There is a difference between the typical ups and downs in healthy relationships and the discomfort that turns to toxicity. These are extreme pain, not just a frustrating or hard part of a relationship. All relationships are a roller coaster, but unhealthy relationships take you to a very low place that isn’t part of a healthy lifestyle. Today I want to talk to you about toxic relationships and the red flags of toxic behavior.
What is a Toxic Relationship?
As I said above, it is imperative here to understand that a toxic relationship is not the same thing as a rough patch in an average relationship. You are going to face tough times in any relationship and you will hit low points. With a toxic relationship, those tough points are harmful and not able to be easily repaired. The classic characteristics of a toxic relationship include:
- Lack of support for one another
- One undermining the other
- Unhealthy or harmful competition in the relationship
- Regular shows of disrespect on either side
- Lack of cohesiveness
These characteristics lead to harm caused. If you are in a toxic relationship, you may notice feelings of:
- Constantly hurtful, unpleasant and draining
- More negative moments than positive ones
- Mentally, emotionally and possibly physically damaging
A healthy relationship should be a partnership. In a normal and healthy relationship, both partners should be working for the same end goal. While you may not always see eye-to-eye, you should both have an interest in what is best for each other and your family. A healthy relationship by contrast will:
- Make you feel secure
- Provide a source of happiness and pride
- Makes you feel cared for
- Shows you respect and causes a response of respect
- Gives freedom to be free to be yourself
Toxic relationships are not just possibilities in marriage or dating relationships. You could have a toxic relationship with family members, parents, in-laws, children, team members, coworkers, teachers and bosses.
Why do Some Relationships Become Toxic?
When there is a presence of hurtful or angry feelings, the closest relationships can take the brunt of the negative energies if you are not careful. If those feelings are not checked by you or your partner, then this can turn into a pattern, creating a toxic relationship. It might be driven by a bad history, abuse or a long-term history of unmet needs. It could be that one person is the problem and an abuser, or it could be that both people are approaching the relationship in an unhealthy way and adding to the negative dynamic.
More often than not, relationships take on a nature of their own and become toxic—and it doesn’t mean you are actually with a toxic person (or toxic yourself)! More than likely, both you and the other person struggling with the relationship are healthy, strong and intelligent people. It could simply be that you are both individuals seeking control or your personalities mesh. Let’s imagine a few examples of this:
- A person who is sarcastic could try to date someone in a relationship that has thin skin and a passive-aggressive way of dealing with hurt. Both people mean well, but over time resentment builds.
- A child grows up to want to control their own life, but the parent still feels the need to control and protect their adult child. During the teen years and beyond, this struggle for control caused the teen to act out and the parent to label them rebellious and in need of even more rule-setting due to “bad behavior.”
- Two friends really crave attention because they grew up in homes where they constantly had to prove themselves. The growing up experience led one to always demand that attention by directly expecting it, and made the second friend try to do anything with a mask about how things really made her feel. Over time, resentment built as the first felt her friend pull away from always making the effort or supplying the attention. The Second friend despised the first for taking advantage of her goodwill and efforts, so she started pulling away.
- Two siblings grow up in a home where the parent intervenes for every issue. One child tends to get the parent involved whenever they don’t feel heard, while the other one builds resentment for not being directly talked to. As adults, the first one gets angry when issues come up and the second one feels as if the parent always takes the other side.
See where I’m going with this? These are all people who mean well, but the relationship takes a turn for the worst. A toxic relationship does not always mean there is an abuser.
Can Toxic Relationships be Fixed?
There are relationships worth fighting for and there are relationships that need to be ended. If your partner, friend or family member is abusive, then you will need to approach this differently. But, if you are both doing your best, there are ways to work through a harmful relationship to build something stronger and healthier.
You might experience a lot of fighting in a toxic relationship as you near the watershed moment. Imagine a roof, as a torrent of rain hits the center of that roof peak, it will go down one side or the other. This split option takes you in two very different directions. If one person is becoming reserved or has emotionally moved on, then they may already be moving from a watershed moment toward the end of the relationship. You cannot fix a broken relationship if the other person has no interest in working towards a solution.
If your relationship is toxic, you will be damaged by staying in it the way it is. Sometimes you have to pull away from toxic relationships and move on. Always act with grace and love. Keep hope that the person will reach a point where a change can occur and the relationship can be mended in some ways. Even parents that break up and end a marriage can repair a toxic relationship to the point of being able to create a healthy dynamic for their children in co-parenting.
10 Signs of a Toxic Relationship
A truly toxic relationship can be defined by the consistency and intensity of the damage.
It can be really challenging to leave a toxic relationship. We often want these relationships to work out, especially if we are pleasers. Energy Type 3 can have a very difficult time with this because they see the potential in people around them and they just want to act in a way that fixes the issues at hand!
