You can never really judge from first impressions. The kindest of souls could be heavily covered in tattoos and piercings, and the most malicious could be leaders at welfare groups.
Be it in romance or friendship, some of us tend to attract or be attracted to the ‘wrong’ people. Some, we’d avoid due to the bad vibes we get right from the start. Then, there are those who’d gradually become toxic even though they were angels at the beginning.
It could be an abusive lover or an obsessive friend, but unhealthy relationships will take its toll on anyone over time, sucking away our energy and killing us slowly from the inside.
For 5 Singapore millennials who have walked away from a toxic relationship, the emotional (and some, physical) scars will never really go away, but at least life’s much better now.
*All names have been changed for privacy reasons.
“He Yelled Right Up In My Face Like A Drill Sergeant”
He was a boyfriend from uni who had a big ego, a serious anger management issue, and very stubborn – it was either his way or the high way.
I was constantly walking on egg shells when I was with him and angry outbursts was a norm. From taking a fry from his plate to making a casual remark, the smallest things would set him off. It’d lead to him shouting and even throwing things at me. He’d yell at me like a drill sergeant up close in my face while I was backed into a corner, “if you didn’t make me angry I wouldn’t have shouted (or broken that, or thrown this).” And I would beg for his forgiveness.
He chipped glassware, broke my bedside table, and dented my door. He made me cry on my birthday because I glanced at his phone (which was lying around) when a message came in. I went to my birthday dinner with a splotchy face and eyes red and swollen.
I couldn’t cry in front of him either. I had to hide in the bathroom to cry because he would see me anywhere else in the house and make that a whole other issue.
Good days were good but bad days made me want to hurt him and myself. Everything was emotional and mental.
I had to graduate and move back to Singapore (away from him) before I could break up with him. I was scared of him doing anything to me or himself if I was still around. Even after, he’d spam call me at work, livid from the breakup and threatening to kill himself.
Moving on from the relationship, I realised my number one priority is me. It may sound selfish but I learnt to put my body and state of mind first. I learnt to say “no”, and that a guy who doesn’t respect you, who mistreats you, and who doesn’t see you as their equal, is a guy not worth spending a second with.
– Nellie, 24
“’WTF Is Your Problem?’ Was Her Reaction To The Littlest Things”
On the second year of our relationship, she no longer wanted to do the things we both used to enjoy together. She’d constantly come up with excuses not to do things with me. Whenever I suggested spending time together, she’d scold me for being needy, “don’t you have other people to bother?”
She’d get agitated very easily, threatening to end the relationship over the smallest disagreements. “If you’re not happy, then break up” became a common phrase in her vocabulary.
She would belittle me and make fun of my flaws and insecurities in front of my friends and even lecturers (we were schoolmates). It got to a point where people asked how I was able to deal with a person like her. They started to perceive me as a ‘weakling’ and that I wasn’t ‘the man in the relationship’, which really affected my self-confidence.
The relationship became an endless cycle of bickering. Whenever I tried to talk things out nicely, she’ll react with this exact phrase: “WTF is your problem”. Even the most innocuous of questions would set her off – I’d casually asked who she was going out with and she’d go, “WTF is your problem”. She’d assume that I had a problem with who she was going out with, which would escalate into a huge argument with her bringing up past arguments.
It was mentally and physically draining, but I held on. I believed in her and hoped that things would improve. I wasn’t one to just give up on things.
Nearing the end, I surprised her with a trip to Japan in hopes that it’ll salvage our relationship. I had even bought all the tickets and accommodation. But she got angry instead. She was pissed that I planned it without her knowledge because she said she didn’t really want to go overseas (even though we did have plans for a grad trip awhile back).
She left me for good a month ago. Despite being the saddest I’ve ever been, a little part of me is relieved that it’s over. I’m thankful that she ended the relationship, as it’s something I never had the courage to do.
If there’s one thing I learnt out of this, it’s that not everything I lose is a loss.
– Damien, 20
“He Was A Good Person To Gossip With, But Not A Friend”
I’ve been friends with S for almost 2 years and we were pretty close. S was a very gossipy kind of guy, so our clique and I saw him as another ‘girlfriend’. He’d always dig out negative stuff from people to gossip about, but he never saw the possibility of being a ‘toxic person’ himself.
I don’t usually share my personal problems with others when I’m sad, but I was facing a relationship problem this once and needed to talk to someone about it. After being a close friend to S for 2 years, I decided I could open up to him.
We met for over 5 hours where I shared my problems with him. He advised me to break up with my then boyfriend. I felt things weren’t that bad to just end a relationship over, so S suggested a timeout. I thought about it and agreed that a timeout could work, so that was what I did after.
My boyfriend pacified me a few days into our time out and we made up. But when I told S the good news, he was angry that I was on good terms with my boyfriend so quickly. S said that this whole thing was bullshit and that I totally wasted his time when I shared my problems with him. He asked me not to look for him anymore because I wasted his time.
