What A Toxic Relationship Can Reveal To You About Yourself

Just about everything can reveal us...to us.

Love & Relationships

Married at First Sight, boy. Every season, I say that I'm not gonna watch another one. However, I've shared before that the last pastor that I've ever had is Pastor Cal (life is a trip, ain't it?). Plus, this season, Ryan is someone who went to a church that I used to attend back in the day. So yep—got reeled back into the constant "wall hitting" of the show…again (who does some interesting recaps is The Bald and the Beautiful podcast). Because of that, I have witnessed, firsthand, the colossal mess that is Chris and Paige. Let me tell it, Chris definitely needs to be on Lifetime…just not that particular show. Yet…I digress.

Anyway, as I've read articles, blogs and a certain amount of social media comments about Chris and Paige's marriage, one thing that has triggered me a bit is how often I've seen folks call Paige "stupid" for trying to make her marriage work. While I will say that if you have traditional views about marriage (or if you take the Bible even halfway seriously when it comes to what it says about marriage…and divorce; I Corinthians 7 is a bit of a heavy hitter), taking the social experiment route may be a bullet that you should dodge (literally). Still, I do appreciate that Paige didn't treat Chris like some random or even a boyfriend. She viewed him as what he was/is—her husband. She took her vows seriously and tried to honor them. And, at the time that I'm writing this, she handled things with a lot of grace. Some might even say a miraculous level of it.

At the same time, that doesn't mean there weren't some profound learning moments, right? Even when I watched Paige speak on her own thoughts of herself not too long ago, she said that (not paraphrased) she realized that she needed to have a healthier perspective on relationships. And indeed, a lot of us have the same hindsight kind of wisdom. Right? Hmph. Speaking of wisdom, someone on Black Twitter said this:

That tweet? It's one for the ages because, although most of us don't choose to get into toxic situations (I say "most" because some folks who are addicted to drama do; that's another article for another time), the reality is, as one of my all-time favorite quotes reveals, "Everywhere you go, there you are." And so, whether you're just coming out of something unhealthy or you're someone who constantly gets into these kinds of relational dynamics, let's take a moment to stop looking at the person that we've been with as the sole issue and takeaway. In order to avoid toxic relationships in the future (or to end the one that you're currently in), it's essential that we put a mirror up to see what it can show us about ourselves. Let's do that today.

Do You Suck at Setting (and Keeping) Boundaries?


One of the main roles of a parent is to teach a child how to cultivate healthy boundaries. Unfortunately, for a lot of us, because our first introduction to toxicity was our relatives, we never learned how to set good limits. What are some signs that you really could stand to improve in this particular area? Do you speak up for yourself, not just when you're not treated right but when you don't want to do something? Are you the only one who's doing the giving in your relationships? Are you a passive aggressive kind of person (you use it as a form of control or a way to get attention because you don't know how to ask directly)? Do you meet others' needs to the extent of not meeting your own? Do you "fall in love" quickly (more on that in a bit)?

While these examples merely touch the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exploring if you set good limits for yourself, they are a great way to set the tone for where we're going with this piece because, the reality is, no matter how much you love, care for or desire to be with someone, it shouldn't be to the extent of not loving and caring for yourself and/or desiring to be in something that will bring out the absolute best in you. In other words, if you're prone to let a guy just say and do…whatever, that's not even a little bit good.

A healthy relationship encourages and supports mutual self-respect. If you're lacking that, something is off. Way off.

Are You Codependent?


In the article, "How To Stop Being 'Ms. Fix It' In Your Relationships", something that I touch on is codependency. So, how do you know if you're a codependent kind of person? People pleasers are oftentimes codependent. People who aren't clear on what their personal wants and needs are tend to be codependent. Those with a low sense of self-worth are usually codependent (at least on some level). Folks who are highly dependent on others (almost like a child) are typically codependent. Those who become whatever any given person wants them to be are sho 'nuf codependent. Needy people are codependent. Those who will stay in half-assed relationships because they are afraid of being alone? They too lean towards being pretty codependent.

