What does it mean to be in a toxic relationship?
Nobody wants to admit that they're in one and the scariest thing of all is that most people who are in one think it's normal.
Many of the behaviors that we've witnessed in our families and in relationships of the past have been highly toxic. In dating, people look at toxic behavior as just a "part of the game" and it gets normalized and even joked about.
You usually don't expect too much from relationships, you expect too little. And because most people don't know what they should expect from relationships, they will justify toxicity and even defend it to their friends and family.
No matter how good of a person you really are, it can still happen to you and when you're in the middle of it, it can be very difficult to recognize. That's why we've put this post together. We are going to illustrate some of the most common toxic behaviors so you can easily identify if your relationship is, in fact, toxic.
1. In every conflict, they turn it around on you.
We're not suggesting that your partner should never point out any of your "stuff" or call you out. In a conscious relationship, you will want your partner to point things out that you can improve on individually and as a couple. You know each other better than anyone, and if you're looking for insight on how to improve the relationship, no one will know better than them.
But in a toxic relationship, this looks very different.
A toxic person will be absolutely unwilling to accept accountability for themselves and they will always make it your fault.
As soon as you bring up a concern, insecurity, doubt, or challenge for the two of you to address together, they will immediately turn the attention back on you and you'll end up wanting to defend yourself while their behavior and the issue you wanted to discuss get overlooked entirely.
A toxic partner will want to set up the relationship so that they never have to assess their own conduct. If they can make you constantly look at yourself, they won't have to look at their own behavior. What can be very confusing about this is that they will bring up valid points, so you may tend to think that they are right. The validity of their points is not what we are questioning. Their points may be valid or not.
What is in question is that they invalidate your points.
For example, you might say to your partner something like: "Honey, it seemed like you were flirting with that other woman and that made me feel uncomfortable."
And he might respond with: "What are you so insecure about?" or "Why are you accusing me of that?" or "Why don't you trust me?" What he is doing is putting the attention on you and removing his conduct from questioning. Even more so, he is attempting to invalidate your experience and take away your voice in the relationship.
Perhaps there IS some area of insecurity for you to look at, but if he's using that as a way to deflect accountability for his own actions, to avoid considering how his actions might be affecting the relationship, this is toxic behavior and you will not be able to feel safe in the relationship.
An accountable and understanding response would show you that he is interested in your experience and he'll want to know how he can help you feel safe in the relationship.
He would respond with something like, "That wasn't my intention Love. I apologize for making you feel that way, and I can pay closer attention to my behavior in the future," or "Tell me more about that. What was it I did that made you feel that way?"
When you bring something to the table for the two of you to look at, a Loving partner will be open to looking with you. If you cannot voice a concern and discuss it without having it thrown back on you, you will never be able to feel safe in the relationship.
2. In disagreements, they seek to hurt you.
All disagreements are an opportunity to grow closer to each other by teaming up to overcome your differences. In a relationship, you want to work as a team to resolve these challenges in a way that you both feel safe, seen, heard, and honored.
Disagreements are guaranteed, there is no way around them. Don't try to avoid them, but rather as a couple, become skilled at working through them and you'll grow closer to each other on the other side of them.
A toxic person will use disagreements as a way to hurt you and in doing so, gain power over you in the relationship. There is no "wrong" in a relationship disagreement, there are simply two different points of view. Conscious couples recognize this and they don't feel the need to make the other person wrong. In fact, because they understand that both perspectives are valid, they seek a resolution that validates both points of view without dishonoring their partner.
A manipulative partner will make your point of view "wrong." They will even go as far as to insult and attack you for having that point of view. Namecalling, insulting, and personal attacks are toxic behavior. Period.
Their goal here is power and control. They aren't considering what is "right" in the situation, only what will give them the upper hand. They want to "win the fight," and to do that, they try to disempower you by causing emotional pain.
They want you to feel so bad and wrong about your point of view that you apologize and ask for their forgiveness. At this point, they will often become kind, tell you it's OK, that they love and forgive you, but you'll feel small because you could only get their love by diminishing yourself. Other times, they'll continue to punish you for it and make you continue to beg for their forgiveness.
3. Gaslighting--They make you doubt your own rational ideas.
They will do and say things that contradict what you know to be true. They will tell blatant lies, deny things that you know for a fact are true, accuse you of doing things that they know you haven't done, use what is near and dear to your heart against you (like your family, children, or career), and tell you one thing and then do the opposite. Keeping you on unstable mental and emotional ground gives them an upper-hand in the relationship.
By planting enough seeds of doubt in your mind that you start to question what you know is right and true, they can start to have you see things the way they want you to. Usually, they frame it in a way that leaves you feeling guilty and ashamed.
