Healthy vs Toxic Relationships 300x169 - Healthy Relationships vs Toxic Relationships

With a few exceptions, we want to be emotionally and physically close to each other.  All relationships take hard work and go through rough patches.

Time and energy has been invested into a relationship and you do want it to work out, regardless of how bad things have become.

Let us talk about healthy relationships, abusive relationships and toxic relationships.

What are Healthy Relationship Characteristics?

“Both you and your partner are supportive of each other, which is really important for a healthy relationship. You aren’t spending too much time together and you both lead your own lives, which are good indicators. You listen to each other and focus on each other’s needs, which makes you a good match for each other.”

The above excerpt provides the results of a typical quiz found online for determining whether you are in a romantic relationship that is healthy or toxic. In this case, the outcome indicated that this particular relationship was considered “healthy”.

So what are the characteristics of a healthy relationship?

A healthy relationship can foster personal growth. People are encouraged to grow and move beyond limitations. Persons discover parts of themselves that previously were unknown or untapped.  In a healthy relationship, change is managed.

Emotionally healthy people take responsibility. They can recognize when they’ve done something wrong and are accountable for their actions.

In a healthy relationship, you should feel:

A relationship cannot survive if it remains stagnant. It takes work to keep it going. In order to have a healthy relationship, both people must be able to admit when they are wrong. No one person is all good or all bad. Therefore, no one person is fully to blame in an argument.

Healthy arguments are inevitable in relationships. Even generally happy couples argue.  When done right, arguments can bring persons closer in resolving an issue, allowing them to become stronger and grow more resilient.  Constructive criticism comes from a place of care and compassion and a sincere desire to want to help the other person become better.

But there is a difference between saying something constructively and saying something cruel out of spite.

All relationships will go through tough times, but healthy relationships recover.

A toxic relationship is unhealthy. In a toxic relationship, there is a high level of resentment that manifests itself in fighting dirty.  The toxic person fights to win, using every fight as an opportunity to tear his/her partner down and make the other feel as bad as possible.

In the real world, people have bad habits, attitudes, and problems that prevent a relationship from fully developing into what it can be. In reality, there may be warning signs of a relationship that may be about to become toxic, if it isn’t so already. This is not exclusively a women’s issue. Both genders and all sexual orientations are subject to this phenomenon.

A bad relationship isn’t about being on the downward slide of the usual relationship ups and downs. It is one that consistently steals your joy. You may not fully notice the change, probably because you don’t want to admit it, but the people closest to you may take notice.

So let us start with the meaning/definition of the term “toxic relationship”.

What is a Toxic Relationship? – Toxic Relationship Meaning and Definition

A toxic relationship is one that drains your energy, both emotional and physical. It is characterized by constant negativity, criticism, and co-dependence.

Toxic relationships may lead to social and emotional isolation. Also, there can be emotional and physical harm inflicted. There can also be anxiety, depression, physical illness, or even suicidal thoughts and actions that occur.

This set of articles is going to focus on mainly romantic relationships. However, it should be noted that a relationship does not need to be romantic for it to be “toxic”. These relationships can be with anyone: your parents, siblings, boss, work colleagues or friends.

What are Some Traits of Toxic People?

Toxic people often fail to recognize their own detrimental behavior.

Toxic people are unable to manage conflict effectively. A toxic person becomes angry or emotional easily. A toxic person may simply ignore you when he/she is angry or upset, or can even physically neglect, give the silent treatment, or leave without saying a word.

In a toxic relationship, you may be ridiculed or insulted for certain behaviors. While no one is perfect in a relationship, a toxic person may treat you with undeserved contempt, which is a highly destructive form of criticism.

Toxic people may be unable to take responsibility for their own actions and feelings. Instead, you are made responsible for another person’s behavior and feelings. If you confront a toxic person about his/her behavior, he/she may become defensive and make excuses.

Toxic people make you feel guilty, even when he/she can’t give you what you want. He/she may demand that everything run on his/her schedule. If you have particular needs that are unmet, you may be described as “unrealistic”, “needy” or some similar description, and this is deemed to have nothing to do with him/her.

What are the Warning Signs of a Toxic Relationship?

Toxic relationships usually creep in and take hold without warning. The reason they can be so hard to spot is that most toxic relationships do not start out this way.

As with most relationships, what is currently a toxic relationship may have started out great for both persons. You were both excited about the possibilities. The chemistry was strong and you talked/spent time together for hours. Things may have then started to change gradually.

You try to rationalize it. You try to hold on to the way things were at the start.

In time, you may not even recognize yourself. Once you were a happy, confident, stable person. Now, you are insecure, miserable and highly emotional. You may find yourself dreading getting together with this person. Are you always nervous in this person’s presence? Do you enjoy spending time with this person?

You feel woeful in your relationship but you stay, thinking you’ll be even more depressed outside of the relationship.

