Toxic relationship is the name of a bane of our time. It usually starts slow and accelerates in the abuse so that the bullied partner can´t even understand what´s happening with an actually once beloved person. The longer you know a person the more you see behind the superficial behaviour and learn how the person really is. Unfortunately, sometimes that causes a rude awakening.
What I will do in this post, is to first talk about the definition and meaning of a toxic relationship. Then I cover the signs and traits that your friend, family member or other close person has. Finally we take a look at how to fix a toxic relationship and give you advise to decide if it´s worth saving it.
Relationships are giving and taking, a mutual agreement to be together for the common good. That certainly is even more important in a romantic partnership. It´s one thing to disagree on a specific topic, but it´s a totally different thing if one tries to force his/her opinion on the other. It becomes more like a master/slave kind of relationship then one based on mutual respect and being on the same level.
What might has happened was, that you put too much of your imagination into the relationship. You were phantasizing about the person and subconsciously allow your partner to go far beyond every healthy limit of respect. It´s an invitation, but an invitation can be rejected. If you have the bad luck of meeting a superficially nice person, but abusive and rude after knowing him/her better, they will take the chance and bully you.
They might have had a similar experience, a bad childhood or something else, BUT all of that is not your problem! You are not their mental punching bag.
Toxic people in partnerships and in the family
If a toxic person lives in your household or even worse, is a close family member, the whole community will suffer. It is inevitably necessary to fight toxic tendencies in people right from the start, right when it happens. If you have absolutely no chance to get out of this environment, try to get as much time away from that person. Their toxicity can negatively affect your mental health for decades.
Sometimes they don´t even see what they are doing wrong. It´s like when they want to be protective, meaning it good but causing your self esteem to drop. Think of parents that are overprotective or some that don´t let kids do some household chores just because they think the kids can´t do it. If the kids are small it might be true, but then the parent is asked to find a way together with the kid to make it work. Encouragement and creativity instead of simply pushing the child away because „you can´t do it anyway“.
Different Toxic relationships needs different angles to approach. A romantiv partnership that went awry and dissolved into a toxic, abusive and destructive one is something you can get out with enough self-esteem. A child/parent relationship is tougher because the connection is usually even more complicated, like with other family members involved.
If the toxic person is at least open minded, you might can talk it out but that´s rarely the case. If they don´t see their misconduct it´s hard to teach them otherwise. That eaven more when it´s habitual and manifested after years of repeating the treatmeant of others. In such a case, the family needs to work it out together or it will break one way or the other.
However, you might asked yourself the following qestion:
1.) How is such an abusive relationship even possible do develop?
The starting point of people behaving in an abusive and offensive way with others can have many reasons. Someone might experienced a toxic relationship themselves and are know subconsciously out for revenge on the other gender. Someone else maybe had a bad childhood and got neglected by the parents, never receiving praise for an achievement.
It´s important to find the source and the underlying problem that this person has. Just don´t fall prey to the idea that you can do it all alone and they will change sooner or later by sitting it out! They never won´t!
It´s a similar reason why woman that got beaten in a relationship somehow find excuses, like „somewhere deep in his heart, he still loves me“. That´s not how you show love!
It doesn´t even need to go so far that it ends up in physical abuse. The recently surfaced practise of „gaslighting“ is similar damaging, just not in a physical but psychical manner.
Toxic relationships are sometimes not so easy to spot though.There are as many toxic relationship stories as there are people suffering from it. Some are so subliminal that the person involved doesn´t even recognnize the abuse but constantly feels bad and worrying about the relationship. It´s similar to passive aggressiveness, just more damaging and less obvious. There are some behaviours that clearly cross a line and as soon as those happen, you need to react.
If you don´t work against the abuse, showing self esteem and self respect, they will take advantage of you.
If you decide to keep on going you will be the victim, that´s for certain. Do you want to sacrifice your mental health to please the ego-driven selishness of another perons? Is it worth it to go through hell because someone else uses you as his/her mental garbage bin? Don´t let that happen!
2.) 18 Signs and traits of a toxic relationship
Just as a disclaimer. The following is by no means complete. Mans psyche is far too complicated to put everything in one article, and I´m no psychiatrist to beginn with. However, if you feel bad in your relationship, no matter if it´s with your parents or a partner, there always need to be a way to talk it out. That also means, that there are so many different cases, so many different patterns with so many different angles of about how a person could be toxic and abusive. I put together this list, but high likely it won´t pinpoint exactly a situation you might be in. Observe your emotions and the traits of your partner/family member and listen to yourself about how you feel when you are around them
If you know more and know a solution to a case, please comment below!
- Constant criticizing – Even the tiniest tasks seem to be done not good enough. This destroys your self esteem. Next time you try something new you fail because it is already established in your mind. You aren´t good enough to do a task in an appropriate manner. It triggers a spiral of failures.