I was shocked and upset as I had never shared my personal problems with him before. After I clarified that with him and assured him that I won’t ever look for him again, he just did a 360-turn and said that I could still look for him if I wanted.
The second incident happened when S told me we should meet up with a common friend, J, before J enlisted. I said okay. S said he would get back to me after he confirmed the meet-up with J. Time went by, S never got back, and I had forgotten about it.
On the day we were supposed to meet, S asked about what the plans were for that day. I felt bad that I forgot and had already made plans, so I asked S to relay my apology to J. S wanted me to apologise to J myself instead, so I did.
Turns out that S didn’t even tell J about the meetup. So I was behaving like an idiot apologising to J about a meetup that wasn’t even going to happen. When I confronted S about it, he said, “I knew you won’t have time for him one what.” He found it fun to see me acting like an idiot and laugh at me over it. It was almost like an elaborate prank he set up to make me embarrass myself because he enjoyed ‘the drama’ that came out of it.
– Jess, 21
“She HAD To Be Part Of All My Social Circles”
I have been very close to X since we were 15. She was my go-to friend for anything from hanging out to sharing personal problems, and is generally a fun and loyal person. However, there were always things that stopped me from seeing her as my best friend.
It started off mild with random anger outbursts or being triggered by littlest things during secondary school. But that part of her went away as we grew older.
Then, I started noticing that she’d always work towards ‘doing better’ than me. She had even picked up a particular interest I had – one she used to say she didn’t understand, couldn’t appreciate, and “just not (her) thing”. It seemed like she did it just so she could have ‘the same skill’ I had, or that she just wanted to be a part of that particular interest group. Meanwhile, I knew she still didn’t really like that interest even after picking it up (she told me).
She was very possessive and insecure. She had to know whoever I was friends with. And if I went out with our mutual friends without her, she’d get upset that we didn’t ask her along. She had to be part of all my social circles else she’d use her ‘best friend card’ and say that she’s left out. It wasn’t as if she didn’t have other friends either. She had plenty.
Once, she got so jealous when a guy she had a crush on started texting me, she stopped talking to me. I did eventually stop texting that guy after ghosting him, but when I tried texting her, she never replied. Just like that, we ‘stopped being friends’ for awhile. It was upsetting that she didn’t trust me enough to know that I would never get close to any guys romantically if it was her love interest.
When we started working together, she got jealous that I was closer to our other colleague than she was to him. She was upset that he texted me about non-work stuff but not her. Also, both the guy colleague and I were already attached, so we were merely chatting casually. She’d want to read my messages with him, I’d let her, and then she’d get even more jealous after.
While I’d thank her for being a large part of my growing up and forming a piece of who I am today, I’m glad I had the guts to properly ‘end a friendship’ with someone this possessive, insecure, and incredibly volatile.
– Barbara, 26
“I Lived In Constant Fear Of Being Hit And Burnt By Cigarette Butts”
He was my 2nd boyfriend and the one whom I gave my virginity to. The start was rainbow and butterflies but we started arguing a lot over stupid things 4 months in. Only then did I realise that this guy has a bad temper. He started abusing me verbally which soon became physical too.
The first time he laid hands on me was when we were arguing and I retorted at him. He walked back and slapped me across my face. He became extremely possessive, controlling what I wore and who I hung out with. We’d even fight over me saying “hi” to a male classmate.
He started hitting me more. He’d even push me against the wall and burn my hands with cigarette butts. Even then, I chose to stay with him. The peak of the abuse was when he met up with his ex just so they could call to mentally and emotionally torture me.
While I had so many chances to walk away, I chose to stay. I would walk into class with slap marks on my face and eyes bloodshot from crying. People asked why I chose to stay but it really wasn’t easy when any hint of a break up would turn into a war zone between us. Threats to contact my parents and friends just told me to shut up and stick by him.
It finally ended when I realised my grades were dropping drastically. I didn’t want my parents to find out about it and moreover, I didn’t want to live in constant fear that anything would result in a big slap or worse. Plus, I found out that he was also seeing another girl.
Given that I gave so much to him, ending the relationship hit me hard. I started partying, drinking, and going home drunk. This ratchet life went on for 1.5 years before I told myself to snap out of it and get a grip of life because there’s so much more to it than feeling sorry for myself.
This relationship really gave me trust issues. I became extremely guarded towards relationships and I could no longer love anyone 100%.
Even till this day, I still have a visible scar from what he had done to me. Instead of crying over it, I take it as a reminder that life will throw you shitty things but what matters is how you deal with it.
– Perlyn, 26
Tough Times Don’t Last, Tough People Do
No matter how toxic a relationship becomes, it can be very hard to walk away from people you were so close to. But when you do, you’ll walk away so much stronger and wiser a person.
You’ll learn to love yourself more because only then can you start loving another person.