To stay or walk away? Here\'s how you keep off a toxic relationship

Sushant’s death has now opened up a can on toxic relationships. What do you need to know to keep off one?

It’s all the country can talk of—about the two-year-long relationship the late actor Sushant Singh Rajput had with actress Rhea Chakraborty, which apparently was troubled. Following Sushant’s father KK Singh’s recent FIR in Patna against Rhea and her family, the actress stands accused of fraud and alleged abetment to Sushant’s suicide.

As details emerge on the case, the late actor’s ex-girlfriend Ankita Lokhande also revealed she had evidences from chats with Sushant back in 2019 stating that he was unhappy in the relationship with Rhea and wanted to end it.

While Rhea has issued a public statement via a video on the apparent advice of her lawyers, claiming she’s been wrongly accused and that she was confident the truth would finally emerge, she has endured much hatred in comments and public opinion.

It’s unfair to jump the gun and blame Rhea, the case is still being investigated. Sushant Singh was seeing a psychologist as he was, allegedly, suffering from anxiety and bipolar disorder.

Now, stepping outside the drama ensuing once again on Indian news channels, imagine being in a relationship with the one you think understands and accepts you as you are. One you intend to spend your life with and exchange every materialistic and non-materialistic possession with.

At some point, though, you begin to realise something’s going awry—that maybe your partner is sometimes taking you for granted or worse, even trying to take hold of your life, and gaslight you into submission. You soon begin seeing that there’s no love in the relationship anymore, just a toxic mishmash of what once looked like it. When was it that you should have exited?

Clinical psychologist Monica Sharma tells us that one may never really know when one’s initial loving relationship has turned toxic. “The start of a relationship is usually associated with strong highs, during which both partners feel proud, thrilled and passionate about being in it,” explains Monica.

To be or not to be

But why, despite the mental agony it causes, do some people choose to be in a toxic relationship? Experts believe that sometimes one partner is much too dedicated to a relationship in that he/she gives away everything that a partner demands to maintain the emotional companionship.
Monica shares an insight.

“The highs in a toxic relationship are short lived, and the lowest of the lows often result in depression and feeling stressed for a long period. Sadly, people often stay in these dysfunctional unions for a surprisingly long time mostly in anticipation of the next high,” she says.

Relationship expert Chahana Motwane also thinks that sometimes, individuals with ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ fall in love with their oppressor. “The one being suppressed doesn’t even realise that he or she is being abused. This situation can lead the suppressed partner to lose his/her identity, self-esteem and confidence,” Chahana explains, suggesting that it is important in such situations that one moves out of such relationships by seeking help from family, friends or therapists.

Sadly, however, and this despite the attempt at creating public awareness on mental health and concerted efforts to talk about it without taboo, privately, mental health and anything considered to trigger it are still cloaked in secrecy, woven as they are around social stigmas and cultural norms.

The idea of ‘keeping personal issues behind closed doors’ also prevents one from speaking up about one’s relationship issues, especially in those where partners live together and share not only their spaces but their materialistic possessions too.

In such cases, a toxic relationship can be detrimental to both medical and mental health, states Monica.

“The complete dependency on one’s partner and not being able to share your secrets and thoughts with your friends or family members can lead one to an emotionally draining state. In such a situation, one feels depressed to the extent of often starting to have suicidal thoughts. So also, it is important to speak about it and seek professional help and not worry about others’ judgments,” states the psychologist.

When what’s yours becomes mine

Talking about relationships that have moved into a single physical space, Chahana points out that ‘I’ and ‘you’ in the relationship transform into ‘we’—for everything.

“No matter how hard you’ve worked to achieve your dreams, and how far have you come to lead the life you always wished for, your partner is there to share the credit and your achievements,” Chahana says. “And while sharing credit is not wrong, when one person tries to take away everything that the other earned through his/her hard work, it can get exhausting for the latter to be in that relationship.”

Monica also admits that breakup or failed relationships are never easy and that for some people, the end of a relationship may also seem like the end of one’s identity.

“The end of a romantic relationship can flip one’s world upside down and trigger a range of emotions. While some accept it, those with low self-esteem can feel that their whole world is falling apart and they start blaming themselves for all the problems,” she says.

Sushant’s apparent case of toxic relationship with Rhea is not an isolated one.

Bollywood is, in fact, strewn with many a case of toxic relationships, which have claimed more lives. Some names include Jiah Khan, Pratyusha Banerjee, Viveka Babjee, Kuljeet Randhawa, Gautam Khanduja and Nafisa Joseph.

Under the glitz and glamour of the larger-than-life exuberance of the realm, one seldom finds a companionship that stands the test of the time.

Dead giveaway signs your partner is toxic

While physical abuse and violence are extreme features of toxic relationships, experts also point out passive forms of abuse as well. Incidentally, a person in a dysfunctional love dynamic doesn’t feel at peace and often agonizes over whether the partner is into him or not.

The person would often give up on external responsibilities and commitments and then end up feeling empty and anxious.

Psychologist Sharma shares some instances one can take note of. “If your partner constantly scrutinises who you interact with and is very authoritative with you, then it is a cause for concern,” she says.

“Emotional abuse can take the form of being suspicious, needless blaming, with holding sex or other essentials, insulting you in public etc. You need to be cautious if you find your partner overbearing.”

Chahana also points out a few signs that people in toxic relationships miss about their partner’s behaviour.

“If your partner uses unkind words and is controlling towards you, then it should be considered a sign to move out of that relationship. If you feel threatened about the future of your relationship and when your partner gives you mixed messages like ‘I am done with you’ and then comes back to be with you, it is a sure shot sign of a toxic and a confused person,” Chahana points out.

Monica also cautions that the tiring and unfulfilled feeling when you are together is also a sign that your partner is not right for you.

“A toxic partner is never happy, appreciative or pleased with who you are. It feels to you as though you must change to make your partner happy. This is the time you should walk out of your relationship before that makes you depressed and you consider ending your life,” says the psychologist firmly.

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