5 Songs That Accurately Represent Toxic Relationships In Media:

Because abuse is not love and these songs demonstrate that.

Image by Felix Russell-Saw on Unsplash

With Valentine’s Day officially over and the new work week already in motion, I want to discuss something I feel is not talked about nearly enough: Toxic Relationships. They’re everywhere. Your friends, your family members, your colleagues have all experienced them. The media does a wonderful job of romanticizing abuse and toxicity in relationships, so it comes as no surprise that most women (and men) don’t recognize the relationships they’ve been in (or are still) actually harm them. We think that love needs to hurt to be real, but that’s simply not true. In this blog post, I am going to share five songs I feel represent the true nature of toxic love and how I interpret them.

1) Running With The Wolves by AURORA

Running With The Wolves by AURORA

Let’s talk about AURORA. If you haven’t heard of her before, AURORA is a Norwegian singer with an incredible voice and musical genius to match. Her music videos are visually appealing and her lyrics provoke deep thought and emotion. I came across AURORA by accident five years ago and have been a serious fan ever since. I chose the song Running With The Wolves by her as my first song because I feel the lyrics and the music video itself represent toxic relationships incredibly well. Admittedly, I’m not sure if this was the inspiration behind her song or not, but the song itself resonates with me and I hope it does you as well. In the song, AURORA sings the lyrics:

My heart still beats and my skin still feels

My lungs still breathe, my mind still fears

But we’re running out of time,

Oh, the echoes in my mind cry

This is my favorite part of the song because I feel it perfectly represents how toxic relationships feel to the survivor after they’ve left the relationship. There’s a sense of confusion when you break free from a toxic or abusive relationship. Your body is still working and moving and nothing is wrong in the physical sense, but you’re still left hurting and broken. Your mind is still in fear mode, your thoughts are all over the place. AURORA does a beautiful job of also representing this idea in the music video for Running With The Wolves by how she’s escaped harm, but her body is still tangled in the aftermath of it (the wires). She’s free, but she’s not. The hard part is over, but she’s still fighting an invisible battle. If anything, just go give this song a listen. It’s pure genius.

2) Patient by Palisades

Patient by Palisades

Were you expecting this song to appear in the number two spot? I’ve been a long time fan of the band Palisades, and this song is one of my favorites in particular. If you want to read the lyrics in full here, I encourage it as the entire song represents what if feels like to be in toxic relationship with someone you love. However, for the sake of this post I’m going to highlight two parts of the song in particular that I can still feel in my core when I hear this song and think of the abusive relationship I got out of. The first part comes in at the chorus, where the lyrics read:

And I’m a patient

I’ve been waiting for you

To ruin this day or to make it

You’re getting high off of playing God

Either stop my heart or replace it

These lyrics are incredibly power as someone who has been in a toxic relationship. When you’re with someone you think you love and are building your life with, who abuses that love and manipulates you, you end up becoming like a patient of theirs. You feel physically ill without them around, without their approval, without their “love.” You absolutely wait there for them and wonder if they’re in a good or bad mood. Will they ruin or make your day? Will it be more fighting or will they choose to love you? Then comes the lyrics about playing God. Abusers absolutely love the feeling of playing God over another individual. There’s something about the control and power they hold over their significant other that they feed off of. As the “victim,” however, you’re in a constant emotional state of pleading with them to either love you or end you (“Stop my heart or replace it” idea). The next lyrics I’ve highlighted continue illustrating this feeling come at the third verse where they sing:

Mark me up, cut down the line

Killing me keeps you satisfied

And if it’s really what you had in mind

Cut me up, cut me up

Since I’m already dead inside

If you’ve never been in a toxic relationship, let me explain these lyrics for you. While we don’t literally mean killing us, there is an element of this that is true for a majority of the women and men who find themselves in toxic and abusive relationships. The scare tactic and imminent threat of death is a common theme used to control and hold power over a lover from the abuser’s perspective. For me, these lyrics demonstrate the pure desperation a victim of abuse feels at a certain point in the relationship. You’re literally emotionally spent. You have nothing left inside you to give and you feel absolutely dead inside. It’s almost a cry to the abuser to just finally take you out already because you’re in so much emotional pain, you can’t take it anymore. You recognize the person you’re with is hurting you, but you love them. You just want the pain to stop, and you’ll do anything to achieve that goal. Patient by Palisades does an incredible job of illustrating being in the depths of a toxic relationship to a T, so if you’ve never experienced this kind of relationship before, give this song a listen.

3) Heart of Novocaine by Halestorm

Heart of Novocaine by Halestorm

Of course this song by Halestorm was going to make it into my list. I think Heart of Novocaine by Halestorm represents that feeling of numbness and toughness that survivors of toxic relationships experience once they’ve left the toxic or abusive relationship and have gotten over the immediate sadness and confusion they felt. There’s a sense of almost invincibility you feel as a survivor once you’ve recognized what kind of relationship you had and the trauma you went through. It’s not constant, but when it comes in a wave, it’s strong as hell. You feel like the person who hurt you can’t hurt you anymore, and there’s true power in that. The part of the song that stands out to me as representing this idea of “Screw you. I know now what you put me through and I can’t be broken like that again,” are represented in the third verse with the lyrics:

My fear has died, my tears have dried

I don’t feel afraid and I won’t run away

I believe in me and now I see

Right through your lies, hiding being your eyes

Because of you I’ll make it through

And nothing can hurt me like you did anymore

Getting to this point after leaving a toxic relationship takes time and is incredibly painful to get to. You have to truly sit there and recognize that what you went through was not okay, it was not love, and relive those painful memories to get to the other side of the heartbreak. Hitting this point, though, where you’re no longer in fear and you feel like you can stand up to your abuser and not run is powerful. There’s also the sense of a hardened interior that an abusive relationship gives you as a survivor, because you’ll do anything to avoid that level or mistrust and pain again, and this song does a beautiful job of arranging those feelings into a true Halestorm power ballad.

