No one purposely takes poison – even in small amounts.
We know it’s stupid.
But we often stay stuck in toxic relationships that make us mentally and emotionally sick and sometimes even destroy us.
Toxic relationships can happen anywhere relationships occur – with a child or parent, in dating or marriage, with a friend or in a work environment, and yes, even in church.
Recognising a toxic relationship can be difficult because we may be so used to mistreatment that it feels normal. The toxic person can make us feel like we are the problem. And naming the toxicity can be hard because we may actually love the person who is being toxic.
To help you recognise a toxic relationship, here are some signs to look out for: [i]
Have you recognised any toxic relationships in your life? Do you lie awake at night rethinking conversations, feeling hurt and discouraged? Here’s what you can do:
Reflect on what bothers you about the relationship. How do you feel when you are away from the person? Do you miss them? What do you miss?
Pull yourself back a little and create some emotional space between you by interacting minimally. Give the person less power over you and stop allowing them to make you feel a certain way. You can’t change other people’s behaviour, only your own reaction to their behaviour. Think for yourself and maintain your individuality.
What are you doing to keep the drama going? Are you picking fights? Goading? Retaliating? Tolerating mistreatment? Are you allowing your boundaries to be violated? Changing your own behaviour can significantly improve the relationship.
One caveat though: This doesn’t mean you change yourself to the point of losing your individuality or allowing yourself to be abused. Letting yourself be abused enables the abuser.
It is not a sign of weakness to get professional help. Get a third party to help you work through your issues and see clearly what you can do to change the relationship dynamic. [ii]
Be warned though, not all relationships can be fixed. Sometimes you have to walk away and limit your exposure to a toxic person.
Sometimes you can only grieve over a relationship instead of fixing it.
And one last caveat: It’s important not to apply the “toxic” label too quickly. Just because someone bugs you doesn’t make them toxic (we all have toxic moments). A difficult person may irritate or hurt you, but you will be able to resolve issues between you and see change.
Toxic behaviour is long-term, repeated behaviour that breaks you down as a person.
In summary, “Toxic people, by definition, don’t respect the personhood of others.” [iii]
Realising the personal effect someone has on you is all you really need to know. Then do something about it so that it doesn’t destroy you.
For more on domestic abuse read Common Signs of Domestic Abuse
Do you recognise any of these signs? Do any of your relationships leave you feeling drained, used, or manipulated?
[i] Source: adapted from: https://truelovedates.com/signs-of-a-toxic-relationship/
[iii] Gary Thomas, When to Walk Away, 127