- Reminding you of past mistakes – All the time you intend to critic the other, they switch to a topic where you made a mistake. They try to distract you to not have to talk about something inconvenient for them. The acting is a constant reminder you of what an actually bad person you are.
- Passive aggression with facial expressions or wording – E. g. sarcasm can be funny, but sometimes it´s just hurtful. Rolling eyes when you make a statement or try to say something is similar damaging. They simply don´t take you serious. .Here more examples for passive agression.
- Blackmailing by complaining – They constantly complain about the smallest things , trying to change you into their shape they have of you in their minds. You are you, and not the image they carry in their heads. It´s an unfear comparing against a imaginated ideal that doesn´t exist.
- Dumping their emotional issues on you – Like a psychic vampire they suck out all the positivity in you by unloading all their mental dirt. It´s like an exchange, where you just get the bad end for your compassion and willingness to listen to them.
- Overreacting jealousy – While a healthy dose of jealousy can be flattering and is a sign of carring, overreacting is not. Is he calling you just 5 minutes after you finished work when you came home? Is she constantly questioning your faithfulness when you get a text message?
- Covering up problems instead of talking it out – Some things and challenges in life we have to face on our own, but most are better dealt together. If they constantly deny talking to you but you see they feel sad and worrysome, it will bring down your mood as well.
- He/She is simply not listening – Maybe something you can add to the „passive aggressive“ part, but I think it deserves an extra mention. If they don´t value your opinion and belittle everything you say, they don´t take your serious. That will slowly destroy any kind of self confidence.
- Gasligthing – A recent trend, but an unnecessary and seriously intense and dangerous one. Here a link if this term is new for you. In one sentence, it´s an attempt to manipulate the perception of a person to an extend where it could become a paranoia or even worse mental issue.
- You are the only one working on better the situation – While you are trying to fix things in the relationship, they just hang out and watch TV, play games and shirk doing something constructive to improve the situation. There need to be 2 pulling on the rope, one will fail.
- There are no boundaries – When a partnership gets intimate it´s natural that a person learns about your body and your deepest deisres. However, that´s is not said that it needs to be exploited! If they go too far, say NO, say it loud, say it again, say it with a determined voice!
- No reliability – If they take the saying „Live every day as if it would be your last“ too serious. E. g. If they constantly come late, or don´t care about what they do as long as it fits their absurd sense of freedom. This is especially bad when you have another one to care about like a common child.
- Too much ego – Based on the previous one, that´s the final stage. Self esteem is good thing to have, but too much and it becomes toxic. If they constantly deal just with themselves, almost like a Narcissist, and don´t care about your feelings and what you want in life, it´s time to make a change
- Lies, lies and more lies – Honesty is a virtue.They continue lying even after you showed them multiple times that you have seen through their shenanigans and cheatery. A pathological liar will always try to tell you a story, no matter how insignificant the matter is.
- They like to play games or pranks – While fooling around and playfully tease each other can be fun, playing games or pranking you constantly isn´t. E. g. when he is calling you every 3 days, when she tells you if you do this she will fall in love with you. Same if you are permanently the butt of their pranks.
- They don´t respect your time and efforts – It´s again based on the ego. It shows that they don´t value you as an equal partner. In a parent/child relationship, it´s even worse. It could destroy the childs confidence leading to grow up to a mentally handicapped and troubled adult
- They blame your for everything – They make a mistake but it´s your fault. Even in the most obvious situation, they know their way of somehow turn the story around to make it your fault. It´s an inherent fear of failure which ends up living on constant denial of the own mistakes.
- Physical abuse – the most obvious and maybe the worst. No more comment needed, that´s a give to instandly kick that person out of your life for good. There is no „But somehow he loves me in his own way“. No he doesn´t!
3.) Challenging decision ahead – Get out of a toxic relationship
A toxic relationship is defined by a lack of love, which shows itself in various ways. Right behind love, wait respect, trust, and affection for each other or in that case, the lack of those.
The recurring bad behavior from one side needs to be worked on from both ends. That means, it will be a long trail of many tears and setbacks while working on your relationship. Be aware that it won´t be easy and ask yourself if the person is worth your effort. The term „worth“ used for the sake of a better one, since everybody deserves a chance.
So there is a chance things can change for the better but both partieds need to have a honest desire to change. Always keep that in the back of your head when you start to notice that your partner or parent starts to fall back into abusive demeanour. Maybe put a reminder close to them, like a note or a tiny key fob. The little item should keep them on track and remind them of erasing all kinds of toxic behaviour from their mindset.
It is said that it needs at least 60 days to transform behavioural patterns. Something that lies so deep within ones personality like a toxic mindset will need far longer. Do not let yourself get encourged though! The road from a toxic relationship to a healthy one is not easy but if you are convinced that its worth it, then go for it!
How to fix toxic relationship, is there a chance of change?
