“Toxic relationships are dangerous to your health; they will literally kill you. Your arguments and hateful talk can land you in the emergency room or in the morgue. You were not meant to live in a fever of anxiety; screaming yourself hoarse in a frenzy of dreadful, panicked fight-or-flight that leaves you exhausted and numb with grief. For your own precious and beautiful life, and for those around you — seek help or get out before it is too late. This is your wake-up call!”
Most of us, at some point in our lives, have been involved in a toxic relationship. These are not necessarily romantic relationships; they can be within your family, with children, siblings, parents, close friends, and even work associates. The clearest definition of a toxic relationship is one that causes feelings of low self-worth, helplessness, fear, anxiety, depression, insecurity, paranoia, and even narcissism. These relationships are dangerous to your health because they can cause stress, and stress shortens your lifespan.
Unfortunately, it’s become a ubiquitous phrase, and simply telling someone that their relationship with their significant other is ‘not healthy’ does not take on the same level of importance as outlining long-standing, repeated issues such as deception, intensified arguments, and guilt trips.
While these relationships can be hard to define, there are
common traits and behaviors that have been cited by the
psychology community. This checklist usually starts with some
level of abuse – either through power or control – which often happens in co-dependent relationships. One of the people in the
relationship usually holds the most power – and that is the one
that is not afraid of losing the other person. It’s off-balance,
and when the person in the position of power begins to
exercise this power, toxicity fills up the empty space left by
Often both people play both roles, but it’s all one trap of stress and negativity for the victim and the perpetrator.
The hardest thing to do after first recognizing you are in a toxic relationship, is to know the proper steps on how to get out of it.
Remember that when starting a relationship, you need to show the other person how to treat you. You need to communicate what is acceptable and what is not. This goes for couple relationships, professional colleagues, and family members. For purposes of discussion, the following examples are for couple relationships. For instance, you’re dating someone you really like, and after a few weeks, you feel like you are falling in love. This creates an explosion of dopamine in your brain – a feel good natural neurotransmitter that releases a chemical resulting in feelings of pleasure and satisfaction as part of the reward system.
You have plans to see each other but the person doesn’t call until noon the next day. The logical part of your brain knows this is unacceptable behavior, but it’s competing with the dopamine, and you begin to seek out reasons for this behavior; reasons to excuse it.
Thus begins the toxicity.
What can you do? First, set boundaries and let the other person know how you want to be treated. “Not calling me to cancel our plans or to let me know that something came up is not something I can accept/can live with.” If it’s for a family member or colleague, you can say, “I am uncomfortable with the way you’re speaking/behaving to me.” Then you have to wait and see if the behavior repeats itself.
There are consequences to our behaviors. If we behave badly, the consequences will be in equal measure. If we behave well, our consequences are good. If you want to be healthier, and you join a gym and start exercising regularly, you will feel better. If however, you decide to skip the gym, and promise to exercise at home on your own, but never do it, the consequences of this action will be that you are not healthier and may gain weight.
Set boundaries and stick to them. If the event happens again, and you are standing by your boundaries, remember that there is a consequence to that behavior which may be that you can no longer date that person. If you do not set healthy boundaries, the person will continue this behavior and take advantage of you which will deplete your energy, which can result in depression, anxiety, fear, and more.
There is also an opportunity to resolve the conflict. It’s a good skill to fine tune, as it will be used throughout your life. Can you discuss the event with the other person, express how it made you feel, and come to an understanding? If the other person does not offer you a resolution, thereby leaving you with the mental and emotional burden, it is your choice to stay or go.
Let your faith or spiritual beliefs be a guiding principle for your own behavior and your expectation of others. One of my personal “tells” has been if a man I am dating treats the wait staff at a restaurant poorly. For me, that is a red flag and just the tip of the iceberg and a possible deal breaker.
I recommend first writing out the list of qualities you want in a true life partner. Keep it specific and simple. Give yourself an affirmation to keep your journey healthy when vetting out your partner.
Here’s one I love. Feel free to tailor it to your specific needs and wants:
I embrace loving and fulfilling relationships in all areas of my life. I love having a partner that gives our relationship of balance of respect, esteem, loyalty, and love. I maintain healthy boundaries so I can fully enjoy a loving relationship.
Seek out help for any emotional imbalances. Many of my clients come to me with “pervasive negativity” that they cannot explain. After we conduct a healing energy session, almost 100% of them report a relaxation and a clarity they had not experienced in a long time. This enables them to see the toxic situation clearly and come up with resolution tactics that have changed their lives.
Please see my service offerings to see which one is best for you.