Your well-being is influenced by the people you love most, especially those close to you. While we all will experience the joys and pains of loving and living with imperfect people, ultimately, our relationships should bring us joy and not cause us to feel frustrated.
Each human being on this planet deserves to have safe, fulfilling and prosperous relationships. Every human being on this planet has the responsibility to create those relationships. Let’s find out how to recognize the signs of a toxic partnership and start building healthy ones.
What is a Toxic Relationship?
Toxins are substances that can cause harm, illness, or death. A toxic relationship is a relationship that makes you feel unsupported, misunderstood, or demeaning; it makes you feel worse than good.
You can have toxic relationships in any setting, including the bedroom or the boardroom.
When your emotional, psychological, or physical well-being are threatened, a relationship can be toxic. It’s like serving someone at your expense, your needs, and your joy.
Sacrifice and service are essential parts of a healthy relationship. So are disagreements, forgiving, and discomfort. A healthy relationship can be mutually beneficial. It is a journey that leads to connection and love, despite the sacrifices and challenges. While most people think of toxic relationships only in terms of romance, the truth is that any relationship can become toxic; this includes relationships with family, siblings, and coworkers.
Abusive vs Toxic Relationships
Do not confuse toxic and abusive.
Abuse is a severe form of toxicity and should not be tolerated by any person for any reason.
You or someone you know may be trapped in an abusive relationship. Please reach out to the professionals, including the police, to seek help.
Signs of a Toxic Relationship
1. Insufficient support
Healthy relationships are built on mutual support and a desire to see each other succeed in all aspects of life. When things become toxic, any achievement can be viewed as a competition.
The time spent together is no longer positive; you don’t feel supported or encouraged.
2. Toxic Communication
Instead of mutual respect and kindness, your conversations are filled with sarcasm and criticism. They’re also fueled by contempt.
Are you guilty of making rude remarks to family or friends? To get away from the inevitable hostility and arguments, you may start to ignore their calls.
Among the most apparent forms of hostile communication are:
- Name-calling and other hurtful phrases
- Throwing and breaking items
- Use your body to intimidate or use force
Signs of hostile communication that are subtle include:
- The silent treatment
- Use of ‘you-statements,’ or blaming statements
- Continuously interrupting
- Instead of listening to your partner to understand, you listen to judge and condemn.
Hostile communication can lead to tension and further distrust among partners. Healthy relationships are built on trust, open communication and cooling down before things get heated.
3. Either jealousy or envy
It’s okay to feel a little jealous from time to time. However, it can be a problem if you allow your envy to keep you from seeing the positive side of your partner’s success.
The same applies to jealousy. It’s a natural human emotion. However, if it leads to suspicion and mistrust, it can rapidly erode your relationship.
4. Controlling behaviours
Your partner does not have the right or authority to control your beliefs and actions. A controlling behaviour to watch out for is the threat of losing something such as financial stability, time with children or companionship.
These threats can cause fear in many people. I believe this is why many people remain in unhappy relationships, even if they wish to end.
You can also see other signs that your behaviour is under control:
- Telling you what is right
- Always wants to know where and people you are with
- Wants to always manage your money
- Always wants to separate you from your loved ones.
- Access to your devices, email or phone is required.
5. Frequent lying
Over time, credibility is eroded by lies, no matter how small.
If a partner lies to your face, it is a sign they don’t value you as a mutual friend or an equal. Lying to your partner is a sign that you are not loyal to the relationship but yourself.
6. Take all they can, but don’t give
It can indicate toxicity if your relationship is centred on your partner’s happiness and neglects your needs.
It is vital to be considerate of your partner. However, if you find yourself repeatedly saying no to yourself to say yes to them, it might be time to set some boundaries. A toxic relationship could also include someone who bullies, dismisses, or belittles your boundaries.
These are signs of a one-sided relationship:
- Always being the first to text
- There are long gaps between the sending of a message to receiving it.
- Conversations that are too choppy
- You find yourself constantly asking your partner to change their behaviour.
- A significantly unequal division of labour, responsibility, and contribution to the household or relationship
7. You don’t feel secure.
I’m not referring to physical safety (although that would be valid). I am referring to a feeling of emotional security. Are you able to openly discuss your feelings and thoughts with the person? Does your voice matter? Do you feel like your voice is important?
Healthy relationships allow people to be both imperfect and responsible in a healthy way. You can share the good and the bad with each other and talk openly about the people who have hurt you. You can still be loved and fully seen.
Let’s be honest: Most likely, your in-laws won’t share your deepest feelings with you the same way that you would with a friend. Safety can vary depending on the relationship. It takes wisdom and discernment to see the differences between each relationship.
8. You feel abandoned and exploited.
People need nurturing, just like a garden. You are not in a healthy marriage if your partner does not honour your basic needs. It could be that you are being ignored or even exploited.
9. You feel like you’ve lost yourself.
Toxic people tend to manipulate, absorb and mould others to suit their agendas. Their interests and plans dominate the relationship. It is common to find yourself doing things you don’t like to do in order to please them; this could include violating your core values, going to places you are uncomfortable with, or spending time around people who trigger your anxiety alarms.
