Is it me or is she/he/ or are they Toxic?
14 ways to tell if a relationship is toxic.
According the great writer Leo Tolstoy “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Our sources say, ‘Not true Tolstoy’, of course when psychologists and social scientists put their noses in the matter we can quantify and define exactly what happens in relationships that allows them to crest over the threshold of basic mediocrity, to the troubled zone of high conflict, into the slimy territory of out right, toxicity. A healthy marriage, friendship, or relationship is supportive, stable, and enriching. Use our relationship wellness checklist to learn more! A relationship that makes us feel bad sometimes isn’t enough to reach the criteria of toxic, it literally must ooze with the stuff, consistently embodying certain patterns of relating. Unfortunately, there are some people due to their own emotional traumas or psychological profile that do have a proverbial sign on their back for attracting toxic people as they really are more easily victimized by a toxic persons strategies. This article is for you, the people that dig in and remain a part of the toxic dance which twirls them way past their comfort zone, for the quick to forgive, and the long winded in making excuses for their beloved others. Let us look at what the cherished whispers of your intuition might be trying to convey to you as you wonder if its you, or is it them?
There is a lot of research on the effects of the invalidating environment, if you wonder what that means. Think about this, when you try to share your feelings or thoughts with this person, do they become defensive and tell you that you’re completely wrong? Do you have to continually work to get them to see your side of things or do they never see your perspective at all? While two people in a healthy relationship will sometimes not see things the same way, that is different from trying to convince a person that their perception is inaccurate and the only way to see things is theirs. One of the things that many couple’s therapists coach couples on is that, “there are two valid perspectives in the room.” People in healthy relationships set out understand each other’s feelings, that means that your partner tries to see your side even when you’re in the throes of a disagreement.
Are you walking around like a stick in the mud feeling like you’re always regretting something in the relationship? Maybe you’re being victimized by endless attempts at guilt. Try to tell them that you can’t make it to the holiday dinner this year and she says, “Well shows how much you care about this family!” We need to have the freedom to pursue what is right for us and the encouragement to express it without buttressing up against endless guilt trips.
Uses Manipulation or Gaslighting
Do you try to talk to a partner about feeling hurt or anxious over their drooling at the handsome guy at the cocktail party last night and they call you clingy and crazy? Does your loved one say things to you that are outright not true and sometimes you end up wondering if you are going crazy because their perception is so entirely different from yours? Does your friend or partner outright lie when you catch them doing something inappropriate? It is common for Narcissists and Sociopaths to use Gaslighting. Gaslighting is defined as purposely telling someone things that are totally untrue, this is even more sinister than lying, it is a form of brainwashing. It is intended to throw off your intuition and make you doubt your reality and the validity of your feelings. The sad truth is that those who are most vulnerable to gaslighting are those people who value others feedback more than they trust their own intuition, those who have grown up on high doses of manipulation, and especially the ‘people pleaser’ dependent personality type.
Are you always putting in work for the relationship and the other person simply isn’t? Whether friend, relative, or partner, healthy relationships are mutual, meaning both people put in the work to make each other a priority. If you have talked about this with them before or maybe are too afraid to talk about it because your intuition fears what you might learn, a good test is to stop putting in the effort and see what happens, do they reach out at all?
Minimizes your needs
‘They might be toxic if.’ Do you have to work really hard to make yourself understood? Have you stopped trying out of hopelessness? Tell your friend that you have a lot going on and need to make it home right after your dinner out and they say, “You can stay out for a while longer, you will be fine.’
Feel afraid to talk to the person
If any or all of the above has been happening for a while now, you may become consciously or unconsciously afraid to talk with this person. Maybe you start to turn toward others to talk out your thoughts. Perhaps you shut down and repress your authentic self completely because you fear that nothing will happen or that you will upset them if you try to talk about anything that they may not want.
Hold the relationship hostage
Does your partner or friend threaten to break up, leave, never talk to you again as though it is a script in their relationship? Sometimes this is a symptom of a person who doesn’t know how to manage their emotions well or is poor at resolving conflict. Other times, this is a big fat red flag marking the territory of a toxic relationship. Healthy connection is grounded in trust and commitment that you will be there for each other even when times get hard. Of course, at other times there is a breaking point when it becomes so hard for so long that one of the people in the relationship wants out, ending a relationship is not toxic, that is just done.
Uses the silent treatment
When something happens that is upsetting to them, they refuse to communicate for days, weeks, or even months? A person who uses the silent treatment is often trying to gain control over the situation or even more insidiously, they may be trying to hurt you by shutting you out. The antidote for the silent treatment is to develop a self-soothing strategy that creates enough calm so that life’s invariable relationship challenges can be overcome.
Makes you feel that you’re never enough
You will know when you experience it, if you tell them that you got an A or promotion, they say get the “A plus next time” or “bet the promotion wont last long”. We must champion each other in relationships and encourage each others success and find pathways to overcome problems, that is one of the reasons people enter relationships, to give and receive support.
When you have any relationship that’s more than a flip in the sheets or handshake, you’re going to mess up. Healthy people apologize when that happens and it takes a strong person to offer an apology when they are wrong. Toxic people will criticize, blame shift, deny and become defensive if you attempt to extract an apology from them.
When the apology happens, loving people do their best to forgive. Forgiving can be hard, depending on what happened you might now be able to forgive, for instance if there was an infidelity in the relationship or some other betrayal, you may forgive or you may find the need to end the relationship. The choice is always yours, however, if you decide to remain in the relationship then you also are committing to forgive and not use the mistake as a launching point for endless criticism, guilting, and shaming. At other times, if the same apology has been happening for a long time, it can become meaningless and you may start to realize that the perpetual issue is a deal breaker, in that instance, working toward honoring your boundaries should be the goal.
Uses name calling or makes you feel diminished
While we do end up feeling irritated with our partners behavior sometimes, healthy interactions focus on the behavior not the person. It is the difference between saying that you notice someone’s bedroom is messy and calling them a slob. Name calling can be outright abusive and is a sigh of a toxic person.
Goes into rages or uses anger to control
Does this person have a quick temper and use it to wield their power, saying and doing things that leave a lasting scar. Of course if we are talking about physical abuse or safety concerns, that is more than a sign of someone who is toxic, that is violence. Same with pushing, chocking, pinching, blocking someone’s exit to safety, breaking their items to name a few. Having a temper is never an excuse to make someone feel unsafe or do any of the things above.
Zaps your energy
Do you leave their company and feel depleted and out of energy? Is this the friend that always monopolizes the conversation, do you know so much about them but they know not so much about you because they barely ask? Or, does this person have more heads than the fabled medusa, constantly talking poorly about other people especially talking critically about others who they are supposed to be their friends or former partners? Do they constantly play the victim and come to you for rescuing? Chances are they are toxic!
The take home point is that toxicity is among us, others take on these characteristics out of necessity in their lives and they fail to integrate healthier strategies for relating to others. If we want a healthy relationship, we wont find it by accepting the above behaviors and dismissing our fears and intuition. Toxic behavior doesn’t change on its own, it does require professional intervention to support relationship health.
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