We’ve already talked a bit about how to see if you are in a toxic relationship. Here are 10 red flags that signify signs of a toxic relationship.
All Give, No Take
If someone is doing all of the emotional or physical work in the relationship, it can cause a lot of pain. All work, love and compromise comes from you, making this a lonely and exhausting journey. You don’t feel like it is ever enough, but you are enough and you have always been enough.
Feeling Unhappy All the Time
Happiness isn’t always an accurate way to assess the health of a relationship, but toxic relationships will make you feel sad or angry consistently. Even when you sleep on it, you wake still feeling negative. You feel the sting when watching other relationships take on a nature yours doesn’t seem to even have potential to become.
Lack of Trust
Trust is a big deal in any relationship. If you have to worry about supervising bills, looking for signs of cheating or sorting through the lies, then you can’t trust the other person because your trust is being broken. On the other side, if they are constantly checking receipts and treating you like a child that needs supervision, then the lack of trust could be demeaning—especially if the trust was never broken by you. There is room to build back trust, but it does have to take consistent and focused effort.
Anger and passive-aggressive attacks can lead to an environment that is in continual turmoil. Whether the hostility is a direct or indirect attack, it can be harmful and lead to indifference or shutting down.
When one of you has decided there is no point in saying what you really think, then this is a clear sign that the relationship isn’t healthy. You cannot have a healthy relationship without communication. But, sometimes efforts to work things out just keep leading to fighting, empty promises, accusations, gaslighting, insecurity, jealousy and anger.
You’re Always the One to Blame
Whenever there is a relationship problem, it’s all your fault, you’re the problem, and you’re the one that needs to change. This is toxic. The other person may be physically there without being mentally or emotionally willing to consider change. Whenever issues are brought up, they are deflected, excused or cause an offended response.
Boundaries Cause Anger
Sometimes you have to say no or choose to do something the other person isn’t going to want. A healthy relationship will have disagreements, but issues are handled with respect and an effort for understanding. A toxic relationship may mean that there is only peace when one person always says “yes” or bends to the expectations of the other person. If you can’t say or do something against those expectations without extreme anger, then that is not a healthy relationship.
It may not feel like you are a team and it is up to you alone to keep things together. When outside attempts are made to divide your relationship, you feel like you are the only one trying to battle for the relationship. The attacks feel one-sided and you take the brunt of any public put-downs without the other person sticking up for you.
Physical, Verbal, or Sexual Abuse
Without question, physical attacks should never occur in a relationship. There is no excuse for hitting, choking, sexually assaulting or hurting another person in any of these ways. Verbal and psychological abuse can be more subtle at times and harder to identify, but they are just as damaging. Do not excuse the pattern of physical abuse—get out immediately because an abusive relationship is not a normal or healthy behavior. For domestic violence, call 1-800-799-7233 and get support immediately.
Issues Aren’t Resolved
Nothing is getting worked through and the same issues keep cropping up. You might feel as if there is a rut that one or both keep falling back into—or you might feel like the issues aren’t even being honestly examined and all conflict end in just argument.
What if You are in a Toxic Relationship?
When you are in a toxic relationship, healing and change can be hard. What should you do if you find yourself in a toxic relationship with your partner, relative, parent, child or friend?
- First, determine the severity and how important the relationship is to you. Are you hoping for change despite seeing no indications? Are you being beaten down with emotional abuse and miserable, but afraid to let go?
- Second, create space physically and emotionally to provide clarity in the process.
- Next, identify patterns and triggers within the relationship. Pinpoint the problems on both sides. It is important to not excuse your own behavior or make it out as your fault if it isn’t. It is helpful to get outside help from a trusted friend, family member, support group or professional counselor. Join my Healing Center as a resource for support.
- Establish boundaries for what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t. You have the power!
- Above all else, find your self-worth. Know that you are strong, complete and vital. YOU’RE AMAZING!
Toxic relationships don’t make sense, so don’t spend time right now trying to excuse it. You try to blame history, yourself or a circumstance in an effort to make the negative direction of the relationship make sense, but this is an excuse. We all choose our responses. Nothing makes us choose a negative state of being or excuses toxic behavior.
A healthy relationship brings love, joy and growth. We are made for these healthy relationships and God shows us how to do this in his own attitude towards our fallen state. He loves us through our mistakes but does not excuse our negative behaviors.
We are designed to participate in relationships that are fulfilling and beneficial for all. Please join me at the Healing Center to participate in a Clearing Session for mending relationship issues. In my Clearing Session, you’ll release any beliefs that keep you and your partner from changing. Sign up now for your 14-DAY FREE TRIAL to try this clearing and discover many other resources I have available there!