Remember that YOU have the power. Recognize these patterns, as well as set healthy boundaries. Your job is to say NO when necessary, be assertive, and live according to your values. Toxic people can become angry, resentful and frustrated when you set boundaries or live by your values.
It is sometimes difficult to see this on your own. If you see yourself disappearing into the lives of others, give your friends and trusted loved ones permission. People closest to us often see things we don’t.
10. The norm is judgment, not curiosity.
Each person has their own unique experiences that make life interesting and challenging. Curiousness, not judgment, is the lifeblood of a relationship. It’s okay if you love to wake up early, but your spouse prefers to sleep in. Instead of saying, “You should get up earlier!”, ask, “Why do your spouse like to sleep in so much?”
We all make mistakes, hurt others, step on their toes, or walk in their territory. It is important to have people who are willing to speak up; a healthy relationship requires that you are held accountable and challenged. A toxic person will not be compassionate but condemn you. They will use your past mistakes to their advantage.
11. You feel ashamed and belittled.
Do you feel inferior to this person? Are they a degrading person? Do they make you feel ashamed or stupid? These are signs of emotional insanity that can lead to a toxic relationship. People who are emotionally immature want to be able to hold onto the mistakes, failures, and flaws of their partner. They tend to create or re-invent bad things when they can’t find anything to point out.
12. You are playing a dysfunctional part.
A woman may marry a man who plays video games on the couch so that she can take on the mothering role. A child may take over caring for an addicted parent, believing that it is their responsibility to fix them.
A toxic relationship keeps you in a dysfunctional role because it’s not mutually supportive and life-giving.
13. When “no” is a dirty word.
In any relationship, ‘No’ should be a keyword. It is important to keep it in your vocabulary, especially in the name love. Healthy relationships require compromise but also need to respect each other’s needs and desires. Loving partners will understand that you may not agree with every decision or statement they make.
14. The scorecard. Let me tell you, you’re wrong.
Making mistakes is part of being human; this is one of the best things about being human. It’s how we learn and grow, as well as how we discover the people who do not deserve us. Even the most committed, loving partners can sometimes do stupid, hurtful things. If these things are repeated over and over it can slowly destroy even the most healthy relationship and make the guilty person smaller. Healthy relationships nurture your strengths. Toxic relationships focus on your flaws.
15. Abused verbally or physically. Or both.
These are deal-breakers. They are obvious.
16. Nothing is ever solved.
Each relationship has its problems. A toxic relationship will end in conflict and no solution. If it is impossible to trust the other person’s ability to resolve the issue safely and respectfully, which preserves the relationship, this can lead to needs resentment.
Is it possible to Fix a Toxic Relationship?
This is only possible if both partners are willing to try. It must be healthy and mutually beneficial for any relationship to be viable. It is a good idea to meet with a counsellor if possible.
A couple therapist or coach can help provide a safe space to discuss your issues and offer support.
It’s time for you to end the relationship if one of your partners refuses to cooperate in the relationship’s improvement, acts up (e.g., breaking relationships agreements, belittling), or is physically, emotionally, financially or sexually abusive.
Read More: How to Stop Being a People-Pleaser
Read More: What is Guilt Trip and how to live above it
What to do if you’re in an Abusive Relationship?
What do you do with all of this information? Can a toxic relationship be changed? These are some things to keep in mind as you move forward.
Get out from the head of the other person.
It is tempting to analyze and dissect the behaviour of others, particularly if they have hurt you; this is a waste of time and energy. Instead of figuring out the answers, focus on what you bring to the table.
Only two things can be controlled on this planet: Your thoughts and actions. Get out of their heads and spend more time in YOURS.
Recognize that behaviour can be viewed as a language.
Language is behaviour. If someone is constantly hurting or degrading you, they are saying everything you need to hear, even if they don’t use words. Let’s go over that again.
Draw a picture of the type of relationship you desire.
You may be so used to toxic relationships that you don’t know what healthy relationships look like. You can dream about how you would like to be treated. You can only have a healthy and supportive marriage if you are willing to wake up each day thinking: How can I make my partner’s life better?
Talk to a friend or counsellor.
This is not always something you can do on your own. Talk to someone you trust, who is kind, wise and can give you some perspective. Sometimes, you might need to visit a professional therapist.
Get new tools for relational communication.
You can learn relationship skills, just like any other skill in life. Skills like assertiveness and boundaries, self-forgiveness, confrontation, and vulnerability might be required. A meeting with a professional in mental health is the best way to learn these skills. However, many books, podcasts, and other resources can help you. As with all new tools, practice is key to making them more effective.
If you have to, leave.
It might be time to end an absolutely toxic relationship, especially if you are dating. Your problems won’t be solved by marriage or having another child; In fact, they will likely increase. It would help if you weren’t waiting for things to change or hoping they will. It’s time you stop living in the past and start moving on. Unhealthy relationships are not worth your time.
A toxic relationship leads to controlling behaviour, lack of trust, and lies often. Sometimes one partner is given priority over the other, rather than working together as a team. Although toxic relationships can sometimes be repaired, both partners need to be open to change and willingly work together on their relationship.
You should bring your whole self to a relationship. Trust your intuition to help you make the right decision for your long-term well-being, ask questions and be open minded.