Toxic relationships take different forms. Therefore, they are not always easy to define. In a world that is more connected than ever, many people are still drowning in loneliness or facing serious personal challenges. To avoid this situation, some get into or decide to stay in a toxic relationship to the detriment of their well-being.
So, what is a toxic relationship? What makes a relationship toxic? Are there different types of toxic relationships?
These are issues that are worth exploring in an era where a lot of emphasis is put on mental health. Moreover, lines are easily crossed into abusive territory.
Relationships are complicated and demand a lot of effort. People do fight, and sometimes things are said that hurt the other one.
However, in a “normal” and healthy relationship, the tension is not the norm, and the two parties find common ground more often than not. Moreover, a positive relationship of any kind should bring you joy and fulfillment.
What is a Toxic Relationship?
A toxic relationship is one where happiness and contentment have been replaced by discomfort and unease. It is one where one side senses that they are under attack and not supported in the appropriate way.
People in toxic relationships are unhappy, and after spending time with their partner, they feel drained out instead of being excited.
Dr. Lillian Glass writes in her 1995 book, Toxic People: Toxic People: 10 Ways Of Dealing With People Who Make Your Life Miserable, that a toxic relationship is “any relationship [between people who] don’t support each other, where there’s conflict and one seeks to undermine the other, where there’s competition, where there’s disrespect and a lack of cohesiveness.”
This definition can apply to very different contexts. It does not only cover romantic situations. It fits young people still in school, those in the professional world, or complicated family dynamics.
Some toxic relationships were always that way. However, others do become problematic as time passes and individuals change.
Experts say that people, who are suffering from mental illnesses, are more vulnerable when it comes to toxic relationships. Since their condition affects their emotional stability, they are more susceptible to getting into those relationships.
Moreover, childhood wounds are also a contributing factor for targets of toxic relationships. However, it needs to be said that toxic relationships attract people of all kinds of backgrounds.
That is why it is critical to know what makes a relationship toxic. This information can help identify the toxic boyfriend. It can also shed light on the toxic GF signs.
What Makes a Relationship Toxic?
There are elements that professionals use to determine that someone is in a toxic relationship. If one partner is harming and undermining the other one consistently, chances are this is a toxic relationship.
Experts say that this can be intentional or not. They also explain that tormentors were often victims of similar circumstances in their past.
The toxicity in relationships can lead to verbal and emotional abuse. Researchers on the issue also point out that no two toxic relationships are alike. Each situation is unique and different and should be evaluated as such.
Here are the different types of toxic relationships
The 8 Types of Toxic Relationships:
Author Shahida Arabi said: “When you notice someone does something toxic the first time, don’t wait for the second time before you address it or cut them off.”
1) The Over Reactor/Deflector:
This partner has the ability to shift blame when you tell them you are unhappy and angry for something they did to you. You end up apologizing to them for being selfish and for bringing forward something that is unpleasant.
In this situation, your own problems are never addressed because you are the one now comforting them. They have a big ego and inflated self-perception that you need to compensate for by being extra forgiving even when they are wrong.
In clear, the deflector convinces you that you are the source of the problem and the one who still has work to do.
2) The Over-Dependent Partner:
This individual maintains control over you by ceding it totally. They adopt a passive posture where you have to make all the decisions.
However, if your choice does not work, they punish you with silent treatment. The balance of the relationship is emotionally draining because you are the one tasked with making all the decisions.
The burden you are carrying gets very heavy quickly.
3) The Independent (Non-Dependable) Toxic Controller:
This individual controls their environment by claiming their independence. These people always keep you on your toes because it is always hard to know what they will do next. They are not very reliable.
The situation is a source of anxiety and insecurity for the non-toxic partner, who does not have someone to rely on even after they give their word.
The lack of stability in their behavior makes the other person wonder if they are truly invested in the future of the relationship. All these elements contribute to creating more control.
4) The User:
This person seems nice at first. However, they tend to move to someone else when you are no longer useful to them. The individual might do little things for you, but they pale in comparison to what they are expecting from you.
