A toxic relationship is characterized by toxic behaviors that lead to damage to their partner, these actions can be emotionally, physically, sexually, or even spiritually toxic or abusive. A healthy relationship leads to our self-esteem and provides life-giving energy. A healthy relationship consists of reciprocal respect, caring, compassion, kindness, encouragement and support physically, emotionally, sexually (if a romantic relationship) and spiritually. Whereas toxic relationships lack these components and exhaust our energy. A healthy relationship creates a partnership in which both parties wish to see the other person succeed and has a shared desire for each other’s happiness. A toxic relationship may seem more like a competition and prefer a shared misery over happiness. A healthy relationship is a safe-place to share our feelings, our dreams, and our failures. A toxic relationship exploits our feelings, laughs at our dreams, and rejoices in our failures.
A toxic relationship usually consists of a dominant partner and a codependent partner. It takes two dysfunctional people for a toxic relationship to continue. Unless you are an underage child, you have a choice in whether you remain in toxic relationships with people. Toxic relationships can occur in families, romantic relationships, business relationships and within our friend groups.
Identifying Toxic Relationships The first step in identifying toxic relationships is to be honest about your emotions and recognize how and why you feel the way you feel concerning the person you are in a relationship with. Think about the relationship in question, examine the emotions or feelings being evoked when you are with that person. If you need help to understand your emotions take a moment at read Understanding Your Emotions. After you understand how you are feeling when you are around this person, ask yourself these questions…
Are you physically safe in the presence of this person, or are you afraid of physical or sexual abuse? Can you share your feelings with this person openly and feel you are heard and your feelings are valued? If this is a romantic relationship can you express your sexual desires and/or needs? Does this person feel safe with you? Do you value their feelings and desires? Can you be yourself with this person or do you find yourself walking on eggshells around them? Do you allow them to be their selves? Manipulation & Control
Do you feel like this person is trying to control you? Do you feel manipulated around this person? Can you speak up for yourself when you are not in agreement with a plan that is taking place? Do you try to control them? Do you manipulate situations to get your way? Growth
Are they supportive of your growth? Do they support you bettering yourself (in any and every area of your life)? Or do they try to hold you back in fear of being left behind? Are you supportive of their growth? DO you celebrate their achievements? Support
Do you feel like they have your back? Do they show up for you, in real tangible ways? Is your relationship one sided? Do you show up for them? Are you always giving and never receiving? Are you always taking and never giving? Abuse
If there is any abuse present the relationship is most definitely toxic. Confrontation
Are you able to deal with disagreements in a healthy way? Do you feel able to address issues you are concerned about? Do you feel heard and like your feelings and issues are taken seriously? Are they defensive and make excuses unable to take personal responsibility? Do you listen when they bring issues up to you? Can you take responsibility when you have done something run and make adjustments in your behavior so it doesn’t continue?
What is their communication style; aggressive, passive aggressive, passive, or assertive? Do you feel heard by this person? Do you feel constantly misunderstood? Do you listen to them? Are you able to express your needs? Drama
Does drama continually surround this person? Does it continually surround you? Do they or you keep drama stirred up? Judgment & Fear
Are judgment and fear used to control and manipulate you? Do they or you use judgment and fear as the guiding force in their/your life?
Are your finances being abused? Do they continually need you to bail them out financially and unable to pay you back? Do they use your financial status as a way to guilt you into doing something for them? Do they hold their financial success over your head? Does your spouse or significant other withhold access to the finances or financial records? Do you abuse other peoples finances?
This is not an exhaustive list but rather a starting point to help you begin to examine your relationships. The most important tip I can give you is to listen to your gut. Don’t excuse way red flags, take them seriously.
Break Away From Toxic Relationships
Remember, the only person you can change is yourself. You cannot give ultimatums and demand change from anyone. When this occurs the person receiving the ultimatum might seem to change by modifying their behavior just enough to keep you in the relationship, but real change only occurs when the individual gets to the end of themselves and decides to do the work on their own.
Give yourself permission to either cut off toxic relationships entirely or establish a new way to interact with the toxic person. If the person is someone you will remain connected with because they are family, you share children, work together, or whatever the case might be the first step is to establish healthy boundaries. Give some serious thought to what you will tolerate and what you won’t from family members, colleagues, partners, and/or friends. Set the boundary and then communicate that boundary clearly. I am OK with this; I am not OK with that. Be kind, clear, and efficient with your communication. For example, you can call after 9:00 AM but before 5:00 PM and only one time per day explaining that you need to create order in your life and can’t continually be disrupted by ongoing drama. Maintain the boundary regardless of circumstances. Toxic people are really good at pulling you into their drama, using a crisis to blow through your boundaries and taking back previously conquered ground.
Own your part in the relationship's dysfunction through self-introspection. Then do the “soul-work” to grow your capacity to behave differently. Realize it is not your job to save them (or anybody) and self-sacrifice does not make you a hero.
Next, pick your battles, know what hill you are willing to die on and let the rest go. Don’t engage in every potential fight but stand up for the ones that are important to you.
Develop skills that you need to understand how to be in healthy relationships. There are millions of free resources online to help is this area, you can also work with someone like me that helps people navigate through life’s challenges, start therapy, join a support group, just do something to help you understand your part and learn ways to make better decisions when it comes to relationships.
Develop or lean on your support system. Be honest with trustworthy people about what is going on in your life and be open about ways they can help you.
Improve your self-esteem by engaging in activities that makes you feel good about yourself.
Peace and Love~ Stephanie