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How do you know if your relationship is toxic?

The phrase toxic relationship is so overused now we need to clarify the term. Toxic relationships block you from growth and change. You are scripted into a certain role and cannot behave outside that role without negative consequences. Not only are the roles scripted but the relationship doesn’t meet your needs or expectations for a relationship. Those in toxic relationships often report they are the only adult in a two way relationship.

Often those in toxic relationships feel invisible and/or drained after being around their partner.

Your partner cannot respect your differences of opinion. Also they are unable to endorse your independent thought or a compromise. If they demand sacrifices in abundance and fight compromises.

Compromises are when both partners come to a mutually satisfying agreement. Sacrifices are when it is expected that one partner sacrifices their needs to satisfy the partner. I often hear my clients hesitate about doing a loved hobby as it might upset their spouse despite the fact that their spouse has their own hobbies. This is called self abandonment. Some more examples of self abandonment are not trusting your instincts, not honoring your needs, hiding parts of yourself and suppressing your feelings. Most often self abandonment takes place when your highest priority is to appease another even when it is at the expense of your values. All toxic relationships require self abandonment.

If there is violence, threat of violence or liberty crimes this is a no brainer – you are in a toxic relationship. Healthy relationships do not utilize violence or the threat of violence as a relationship problem solving skill.

What are liberty crimes?

Liberty crimes otherwise known as coercive control happen when one partner tries to control the freedom of the other – who you spend time with, what you say, where you go, how you spend money, what decisions you make about your employment, how you spend free time, and whether you have contact with family and friends.

All your decisions become personal affronts if they are not what your partner would do or want. They become tests of your love/loyalty that a partner will weaponize in a conflict as proof they are not appreciated/loved or your first priority at all times.

I would also suggest it is unrealistic and unhealthy if your partner requires all decisions to prove they are the priority – because we simply have other priorities. We have priorities for family, friends, employment and self fulfillment that do not go away when one is partnered.

Here are some more questions to consider

Do you feel small around this person?

Are you hyper concerned about upsetting your partner?

Affirmative answers can indicate that your relationship is toxic.

What are the traits of a toxic person?

A toxic person is often someone that is essentially insecure and tries to control others and it gives a toxic person the illusion of being in control. Toxic people often lace their conversations with judgements, demands and ultimatums. They often feel damaged or unlovable and use others to keep those feelings away. How do they do this? They focus on their partner’s flaws and problems while denying/minimizing their own. They are easily upset and have low tolerance for others emotions. They are often so overwhelmed by their own feelings they expect others to behave in ways that appease the toxic person regardless of the impact the appeasement has for others.

How should you deal with a toxic person?

It depends upon the relationship and your investment in that person. Each person has to figure out what relationships are sustainable, life-giving or worth the effort. If you have a toxic coworker avoidance and distance may be all that is needed. If you have a family member that is toxic the calculation can be more complex. You may limit when you see this family member or where. You may have to limit your contact with other family members that have poor boundaries with the toxic family member. What do I mean by poor boundaries? If one person cannot put limits on another and are often manipulated we would say they have poor boundaries.

Can something be done to correct a toxic person?

Correct seems like a strong word to use for another independent adult. You only have domain over your kingdom – what you say, think and do. You can get clear on your priorities and live accordingly. Some loved ones can rise to the challenge of behaving differently when they realize the dynamic has changed. Some will not. Resist the temptation to tell another that they are toxic – it will come off as name calling. Rather pointed out how the negative behavior affects you.

Should you tell someone he or she is toxic?

No. Resist the temptation to tell another that they are toxic – it will come off as name calling. Rather point out how the negative behavior affects you. Change how you respond to the negative behavior so it becomes less convenient to for the other to behave poorly

We often have this fantasy that if we just let the person who displays toxic behavior that their behavior is wrong they will want to change. Desire to change, and a curiosity about how one affects another is something you cannot force.

You may need assistance from a therapist to figure out how to respond to a toxic person.

I would also caution you about using the word toxic as it is overused and abused. I have heard people describe behavior as toxic just because they don’t agree with it or it isn’t what they expected. Not everything done around you is being done to you. People have their own motivations that may have nothing to do with you.

If you want assistance in resolving a toxic relationship please schedule a free 15 minute consult at

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