Recovery is a time to start afresh, find inner strength, and develop personally and spiritually. Being newly sober can be confusing – we’re often not used to navigating the landscape of relationships with a clear head. Addiction can also impact our past relationships and leave us unsure as to what is appropriate and what isn’t.

Everyone deserves to have happy, healthy relationships. Just because you’re in recovery doesn’t mean you should settle for anything less.

A toxic relationship is an unhealthy relationship. It may be one-sided, controlling, or lack honest communication. You may be able to fix a toxic relationship, but it requires reflective listening, effective communication, and a desire to change from both partners. Sometimes, couples therapy is necessary to support the process.

Sometimes, however, it is better to leave a toxic relationship. In particular, there is never a reason you should tolerate emotional, verbal, or physical abuse. There is nothing wrong with you for being in an abusive relationship, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. You may want to contact loved ones for assistance in walking away or contact the National Domestic Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.

Sometimes, it can be hard to recognize when a relationship has become toxic or what you should expect from your partner. Here are five signs to look out for.

1. Controlling Behavior

Controlling behavior is one sign of toxicity in a relationship. You should feel free to be yourself and not have to change your behavior for the sake of your partner. Your partner may try and control you in various ways, including:

  • Threatening to withhold something, like companionship, money, or children, if you don’t act as they want
  • Repeatedly telling you what is right
  • Responding angrily when you disagree with them
  • Needing to know everything you are doing
  • Stopping you from seeing certain friends, your support network, or needing to accompany you to everything
  • Demanding access to your phone, emails, or other personal devices

2. Disregarding Your Needs

A healthy relationship is balanced and allows both partners to meet their needs. If you feel like a relationship is one-sided – that you are often planning your life around your partner but not receiving the same treatment – you may be in a toxic relationship.

While it is healthy to be considerate and sometimes change plans or make sacrifices for your partner, this behavior should be reciprocated. Your partner should respect your needs as much as you respect theirs and give you space or support to fulfill them.

This can be especially harmful to people in recovery – you’ll have your routine and needs that you need to maintain your sobriety. You’ll know this is incredibly important, and your partner should appreciate how dangerous neglecting this could be.

If you are worried that your partner is exhibiting toxic behavior by disregarding your needs, try setting clear boundaries about what you will and will not do. If your partner reacts angrily or disrespects these boundaries, this is a red flag that needs to be addressed.

3. Feeling Drained

Dealing with a toxic relationship can be exhausting. Frequent conflicts, emotional manipulation, and unrealistic demands from your partner take a toll on your mental health, energy levels, and overall well-being. This can also trigger urges to use substances to cover up these uncomfortable feelings.

A healthy relationship should be mutually supportive and leave space for self-love and self-care. If your relationship is leaving you feeling drained and tired the majority of the time, there may be toxic traits in the relationship.

4. Making Excuses for Your Partner’s Behavior

Sometimes in a relationship, we feel like we understand our partner better than anyone else. We may recognize the reasons behind their behavior and be able to see why they act the way they do.

However, if you are constantly making excuses for your partner’s behavior, it may signify that something isn’t right. Someone who cares for you – like a friend or family member – may be able to see clearly when their behavior is harmful to you.

Even if you can explain their behavior, this doesn’t mean you should excuse or accept it. You deserve respect and care from your partner, and it is not your responsibility to fix them. Remember, you should never have to tolerate emotional abuse or physical violence in any circumstance.

5. Lack of Trust

An important part of a healthy and stable relationship is being able to trust your partner. Recovery often involves making yourself vulnerable to others. You’ll need to be able to share inner feelings or depend on your partner in certain ways. Your partner should respect this vulnerability, care for you, and act in your best interests.

If there is a lack of trust between you and your partner, it is difficult to feel stable and secure. This can take a deep emotional toll and prevent you from functioning effectively as a couple.

Can Couples Therapy Help?

If you are invested in your relationship and your recovery, couples therapy may help you communicate effectively and find solutions to old problems. You’ll get the chance to mend the wounds of the past and set boundaries for the future in a controlled environment.

However, effective therapy requires you both to be committed to positive change, willing to listen to each other, and willing to accept your own mistakes. If not, it may be necessary to walk away from the relationship to benefit your sobriety in the long term.

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