What Is a Toxic Relationship?

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What is a toxic relationship?

Toxic relationships are ones that make you feel unsupported, misunderstood, put down, or attacked. On a basic level, any relationship that makes you feel worse for the better can become toxic over time.

Toxic relationships can exist in any setting, from the playground to the boardroom to the bedroom. You may even be dealing with toxic relationships between your family members.

A relationship is toxic when your happiness is threatened in some way — emotionally, psychologically, and even physically.

People with a mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, major depression, or even a predisposition to depression, may be especially vulnerable to toxic relationships because they are already sensitive to these emotions. negative emotions. For example, a person with bipolar disorder who is in a depressive or mixed episode may have weaker emotional stability than others, and that may make that person an easier target for malicious people. However, toxic people can affect anyone.

Here’s what you need to know about toxic relationships, including what makes a relationship toxic and how to determine if you’re in it. You’ll also find tips on how to effectively manage these types of relationships.

Signs of a Toxic Relationship

Only you can tell if the bad outweighs the good in a relationship. But if someone is constantly threatening your health with what they’re saying, doing, or not doing, it could be a toxic relationship.

Relationships involving physical or verbal abuse definitely fall under the category of toxic. But there are other, more subtle, signs of a toxic relationship, including:

  • You give more than you get, which leaves you feeling devalued and drained.
  • You always feel disrespected or your needs unmet.
  • You feel affected by your self-esteem over time.
  • You feel unsupported, misunderstood, put down, or attacked.
  • You feel depressed, angry, or tired after talking or being with the other person.
  • You bring out the worst in each other. For example, your competitive friend brings a string of competition based on grievances and uninterestingness to you.
  • You are not your best self around that person. For example, they show your gossip side, or they seem to paint a badass you normally don’t have.
  • You feel like you have to walk on eggshells around this person to avoid being the target of their venom.
  • You spend a lot of time and energy trying to cheer them up.
  • You are always the one to blame. They turn the tide so what you think they did wrong is suddenly your fault.
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Toxic versus Healthy Behavior

When determining if a relationship is creating toxicity, it’s important to see what behaviors are most frequently exhibited in the relationship. In other words, if one or both of you is consistently selfish, negative, and disrespectful, you may be creating relationship toxicity. But if you are primarily encouraging, compassionate, and respectful, then there may be certain issues that create toxicity that need to be addressed.

It’s important to recognize the signs of toxicity — whether it’s in you or in someone else. Here are some signs of both toxic and healthy behavior.

Toxic behavior

  • Not safe

  • Jealous

  • Negative

  • Self-centered

  • Selfish

  • Criticize

  • Sale off

  • Bother

  • Scold

  • Disrespectful

Healthy behavior

  • Sure

  • Love

  • Positive

  • Give

  • Altruism

  • Encourage

  • Raise morale

  • Reliable

  • Mercy

  • Respect


It’s important to note that toxic relationships are not limited to romantic relationships. They exist in families, workplaces, and among groups of friends – and they can be extremely stressful, especially if toxicity is not managed effectively.

Not all toxic relationships are mutual. Some people are simply toxic around — they drain your energy with negative behaviors like constant complaining, critical comments, and overall negativity. Or, they may argue constantly with others, explain why they understand better, or point out other people’s flaws — all of which can weigh on you over time.

Sometimes people act this way towards everyone and are not aware of their effect on others. They also may not know healthier ways of communicating. It’s likely that they don’t know how to read social cues well enough to know when they’re letting people down or making them feel like they’re being criticized or ignored.

But other times, people are intentionally rude and hurtful. In these situations, you may feel alone and targeted through their malicious words and actions. And, no matter what you do, you feel like you never measure up or are good enough.

If these situations apply to yours, you may want to reevaluate your relationship with this person. They can do real damage to your self-esteem and your overall mental health as well as your physical health.

In fact, a 2016 University of Michigan study found that “stress and [negative] Relationship quality directly affects the cardiovascular system. “In the long run, all of these factors harm your health and can even lead to unhealthy coping behaviors like drinking or emotional eating.

Narcissists and Sociopaths

Some people, especially narcissists and sociopaths, tend to attract the attention and admiration of others. Narcissists feel the need for another person and make them feel “inferior” in their quest for superiority.

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They may intentionally demean you in insensitive ways or hurl minor insults at you if you share an achievement you’re proud of. They can also make you guess whether they treat you well from day to day. Or, they can engage in gas lighting consistently.

Narcissists are notoriously bad at admitting mistakes because they truly believe they never make mistakes. In fact, they personally find seeing themselves less than perfect as a threat to them personally.

When dealing with toxic, narcissistic people, it’s not always obvious what they’re doing. But if their behavior constantly makes you feel bad about yourself, you need to distance yourself from this person, or at least accept that you need to take precautions if that person has to be in your life. .

A change in your behavior won’t change them, but it can help reduce the stress of dealing with them. It is important that you protect yourself from the emotional abuse you receive when interacting with them:

  • Remind yourself that you’re not going to change them, and confronting them may only add to your resentment and solve nothing.
  • Put distance between you and them.
  • Accept that you need to take precautions if that person has to be in your life.


If it’s a coworker and proximity is the issue, think of a good reason to move your desk. For example: “I’m right under a vent that’s bothering me” or “I could get more done if I didn’t like the printer.”

If the person is looking for you to complain, you can try referring them to a supervisor, then calmly return to your work. You may have to repeat this several times before they get the hint.

Family and Friends

With family members and friends, it can be more difficult, as there may not be an easy way to remove toxic substances from your life.

If you have a seriously toxic friend, you may simply need to reduce the time you spend with them. If you’re worried about offending them, cut back on your visit to a monthly period so it’s not as noticeable (though they’ll still be able to notice).

When the person exposed to the poison is a family member or close friend, it is also possible to encourage the person to participate in therapy, which is often necessary to address the underlying problem behind the poison.

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While not every toxic relationship can be avoided, especially between co-workers or family members, they can be managed with healthy boundaries, self-care, and awareness.

If you find yourself in a toxic relationship where you bring out the worst in each other (or simply don’t bring out the best), you may want to move on with the relationship and make a change. motivation — especially if there are other benefits to the relationship.

Assertive communication and healthier boundaries are often the keys to bringing out the best in each other — especially if you’re both open to change.

Here are some more steps to dealing with a toxic relationship:

  • Talk to the other person about what you are witnessing. Be assertive about your needs and feelings and take responsibility for your part in the situation.
  • Discuss what you find to be the problem and decide together if you want to change the move to ensure that both meet your needs.
  • Reassess your relationship and ask yourself: Is this person really causing damage to my self-esteem and overall mental health?
  • Limit the time you spend with people who bring disappointment or unhappiness into your life. If this person is someone you need to interact with, like a family member or colleague, you may need to limit interactions.
  • If you decide to talk about your concerns, use “I feel” when describing your feelings and emotions. Doing so keeps them from feeling defensive.
  • Realize that some toxic people simply don’t want to change—especially those who lack self-awareness or social skills.
  • Try to stand up for yourself when the situation warrants it.

A very good word

When faced with any type of toxic relationship, it’s important to focus on your health and well-being. Therefore, if you are dealing with someone who drains your energy and happiness, consider removing them from your life, or at least limiting your time with them. And, if you are experiencing emotional or physical abuse, get help right away.

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