The thing about codependent individuals is narcissists can see them from a mile away, almost like prey. Because narcissists are pretty charming individuals (more times than not), they will initially make a people pleaser (for example) feel like them doing any and everything for the narcissist is merely a sign that they care when really the codependent person has simply signed up for being used—a lot and often. You can't really know how to be in a good relationship until you know what you want out of one. Otherwise, an unhealthy person will take the reins and literally run all over you. If there's a part of you that wonders if this is your struggle, there are several online codependency tests/assessments that you can take. One of them is right here.

Do You Live in a Fantasy World?


A series that I used to watch back in the day was a show called The Client List (Jennifer Love Hewitt, Loretta Devine). If you're not familiar with it, it's a series that was based on a movie that was based on a true story about a massage spa that provided happy endings to high-end clientele; eventually, they got busted by the cops and it turned into national news. Anyway, when some of the patrons would get caught up and think that "it" was more than it was, the massagers would say, "It's a fantasy. Not a fairy tale." Hmph. To tell you the truth, I really wish folks would let go of both. A fairy tale is a story told to children or something that is misleading. That's why, when I hear women say, "I'm living for the fairy tale", more often than not, I roll my eyes. For now, let's deal with fantasies, though.

By definition, a fantasy is "imagination, especially when extravagant and unrestrained". Is it wrong to imagine, wish or daydream? No. At the same time, focus on what comes after "especially". Something that is unrestrained is something that is out of control. There are a lot of people who end up in absolutely ridiculous relational situations or they are taken advantage of to the utmost extreme and it's all because they live in a fantasy world. Rather than deal with reality—the truth and facts about a matter—they allow their imagination to convince them that things are—or will be—the way they want them to be rather than what they are.

I think this is a lot of what happened with Chris and Paige. The show. The wedding. Whatever Paige told herself about the show and the wedding, got her to focus on her wants more than Chris's actions. And, if you've been watching, you know how that all played out.

Whenever I think of a fantasy, a mirage often comes to mind. When people are parched in the dessert, sometimes their mind can play tricks on them and cause them to think that a pool of water is right ahead when nothing is actually there—that's how badly they want to be quenched. People who live in fantasy worlds can be very similar to this. Ben Franklin once said, "If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." When it comes to not letting what you fantasize about "him" and your relationship getting out of control, no greater words have been spoken.

Do You Not Take Time to Heal Between Relationships?


As a marriage life coach, I think it's pretty close to insane that some people will date other people while they are separated (contrary to popular actions, separated is not divorced). Then, if they do decide to go ahead and end their marriage, they turn around and get married again, to another person, within a short period of time. When you read that back, what about that sounds like a wise thing to do? What about that doesn't sound like they are using someone else to get over their spouse or issues within the marriage? Lawd. No wonder the divorce rate only continues to go higher with every marriage (it's 67 percent for second marriages and 73 percent for the third go around).

Remember when I said that everywhere you go, there you are? I personally believe that a huge reason why second- and third-time marriages fail so often is because a lot of people will end a marriage, thinking that it was only their spouse's fault. So, they never make the time to do some serious self-work. They don't own up to their own mistakes. They don't try and figure out how to become a better individual. Shoot, they don't even ponder if marriage is the best thing for them—now or ever. They just treat marriage like break-ups and go from person to person without really taking the time out to heal.

I don't care what the cause for a divorce or end of a romantic relationship is—there is some time that needs to be taken out to process, grieve and heal oneself before moving forward. A healed person has reconciled issues so that there is some level of peace. A healed person doesn't hold any resentment or bitterness. A healed person isn't afraid of being alone. A healed person looks back on their relationship and what it's taught them and uses words like "restored" and "improved". A healed person is whole.

It really is, probably an epidemic, the amount of folks who don't make the time to heal before getting involved with another individual. Yet don't let "the norm" keep you from being the exception in this way. Healed people are better in relationships—point blank and period. If you're constantly in toxic relationships, be honest with yourself if not taking out the time to heal could be why.

Are You a Love Addict?


