Navigating relationships can be challenging at any age, but young women especially face a lot of difficulties. Societal pressures along with the romanticization of toxic behaviours within mainstream media influence our views on what love is truly like in the real world. Often, the media portrays toxic relationships with aspects of emotional abuse and manipulation as being the norm. In some cases, TV shows/movies have young women believe that these signs of manipulation and control from your partner means that they love you dearly. We love to root for the “bad boys/girls” in our favourite tv dramas and movies, but what consequences can this bring to real-life relationships? An important aspect of being in a relationship is recognizing your personal boundaries and ensuring your partner is being respectful and upholding these boundaries at all times. Your feelings are valid, your thoughts are valid, and you are valid. Gaslighting and emotional manipulation are less noticeable aspects of a toxic relationship, which can make them difficult to identify and escape. Gaslighting, a form of emotional/psychological abuse, often involves your partner making you question your own feelings, memories and thoughts. This involves them downplaying your own feelings about a situation and twisting it in a way that benefits their version of the story. This often goes hand in hand with them playing the victim and spinning your own story against you. No matter what someone else tells you, you are valid in feeling your emotions in whatever capacity they come in. Emotional abuse can also come in the form of isolation, which can start subtly from them telling you what activities you can and cannot do. This can then escalate into them controlling the friends and family you talk to. Having a close support system is extremely helpful when trying to navigate and leave a toxic relationship. Recognizing the reality of your relationship is crucial as it can be difficult to note and come to terms with the manipulative traits of your partner. Friends and family can help bring us back to reality and face the truth, as it can be hard to recognize if your only support system is your manipulator. Although forgiveness is a courageous trait to have, it is hard to heal in the same environment that broke you. Continuous forgiveness of toxic traits could potentially be harmful as it leads your partner to believe that the way they treat you is acceptable. It is not. Having the strength and courage to leave the relationship causing you pain can be difficult, but as cheesy as it sounds, time does heal all wounds. It sounds terrifying to leave a long term relationship that once brought you so much comfort, but you are deserving of a relationship that always brings you comfort and love. At the end of the day, identifying a toxic relationship can be difficult as many of us often cling to the ifs and buts. “If they change…” and “but they once were” can be dangerous statements as it is important to recognize your self worth and that you are deserving of being treated with respect and love all the time. Be mindful you are not viewing your relationship through rose-tinted glasses to ensure you receive the love and respect you deserve because you deserve the best.