It may be uncomfortable for you  saying how you feel and being able to speak your mind without fear of rejection.  You might even be afraid of saying what you think because you know it will make him/her yell at you or blame you for everything that goes wrong in your relationship. You are desperate to please him/her with what you say and do.

Your partner may ignore your requests or make decisions for you. Toxic relationships can make you feel bad about yourself. You may feel like your partner has a mentality of “it’s my way or the highway”.

You may feel isolated in a toxic romantic relationship with this loss of control. Your partner may insist you only spend time with him/her, effectively keeping you from forming relationships with others or spending time with your family.

Isolation can also result in detaching yourself from significant activities in your life. The fear of being alone is at the core of why you feel like you will be broken if you do not keep his love.

In a toxic relationship, good times can become increasingly difficult to enjoy. Every day may present challenges to you, and you are fearful of an emotional outburst/argument.

What are the Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship?

Are you terrified of losing him/her? Does he/she continually threaten to break up with you? Do you feel like you are at his/her mercy?

Toxic relationships may become psychologically, emotionally, physically, or even sexually abusive.

Sometimes it can be difficult to spot abuse when you are in the midst of it.  He/she abuses you and it has become a normal part of your life; rather than view him/her for who he/she is, you view an ideal form of him/her.

This kind of mentality leads you down a dark path because you spend both your time and energy trying to determine how to keep the love of someone who continues to hurt you.

If you suspect that you are being abused emotionally, verbally, or in other ways, then talk to someone about it and get help.

Especially if you have kids, you owe it to them to show them what a loving and caring relationship can be. Your children are going to follow your example. If they see you staying with someone who constantly says he/she is worthless or strikes him/her, your kids may fall into the same trap when they get older.

You need to bear in mind that if your partner is willing to strike or emotionally hurt you, it’s likely only a matter of time before they start doing the same thing to your children. Your partner may not think you have the courage to stand up to them or to end the relationship.

One of the best things that you can do is arm yourself with knowledge so you will be able to extricate yourself from unhealthy situations.

How to Deal with Toxic People?

Assert yourself.

Be honest with yourself. Do you actually like this person? Do you actually like spending time with this person? Is this person making you feel drained ?

It is important to make your voice heard. In the moment, assert yourself to avoid being pushed around. When a bad behavior arises, tell the person exactly how you feel.

That is…state how you feel, what is the behavior that has led to that feeling, and why you feel the way that you do.

You can confront the person directly. Choose your words carefully; you can be assertive without being aggressive.

Seek a therapist for help.

If you are in a toxic relationship, then you may face some challenging situations as you work to get out of the relationship.

A therapist can help you to navigate these challenges. Choose a therapist in your area who has experience helping people with similar types of relationships.

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Why you Need to let go of a Toxic Relationship?

Being alone and being lonely do not mean the same thing. Staying in bad company can actually be more hurtful and harder to bear than being by yourself.  There is no reason for you to put up with it.

If he/she refuses to change or to meet you in the middle, then there may be nothing that can be done to salvage this situation. You may need to move on.

If he/she wants to be miserable, that’s his/her choice. You deserve to be happy, and this may mean removing him/her from your life.

Here are 2 reasons why you need to let go of a toxic relationship:

Unleash personal growth.

A toxic relationship is extremely one-sided, i.e. it is weighed more heavily on one person than it does the other. This imbalance may leave you feeling that you have low worth and there is little hope for help. Personal growth is prevented if you believe that your opinion and feelings do not matter.

A healthy relationship encourages dialogue on both sides. Anyone who tells you that you differently is not being honest with you.

You are your own person, with your own unique value to offer the world. Walking away shows courage and determination to stand on your own.

Create room for a healthy relationship.

You should never feel imprisoned in a relationship of any kind where your peace of mind, emotional and physical health, safety, and security are, or could become, compromised.

Toxic relationships can have devastating consequences. The price gets higher the longer you remain in the situation. Be honest with yourself. If the relationship feels bad, then it’s bad for you.

Toxic relationships, by their very nature, push aside other relationships, such as with friends, family, and even co-workers. By being willing to let go of a toxic relationship, you are opening yourself for pursuing a healthy relationship with someone who cares for you and loves you for who you are.

If what you have read so far has hit close to home, and you feel like some of the comments are a reflection of what you are currently dealing with, then you may be in a toxic relationship.

Admitting it is a suitable first step. Next, you need to decide if it can be salvaged or if too much damage has been done and you need to just escape.

Can a toxic romantic relationship be repaired? Yes, it is possible but it most likely would not happen overnight. And above all, repair of a toxic romantic relationship takes commitment from both people.

Only you can decide whether to stay or go, but be mindful of your reasons.

What Tips are there for Ending a Toxic Relationship?

In a toxic relationship, you cannot be yourself. There is little sense of calm or ease. You can’t speak freely. Instead, you feel like you need to think twice before you speak and certain topics are strictly off limits. You tiptoe around him/her like you are moving through a minefield. Any wrong move, and there could be one or more explosions.

