We’ve probably all experienced or seen a toxic relationship. They are usually controlling or manipulative where at least one person feels put down, trapped or unhappy. They often bring out the worst in people, making them feel uncomfortable or act out of character. These destructive relationships can leave us feeling anxious, depressed and confused, often with dented self-confidence.
Toxic relationships aren’t confined to romantic partnerships but can also be found between friends, roommates, families or co-workers.
Signs of a toxic relationship include:
- Majority of conversations are one-sided focusing on one person’s problems
- Control and jealousy are common and may lead to isolation
- Power struggles and insistence on ‘winning’ every argument
- Criticisms and blame – the feeling that you can’t do anything right
- Teasing and one sided jokes that put one person down and erode confidence
- Unhealthy pressure to see things one way or follow instructions
- Other abusive behaviour – physical or emotional
- An unwelcome change in your own happiness or behaviours
- Isolation from other relationships – friends or family
- Feelings of anxiety, depression, fear or low self esteem
- A feeling that you can’t relax or be yourself
- Silent treatments and emotional blackmail
Help With Toxic Relationships
Analyse your own position in the relationship
What is keeping you in this relationship? Feelings of blame, guilt or responsibility or a genuine affection for the person? Analyse your own behaviour and what could have contributed to the relationship’s state. Is there anything you could do differently?
Talk it through
Change rarely happens without communication. Once you feel confident about the problems in the relationship and what you want to change moving forward, it’s time to discuss this with the other person. It’s important that you communicate in a non-judgemental, non-threatening way. You’ll need to be assertive but also listen to their point of view. There are healthy ways to deal with conflict. Use “I” statements rather than accusations, explaining carefully how specific situations and behaviours have made you feel.
Positivity and intimacy
When a relationship is built around negativity and control, no one is happy. Try gradually building up positive interactions and fun activities. Make intimacy, honesty and trust a priority in all interactions. Switch up your normal routine and explain that you wish to do something you can both enjoy.
If you feel unable to sort through the issues yourselves but both want to work on the relationship consider seeking relationship or couples counselling to help make communication easier. Sometimes people just don’t know any other way to show affection, or perhaps their own issues are causing them to feel jealous, uneasy or threatened in the relationship.
Move on or work through
A toxic relationship is detrimental to all parties. For your own happiness and well-being I would advise that all parties agree to change or work on issues together, or you sever ties and move on. This can be hard but sometimes necessary.
If you’d like help with a toxic relationship, please do get in touch. I can see clients alone or with partners and have lots of experience with all types of relationships.