This poison is starting to feel unhealthy…(General Characteristics of a Toxic Relationship (TR))
Updated: Nov 23, 2020
A toxic relationship (TR) is something we often see in movies, music, social media, etc. But really, this is an umbrella term. It covers a wide range of concepts and areas of our lives. In this blog, I want to break down this term and define what it could mean for you. Along with identifying general characteristics of a toxic relationship or TR.
TR is often used to describe an unhealthy pattern within a romantic relationship - a very common situation; but I am here to point out how the patterns that could be labeled “toxic”, can occur in any relationship and any environment. I've even had conversations with clients on their TR with substances. All relative patterns - So ask yourself, is there a relationship and/or environment that leads you to feel worse about yourself? What happens in this relationship and/or the environment when you express a need? Are those needs being met? or would you rather not express it, for fear of the consequences? If you are feeling uncertain, there may be an unhealthy pattern somewhere. Let's discuss.
The Patterns of a Toxic Relationship: How does it play out?
Most of us do not seek out a toxic relationship. It’s normally a pattern we get sucked into during a vulnerable time in our lives. It’s easy to get buy into since the patterns begin with excessive affection and attention to the point where you put your wall down and engage. “Love Bombing”. This TR shows some promise at the time to get you out of your mental and/or financial hardship. You may feel as though, “This is something I've always wanted”. Before you know it, the subtle signs of dismissive put-downs start to show and you start to feel (or those close to you start to question) “something does not seem right”. However, at this point you are so immersed in the cycle, it feels impossible to get out. We begin to justify and reinforce the patterns of the TR. The patterns become embedded to the point where it has impacted the way we perceive ourselves. We objectively know it's time to disconnect, but we feel so emotionally stuck. When we finally push back it is met with a form of “Gaslighting” - “You're being sensitive” (dismissive) and/or “if you keep pushing I can get this from somewhere else” (fear of loss). If you stay in it long enough your self-worth will be impacted, believing you are not enough and only entitled to this punishment - this is mental quicksand.
Giving Up vs Letting Go.
A common thought that keeps us in these patterns is guilt. Feeling we need to compensate for things, which is a result of the constant gaslighting. Relationship status also has power. Maybe it is a friend who you knew since childhood or in many cases a parental figure. When we think about disconnecting, the thought of “I do not want to give up” comes to mind. When we say this to ourselves, we are implying “failure” that you did not do enough. That you can do more to save this relationship, in return creating more challenges to disconnect. Allow me to get preachy, there are moments where it will never be enough. No matter what you did/did not do the result would have been the same. What contributes to their patterns is beyond you (Especially, if they have a history of this pattern in other relationships). Which leads to the thought of Letting Go. Acknowledging a TR is not ready for the change you seek nor is it your job to get them there and so for your well-being it is time to disconnect. TR has to be in a certain place to allow an influence. So really what you are doing is healthy for you.
Rebuilding the Relationship with You.
After the dust clears and this TR is out of your life. You are now left to face.....you. It can be an extremely challenging task since residual emotions can leave us to mistrust our own judgment “How do I stop this from happening again?” Allow time, distance, and support to do its thing. We can bounce back if we focus on the patterns that lead us down this path (Growth). Rebuilding self-worth “I deserve better” takes time yet it is so necessary. This is actually a great opportunity to learn about you. What were the triggers that grabbed your attention to the TR in the first place? What were the red flags that helped you realize this was a TR? After creating some distance, you now have an opportunity to gain further insight. The answer to these questions will help protect you the next time around. Despite the journey, it is worth it in the end. So let's take note and grow. Thanks for reading.