’s gaslighting me,” we might think.

A recent case comes to mind when through discussing this it turned out that the person was simply expressing an opinion different to his own. And as we say, our opinion is our business so this would not normally be a breach of boundaries or indicate a toxic relationship. 

We’re entitled to a different point of view to our partner, right?

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“Glamourising love as possession”… recognising the signs that you are in a toxic relationship

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