It's Toxic and you know it! - Of toxic relationships and living in Lagos

Whatever doesn’t kill you does not always make you stronger, sometimes it makes you dull and lackluster – unknown

Sometimes, your heart needs more time to accept what your mind already knows

No one goes into a relationship expecting abuse. At least I would want to believe so, shared experiences also backs this up. There are a lot of hopes and dreams; you envisage the laughs, passion, fun even occasional misunderstandings that comes with two people getting to know each other, but I’m willing to bet on it that abuse under any guise wasn’t a part of what you see on the horizon, well, I didn’t.

It is like coming to Lagos for the first time, you have heard all about the good things, how opportunities abound. Your expectations are high, longing for a new experience and convinced you are going to make it in this city within the shortest possible time. Then, reality hits you from the city entrance where you had to spend hours in traffic under horrendous conditions. You think to yourself, do people really live like this?

Moving to Lagos after growing up in the sleepy laidback city of Ibadan will definitely leave you questioning your sanity.

That is probably why the first taste of abuse in a relationship hit the hardest. How do you explain it? That the one who got you star struck just struck the stars out of your eyes with a resounding slap?

That at your first misunderstanding, a bystander would think a tsunami was underway, hell bent on destroying everything in its path.

But you love them right?

So you stayed, making excuses for them, of course they apologized, even profusely so. Add some money and amazing roll in the hay into the mix, Gbam! Good judgement is out of the window.

You may even be in denial; you say this cannot be happening to me, it is just an incidence and this cannot be the way it will continue. You rationalize it in your head.

But isn’t the price too high? No, not yet, you are about to find out. Like the first taste of Lagos life, this is just the beginning.

If you live in Lagos, you will understand what it cost to live here. The exorbitant rent you pay for less than average house. Have you seen the buses on the road? The potential hazards and wreckage on wheels we have as public transportation. You have to be “sharp” while struggling to board one of those because you stand the risk of being “obtained” by the boys should you be careless with your baggage.  Have you seen our roads? Potholes big enough to be mini pools but somehow we manage to live here, this is Lagos!

I wonder how many people are truly happy living in Lagos, the quality of life is abysmal, health hazards, security is on the nosedive. It affects everyone, whether you are in Ikoyi or Okokomaiko, the toxicity is the bane of our collective lives.

It is the uncertainty for me, the fears you have when you are in a toxic relationship. You don’t know what to expect, how to behave or act. You gradually start to lose a part of you. Living within perceived rules you didn’t create just to ensure that you are acting in line so you don’t upset them.

Who are we kidding?

However you act is a recipe for disaster, they will find a way of knocking you out anyway, talk you down and push you around especially if you are with an abuser that is careful not to leave marks on your body that will bring on too many questions. But what about the ones left on your mind and soul?

These ones make you believe that you made them abuse you, they turn the table on you, somehow you are not good enough. They make you believe you deserve whatever they do to you. Classic gas lighting and mental torture making you literally feel crazy.

It is like PHCN officials bringing you estimated bills, you cannot question it, you just accept it and find a way to pay. But did you really consume that much in electricity bill? You are always careful to turn off appliances when not in use, who are we kidding? The public power is erratic anyway! Why do you have to pay so much for awful service?

Again I ask you why are your romanticizing your abuser?

Let’s blame it on love. I did blame it on love. But it is actually desperation, not wanting to be seen as a failure. You are supposed to be happy with the person of your dreams. When are you going to wake up to see that it is a nightmare? One that is killing you slowly or rapidly, as the case may be. Your self-esteem is being eroded, your confidence chipping away. The quality of your life is declining. Open your eyes, to see that you deserve better, you can do better, you can have better. Do not be trapped in the Lagos life in your relationship.

But it is not always rocky, when you experience Lagos nightlife you will understand. It is possible that your partner will show you affection ever now and then, enough for you to get high and say it is not so bad. The fun and trips, the occasional gifts, and random acts of thoughtfulness. Like a traffic free third mainland bridge on a Friday evening when you had already envisaged a 2 hours’ stint! It offers respite for the last four days when you spent 3 hours getting home on a journey that should typically take 30 minutes. Rihanna’s “love on the brain” comes to mind

You see, Lagos traffic can make you loco. The risks are high! Having your own car doesn’t spare you, if anything it makes you a prime candidate. I have been stuck in traffic in an area known for its notoriety for miscreants harassing motorist, breaking glasses and stealing. Safe to say the experience is one I never want to go through again.

