When you’re in a healthy gay relationship, everything just kind of works. Sure, there are bumps in the road, but you generally make decisions together, openly discuss any problems that arise, and genuinely enjoy each other’s company.
Toxic relationships are another story. And when you’re in one, it can be harder to see red flags.
While every relationship goes through ups and downs, a toxic relationship is consistently unpleasant and draining for the people in it, to the point that negative moments outweigh and outnumber the positive ones.
Here’s how to tell if you’re in a toxic gay relationship. If any of this sounds familiar, it’s time to make some big changes.
There Is Constant Dismissiveness or Belittling
Demeaning language. Harsh words. Insults. Screaming. Such behaviors are a tell-tale sign of a toxic relationship. They have no place in a healthy relationship and should not happen at all, let alone done in front of other people. If a person constantly humiliates their partner in front of other people, especially other family members, it will target them as an object of derision and someone who isn’t to be respected. That image will wreak havoc on their confidence and security. Take note if your partner always says things like ‘no one wants you,’ or ‘you ought to be glad I’m with you, because no one else wants you,’ or ‘you are so stupid.’ You may eventually come to believe them, making it hard to leave this toxic relationship.
You Don’t Feel Safe
And I don’t mean physically (although that would apply too). I’m talking about a sense of emotional safety. Can you openly share your thoughts and feelings with this person? Does your voice matter? Or do you feel like you’re always editing yourself, afraid of what they’d do or say if you were radically honest?
A healthy relationship gives space for people to be imperfect and accountable at the same time. You can tell each other the good stuff and the shameful stuff and openly talk about who has hurt you. You can be fully seen and still be fully loved.
Now let’s be clear: In most cases, you wouldn’t share your deepest hurts with your in-laws the way you might with a trusted friend. Safety has levels, depending on the relationship. It takes wisdom to discern the depth and differences of each relationship.
A normal amount of tension runs through every relationship, but finding yourself constantly on edge is an indicator that something’s off.
This ongoing stress can take a toll on your physical and mental health.
Lack of Trust
A partner is someone for you to rely on, to be vulnerable with, and to have in your corner. In the absence of trust, none of these things are possible.
Without trust, and not just trust that their partner will be faithful, but trust that their partner will behave in the best interest of the agreements of the relationship, there cannot be a sense of security.
You Feel Like You’ve Lost Yourself
Toxic people tend to absorb, manipulate and mold people to fit their own agendas. Their plans and interests dominate the relationship. You often find yourself doing things that you don’t want to do just to please them—violating your core values, going places that make you uncomfortable, or spending time with people who set off your anxiety alarms.
Never forget: YOU hold the power. It’s up to you—not your partner—to recognize these patterns and set healthy boundaries. It’s your job to say no, assert yourself, and live in alignment with your values. But toxic people will often become resentful, frustrated or angry when you set boundaries or live your values.
There’s Constant Gaslighting
When someone continually tells their partner that they are in the wrong and provides examples that the other knows aren’t true — a technique known as gaslighting — that’s a sign of serious toxicity. White lies, manipulation, and denial even when presented with evidence are all signs of gaslighting and need to be addressed right away. Making a partner feel diminished or ‘crazy’ is never a wise idea. Gaslighting behavior degrades connection in the short term and also contaminates the relationship in the long term.
Your partner doesn’t have the right to control your actions or beliefs. One controlling behavior to look out for is threatening loss of something, such as financial stability, time with your family, or companionship.
These threats strike fear in many people and I find these are the reasons many, many people stay in unhealthy, unhappy relationships even when wishing for the relationship to end.
Holding on to grudges and letting them fester chips away at intimacy. Over time, frustration or resentment can build up and make a smaller chasm much bigger.
Lies — no matter how small — erode credibility over time. When a partner lies to you, it signals they don’t respect you as a mutual partner who deserves honesty and care. Lying to your partner indicates your allegiance is to yourself, not the relationship.
You Keep Waiting/Hoping For Them to Change
A lot of the bad behaviors that make relationships toxic would be deal breakers for a healthy, functional relationship.
Here’s the thing, though: When you’re in a toxic relationship, your judgement is often clouded and you’re putting your faith in change that will never come.
People need to realize that just because they can find some positive aspects of the relationship, doesn’t mean they should stay in it.
Gay dating can be challenging. Most single gay men turn to gay dating apps to help them find a partner, only to discover they are missing a crucial piece of the puzzle: personality compatibility. It’s one of the most important ingredients of attraction, yet it’s not even a small consideration in most dating apps.
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