Toxic or true love? Relationship expert weighs in

An offhanded statement turned into a heated debate. Is abusive behavior just another form of love? Or is it just that  - abuse. We spoke to a relationship expert.

Published: 10th July 2019 10:30 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th July 2019 01:47 PM   |  A+A-

Relationship (For representational use)

Relationship (For representational use)

Express News Service

HYDERABAD: Triggered by a statement made by a successful director of a cult film, stars and laymen alike expressing the contrasting opinions on how relationships must fare in the grand plan of love. As personal and unique a relationship usually is to any person, as an individual one might want to look for red flags that may be turning his/her life toxic. The debate on toxic behavior of a flawed character spilled over out of the screen and led to real people questioning and maybe even considering physical abuse as a form of love. Let’s find out from the professionals.

To begin with, toxic behaviour can correspond to many traits and forms and in a relationship might affect both the partners equally. By definition, it can be summed up as behavior capable of causing serious harm to a person’s physical or mental health and well-being. So how do you know that you are in a toxic relationship? Dr Nisha Khanna, Marriage and Relationship Counselor elaborates, “Physical abuse is visible. It’s tangible and that is obviously toxic and there is no question about it. Emotional abuse is the one that often goes unnoticed. These are usually portrayed as protectiveness or concern but are just controlling behaviour. For instance controlling what the person wears, who they speak to etc. The abusers would often degrade or demean the victims making them feel worthless so much that they think their only option is to stay in the relationship. Some also resort to self harm and blackmail which also constitute emotional abuse. Questioning the credibility of a person’s feelings, forcing him/her to prove it also is an unhealthy trait.”

Relationships are complicated and are different to different people. It is impossible to know the nuances of the connection two people share between themselves. However, in cases of abuse, Dr Nisha points out that we don’t even notice that it is what it is - abuse. “People start to accept that this is normal. More so in emotional abuse - because physical abuse is a lot more tangible. We start to believe it is a characteristic trait and feel that it is normal. The world that is built around you becomes your reality and you start to live with it even though you are struggling every day,” she says adding, “I have seen cases when men are controlling with respect to dressing, or choice of friends, etc. Similarly, there are women who are suspicious of their spouses every move. These behaviours can be attributed to self-esteem issues both on the victim and the abusers part.”
But how do we know? Love presents in mysterious ways. How do we know when it has gone bad?
“The first step is awareness. Awareness that no one should have such an adverse effect over you physically or emotionally. Next is assertiveness. One should find the strength to stand up and claim that such behaviour will not be tolerated. Knowing what is abuse and calling it that is essential before one accepts to fight it, live with it or work together on it. More often than not, the abuser also doesn’t realise or understand that what they are doing is abuse. The reasons could be many. But it doesn’t change the definition of abuse and accepting that is the only option.”

“There are faults in everyone. But one has to take responsibility for the things they do. They have to take a look in a mirror and check themselves. Question if what they are doing or what they are being subjected to is ok,” says Dr Nisha.  Self-awareness. That’s the keyword. Whether you have resorted to or been subjected to such behaviour, it’s time to question ourselves, “Is this okay?”     

Check for these red flags

Stonewalling, not listening to or communicating with the partner.
Controlling the little aspects of your life (like clothes or hair) based on their personal
They don’t like your friends and family and force you to stay away from them.
Guilt tripping you over things you did not do or don’t need to feel guilty about.
A secretive past that you aren’t allowed to find out more about.
Disrespect towards you and your choices.
Irresponsible, immature, and unpredictable. They may still be working on growing up.
And of course - Physical Abuse.

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