4) The Drug In Me Is Reimagined by Falling In Reverse

The Drug In Me Is Reimagined by Falling In Reverse

I want to start the introduction for why I chose this song with a disclaimer that I am fully aware there is an original version to this song called The Drug In Me Is You that debuted about a decade ago or so, and that I chose this recent release of the of the song for this post specifically. I also want to say that I am aware this song isn’t explicitly about a toxic relationship and its presence in this post is more of an abstract concept, but bare with me. I couldn’t possibly feel like this song is accurately placed in this list any more than I already do.

While the lyrics between the original and this re-imagined version have not changed, this particular version illustrates the pain and beauty of those lyrics in a clearer image. This song, like I mentioned, is versatile and, depending on the person, could be used to describe mental health struggles, drug addiction, abusive relationships, etc. The ambiguous nature of the lyrics allow for the listener to take the song and mold it to fit what they’ve experienced. This song can be used to describe the feeling of being in a toxic relationship where you know the person is not good for you and you have to let them go, but they’re literally like an addiction and you feel like you need them to survive… even if being with them is also killing you. The lyrics that stand out to me the most are in the chorus and are:

I’ve lost my god damn mind

It happens all the time

I can’t believe I’m actually

Meant to be here

Trying to consume

The drug in me is you

And I’m so high on misery

Can’t you see?

Let’s breakdown how I interpret these lyrics. When you’re in a toxic relationship, you feel crazy. There’s no other way to explain it. Your mind feels like its in another world and you just can’t get a hold of your thoughts, your emotions, anything. The person you’re with exaggerates this feeling for you by flipping between loving and abusive behaviors. You absolutely feel like you’ve lost your god damn mind. Next, you feel like you don’t belong in the place you’re in, and also like you don’t deserve to be anywhere else. You ache for the person’s affection and attention, because any attention is better than no attention when it comes from the person you think you love, and you’d do anything for that attention (the person and the environment they’ve created literally become a drug).

Now here is the line that I feel is the most descriptive of toxic relationships. “And I’m so high on misery. Can’t you see?” There is a high that comes with the misery of toxic relationships. It’s the idea of addiction to a person or the chaos that person creates. You want them to see they’re hurting you and quit the pain, but you also don’t know if you can truly function in a world without that pain and love mixed into one. After all, it’s the only dynamic you know between the person you love and yourself. Furthermore, the video for this version of the song is incredibly beautiful. I highly suggest listening to this song and watching the video if you haven’t yet. Regardless of what you relate it to in your personal life, Falling in Reverse did a beautiful job re-imagining The Drug In Me Is You.

5) You Don’t Know What It’s Like by Katelyn Tarver

You Don’t Know What It’s Like by Katelyn Tarver

I’ll be the first to admit this song is emotional and heartbreaking, but it’s a good song nonetheless. I feel like this song explains the emotional aftermath that you feel immediately following walking away from a toxic lover. There’s a period where you just want to be not okay, and everyone around you is trying to tell you things will get better and be positive… but they don’t understand what you’ve been through and you need that moment to just feel the pain, on your own terms, in your own way. This song does an incredible job of using lyrics to explain the feelings survivors of abusive relationships feel when they’re coming out of the relationship. My favorite part of the song comes in the second half of the chorus where Katelyn sings:

Let me just stop trying

Let me just stop fighting

I don’t want your good advice

Or reasons why I’m alright

You don’t know what it’s like

There’s a part of you when you finally come out of an abusive relationship and have started opening up to those around you about what you really went through where you’re not okay and you don’t care if people see that. That’s usually the point where people do everything they can to make you feel better and give you advice on how to achieve happiness instead of saying, “Hey, you’ve been through a lot and it’s okay to not be okay.” In these lyrics, she’s not saying she wants to give up physically. She’s saying she doesn’t want to try and smile and fight to prove she’s happy; that they keep telling her advice, but they still don’t know what it’s like to go through what she did and get to the point she’s at. She’s saying its okay for her to feel deep in her emotions. You Don’t Know What It’s Like is a perfect song for those just coming out of a toxic relationship. It’s okay to not be okay.

There you go. There are my top five songs that I feel represent the various stages of being in a toxic relationship. Are there any songs you feel represent toxic relationships that should be included in this list? Have an opinion about the songs I’ve chosen for this post? Add your suggestions or comments in the comment section below. Though the subject matter isn’t exactly the cheeriest, happy listening. I hope these songs have the same positive impact on you that they did I, regardless of what you can relate them to.

Written by Nikki J. Raine

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