A Guide to Toxicity and Finding Empowerment Within

by Lovehoney

on 10 May 2022

From negging to lovebombing, what do these trending dating terms truly mean? And what are the red flags we should be watching out for?


Dating in our modern world is certainly not a simple task. From dodging red flags to spotting green ones, finding the perfect match can be tricky.

The past few years have seen the rise of not only awareness around toxic traits and behaviours, but also an increase in terminology being coined for different traits. But from negging to love bombing, what do these terms truly mean? And what are the red flags we should be watching out for when considering a potential partner?

To answer this, we have partnered with a variety of sex and relationship experts to collate a number of commonly used terms in the dating world, to define exactly what they are, as well as touch on how empowering it can truly be to leave a toxic relationship and on the importance of finding love in yourself as well as in a partner.

Toxicity on our TV’s

Although we are taught to recognise and avoid those who display toxic traits, toxic relationships shown on screen can often be idolised or romanticised. Whether that be Chuck and Blair from Gossip Girl, or Ross and Rachel from Friends, these couples and their storylines make up some of our most loved episodes.

Dating and relationship expert Callisto Adams explains our love for toxic TV/movie relationships and characters, saying: “Essentially, it’s a combination of something relatable as a part of our reality, combined with our fantasies of what could go right. This creates a mixture of what happened to us and what we wished to have happened instead.

“The toxic traits minus the long-term consequences, plus the romanticising and the charm of the character make a deadly combination to which many people can’t help but find themselves highly attracted to.”

Toxic terminology explained by an expert

Whether it's negging, cookie jarring or love bombing it can seem like there is a completely different language for modern-day dating. We have partnered with relationship expert, Callisto Adams to provide an explanation of each term to ensure you know what to watch our for when it comes to toxic behaviour.

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Empowerment after a toxic relationship

We all know that being in a toxic relationship can be incredibly damaging to our mental wellbeing, but the time you take to heal afterwards can also be really empowering for many of us. With this in mind, we spoke to Katie Edwards about her experience after removing herself from a toxic relationship, and how she healed:

“When I left my toxic partner after experiencing being gaslighted, I spent around a year and a half being single, and I took every opportunity possible to practise self-care. I’d take myself for coffee, I’d treat myself to items I wanted, I’d spend time by myself healing; I simply put myself first. When the time came where I felt like I was ready to date again, I not only knew exactly what I wanted in a boyfriend but I also knew exactly what I deserved.

“While the relationship itself was beyond awful, if I hadn’t gone through that I don’t think that I would be in the place I am today. I’m now confident in cutting off relationships that don’t fit quite right, and I know that I’m not willing to settle for anything less than what I deserve. I'm no longer willing to compromise myself for the sake of a relationship.”

Finding pleasure without a partner

Finding pleasure without a partner is a really important part of self-care. Knowing your body and how to please yourself is essential, and it will also have a knock-on effect to how a relationship will be with any future partner.

In addition to feeling more in touch with your body, there are a lot of other benefits to be had from sexual pleasure, such as relieving stress and improving your self-esteem. Not only is sexual pleasure important in a romantic relationship, it’s also crucial when you’re alone.

Sex expert Ness Cooper has shared her top four tips on how you can find pleasure without a partner:

1. Take your time and don’t rush things

Incorporate foreplay in the form of lubrication and massage; this will allow you to let yourself relax into the stages of pleasure.

2. Penetration isn’t the only method of masturbation

Sometimes individuals can leave a toxic relationship and the form of sex they have gotten used to isn’t the type they currently need. Taking a moment to explore other erogenous zones and new ways of sexual pleasure is important.

3. Start adding in sexual aftercare after masturbation

Even when we play solo, aftercare can help us process feelings and physical sensations. It can also help ground you and help you feel ready to get back to day-to-day life afterward.

4. Invest in sex toys

Investing in some new sex toys can help you experience new sensations. Whether that be a clitoral vibrator or a male masturbation toy, sex toys can offer a much more intense experience.

Ness Cooper is a sex expert at The Sex Consultant. Callisto Adams is a dating and relationship expert.


Written by Lovehoney. For collaborative posts between Lovehoney team members and guest authors
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Originally published on 10 May 2022. Updated on 10 May 2022