One day you may realize that you don’t recognize yourself anymore. You feel drained, insecure, anxious, and miserable. You look in the mirror and you wonder who is the person looking back at you. What happened to the energy and passion that you once had?

Sometimes the reasons are clear – emotional starvation, emotional and physical abuse, constant criticism, lying, and cheating. Sometimes there is nothing obvious. The relationship exists but it doesn’t nurture and thrive.

Whatever the indicators, there are important needs that may stay unmet for one or both people in the relationship.

When is it time to call it quits?  

Breakups are not easy, both for the person ending it and for the person on the receiving end. Sometimes there are circumstances that make leaving difficult. Sometimes though, there’s nothing in your way except you.

You have to fight for what you love and the things that you believe in. Fight for you the way you would fight for anyone you love.

Do what you have to in order to find happiness. Have the courage to let go of those who keep weighing you down.

Be sure to use your social support system (family and friends) and surround yourself with those who love and respect you.  Set goals and accomplish them.  Do activities that leave you feeling fulfilled. And invest in yourself.

Notice what you do to shift your focus away from your reality. How do you look past the abuse, grief, harm, insecurity, jealousy, loneliness in the relationship so that it is considered easier to stay?

When leaving feels just bad as remaining.  

A normal part of life is that couples say and do things to eachother that they eventually regret. The problem comes with having to repeatedly live in the past or the future just so that the present can be tolerated.

The connection between the mind and the body is a powerful one. Keep a record of how you feel in the relationship, both on the good days and the bad. For example, on the days that are bad, there may be headaches, anxiety and nausea experienced.

It’s easy to forget how long you’ve been living in this state, hoping that things would turn around one day.

Let your decisions be driven by accurate and actual information. Accept your relationship, your partner and what they mean to you. This will increase your clarity and expand your courage, strength and capacity to decide whether this relationship is the best option for you.


What are the Ways to Recover from a Toxic Relationship?

The end of a toxic relationship can almost feel like a really bad hangover. You can be devastated and broken. You wonder what happened and where did it all go wrong.

While there may be experiences that are extreme, many people have a tough time healing from toxic relationships. You are not alone and many of the things you are feeling are quite normal.

When you have ended it, allow yourself to grieve. But do not let resentment, second thoughts or anger freely roam in your mind.

While the advice below does not replace a session with a qualified therapist, it may prove helpful if you are going through a particular rough time. Eventually, you may have to seek a qualified therapist to help you sort through the issues.

Acknowledge what has happened.  

Often times you tell yourself or are told by well-meaning friends and loved ones that the best thing you can do is forget your experience and move on. But this may not be the best advice to you at this time.

You may be shocked by the conflicting emotions that you feel. Even though your logical mind knows that this person was wrong for you and it is good that he/she is out of your life, you may still be in love with the person and want him/her back.

You may miss him/her immensely, while at the same time, you may hate him/her. This cognitive dissonance could delay your healing process.

Once you acknowledge your feelings, along with both the good and bad aspects of the relationship, you may find it much easier to move forward.

You may also discover that recovery does not happen along a linear path.

There is no right or wrong way to travel on this path. There may be detours and setbacks, but keep your goals and objectives clear and be consistent and persistent in the actions necessary to reach these goals and achieve the objectives. You will ultimately reach your destination.

Surround yourself with positive social support. 

Hang out with people who build you up and who make you feel energized and good about yourself.

If you’ve just ended a toxic relationship, focusing on hobbies may help in reducing the afterthoughts of the relationship.

Do things that you enjoy. If you love movies, make a point of streaming/downloading a movie or visiting the cinema very frequently.

Closure means different things to different people. For some, closure can only occur if they have the opportunity to confront the toxic person. For others, closure may mean they no longer have a negative emotional reaction when they think of the past relationship.

So let’s wrap it all up…

Ending Remarks

Think about your overall spiritual and mental well-being and the negative impacts from a toxic relationship. You can’t reach your potential when you are living for another person and allowing him/her to set your value as a human being.

You might decide to put off making a decision, and to give it some time. Staying in the relationship is making a decision. What does this decision means to you?  Being indecisive in the short term may keep you from moving forward in the long term.

Is there anything you can do to put the relationship back on track? You need to have courage  to open up to what might be needed to be done differently, and you have to decide to move ahead in a new direction.

Be honest. What do you want from this relationship? How different is what you want from what you have? And how long has it been this way? If you are loved, does it feels like love. Despite the circumstances, a loving relationship should allow for respect, security and safety, and it should still feel loving.

Recognize what you need and do what you can to meet those needs. You will have to put yourself first. There would be consequences, but there will also be consequences if you ignore your needs.

Good luck to you in your present and in your future.


Useful Links:

Romantic Relationships by AlexoCrew

Business Relationships by AlexoCrew

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