Sherry Gaba, LCSW and Transformation Coach
Author of Love Smacked: How to Stop the Cycle of Relationship Addiction and Codependency to find Everlasting Love
And Wake Up Recovery for Toxic Relationships, Codependency and Love Addiction
There are many different types of relationships, some of which are positive and healthy, and some which are toxic and unhealthy. Unfortunately, it is not always easy or even evident which type of relationship you are getting into until there are significant telltale signs.
The term toxic relationship is used to describe a relationship where the couple is destructive towards each other rather than constructive and supportive. The destruction or toxicity is typically coming from one person, but it is possible for both people to become competitive and unsupportive of each other. In these cases, one person initiated the toxic behavior, and the other person responded in kind. In extreme cases, the toxicity can include physical abuse, but it is emotionally damaging even at best for the partner.
A toxic person or partner does not start that way. These people are manipulative, and they recognize that putting on a mask and being a positive, supportive person is important. However, even with their best attempts at covering up the toxicity, there are often subtle signs of potential problems.
Signs of a Toxic Relationship
It is essential to realize that even the best relationships can have times when one or both partners may use some version of these signs of toxicity in their interactions. In good relationships, the partners apologize and mean it. They do not repeat the behavior in the future. In toxic relationships, these damaging and destructive behaviors become the norm.
· Explosive or constant bad temper – if a partner explodes in anger over minor or even major issues, it is a sign of emotional regulation problems. Having to walk on eggshells or avoid specific topics of discussion to avoid triggering the partner’s temper is a sure sign of a toxic person. These emotional explosions are not public, which makes it difficult for friends and family to see the true challenges in the relationship.
· Belittling – belittling or putting a partner down is standard behavior of a toxic person. This includes making fun of your ideas, suggestions, opinions, or accomplishments.
· Deflecting – turning your concerns with the relationship into your problem and not their problem is common for the toxic person. They twist their role from the aggressor or instigator into becoming the victim.
· Excuses for behavior – the toxic partner makes excuses for their behavior while berating you for the same types of behavior.
· No trust – constant questions about what you are doing, where you are, and who you are with is a common sign of a toxic partner. This can include demands to send pictures, immediately answer text messages, or pick up the phone and talk to them.
· Extremely controlling – if the partner makes all the decisions in the relationship and you are ignored or told your opinion or insight is not important, you are in a toxic relationship.
· Demanding – in addition to attention and control, the toxic partner demands 100% of your time, attention, focus, and support. This is not reciprocated in any fashion. You often feel isolated, alone, and invalidated in anything you try to do in the relationship.
Tips for Managing A Toxic Relationship
It is possible to change the relationship between toxic partners, but both have to want to change. Working with a therapist with expertise and experience in helping couples to learn to communicate and interact will be critical. If you are looking for individual support check out my program Wake Up Recovery for healing toxic relationships. I am offering it for $1 trial for a limited time.
There are some tips to help you to detect toxic people early in a relationship. Some of the most effective ways to do this include:
· Learn how to talk and listen – one of the biggest issues in a toxic relationship is that communication is not effective. One person is doing all the talking, and the other person is in the listener role. Moving to a healthy dialogue where both partners talk and listen to each other is critical. In the early stages of a dating relationship, look and listen for communication problems that repeat.
· Different behavior in public and private – toxic people often have a very different presentation in public and private. They are positive, engaging, and may even appear considerate of your needs in public, but are abusive, belittling, and negative in private. If this is a pattern and occurs again after a discussion about this issue, consider leaving thea relationship.
Finally, any attempts to isolate you or push your friends or family away should be seen as a red flag. Listen to your friends and family as well; they often see the subtle signs of a toxic person early in a relationship that you may miss.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW and Transformation Coach