“The moment that you start to wonder if you deserve better, you do.” -Unknown
Were you hoping this Valentine’s Day might be different than last year’s? Or maybe at least different than last month? Last week? On certain days of the year, the quality of our relationship is really put under the microscope. For some, it might be the magical winter holidays that makes us scrutinize our partner and if they’re really worth fighting for. For many, it’s Valentine’s Day. Days like today, when so many people are talking about how lucky they are to have found that special person, it makes you wonder if you’re one of the lucky ones. Do you have that relationship that everyone wishes they had? Are you head over heels in love? Do you feel the same way now that you did 10 years ago? Or, have you been wondering what’s happened? How did you let it get to this point? Is this what real love is? How do you know? How can you decipher between what is real and what isn’t?
Although it may seem like a simple task, the people that have been burned by narcissists before know that it sometimes very much a struggle to distinguish a person’s true intentions. The saying, “It seems too good to be true” is very much a part of the mentality when looking for love again. We want someone that will love us and appreciate us more than we’ve ever been shown before, but when we receive this for the first time after being burned, it’s so hard for us to think that this is true, genuine love. The thing is – most relationships start the same way, even the toxic ones. The narcissist lives by the idealization, devalue, discard cycle. In the beginning of a relationship (whether it be healthy or toxic), it usually looks like the idealization stage (similar to infatuation or “puppy love”), which is why it’s hard to know for sure what type of relationship you’re in. With lots of attention, affection and affirmation, it feels like it could be the real deal. But then that little question starts to creep back in – is this too good to be true?
Here’s a few ways to really know if you’re in a relationship with a toxic person:
1.) It’s really all about them
Even if they buy you flowers, chocolates, a card. Even if they wake you up with breakfast in bed. Even if they’ve planned out the most romantic dinner date. Even if they are spending an exorbitant amount of money. If you get even the slightest bit of a hint that they are doing this for the recognition, then they probably are. Toxic people, narcissists included, like to have the attention on them at all times. If they are showering you with love and attention and gifts, it might seem like the attention is on you. Nuh uh. Not really. The attention is still on them. They’re looking for the “Wow, I can’t believe you pulled this off” type of thank you. The “I didn’t know you could afford all of this!”, or even the “You must really be connected to have gotten us a table here!”. When this sort of attention isn’t given to them, you can be sure they’ll seek it out. Watch out for the “I’m so amazing to have done this for you” type of talk. For narcissists, they are looking for you to satisfy their needs for supply.
2.) It’s another way to guilt-trip you
The intentions of this person to make you feel good on Valentine’s Day are not true if they are also making you feel bad in the process. Duhh, right? Well, sometimes it’s not that clear. If your significant other is making these elaborate plans and then subsequently says to you, “I am doing all of this work and spending all of this money and making all of these plans for YOU and then you go and… (insert whatever it is they want to make you feel guilty about)”, then run away!! Fast! In the other direction and never come back!!!! Seriously though, this person is not trying to show you how much they love you. They are trying to control you by making you feel guilty enough to do whatever it is that they want. If someone is guilt-tripping you or making you feel bad that they’re doing something for you, then they are not genuine and will do you more harm than good. If they treat you like dirt and then say, “Well, I WAS going to buy you roses, but you can’t even keep the house clean and make dinner – why would I do that for you?” Serious red flag! Love is not quid pro quo and showing each other appreciation is not a transaction.
3.) They’re dismissive of you
If Valentine’s Day comes and goes and they are not sensitive to your desire to celebrate at all or maybe they’re not allowing you to contribute to the plans, it could be a sign of a toxic relationship. People that have a healthy love for each other also have a mutual respect for each other. You respect each other’s wishes. You respect each other’s needs. If someone is dismissive of those things, it’s another red flag. Do not excuse this behavior. Wanting to spoil you and appreciate you is one thing, but if you’ve let one of your needs be known and it goes unseen, that is not okay. If you have told your significant other that you would really like a nice celebration at home, since you have been so busy and would just love the peace and quiet of your own space, then they need to hear that. If their response is something along the lines of how much fun you’ll have if you just loosen up, they are being dismissive. Do not excuse their behavior by saying, “Oh, she just wants to spoil me” or “Oh, he just knows that I’ll end up having fun once I do go out with him.” No. Let your needs be known and do not let anyone be dismissive of them. It’s a part of self-care and sticking up for yourself.
If you’re in a toxic relationship with someone this Valentine’s Day, look for these signs. You do not need to stay. It doesn’t matter if you have been together 5 weeks, 5 years, or even 25 years. Children? No children? Doesn’t matter. It’s not solely your responsibility to fix what’s broken. If they aren’t committed to fixing the relationship, then it’s toxic. Let it go. You will find a better life. You deserve a better life. Remember – “The moment that you start to wonder if you deserve better, you do.”
Happy Valentine’s Day.