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Toxic Relationships: How to Fix One and What to Know

Arguments, disagreements, and quarrels are a normal part of being in a relationship. Because no two people are exactly alike, our differences can lead to divides in the way we speak, behave, and act toward one another. But what happens when it isn’t just the occasional argument here and there? How do you know if you’re in a toxic relationship? Read on to learn. 

Toxic relationships: overview and history

If feeling drained, uneasy, fearful, on-edge, or suspicious has become a part of your everyday life, you may be in a toxic relationship.  When a relationship lacks trust, respect, empathy, and mutual support, it’s time to reevaluate whether you are in a healthy relationship — one that encourages both individual and mutual growth —  or a toxic relationship.

The term “toxic relationship” was coined by communication and psychology expert, Dr. Lillian Glass, in her 1995 book Toxic People. She describes a toxic relationship as one in which people “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.”

Toxic relationships take an emotional, mental, and sometimes physical toll on the people in it. However, they don’t always involve abuse. In fact, toxic relationships can happen between two well-balanced people who are having difficulty connecting or communicating in an effective way. 

When the majority of exchanges between the people in the relationship are unpleasant; when the good outweighs the bad, it’s time for a change. Sometimes toxic relationships need to end in separation — for example, if they involve abuse or harassment. Other times, toxic relationships can be turned around into healthy ones with changes in behavior and communication styles.

The signs you’re in a toxic relationship can be so subtle that they leave you scratching your head and wondering what’s going on.

Unsure about whether you’re in a toxic relationship? You’re not alone. The signs can be so subtle that they leave you scratching your head and wondering what’s going on. If you find yourself asking “am I in a toxic relationship,” it’s important to make sure you know the signs so you can take action if necessary.  Keep reading to find out whether you may be in a toxic relationship. 

Signs of a toxic relationship

When a relationship teeters on the line between making you happy or miserable, you may need some help identifying toxic relationship signs to understand what you’re dealing with. These are the signs of a bad relationship: 

  • You focus all your energy on your partner and often feel drained — physically, mentally, and emotionally.
  • You feel you are constantly being judged, criticized, pressured or controlled.
  • You drop friends, family, or activities you enjoy, either because of direct pressure to do so or because you think it will make things smoother.
  • You shut down and avoid saying what you think and do not feel comfortable being yourself when the other person is around.
  • The relationship is one-sided.
  • There’s a power struggle in your relationship.
  • You are being ignored.
  • There’s no trust in the relationship.
  • You can’t rely on your partner’s support.
  • You fight over insignificant things.
  • There is envy and jealousy between the two of you.
  • You feel unworthy or small, sad, or scared.
  • Lying and cheating are a part of your life.
  • You have no privacy.
  • You are scared of saying no.
  • Your opinions and thoughts are not valued.
  • You can’t talk about your needs or changes in your life that are important.
  • There are more bad times than good in the relationship.

If these sound familiar, you are most likely in a toxic relationship. One thing is certain: life should not continue this way. There are two viable options when a person finds themselves in a toxic relationship: fix it or end it.

How to fix a toxic relationship

Depending on how deep the hurt is, it is possible that the toxic relationship you are in is not fixable. The only chance you have of fixing what is broken in your relationship is if you are both willing to face the facts, admit your wrongdoings, and be open to changing your behaviors. 

Step 1: Talk about it

The first step to fixing an unhealthy relationship is to get on the same page with your partner. There needs to be work from both sides in order to repair what is broken and move forward in a productive way.

The first step to fixing an unhealthy relationship is to get on the same page with your partner.

Give each other the space to open up about any feelings — positive or negative — that come up in the relationship. Don’t interrupt. Focus instead on making your partner feel safe and heard while they’re talking. It’s important that your partner also does this too. 

Step 2: Consider therapy

It may be helpful to attend therapy together. However, remember that couples counseling is neither safe nor appropriate if there is an imbalance of power in the relationship. All sides should want to fix common problems by going to therapy and bring good intentions and honest behavior to each session. 

A professional, objective third-party can help to put things into perspective and assist you in gaining insight into your own downfalls, your partner’s feelings, and recurring miscommunications. Your therapist will most likely give you exercises that will set a platform for honest conversations to bring you closer together. 

Your therapist may also help to identify abusive behavior, and if necessary, they may encourage you to part ways.

All sides should want to fix common problems by going to therapy and bring good intentions and honest behavior to each session.

Step 3: Build yourself up

People who have been in toxic relationships for a long time often find that they have lost their sense of self. They feel low, unworthy, and anxious, and they may engage in deprecating self-talk or express anger. 

Build your self-esteem by participating in activities that you enjoy, expanding your social circle, and investing in self-care. If your partner tries to block you from doing these things, it’s time to end the relationship.

Build your self-esteem by participating in activities that you enjoy, expanding your social circle, and investing in self-care.

It’s especially important to establish a support network. Don’t refuse help from other people. If you want to talk to someone important about this relationship, do it.

Once you have built yourself up, you’ll have a better grasp of whether the relationship is salvageable or worth the investment.    

When it’s better to leave 

Not every relationship is fixable, and not every person is worth investing time in. If your partner is verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive, it’s time to leave because abuse is never OK.

If your partner is unwilling to talk about the relationship, go to therapy, or admit that there is a problem and nothing more can be done to fix the toxic setting that you are in. Both people in the relationship need to be equally invested in making it work. If the efforts are one-sided, it’s time to leave.

If your partner is verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive, it’s time to leave because abuse is never OK.

If you feel trapped, isolated, or suffocated by the relationship, you may feel it is impossible to leave. These are signs that you need to end it. Push through those fears and get yourself to a healthy and safe environment. 

The bottom line on toxic relationships 

Just because you have been with someone for a long time does not mean you are obligated to stay. You do not owe that person anything, but you do owe it to yourself to live a life free from anxiety, depression, and fear. If you think it’s possible to get to a healthy place with your partner, work on fixing the dynamic in your relationship.

Whether it’s fixing the dynamic or walking away, you need to do what’s best for you, so go for it — and don’t delay.

It takes a lot of strength to let someone know your relationship isn’t working for you.  Sometimes, to end to a toxic dynamic is to end the relationship altogether. When that happens, focus your energy on building yourself back up again with self-care, self-love, and by surrounding yourself with people who love and care for you. 

Even though you may not believe it right now, you have the power to change your situation. Whether it’s fixing the dynamic or walking away, you need to do what’s best for you, so go for it — and don’t delay. 

https://time.com/5274206/toxic-relationship-signs-help/

https://www.inc.com/lolly-daskal/35-signs-youre-in-a-toxic-business-relationship.html

https://www.womenshealthmag.com/relationships/a19739065/signs-of-toxic-relationship/

https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/signs-abuse

https://wgac.colostate.edu/support/relationship-violence/a-guide-for-supporting-a-friend/

https://wgac.colostate.edu/support/relationship-violence/a-guide-for-supporting-a-friend/

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