If you refuse to provide the help that they want, they will list the things they have done for you in the past. The toxic aspect of the relationship manifests in the fact they are always holding a past obligation over your head.
5) The Possessive (Paranoid) Toxic Controller:
In the early phases of the relationship, jealousy might slide by and pass for something that is not problematic. However, the possessive will become more controlling as the relationship evolves and gets more serious.
The paranoid aspect of the individual will make it hard for you to enjoy any kind of normalcy. Moreover, no matter what you do to reassure such a person of your commitment and loyalty, it will never be enough.
Relationship experts advise not to invest too much time and energy in a relationship with the toxic controller. In this type of relationship, the control is direct.
They decide who you can be in contact with or not.
6) The Deprecator-Belittler:
This person is determined to make you feel small. The individual will use humor to belittle you even in public if you are their spouse. The goal is to make you feel like you are not good enough and that they are only with you because of the goodness of their heart.
Over time, your self-esteem will take a hit, and you will start believing that you are indeed stupid and that their description of you is accurate. All of this is wrapped under the guise of humor, and if you say you do not like this behavior, the response will be that you cannot take a joke.
The underlying principle is to keep your self-esteem as low as possible and for you to be grateful for the minimum interest they have in you.
7) The “Bad Temper” Toxic Relationship:
This is the partner who gets angry for very little. This creates an atmosphere where the other partner is afraid to even engage them in a meaningful way on a topic. This is a source of anxiety, and the second partner is constantly anticipating the next source of tension and conflict.
The individual will never admit any wrongdoing and instead will shift the blame to you. You eventually start feeling guilty for being the source of anger for the toxic partner. The intimidation helps the person assert their control and power.
8) The Guilt-Inducer:
This is a category that can include parents and friends. The toxic partner is able to make you feel bad and guilty for some of their own mistakes.
They even behave in sneaky ways in some instances by using others to express their disappointment in you. And when you do as they wish, they will use that happy sentiment to exercise more control over you in the future.
This person gets what they want by making the other one feel bad and guilty. This type of toxic relationship works on many different levels.
It can exist between partners in a couple, parents and their children, and friends. For parents and their children, it can even go both ways, with adult children constantly reminding their parents of their past mistakes in order to guilt them into answering their wishes.
After covering the different types of toxic relationships, here is how to know if you are in a toxic relationship. The toxic relationship signs can serve as a useful guide to understanding if you really are in an unhealthy relationship.
Why do People Stay in Toxic Relationships?
Deep research has been done in this field to answer this question. For some, it might look simple from the outside looking in. However, there are different currents at play. Here are seven reasons why people stay in bad relationships.
1) Low-Quality Alternatives:
According to experts, this is one of the main reasons why people stay in bad relationships. If the alternative is more appealing than the present, most people will leave.
However, being alone and having poor other options are not enticing enough for some individuals in toxic relationships. Moreover, divorce rates are often linked to economic prospects.
In countries where women can achieve economic independence faster, divorce tends to be higher.
2) Low Self-Esteem Issues:
It is easy to be satisfied with very little when you do not know that you deserve better. Research has proven that those who find themselves less attractive might be more content to stay in a toxic relationship. Moreover, those carrying trauma from their childhood or younger years are also more susceptible to staying in a bad environment.
People also decide to stay in unhealthy relationships because of a shift in priorities. In this case, the person prefers to focus more on the positive attributes of the partner and push the negatives aside.
For example, it might be tempting for some to remain in a relationship with a generous individual and close their eyes to the fact they have a short temper.
In this situation, the abuser may use emotional manipulation for the other partner to stay in the relationship. Threats of violence are also not out of the equation.
The fear resulting from the manipulation is enough to stop some partners from moving in another direction with their lives. It might be harder to leave a relationship when you are in distress.
Investments are some of the reasons people decide to stay in problematic relationships. This can be financial or family. For example, after building a business or a family, two individuals in a toxic relationship might find it difficult to leave it all behind and start over again.
