As human beings, we all have the basic need to relate to other people. Granted, there are the very few who don’t, but usually, that type of behavior is an indicator of something quite serious. On the whole, we interact with others and hopefully, those interactions produce good results for all concerned.
In this month’s newsletter, we’ll be taking a look at a type of relationship that often nets results we’d rather not have in our lives. These relationships are known as Toxic Relationships and you’ll be surprised at how my of us are either in a toxic relationship or are ourselves toxic.
The Faces of Toxic Relationships
While we tend to group toxic relationships into those within couples, toxic relationships actually have many faces. We see them in our personal lives with parents, children, siblings and in friendships, as well as in the workplace between supervisors and employees along with coworkers. You probably know the toxic person … You do something good or nice for someone believing or hoping that they’ll return the kindness. You loan money or your car, take care of their kids while they go away – things like that. The toxic person doesn’t pay you back, returns the car damaged or dirty and empty of gas and makes no offers to fix or fill it, and even asks you to watch their kids again without ever offering to watch yours.
Now you’re feeling hurt and angry at both the offender and yourself. You’re brought down. You’ve been “used”. We hint with leading statements, offering a way of escape to the offender only to have our efforts ignored or unnoticed.
Who Is The Toxic Person?
We can think of toxic people as people who consistently behave in ways that make others feel devalued, inadequate, angry, frustrated, or guilty. In contrast, “nourishing” people are the polar opposite, making others feel valued, capable, loved, respected, and appreciated.
In his Self-Assessment Quiz, Karl Albrecht provides an opportunity for us to examine our own behaviors to determine if we are toxic ourselves. Our behaviors, whether we are aware of them or not, clearly tell others the type of person we are, provided they are aware of what toxicity looks like themselves.
If you’re interested in discovering your Toxic-Nourishing balance, check out his quiz at this link:
Why Do We Seek Out Toxic Relationships?
The tendency to unconsciously seek out toxic relationships frequently starts with past negative experiences when we are children and might carry on throughout our lives. They can become so deeply ingrained in the way we think and feel that we don’t realize we are steeped in toxicity until, or hopefully when, someone else points it out. The toxic person in our lives (and maybe it’s us), is generally concerned about themselves and their needs; the relationship is classic codependent. The worse form is when that other is your partner or mate, supposedly there forever!
Five Signs You’re in a Toxic Relationship
In their book, The Time Cure, Rosemary K.M. Sword and Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D., list five signs to help identify if you’re in a toxic relationship.
- It seems like you can’t do anything right – The other person constantly puts you down as not good enough. They mock your personality and you feel ashamed most of the time. You only feel pardoned when you take on the traits of the person doing the condemning or judging.
- Everything is about them and never about you – You have feelings too, but the other person won’t hear them. You’re unable to have a two-sided conversation where your opinion is heard, considered, and respected. Instead of acknowledging your feelings, they battle with you until they get the last word.
- You find yourself unable to enjoy good moments with this person – Every day brings another challenge. It seems as though they are always raising gripes about you. Their attempt to control your behavior is an attempt to control your happiness.
- You’re uncomfortable being yourself around that person – You don’t feel free to speak your mind. You have to put on a different face just to be accepted by that person. You realize you don’t even recognize yourself anymore.
- You’re not allowed to grow and change – Whenever you aim to grow and improve yourself, the other person responds with mockery and disbelief. There is no encouragement or support for your efforts. Instead, they keep you stuck in old judgments insisting that you will never be any different than you are now.
If you’re experiencing even just one of these signs, check-in with yourself to see if the relationship is doing more damage than good.