Relationships are one of the essential elements of human life. However, relationships are not always a bed of roses. Sometimes, problems occur in every relationship, and if allowed to grow deeper, the relationship becomes potentially harmful to either one or both people. This can be the beginning of a toxic relationship.
Dr. Lillian Glass, a communication and psychology expert, defines a toxic relationship as “any relationship [between people who] don’t support each other, where there’s conflict, and one seeks to undermine the other, where there’s competition, where there are disrespect and a lack of cohesiveness.”
Toxic people attach themselves like cinder blocks tied to your ankles, and then invite you for a swim in their poisoned waters.
What is a Toxic Relationship?
Every relationship might have phases where there are problems. But an unhealthy relationship is one which becomes continually draining, dismal, and exhaustingly painful for the people in it. The relationship, be it a friendship, a romantic, familial or professional relationship or any other relationship becomes toxic when the negative aspects of the relationship outweigh the positive ones, usually for the victim of the toxic relationship.
Toxic relationships inevitably harm both the participants. When delving deeper into this topic, it is important to remember that human traits are largely a spectrum, and the toxicity of these traits may be subjective. Also, the toxic person in a relationship may not necessarily be a ‘bad’ person. The issues may be because of factors different and unique according to each relationship.
Signs of a Toxic Relationship
However, there may be a few general signs to look out for in a toxic relationship. Some of the red flags are as follows :
1. A Lack of Respect
What is a relationship without some arguments or disagreements? However, when there is little to no respect of the other person’s opinions, whether one agrees or disagrees with them, it becomes a red flag.
Lack of respect can come up in many small ways be it gaslighting, microaggression, passive aggression, or even fairly large ways like taking away agency from the other person, criticism or hateful speech, controlling behavior, imposing opinions, and in extreme cases, even abuse.
2. Relationship Becomes the Centre of Attention
When any particular relationship does not allow the participants to have any other kind of relationship or does not allow them to have their hobbies, and personal space, the victim truly suffers the brunt. Sure, every relationship is important. However, when one relationship becomes the center of all attention and energy, it signifies an unhealthy relationship.
3. The Relationship Becomes More and More Draining by the Day
Every relationship requires effort. But when this effort seems to be a task or a compulsion and leaves the participants feeling drained, exhausted, or sucked out of energy, it might be time to dive deeper. Suppose the relationship does not bring you any joy but leaves you with anxiety, second-guessing yourself every moment. In that case, you might want to introspect and see if the relationship is turning toxic.
These are some general signs and red flags you might want to look out for, and if ignored, these subtle signs may lead to larger behavior issues causing the relationship to become increasingly toxic and potentially harmful.
Causes of Toxic Relationships
Now that we know what are the primary signs of a toxic relationship, here are some causes of toxic relationships.
1. Issues of the Toxic Participant
In most cases, the person who becomes the cause of a toxic relationship has some issues which may have nothing to do with that particular relationship. This might include anything from being a victim of bad parenting to childhood traumas or even having an undiagnosed mental health condition. They may not intentionally cause harm to the other person, but these underlying issues might come up in the behaviors mentioned above.
2. Conditioning and Belief Systems
We are conditioned to believe different things depending on our socio-cultural surroundings. However, some conditioning about relationships may have occurred, can prove to be harmful and detrimental for the current relationships in that person’s life and can bring out toxic behaviors through the person.
3. The Relationship Might Just Not be The Right Match
Any relationship needs some sort of compatibility. If there is no common foundation holding the relationship together, it may just not be the right match for both people to be in that relationship. Issues like not growing with the other person, not being open to newer beliefs, or having totally different world views can prove to be a cause of toxic relationships.
Can Toxic Relationships be Fixed?
The problem with toxic relationships is that often, it is one person who becomes a little more harmful than the other, often unknowingly. So, whether or not an unhealthy relationship can be fixed depends on many factors. But the most important point to consider is that are both the participants willing to put in the work, address the issue and communicate to grow out of the toxic relationship? If this question is answered, it can be determined whether a toxic relationship is worth being worked on, or if it is better to let go of it for the good of both people.
1. Letting Go and Moving On
Moving on from a toxic relationship can be a difficult space to navigate. However, if all the efforts made from both ends are going vain, it is better to end the relationship, it is important for both the participants to move on healthily. Here are some tips which might be helpful.
2. Don’t Play the Blame Game
While you might have had a hard time through the relationship, it is important that you try and let go of blaming, shaming, or holding resentment towards the other person. This builds up a lot of emotional residues and therefore affects other areas of your life too. Instead, wish them healing, and move on peacefully.
3. Give Yourself Time
While you don’t want to indulge in the blame game, it is necessary to give yourself the time needed to heal. Remember that everyone may need different amounts of time to heal; therefore, don’t compare yourself to others. Before letting it go, you must allow yourself to feel the emotions coming up so that you can be aware of them and healthily deal with them.
4. Ask for Support
You might be already indulging in hobbies, or focusing on your lifestyle and healing from the relationship. However, if you feel alone and you are struggling; it is crucial to ask for support from friends, family, or even professionals. Moving out of a toxic relationship takes a toll on you and requires a lot of effort. Know that you are not alone in this phase and reach out for support. During such time right help from your family or friends can aid you the best to overcome your depression, loneliness. After all, this what friends or family are for!
With these tips and beneficial practices suited to your situation, you can move on from a toxic relationship easily. Understand that a toxic relationship can be caused due to many factors, and it may not necessarily be someone’s fault. If the relationship cannot be fixed after all attempts; we must remember that this may be due to many reasons, so it is best to move on in a healthy way.
Sometimes your heart needs more time to accept what your mind already knows.