How to Tell When Relationships are Toxic

Determining whether a relationship is toxic requires first defining and understanding what toxic means. Toxicity in a relationship is anything that makes you feel negatively, but this has levels. Sadly, all relationships have toxic moments because we are human and have unique needs that are not always able to be met in the moment. Feeling negatively now and then in any relationship is normal. Having sustained discomfort and negativity is not. Some relationships move in and out of toxic states. In any long relationship, toxic phases are to be expected as we grow and change. The key to determining whether these phases are growing pains or a time to reset is to understand where the toxicity is coming from. Are your new or unexpressed changing needs the root of the negative feelings? Is it a feeling that you are not meeting the other person’s needs? Is it something else? If it is feeling that your needs are not being met, communicating your feelings and asking questions could put you on the path to healing and changing the dynamic that is creating the feelings of negativity. If communicating your needs does not result in change, then it may be a deeper issue than growing pains.

Some of the underlying issues that create toxicity are broken power dynamics, jealousy, resentment, contempt, competitiveness, suspicion, disrespect, tension, money management, disinterest, and lack of compassion. A broken power dynamic is often the result of aging. As we age, we step into our own power more and that can often throw off the power dynamics in long-term relationships. Other factors that can change power dynamics are geographic and financial changes. If we relocate or change jobs, our reliance on each other can change, which can alter the power dynamic in terms of what we need from each other for support and how decisions are made. Both changes in power dynamics and unaddressed pain can lead to resentment.

Resentment can also result from life changes, from not being where we want or having what we want, and this kind of resentment can lead to jealousy and mistrust. Jealousy and mistrust can also be a result of being hurt in the past and feelings of insecurity. Jealousy can result in feelings of contempt and competitiveness within the relationship. This always results in a toxic dynamic, because it results in suspicion, disrespect, and tension. Another issue that can cause tension is money management; people have differences in spending patterns, some like to save, others like to spend. All of the above can lead to disinterest and neglect in the relationship, which can show up as a lack of compassion.

Looking at the underlying issue that is resulting in the toxic dynamic can allow you to determine whether the relationship is salvageable. It is also helpful to figure out whether the toxic behavior is originating with you. If it is coming from you, examining what began the toxic behavior can allow you to deconstruct it, change it, and fix the damage it has caused. Owning the behavior is paramount to deconstructing and repairing. This is true whether it is coming from you, and you need to own it, or from the other person, and they need to own it. If there is no ownership, there can be no honesty about the hurt and damage the behavior caused. There needs to be an acknowledgement of the pain the injured party has experienced and a commitment to changing the dynamic. Without those, there will always be a lingering negativity in the dynamic. If this is the case, it is up to you to determine if the relationship satisfies a need that is worth the negativity you experience. If there is a need that the relationship is filling, ask yourself if you can get that need met elsewhere. If not, develop a plan to create enough distance to keep you safe when engaging. Relationships are complex, and not every toxic dynamic means we should disengage. It is up to you to determine whether you can be emotionally safe while getting what you need from the relationship.

Posted on 09 Jan 2023 06:56

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