How to Navigate and Identify Toxic Relationships + My Experience with Domestic Violence.

I’ve had on my heart recently to share with you all about toxic relationships. Toxic relationships can manifest in SO many different ways and can be extremely difficult to navigate. I am going to be writing from my personal experience of when I was in an abusive relationship and give you guys a few key signs to look for if a toxic relationship starts to arise and how to navigate your way out of one.

I want you to know this topic is really close to my heart and I want to help anyone from going through what I went through. I’m going to get super vulnerable at some points and share things I haven’t shared in my writing before. I hope + pray this post helps you all and gives you some insight into how abuse can unfold. 


I was 17 and my dad had just recently passed away a few months prior to getting into this relationship. Which in hindsight, it was kind of silly on my part to jump into a new relationship because I was still very much in the heavy stages of grief and definitely not in the right state of mind to be nurturing someone else’s feelings but I had known this boy for YEARS. We went to church together and attended youth group too. I thought he was safe. 


We dated for about 8 months before things started to take a change. At the time I wasn’t able to recognise that because I was so deep into the relationship and I genuinely thought I was going to marry him. The pivotal moment of that change was after we had sex. 


A little side note: I am writing from my perspective and as a Christian. I compromised my morals and everything I stood for the day I lost my virginity to him. Now being married to my incredible Husband, I realise why God wants us to keep this sacred act of love for marriage. 


If you are a Christian and you feel the same way pleeeeeeeease don’t let others speak down on you. This doesn’t mean you are damaged or broken. You are human, and trust me when I say God forgives you and can make it new. I spent years grappling with unforgiveness toward myself and I felt so guilty + shameful, but in reality, the moment you come to God with a repentant heart your sins are forgiven! It’s such a frowned upon topic when it comes to Christianity and I felt like I needed to keep it a big secret otherwise the church would judge me. As I grew older I found this to be far too common and it breaks my heart that people don’t feel comfortable to talk through certain sins because they are labelled “worse”. Please know you aren’t alone in your sin struggles and we all struggle in different ways. 


After this he started to become much more controlling and manipulative over me. He wanted all of my attention and because I thought I loved him, I dropped everything for him. It was about a month after this occurred that I really didn’t feel like myself. It kind of felt like I was going through the motions but I also became scared of him because he used to man handle me a lot and talk down toward me. It all made me extremely uncomfortable. Someone who is meant to make you feel safe, shouldn’t ever be forceful or make you feel like you have no control of the situation. He tried to isolate me from my friends by making sure it would just be him and I hanging out a lot of the time and eventually tried to isolate me from my family too. Despite “loving” him, I started to find myself becoming more and more anxious around him. I subconsciously started twirling my hair as a coping mechanism. He definitely caught on and used to hit my hand away from my hair and yell at me when I did it.


I continued to stay in the relationship because I genuinely thought things were going to change. He wasn’t acting the same but in my head I thought we could get back to where we were when we first started dating. 


He moved into my home pretty early on in the relationship because he had a pretty rough background. It was a Sunday morning and I remember this so clearly. We had just had a massive fight, nothing was new there, we fought all.the.time. I wanted space so I went in my room and he went in his. I was laying on my bed curled up in my blanket scrolling through my phone, just taking some time to myself and time to calm down from the fight. He then came running up the hallway, burst into my room, took my blanket and my phone, went back to his room and hid them from me. 

I was pretty worked up and tried my best to stay calm when asking for my things back. He yelled back at me.


Up until this point things were no different between him and I. We bickered and bickered. But then he raised his hand and slapped me across the face. I was in so much shock and at this point I demanded to have my phone back, I wanted to call my mum. I didn’t feel safe with him in my own home and she was at church. After that incident he moved out. 


The relationship didn’t end there. It should have but I was too scared of how he would react if I broke up with him. I didn’t want him to hit me again and I didn’t want to stay with him. It was a mess. I was so scared of him and made sure that every hang out we had was in a public place with a lot of people around. 


By the grace of God and only by the grace of God, he ended up breaking up with me. I can’t tell you how free I felt. It was like this wave of peace covered my whole body and I knew that God had saved me from so much hurt and so much pain to come. It was truly the greatest breakup ever. haha. 


