A soulful, sentimental, truly worthwhile relationship should make you feel rejuvenated, positive, refreshed, supported, and motivated- not depleted, damaged, unwanted, or unworthy! If spending time with a significant other or loved one leaves you regularly feeling any of the latter, you might be experiencing what is known as a “toxic” relationship! Toxic relationships can strike in any area of your life, not just in your love life. Often, unhealthy emotional interactions occur between lovers, but mothers, sons, daughters, fathers, sisters, brothers, in-laws, friends, acquaintances and coworkers can all bring toxicity to your life too.
“You’ll never be chosen for that promotion at work. Look at yourself! Get it together.”
“I know that you have a major test to take tomorrow morning, but c’mon, you know I’m more important than studying!”
“Why even bother buying that treadmill? We both know you’ll never get any use out of it, thunder thighs.”
Even if these specific examples of things that a toxic family member, friend, or partner might say don’t seem to fit your specific situation, please keep reading! The following list of questions demonstrates that there are a wide variety of types of toxic relationships. As you read through it, consider the individuals that you interact with on a daily basis. Make a note if, while you have one particular person in mind, you answer ‘yes’ multiple times or even just once!
- Is the relationship run by one person?
- Do you feel a responsibility to ‘complete’ the person, or a need for them to ‘complete’ you?
- Are codependent tendencies prevalent in the relationship?
- Do you feel as if you must live up to an impossible standard to be seen as ‘worthy’ by the other person?
- Are lies a regular part of the relationship?
- Is passive aggression more common in the relationship than level-headed communication?
- Does the relationship seem to be governed by emotional blackmail?
- Is the relationship constantly put on the back burner, causing you to feel unappreciated and undervalued?
Sometimes, individuals bring toxicity into relationships on accident. Perhaps they were raised around so much of it that they think their behaviors are normal. Maybe they are merely feeling stressed or insecure and are allowing those feelings to manifest in an unhealthy manner. Whatever the reasons, if a relationship makes you feel less-than-super, you essentially have two choices. You can simply walk away, or you can take the initiative to try to improve it. Be careful with the second option, though, because if a partner is being malicious or abusive on purpose, your physical and emotional well-being needs to take precedence over the relationship.
If you believe that your loved one truly is not aware of the toxicity that they bring to the relationship, or even that the relationship you share is unhealthy- your first line of defense is open and honest communication. In a non-confrontational manner, such as in a semi-private, neutral location, bring up your concerns and allow your loved one a chance to see your side of things. Then, ask for deeper insight into theirs. During the conversation, make sure to be patient. Your loved one may be overwhelmed, offended, or even angry- particularly if they did not realize the impact or incorrectness of their prior actions. They may be embarrassed and wonder why you did not approach them sooner about your concerns. Remain calm. Use “I” statements so that your loved one does not feel attacked. Avoid words like ‘always’ and ‘never’. Do not call your loved one names and do not allow him or her to call you names, either.
After the conversation, give things a little bit of time and see if they improve. If they do? Great! If they don’t? It may be time to walk away for good, even though it hurts.