The investment can also be the time and energy one puts into the relationship in the first place. Above all, change is hard, and an unsteady relationship might still be comforting on some level.
It is possible for you to love people with toxic personality traits that you know are bad for you. There is a way you process feelings, and there is a way you handle the reason. The two things are not always aligned. Your heart may want one thing, and your head might say something entirely different.
Moreover, societies through literature and movies have glamorized problematic relationships where love and passion can fix a broken soul. Unfortunately, reality bites differently, and it is nearly impossible to save a toxic person with just love and affection.
7) Trauma Bonds:
Some people who grew up in an abusive environment might confuse it with love and lower their threshold when it comes to a toxic relationship.
It is hard to know a relationship is bad and unhealthy if that is all you have known in your entire life. That is why it is important to address past trauma and seek help in order to heal.
Otherwise, you are probably going to repeat some of it. The two last reasons raise an interesting issue: can you fix a toxic relationship?
Healthy vs Toxic Relationships:
Some behaviors can help to define a relationship. It matters to know what type of person you are dealing with in order to make choices that work for you.
Here are ten adjectives that define healthy relationships.
The following ten terms are used to describe toxic relationships.
How to Build Healthy Relationships?
Healthy relationships bring a lot of fulfillment and joy. Many people are looking for tips on how to have a healthy a relationship. You cannot do it on your own, but with a willing partner who shares your commitment to seeing this through, it can be done.
Here are 9 tips to fix a toxic relationship and create a healthy one.
1) Be Authentic:
It is important to be your true self. Healthy connections between humans are made by real people. You cannot be a pretender if you want to have healthy relationships.)
2) Look for Balance:
Healthy relationships leave room for the different parties to breathe and grow individually. It is necessary to build your own little world and leave the relationship be the cherry on your cake.
If you are well-adjusted, it will be easier to connect with others. It will put less pressure on them. In clear, you need to take care of yourself too.
3) Be Realistic:
To have healthy connections with others, you need to accept them for who they are and not try to change them. There is no need to set lofty goals for others that they will never reach.
4) Open Communication:
Communication is the main key to healthy relationships. Talk often in a meaningful way and also be ready to listen to what the other one has to say.
It means that you have to ask questions and share information with the person whenever you can. These gestures will help build a genuine bond.
5) Be Patient:
While in the modern world, things tend to move fast, it takes time to build real connections. Therefore, you cannot rush your way into a healthy relationship.
Flexibility is important in this journey. You need to be ready and open to accept change and grow in the relationship. Change is hard, but it is also a true constant in life. Embrace all that is new and good, and enjoy the ride.
7). Be Reliable:
You need to be reliable and dependable. When you give your word and promise something, stick to it. By being responsible, you help build trust in the relationship.
8) Be Supportive:
In healthy relationships, there should be more positive interactions. Therefore, expressing warmth and affection is encouraged.
9) Fair Fight:
It is impossible to be positive all the time, but you can choose how to handle fights. By adopting the right posture, these tense moments can end up being constructive.
What is a toxic person? What does toxic mean? These questions have multiple layers and different sets of parameters depending on the case.
The signs of an unhealthy relationship are often ignored. This happens because the signs of a toxic person are not always linear and clear-cut. The modus operandi varies from one toxic person to another one. That is why your own feelings about any interaction should be the main point of reference. If a person brings out negative emotions in you on a regular basis, they are toxic to you. It is probably time to ask the tough questions.
The answers might not be what you expect because a toxic person can be a work colleague, a classmate, a girlfriend, a boyfriend, a friend, or even a family member. Depending on your history with them, you might have to find ways to manage the situation instead of ending the relationship altogether.
However, the main thing in all cases is to focus on your own emotional well-being. You can be present for someone else by being kind to them, but you will not do the world any good if you sacrifice yourself while doing so.
Communication and seeking support from an expert can help bring clarity as you face those tough calls. Those moves will make clear if a fractured relationship is worth fighting for.
Above all, it is good to trust your instincts and do the things that make you feel good about yourself.