Whew. Back when I first started writing for this platform, an article that got published was "6 Signs You're A Love Addict". Remember how I said earlier that one sign of sucking at establishing personal boundaries is you fall in love quickly? That alone is not healthy because, just think about it. Do you call someone "friend" in under three months (if you do, check out "Allow These Things To Happen Before Calling Someone 'Friend'")? Don't you need some time to get to know a person, to watch their character and patterns, to go through some things with them before you honor them with that kind of title and role in your life? Same thing should go with romantic relationships. No doubt about it.

The reason why a lot of people get caught up in love addiction (oftentimes, without even realizing it), is they think they are simply someone who has a lot of love to give. This is why they move so fast and push so hard when, usually the actual issue is there is such a void in their life that they are giving in the hopes that someone will come and "fill their cup", so that they don't have to deal with internalized pain and fear. Something that can help a love addict to work through a lot of their stuff is a little self-love journaling (check out "Self-Love Journaling & Why You Should Be Doing It"). Something else that I recommend is coming up.

Listen, addictions are things that have gotten so out of balance that they've become super unhealthy; love addiction fits that bill. Nothing great comes out of addictive tendencies. If you sense that you are a love addict, get some help from a professional. It can help you to put love—and relationships—into their proper perspective.

Have You Never Gone to Therapy Before?


Semi-recently, while doing an interview, someone asked me why I personally thought that there was such a stigma—even still—about Black people going to therapy. I believe a lot of it has to do with church culture. Folks can have some bona fide issues or addictions and yet will partake in, what I call, "altar call therapy"—you know, going down to the altar for prayer, believing that is all that they need. For instance, I know someone who was diagnosed bipolar and refused to take their medication. For years, they were doing all kinds of destructive and even suicidal stuff, yet they refused to see a professional under the guise of "they went to the altar about it".

I'm a bible follower. I also believe that church has its place. Know what else? When the Bible says, "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise" (Proverbs 12:15—NKJV), I wholeheartedly believe that reputable therapists, counselors and coaches fall in with that. The reality is, an altar call may help us to recognize that we've got an issue/problem and restore our faith in finding the strength to address it; however, make no mistake that some things call for a straight up series of therapy sessions.

If you keep making destructive choices and all you've been doing is "praying it away", please consider booking an appointment with a therapist. They are trained to look at things from an "outside in" perspective. And that? That could literally save your life (even if it's just the quality of your life) in the long run.

Are You Looking for Someone to Love You More than You Love You?


I have always found it interesting how much some people want to pushback on the saying, "You are what you attract." If you're one of 'em, here's a way to look at it. If you've ever been involved with someone who treated you like trash, have you ever processed what drew you to them in the first place and then, what caused you to stay? See, a lot of the times, when we hear that we are what we attract, we think that means, for instance, if they are a liar and a commitment-phobe then we must be too. Eh, that's not always or automatically the case. The bigger point is if you really loved yourself, do you think that you would be able to spot red flags sooner and definitely would end things quicker, once you saw what that person was all about?

To me, learning about what it means to truly love someone is a constant mission. Based on what I know about love at this stage of my life, aside from my late fiancé, I believe I've loved four men over the course of my lifetime. And you know what? The crap that I tolerated from all four—on different levels and in different ways—you couldn't pay me to entertain now. Not even a lil' bit. The reason why is because I love myself more. The reason why I did take their stuff at the time was because 1) I loved them more than I loved myself (there goes that codependency thing) and 2) I wanted them to love me more than I loved me.

At the time, that's what I thought love was about—if I give you all of the love in the world, you will recompense me by loving me so much whether or not I love myself enough will cease to be an issue. That's not the way love works, though. A healthy relationship happens when two people, who have a healthy understanding of self-love, reflect that soundness back to one another in a relationship—a relationship that is full of nothing but good things because love existed…way before they met each other. It existed because they loved themselves first.

Toxic relationships are hard. Very much so. The only thing harder is to not use them to see what you need to learn about yourself so that you don't have to experience things the hard way anymore. Sis, you deserve to be in something that is the very opposite of toxic and working on yourself is the key to making that happen. Please, from the bottom of my heart, make sure that you do.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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