The Goose and Gander

Let’s talk about healthy vs unhealthy relationships

By Gabby Rente and John Linderman

Lifestyle Editor and Elm Staff Writer

In a world where Disney alters our expectations of relationships, the actuality of finding that perfect romance is much more complicated. With these rose-colored glasses on, red flags will just appear as just flags, leaving room for a toxic relationship to form.

Gabby says: An unhealthy relationship, whether it’s romantic or platonic, manifests itself in many forms, and not just through physical abuse either. What can be trickiest to spot is mental abuse.

As someone who has experienced toxic relationships, I can attest that they are indeed that: toxic. When you are in an unhealthy relationship, the twisted dynamic affects your confidence, your standards, and your overall well-being.

As women, we have the compulsion to be sweet and humble, to never demand anything, to be compassionate to others. I let people walk all over me because I thought that’s what was right, what was kind. If a woman has high standards then she is considered to be a snob or worse. If she has too low standards, then she is called a slut or a whore. The world is not kind to us.

But where is the middle ground?

If a person you are involved with ever makes you lower your standards or second-guess yourself, then they are not the person for you in any shape or form. If your partner has trouble trusting you due to “bad past experience,” then it is not your job to “fix” them.

Another form of mental abuse is one that I despise the most: gaslighting. Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which one individual makes another person doubt their own sanity through misdirection, contradiction, and lying. For example, if your friend or significant other is super late to an event you two planned, and you call them out for it, they may respond with something like “I wasn’t late” or “You’re just nit-picky.” If this pattern continues, then there will be a mental break.

If you find yourself in a toxic relationship, then do not hesitant to cut ties with that person. If they cannot figure out how to treat another human being with respect and love, then they are not worth your time and energy.

“But I do love them.” To this response, I ask, do you really? Or are you in love with the idea of that person? If you are unsure, then take a break from that relationship and spend quality time with yourself. Learning to love yourself again is the first step to recovering from a toxic relationship. 

John says: Toxicity is too big of an emotional package to unload in one sitting. For most guys, a large red flag is “clingy-ness,” or one partner refusing the give the other space. Examples include incessant texting, calling, PDA, or demanding one-on-one time.

Acting needy doesn’t just push the boundaries of the partner being affected, but shows how insecure the partner feels about themselves and the relationship. The dependent partner needs a constant stream of attention and validation. When one partner clings to another, it brings both of them down.

One partner acting needy is a quick road to a co-dependent relationship, where, essentially, both partners cling to each other. As humans, we understands this trait well, and we typically avoid insecure people in the dating scene.

It’s remarkably more difficult, however, when the partner we love and know starts to act insecure and clingy. On one hand, we do care for our partner and want to reassure them that everything is ok. Conversely, we feel dragged down in the presence of someone in constant need. We start to feel worse about ourselves and the world around us.

Unfortunately, many people, especially college students, find themselves in relationships or even friendships with this kind of toxic behavior.

An important note is that the clingy partner is rarely satisfied receiving the attention they desired. What works best to address this kind of behavior is talking directly about the clingy behavior. This kind of conversation is most effective in person, as you want to make your point clear to this person.

Clingy behavior is rarely fixed in one conversation, though and the relationship needs work from both sides to solve this situation. More often than not, the clingy partner has problems outstanding to the relationship itself, and so they should be encouraged to see a counselor or professional who can help guide them through it. It’s important to encourage mental health support with strength instead of shame, you aren’t banishing this person for help. If you want the relationship to work, keep honest communication strong and in person.

Clingy-ness, like general insecurity, is never a fixed state; everyone can define themselves by security if they feel they embody it. It’s important to remember that we don’t have to feel resolved about aspect in our lives to project a secure personality. It can even feel good projecting security to our friends and loved ones, because we all need someone to rely on every now and then, and in turn, it feels great to return strength and hope.

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