First thing is to understand if the toxic person is aware of its damaging behaviour and if they are genuinly willing to change. If not, it´s a fight against windmills that will just drain out all your energy and will leave you even more frustrated then before.
Be willing to walk away if you see now chance to fix the relationship. It´s somehow mindboggling that some people stay in toxic relationships for years, destroying their own lifes for the sake of the abusive partner. Don´t be such a person! Show that you have enough self-esteem, self confidence and eventually self-love that prevents you of being a victim! Value yourself higher than the toxic person. That´s not ego, that´s self protection!
If there is a slight spark of hope that they understand what they are doing to their environment, the first step is done. Acknowledgement of the toxic relationship problem.
Second: You need to talk it out with them, find a way that they reduce their destructiveness with your help. That could be a 10.- payment swear jar everytime he calls you names. Maybe a critic jar whenever she complains about something you didn´t do well would help. You need to figure something out that works for that specific person. It must be something that „hurts“ them when they abuse you.
Third part is to constantly observe the behaviour and if there is a visible change happening. If not, adjust the method of change inducting punishment. Certainly, if nothing else helps, don´t be too proud to seek out for help. Like in a case of a mental health issue is the reason for the toxic mindset, it´s almost imopssible to work on it without a professional.
Broken beyond repair – The ending and leaving
If you see no chance of change or no progress on your mutual work on change, you need to find a deadline for yourself where you simply say Stop! Up to this point you are willing and able to support the toxic person in its efforts to change to become better but not farther.
Permanently express how you’re feeling with your partner, give them feedback and tell them what you felt to be abusive behaviour by them. Communication is crucial to understand if progress will be visible soon or not.
Remind yourself of the beautyful being that you are and that you deserve the best life has to offer! Do you want a life in misery, maybe just driven by a misunderstood sense for duty and loyalty? Is it really worth it to get abused for the sake of a love that doesn´t get responded? I think you know the answer.
Mistaken love and affection could keep you in the cycle of abuse for far too long. You simply don´t want to quit that person and believe in the good inside and the underlying subconscious will to change for the better. The worst outcome would be that over weeks and months still suffering from the abuse, you might end up in a mental hospital.
If you suffered from a toxic realtionship, I hope you haven´t go down that alley. Here are a few suggestions on how to make yourself feel better after leaving a toxic person.
Recovery and healing from a toxic relationship
First, if it has already gone far too long and you see no way out to heal the wounds in your soul, go out and ask for help! If you feel you can´t deal with the damage on your own, ask for help. When you see no chance of getting rid of all the scars in your mind, ASK FOR HELP!
7 suggestions to heal on your own:
- Do whatever is necessary to get rid of the past. It´s gone, the abuse is over, don´t clinge to it! Remind yourself why you quit the relationship for good!
- Talk with friends and family members about the situation – They love you, so they will provide necessary mental support while recovering.
- Don´t be pushy with yourself. It´s ok to be sad and worry about how things will go from here. That´s ok and part of the process. Trust that things will turn out well for you from now on
- Never allow feelings of self-doubt. You are not the victim and it´s not your fault that things turned out as they did. You are a survivor, not a victim!
- Take time off and walk away for a while – like a vacation. A few days on a different place, a few nights at a calm hotel can work wonders. Meditation could help as well
- Go back in time and resurface the things you enjoyed doing before the toxic relationship damaged everything. May you start painting again, maybe you go for a walk more often. Do what you enjoy and make you feel good!
- If nobody in your close proximity is a good company at this times, go out and find new friends. Get in touch with people from the local communities who share the same interests as you.
A toxic relationship can manifest itself in a huge variety of ways. It doesn´t need to be obviously abusive, like when someone becomes physical. It´s actually the more underlying, subliminal ways, those who are hard to spot on first appearance, that are so dangerous. A blue eye is visible for everybody, a tortured soul covered under a smile isn´t.
The above mentioned personality traits and behavioural patterns should give you a good overview of what could be perceived as abusive. Eventually, I´m certain you know it already when you are in a toxic relationship. You just might not want to admit it yet. If you don´t feel good around your partner or a close family member, it´s time to ask yourself why and react!
As shown above as well, it is indeed possible to „cure“ for the lack of a better word a toxic person. It needs time, effort, patience and compassion though. Don´t go so far that you got damaged in the healing process, it´s not worth it. You need to closely observe your own mental health nd not get dragged down the rabbit whole with the person you intent to help
A cowboy don´t ride a dead horse. If you significat other or family member isn´t open for change, you need to take action. In a romantic relationship it´s (in comparison) easy, since you can quit the partnership and leave. A family environment makes it more difficult and might need help and support from other family members as well.
In a worst case scenario, go and ask outsiders for help. Some things can´t be solved with talking about it and need a professonal supporting you. Don´t be too proud or think you can handle everything on your own! They are there for you, just ask!