Pressures of toxic relationships can be unhealthy despite feelings

Everyone has that one person that they think about when they know they shouldn’t. You know the one. The one that made you do things you normally wouldn’t do, feel things you normally wouldn’t feel – the feeling that convinced you that you would do anything for this person, good or bad. The one you went back to when your friends told you not to. Ahh, you’re thinking of them now, aren’t you? Well stop it.

Especially with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, many students feel the pressure of having a boyfriend or girlfriend. These pressures can cause students to stay in a relationship that isn’t healthy for them.

More often than not, when someone thinks of a victim of a toxic relationship, he or she imagines a girl who is continuously beat down emotionally, and sometimes even physically. Girls are associated with being the one caring more, crying more and putting up with issues their significant other makes them endure.

“It’s important to recognize that both men and women experience these relationships — especially at the college age,” said Pat Morey, director of the Women’s Resource Center and assistant dean of students. “At this age, there’s a lot of pressure to be with someone, which often results in staying with someone long after the relationship has turned negative.”

This could be for any assortment of reasons. The problem is, just because someone is toxic does not mean he or she is unlovable. Most people can’t leave, regardless of gender, solely because they’re still driven by love. And if not love, then it’s simply being afraid of being alone.

Anna Smith, sophomore in AHS, said it was most difficult for her to leave her long-term boyfriend, even though she knew it was best for the both of them, because of how much she loved him.

“He was my best friend for so long, but it was one of those situations where when it was good, it was perfect, but when it was bad, I needed out of the relationship,” Smith said. “It was just so hard to imagine not being in a relationship and being without him, even though I needed to be.”

Despite the fact that it’s true that both young men and women go through this, Morey acknowledged it does tend to be more of a detriment for women to be able to break free. Looking back at little girls and boys even shows us that girls are raised to be nurturing, as their toys consist of baby dolls, Barbie dolls, stuffed animals and the like.

“Social relationships are more important to females, even at this age,” Morey said. “Guys are designed for active play, and girls are designed to care. Our culture has socialized gender from age one.”

Morey noted that there are certainly cues in these relationships that we often try to ignore, especially when we’re in denial. For starters, if you’re hearing comments like “he doesn’t treat you well” or “why do you put up with that?” from friends, don’t ignore it or write them off as someone who doesn’t “understand the situation” — we all do that, it’s no secret. While our friends may not know the relationship, they do know you, and they can see if you’re being negatively affected.

Hannah Thomas, sophomore in Engineering, said she has watched numerous friends go through toxic relationships, and it never gets easier to be the one outside looking in.

“We both knew what she was doing was wrong, and that it was tearing her apart,” Thomas said. “I could tell her he was bad for her, but ultimately, she had to see it for herself.”

Morey also said that if extreme jealousy is a continuous problem, then it’s also a sign that the relationship isn’t healthy. In addition, if one person has to account for all his or her time

while the couple is not together, this could be a sign as well.

But it’s important to know that just because a relationship is or might become toxic does not mean that the only remaining option is to end it. There can be hope, Morey said.

Not to say every situation can be fixed, because let’s face it, some people simply do not belong together. But one option toward mending a broken relationship is counseling, which the Women’s Resource Center offers, as well as other organizations on and off campus.

“I absolutely believe people can change,” Morey insisted. “But it takes more than just counseling.”

Change can’t happen if it’s only one sided; both people have to work to see change.