Is your relationship emotionally toxic?

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Some relationships are healthier than others but there is a point where the normal ups and downs a couple experiences actually becomes dysfunctional and even toxic. Often these relationships start well but become unhealthy as problems arise and dealt with. The problems begin to fester and the couple begin to ‘act out’ their emotional issues without ever taking responsibility for solving the problems individually – instead laying the blame with the other person.

It can be difficult to see for yourself if you are in an emotionally toxic relationship – often it is more obvious to onlookers. These relationships tend to be very intense and that intensity can feel like love as passions run high. Here are a few questions to ask yourself which could help you establish whether this relationship is healthy or whether it is time to take action.

How does the relationship make you feel about yourself?

When a relationship has become toxic the people involved are usually feeling quite bad about themselves. They are focusing their energy on trying to change and regulate the other person in the mistaken belief that if only they could get them to do what they want them to do – stop drinking, get a job etc – then the problems in the relationship would be solved. Each party is convinced that it is their partner who is the one with the problem and they are the ones trying to find a solution. Each of them is engaged in a struggle that involves controlling and criticising the other and even though they can see that they are tearing each other apart they feel compelled to continue the same behaviours.

This kind of relationship is very intense and there will usually be fierce fights and passionate reconciliations – they are both locked into a way of relating to each other that gets progressively more painful but which they can’t break free from.

How does this relationship make you feel about yourself? Do you feel loving, kind or generous towards your partner? Do you feel confident and able to cope or is your sense of value decreasing as the relationship progresses? Often people in this kind of toxic relationship will feel horrible inside – spiteful and bitterly angry but desperate to hide it. Perhaps it is starting to affect your other relationships and even your work?

When the image you attempt to present to the outside world and the reality of your experience in your relationship are so far apart the relationship has become toxic to you. Once this has happened it will have a corrosive effect on your confidence, self-esteem, and your freedom of choice as you feel more and more trapped – you need to take action either by leaving the relationship or by getting outside help from a relationship expert.

Have you been here before?

Unhealthy relationship are often part of a pattern which was established when we were very young. In your adult life it can seem as though you have the same relationship over and again but with different people e.g. an emotionally unavailable partner; an alcoholic; someone who neglects your needs in favour of work commitments; the overly critical and dominant spouse. It doesn’t matter what the configuration is, the question is – Is this pattern very familiar to you?

We are unconsciously drawn to situations which are very similar to our childhood experiences because we are attempting to make peace with our past. The only way to break the pattern is to go back to the original situation – usually our relationship with our parents – and work on coming to terms with what happened to us – many people need professional help to do this.

Have you had enough yet?

Not everyone who is in a toxic relationship wants to change – they seem to enjoy drama and intensity and find nice, well-adjusted and emotionally available partners boring.

If you recognise yourself in the above descriptions next time the pain of it gets really bad stop and ask yourself this simple question – Have you had enough yet? When the answer is ‘yes’ you will be prepared to do whatever it takes to change this dysfunctional pattern of relating to people. You cannot change the other person but you can change how you respond to their behaviours. If you keep doing the same thing you will keep getting the same results.


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