Relationships are one of the greatest joys that can come to us as we navigate our respective pathways through life. Friends are the family members we get to choose, romance opens us up to the possibility of finding someone we can build a life and future with, even professional contacts can help us achieve our career goals even faster. But on the road of navigating relationships, it’s important to take note of warning signs, red flags, and caution tape.
Among other social behaviors that are inconsistently modeled for black girls and women is the concept of discernment, especially when it comes to being able to recognize situations that are unhealthy. Our collective internalization of struggle has left many of us vulnerable to putting up with dynamics are unacceptable, all in the name of staying loyal to our skin tone and the monolithic tropes that have been repeated about black women for far too long.
A toxic relationship is any relationship where you are motivated to sacrifice your own well-being for the purpose of placating someone else’s demands. Toxic relationships are not limited to romantic partnerships; family, friends, and coworkers can all be toxic for us. Any relationship that makes you feel unworthy is toxic. Threats are toxic. Sacrificing your self-esteem is toxic. Withstanding abuse of any kind (verbal or physical) is toxic. Being forced to place yourself in harm’s way is toxic.
But these toxic behaviors and features do not spring up overnight. Toxic relationships are formed through involvement with toxic people. Here are a few types to watch out for:
Watch out for people whose track record precedes them. It is true that everyone has a past, and we all make mistakes. However, these mistakes should not include things like murder, manslaughter, rape, pedophilia, distribution of child pornography, sex trafficking, drug trafficking…hopefully you get the point. If you are seeking a bright future with a network of reliable, honest people as your support system to surround you, you will not be able to find that by engaging with someone who has a reputation like this.
Beware of people who eagerly point the finger at others for the problems in their own lives. This is a sign that they are uncomfortable with taking personal responsibility. You will always be the receiver of blame in any type of relationship you have with a person like this.
Avoid people who like to participate in drama. People who are routinely engaged in feuds or gossip will attempt to lure you into their world by getting you to react, which is the opposite of what a peaceful existence looks like. The good news is that drama cannot grow or continue if you refuse to engage. Gossipers can’t gossip with themselves, and confrontational people cannot quarrel with themselves. A quote by Eleanor Roosevelt explains that, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
Stay away from entitled people. The world does not owe any of us anything. People who believe they have a right to things they have not worked or shown appreciation for have a warped sense of themselves. Their view of you will inevitably be warped as well, and forming friendships or romantic relationships with entitled people can be the gateway to low self-esteem and unnecessary sacrifices. Those behaviors negate the nurturing of your soul and can keep you from personal progress.
Human beings were not meant to go through life alone, which is exactly why we form companionship with those around us. We need others to relate to, to be close to, and to share experiences with. As you make choices about who you want in your own life, always ask yourself if the people you are interacting with challenge you or limit you. With the right people in your corner, you can realize your life goals more easily and happily.
Antoinette is a consultant, author, yogini, and host of The Midday Reset Podcast. Her personal development courses are centered on helping women realize their potential from the inside out. When she is not advising clients, teaching, authoring books, or recording episodes for her podcast, she is enjoying life with her husband and two children. Find her on Instagram @msantoinettechanel.