By FINNLEY GOFF
“I think we need to break up.” I said, shrugging.
I was standing in my childhood home’s driveway talking to my then boyfriend. I’d planned to just walk him out, kiss him goodnight and then keep going with my life. Instead, he said something that crossed a line.
“I don’t like you hanging out with them,” he began, looking sheepishly off into the distance. “I just feel like they’re taking you away from me. I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks now.” he admitted, shyness dissolving into a more serious tone. He moved from leaning against his car to standing up straight. I didn’t say anything yet. “I think you need to stop being friends with the two of them.” he finally said.
This was the last straw in my relationship. There is a difference between a significant other showing concern over your friends, and asking outright for you to drop them.
Before this conversation, my now ex-boyfriend had been showing a few red flags of toxic monogamy—a phrase I didn’t know at the time of our break-up. He would avoid having conversations about my friends or hobbies. He just talked about how I needed to spend more and more time with him. It got to the point where he simply didn’t want me around any friends I seemed “too close” to, a condition he cited from my pansexuality. Since gender isn’t a big deal when it comes to whom I’m attracted to, he figured everyone I was close with could be “that one friend I’m going to cheat on him with.”
I discovered the phrase toxic monogamy in my early college years when trying to give advice to a friend about their own relationship. I had been looking into emotional abuse language and discovered this phrase accidentally. Toxic monogamy is a common belief, which entails that every single need that you have should be fully filled by your partner. While this isn’t inherently abusive, it can definitely become severe if permitted to go unchecked for too long. I’m a firm believer that any potential partner should be one of your best friends as well, but completely caring for another person is not the definition of a healthy equal partnership. It is natural to have other friends to hang out with and talk to.
If you don’t think you can trust your partner around other people, the last thing you should do is cut them off from the outside world. Instead, talk openly to them about why you’re uncomfortable. Really, people aren’t lying when they say that honest communication is the key to a healthy relationship.
It’s toxic to the other person to police their lives, and it’s a surefire way to create tension in your relationship. I’m sure you didn’t enjoy when a parent or older sibling may have started to interrogate you. This is the same thing, except it feels even worse coming from someone who is supposed to have the same power in a relationship.
Now, I’m not saying you have to ignore your partner and hide things from them. What I am saying is that your partner is not solely responsible for your happiness and for every single one of your needs. It’s impossible for a single person to completely care for another person without distancing each other from friends and family. You don’t need to give up everything for your partner, especially if you’re currently at a university. Your top responsibility is yourself, always, just as theirs is to their self.
So, how does one avoid their relationship going toxic? I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: honest, open communication is key. Take a breath and just talk to them. Once you break the ice, the conversation comes much easier and you’ll be thankful you brought up an issue that was bothering you. If your partner reacts negatively, calmly remind them that you’re both on the same side and that you want to fix any problems before they even come up. If they guilt trip you, let them speak, but tell them if you feel like they’re ignoring what you’re saying in order to shirk any potential “blame” or avoid the conversation.
In the end, if you can’t have an honest conversation with your partner, maybe it’s time to break up with them.