How To Know If You’re In A Toxic Relationship — And How To Take Action

toxic relationship
  • Share
The following two tabs change content below.
I went to NYU for Film & TV and had the entrepreneur’s spirit since being a tot when I contracted chores out to my older sister for a profit (ha!). I run Hello Lucy Design (a web management and design biz) full time as well as Editorial Direction for As a full-of-energy go-getter, my motto is “Why the heck not?”. I'm a mid-western girl who has worked for the BBC in London, Nickelodeon in NYC, and Jazz Aspen Snowmass in Colorado. One of my proudest accomplishments was serving as Co-Director for three consecutive years for the Fusion Film Festival of NYU, celebrating women in film, TV, and new media.

Our Mind of a Mentor with Renee Millington covered the difficult topic of spousal abuse. We take a deeper look on how to recognize if you are in an unhealthy relationship with the steps on how to get out.

Recognize the signs — even the small ones.

Toxic relationships generally start off as a seemingly healthy bond between two people.  The whirlwind nature of getting to know someone is equally exciting  as it is deceptive. During the early stages it’s not unusual to grapple with how to reveal our true selves.

It’s a conscious and subconscious act of self preservation.

The subconscious mind slips early, showing us vague signs of what’s to come. We probably didn’t notice because it’s so far removed from behaviors we’ve come to know and love. Making excuses? Not there yet. This is the part where we shrug and shake it off. The stage where the signs are small and the love looms large. Where the mind starts to go, before the body.

Recognize the signs. They live in the smallest corners of our gut telling us this isn’t right.

“The thing with abusive relationships is that it slowly creeps up on you. It’s like a fish in warm water. They don’t realize that they are at boiling point until it’s too late.”
-Renee Millington

Recognize Abuse For What It is   




  1. use (something) to bad effect or for a bad purpose; misuse.
  2. treat (a person or an animal) with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly.

Abuse is abuse. No matter how you define it.  It may only be verbal, it may never turn physical but the effects are just the same. At this stage we see more of what’s becoming a regular behavioral pattern. Nasty words here, a light push there. All stemming from a common predicament.

Not being able to define abuse makes it extremely difficult to recognize abuse.

This goes back to missing the signs. We typically miss them because we don’t know what they actually are. We shift from recognition to rationalization, hoping that our fears are just in our head. What started off in our gut has worked it’s way into our mind.

Recognize abuse for what it is  — when it happens.

“Things like abuse, whether it be physical or emotional, the root of it is control.”
-Renee Millington

Listen To Your Friends

Now we’re in full rationalization mode — and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep things behind closed doors. As our friends begin to take notice, shame starts to settle in. What will they think? They won’t understand. We slip into hiding, trying to cover all tracks of our secret shame.

At this stage we are aware of the dangers, as are others, but remain wedged between rationalization and reality. Our heart has been officially compromised.

It’s important to listen to–and at the very least hear–the pleas of loved ones through your own confusion.

“Renee, we love you, but you need to think about the life that you’re leading right now.”
-Renee Millington

Create a Plan

Realization the most empowering moment. Nothing before this matters. Everything is focused around moving on from the negativity.

We’ve made up our minds — it’s time to go.

Here’s the stage where we are the most strategic. Slowly removing clothes to a safe location. Never tipping our hands to raise suspicion. Simultaneously we are receiving  help from professionals (lawyers, law enforcement, mental health experts) to help ease our transition into normalcy.  

Creating a safe plan of action is a major step towards liberation. We must be both confident and careful, which is not an easy task by any means. Despite the doubts, we are brave and more than capable of walking away.

We are back in control. Mind, body and spirit.

“It was a definitely a planning time for me. I had to make sure that not only was I protecting myself, because I couldn’t allude to the fact that I was leaving him.”
-Renee Millington

For more of how Renee escaped her toxic relationship, check our podcast Mind of a Mentor or listen below!

You can also listen to our podcast on your favorite app by clicking the icon below.

  • Share

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

Notify of