I had a lot of hurt to work through after that, because although I was so happy to finally be free of that toxic relationship, it left me very broken. I didn’t really know who I was anymore and my anxiety was peaking. With the help + support of my incredible mum I ended up booking in to see a phycologist. She was the one who told me I had been in a domestic violent relationship. After all that had happened, it didn’t click inside my head that I had been abused on more levels than just physically. He emotionally and mentality ripped me to shreds. I questioned everything about myself and wondered why this had to happen to me. Slowly but surely God gave me the courage to find myself again, a new me, a better me. I found my healing by spending time with God, through writing, through spending time in the ocean and time with family + friends. 


This is one of those experiences that helped to make me who I am today. Although I wish it never happened, God turned it into something beautiful. This experience made me stronger. This experience allowed me to find my voice. This experience showed me what I am capable of. This experience showed me how God protects, loves and nurtures despite my sinful nature. 


I want to share a few key learnings from this post and things to look for when you’re in a toxic relationship with someone. As I said, it can manifest differently but for me these are the warning signs I wish I was more aware of at the time. 


Manipulation + Control


These two normally go hand in hand. 

A few examples could look like: 

  1. “If you do that, then I’m going to go hurt myself”. I can’t even count the amount of times I heard this one. 

  2. Control could look the same as my situation having my phone taken so I wasn’t able to contact anyone when I was physically abused.

  3. It could look like taking their car somewhere repeatedly and not allowing you any freedom because they have all of the control. I only add this point I because I remember one night he and I got into a fight (big surprise) and it was pretty late at night in a not-so-safe area. He drove away and left me at night by myself. He came back after about 15 minutes but it was a scary situation that could have been avoided if I read the signs better. 

Isolation

  1. This can look like talking badly about your friends and family members because they want all of your attention 

  2. They can make you feel guilty for wanting to spend time with other people

  3. They get mad at you for spending time with other people 

  4. They want you to do EVERYTHING with them 

These signs have made me so much more aware of how people truly work. I am a lot more careful with who and how I spend my time with people. I can very quickly pick up if something seems a little off. 

There are SO many different scenarios of how a toxic relationship can play out and it doesn’t always mean it’s going to be a romantic relationship. I can say with confidence that I’m positive everyone reading this has had to try and navigate their way through a toxic relationship and sometimes it is hard to do it with grace because you feel so hurt and so broken from how the other person has treated you. I get you, I feel you, I’ve been there myself. Your feelings are valid. I want you to remember that if others go out of their way to treat you poorly when you’ve done nothing wrong, it is a reflection of them, not a reflection of you. It’s a way of them not being able to cope with their emotions and in turn they end up projecting their insecurities and their crap on you. It’s a sad cycle that we see far too often. I know confrontation can be pretty scary for some people but it truly is the best way to handle situations like this. It doesn’t have to be a mean conversation. There is a way to approach people firmly + respectfully and share that you don’t appreciate being treated poorly. If it’s been going on for too long, know that you are allowed to end a friendship and don’t need to be treated badly by someone. There are too many instances where friends take advantage of each other in an emotional + unhealthy way. You know yourself. Listen to that tug on your heart and trust yourself to make the right decision for you. It’s not an easy process but sometimes people are only in your life for certain seasons and that’s okay. If someone is not serving you well or you aren’t serving them well, it’s okay to let go. I’ve had a few best friends I have had to do this with. It has broken my heart every time but it has been for the best because if that friendship continued the way it was, neither of us would be where we are now.


I pray you have the courage to walk boldly in the pursuit of bravery, of hard decisions and of feeling whole again. Know that you are never alone in your struggle. Please feel free to reach out to me if you feel comfortable to chat about anything relating to domestic violence, toxic relationships and ways to navigate certain situations no matter what your circumstance. 


I want to leave this incredible resource here if you are struggling with Domestic Violence or don’t know how to recognise if you are in one. This site has so much information for you to look through and they also have a helpline for you to call.


Website: https://www.thehotline.org/help/

Phone: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) 


Together, Let's Flourish Lovely!