They twist the things you say and you begin to feel like you can't say anything right because everything you say gets twisted in bizarre ways. Their twist will be very different from how you see things because it is irrational, but they will be so confident in their assertions that it will make you doubt your own rational thinking. You'll think that you must be the crazy one because they make all of your sane ideas seem wrong.
You may say something very innocent or joking and they'll take it personally. They'll act like you hurt them and maybe even accuse you of being malicious and intending to hurt them. You know that you weren't trying to be malicious and so you'll start to think, "Maybe there's something wrong with me? How could I be so insensitive?"
This has nothing to do with something being "wrong" with you. This is their attempt to make you feel guilty and use that guilt to control you.
You know that this is happening if you feel like you are constantly walking on eggshells, you feel like you have to be very careful about what you say to them and how you say it, and/or you don't feel free to express yourself or have a voice.
4. They tear you down and then build you back up.
A toxic partner's goal is really to keep you at your worst. Your confidence, freedom, and happiness are threatening to them. So things that bring you joy feel like a threat and they will seek to take that away somehow because they fear losing their hold over you and the relationship.
When you're feeling high this person will make comments that bring you down. You'll have the feeling that they're always taking your joy from you (because they are). They won't like your friends and won't want you to spend time with them. In general, they'll be resistant to any of your interests that don't involve them.
When you get excited about something they will shoot it down and at times, even directly shoot you down for being excited. In doing this they destroy your confidence and plant the seed that nobody else will want to be with you so that you grow an attachment to them--you'll "need" them.
They want you to believe that being small is the way to get Love, and when you're with them you'll diminish yourself because that's the only way they'll be pleased with you.
In a toxic relationship, you will feel that they are constantly bringing you down to your lowest, and only then do they give you love and affection. In truth, this is the only time they feel safe enough to show you love. It's a reward system. They want to reward your being small for them because it validates their own insecurities and makes them feel safe. At these times you will see the good in them and this will give you hope for the relationship.
Don't be fooled by this--everyone has good in them but if they cannot give you that consistently, they have a lot of work to do before they're ready for a relationship.
Sometimes they will feel guilty and be sorrowful and apologize for hurting you in these ways, but how they attempt to show their Love is not really important. If you notice that they consistently do it when you're at your lowest and tear you down when you're at your highest, this is a toxic dynamic. A loving partner will always seek to reinforce your confidence and build you up, even on your best days.
Our intention is not to brand certain people as "toxic".
We are drawing attention to unhealthy behaviors and tendencies that we all have to some degree. Some people are master manipulators and they use these behaviors intentionally to control people, but for most people, that's not the case.
Most "toxic" people aren't even aware that they are doing it. They are people who have been hurt in their lives. Maybe they witnessed these behaviors in their parents or other loved ones, and so they're acting them out in their own relationships.
The most important part is this: No matter how much you "Love" someone, there is no justifiable reason to subject yourself to toxic behavior.
If you are on the receiving end of manipulative behavior in a relationship, do not stand for it. It will destroy your dignity and self-esteem, and no good will ever come from it. Depending on how entrenched your partner is in this behavior, it may involve leaving the relationship.
There is no simple solution to these challenges. Sometimes a relationship can be salvaged, sometimes not. When you are in the middle of it, it's almost impossible to see the situation clearly. That's why working with someone who has expertise in these issues and can help you gain clarity on the situation is essential.
If you're suffering in a toxic relationship and would like our help, click here.
We send our Love to you and thank you for reading <3
A Conscious approach to dating and relationships…
Like you, the idea of sharing our life with that special someone was particularly exciting to us, and after many years of working with individuals and couples alike, it's clear that we're not the only ones who feel that way.
We've been through enough relationship challenges (our own and others') to know exactly how scary relationships can be, how difficult dating can be, and how let-down you feel when once again, you get excited about someone and it ends up going nowhere.
Yes, we've had these experiences and more--heartbreak, failure, disappointment, despair.
We know how painful it can be to watch everyone around you fall in Love and wonder if it's ever going to happen for you. Or, how scary it can be to see someone you Love drift away from you and feel like there is nothing you can do to stop it.
The truth is that we had a lot of work to do to be able to have the kind of Love we have today. We did that work, learned exactly what it was all about, and now we help people like YOU do the work to create the Love that you're looking for.
We help you create conscious, loving, and committed lifelong partnerships so you can experience the Love and Fulfillment that you've always dreamed of. We first address your thoughts, beliefs, feelings, fears to make sure you're ready for Love. Then we give you the strategies and skills necessary to have the satisfaction and fulfillment you truly desire in a relationship.
The most fulfilling path is never the easiest but always the most rewarding. If you're ready to work and create the Love you truly desire, click here to begin.