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“Oh to be young, and feel love’s keen sting”-

A harmless bit of reminiscence on Albus Dumbledore’s part, but a few more people and stings later, this statement assumes a deeper and more terrifying meaning. That every emotion lies within the range of two extremes is as good a truth as any. But one needs to ask oneself- how much pain do I really deserve before I’m allowed to experience happiness? How many times must I sacrifice my self-respect for my counterpart to value me for who I really am? How many times should I let go before realizing that I can choose not to, and justifiably so?

There is nothing as complex as love. There is nothing as simple either. We walk back and forth along this spectrum, like a funambulist balancing himself precariously over the ropes. The fall is never the fear, as much as is the altitude. Love, and rightly so, is a necessity we cannot do away with. And anybody pretending otherwise is just fooling himself. What matters is the form, the extent, the level of involvement, the amount of investment, and unfortunately the magnitude of dependence. We cannot put love out of our system, any more than we can blood out of our veins. So assuming that analogy, let’s talk about how we can prevent love or a lover for that matter, from having an adverse effect on us. Let’s try to tackle the one folly love never meant itself to be associated with- toxicity.

Every relationship goes through its ups and downs. And it is those troughs and crests that make for a beautiful landscape. Be not mistaken that a beautiful road does not have obstacles of its own. But how many are permissible? How many are justified? Before delving into the nuances of overlooked signs of adversity, let me clearly point out that any relationship that has an element of physical harm in it, is a crime that does not need explaining. Never wait for a second time. The first time is proof enough of a person’s character. And to end any and every possible association with him is the absolute course of action. There is no rage, as justifiable or no situation as demanding of having to physically inflict harm on a loved one. Once that is deeply ingrained into our minds, let us move onto the subsurface of toxicity and the forms it usually takes.

Tell me if these situations sound familiar to you- Are you the one in the relationship who apologizes most of the time just to maintain peace at the end of the day? Does your lover keep making mistakes and uses his innate nature as an excuse for lashing out at you? Is the shared intimacy often used as an argument to make you realize that there is no way out? Are you fed tales about your friends and made to realize that there is only but your lover who has your best interests at heart? Is a bad experience of your past brought up time and again in order to make you thankful that your present lover accepted you despite the ugliness you were once a part of? Are you prevented from wearing the things you like, posting the things on your mind, because the world is too unforgiving a place for him to be able to save you? And last but not the least, do you ever feel that you have to compromise on your principles a lot more than you’d like to? Does the mirror often reflect an image you fail to completely recognize?

We are surrounded by  ‘well-wishers’ who often voluntarily take up the mantle of educating us on life. We are made to accept the fact that love is too complicated an emotion to be untainted by problems. Over time I’ve realized that it need not necessarily be the case. Arguments need not necessarily happen as often as they do, insecurities need not crop up as frequently as they do, breakups need not be made a joke of by occurring once every month. Love is about two people acknowledging each other and growing up together. It isn’t about one person who is always right and one person who is always wrong.

The situations put forth above and the frequency of their occurrence calls for a relationship’s thorough evaluation. For these are often the seeds of toxicity that keeps on growing unchecked and by the time it consumes us, it is often too late for our liking. Every short-tempered person can find a way to check his rage, especially in front of a lover. Every concern can be addressed without having to scream about it. Every friend of the opposite sex need not generate insecurity. The root of any toxic relationship is engraved in either a deep sense of mistrust, an unacknowledged presence of misogyny if the case be, and an insecurity that arises out of knowing that your counterpart is too good for the likes of you. What we fail to realize is, when a person commits to falling in love with you, he or she forgoes the evaluation of how good or how bad. Out of a very diverse pool of people, it is you who they chose to repose their trust and love in. And that at times is enough assurance of how much someone values you. There is no point in belittling someone who looks forward to nothing but affection from you. Similarly, there is no point in being belittled by someone for who all you do is shower love and consideration.

A toxic relationship is like a tumor. A rapid multiplication of inexplicable problems, which if not removed in its benign stage, can grow on to become malignant and thereby fatal. Fatal because once out of it—you stop believing in love altogether. You are scared of trusting a new person, scared of falling in love again, afraid of the touch of another human being. You go on either to become a better version of yourself, or a worse one, looking for vengeance in anyone and everyone you meet henceforth. You start doubting every little decision you make, start brooding over all the instances where you could have stopped your humiliation at your lover’s hands but couldn’t. What often come at the end of this are severe depression and a herculean task of pulling yourself together again. You disappoint your friends and family for absolutely no fault of yours. The situation, if you haven’t already gone through it, sounds exactly as scary as it actually is. So always try to nip a problem in the bud, even if the problem is a lover. Because you, as an individual, are all the validation you need. Love is but an emotion that should center around your life. It should never be something you center your life around.

The cure to a toxic relationship is in simply realizing that it is one. It is in not overlooking that first instance when you wondered if you really are in love the way you want to. It is in understanding who you are and what you deserve. And it is in letting go, no matter how painful, because you deserve to be treated as an equal. The solutions to most problems lie in realizing the problem itself. After that, it is just one more pain to get over, one more lesson learned sincerely, one less blunder to regret about. And of course, there is always coffee, music and dogs.

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