Why are you in a relationship that doesn’t make you feel safe? Why are you hung up on someone that doesn’t respect you and willingly taking part in your own emotional and psychological demise?

This is where I tell you that you have a choice! Do not let anyone shame and blame you into staying with a toxic partner. You talk to any person who has been in a toxic relationship, and they will tell you that nothing good can ever come out of that relationship. You just have to walk out of it. The worst thing about being in a toxic relationship is that we fail to see the red flags because we are always busy making things right and making excuses.

While it may be difficult to walk away and put yourself first, it is not impossible. Here are a few things you can do;

  • Come to terms with the fact that you do not deserve abuse – for many abuse victims, this is a very critical step. Identify the toxicity, it doesn’t always have to be slaps and knocks only, being controlling, emotionally manipulation, guilt tripping, emotional unavailability, gaslighting, trivializing your feelings, are all toxic traits. Anything that makes you question your sanity is toxic.

Ask yourself if you want to keep being subjected to that cycle, try to analyze how your relationship makes you feel about yourself. If the negatives weigh much more than the positives, if your answer is no, you know what to do.

  • Prioritize yourself and stop self-sacrificing- When you finally see the red flags, when you start seeing clearly what damage your relationship has done to you, after you analyze the negatives and positives, and after you decide to break it up, convey it to your partner. Call them up, choose a place to meet, sit down, and tell them why you no longer want to be with them. Think well and stand firm on your decision.
  • Do not fall for empty promises- it is easy to fall back into the cycle, when you inform your partner that you are ending the relationship they will come up with promises, nobody wants their victim to escape. Toxic partners usually have a trait of making empty and flowery promises. It is very difficult not to fall for them. However, it is necessary to look at the bigger picture, to realize that this a toxic pattern and that the promises are nothing but a tool to convince you to stay.

Reality check: If nothing you did earlier to make things work, worked, then these promises too are never going to reach fruition. It’s a vicious cycle in which you will be trapped again and again if you fall for these promises. Do not!

  • Take responsibility and forgive yourself- easy to say but difficult to do. You have to recognize how you participate in the toxic cycle to avoid falling into the same trap again. Forgiving yourself will help rebuild your self-esteem and have wholesome outlook on relationships in the future. Now you know better.
  • Lean on your support system- hopefully you have a strong support system you can lean on to get you through and keep you focused on rebuilding. It will go a long way in helping you heal and not go back to your abuser. Stay away from people who blame and shame, those who say enduring abuse is better than being alone. Surround yourself and feed-off on positive energy.

Do note that some relationships can be saved and corrected with coaching or therapy and effort. But please know that not all relationships work out. No matter how much you love the person, if the relationship is extremely toxic, or if the other person is emotionally unavailable or abusive in any way, you cannot make the relationship healthy.

You may be stuck living in Lagos, but you shouldn’t be stuck in that toxic relationship.

Cheers!

Jolade

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4 thoughts on “It’s toxic and you know it!”

  1. ibilola Famugbode

    Hmmmm… I can relate mehn.This hits home. Sometimes the abuse is done so subtly it’s almost imagined… Well, except for the mental torture and uneasiness you can’t seem to explain. Anyway, walking away helped me resolve to sacrificing ANY relationship that messes with my peace of mind and mental health.

  2. ibilola Famugbode

    Thank you for sharing Jolade. This was an interesting and inspiring read. May your ink never run dry!

  3. Thanks for sharing Jolade. It’s so sad that most women always see the red flags but choose to ignore like they owe the society an explanation. Of all the many characteristics of love, abuse of any form never made that list. Leave so you can live!

  4. Adedamola Ilori

    Nice Jolade, I can bet Lagos/Nigeria has its huge contribution on the rate of abuse.. pathetic though!

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