Image courtesy of Phonalatuch at freedigitalphotos.net/Your relationships - healthy or toxic?
Recently, I made the decision to change my mobile phone number. To me, this was an indicator that I was finally actually ready to end the toxic relationships in my life.
None of my relationships have been purely good or bad. However, I believe that the term ‘toxic’ is earned when I am involved with somebody who is not really a ‘whole’ person – myself and the other person needing the other person in our lives for the wrong reasons. For example, many men have wanted a purely sexual relationship, claiming they were ‘in love’ with me. However, it was blaringly obvious to me that any real love was based on a physical attraction. When that was taken away, we hardly had anything in common.
Relationships have also been toxic when the other person involved has been excessively needy, ringing up to 4 times per day, every day, and almost always taking it personally when I cannot meet these demands. I find these relationships exhausting, and the other party seems immune to repeated reassurances that yes, they are important but it’s not one hundred percent about them. These relationships are then driven by my guilt, a feeling that one has to constantly reassure and meet the unrealistic emotional demands of the other. Often, they also may seem desperate to please, lavishing you with gifts that are not expected and to a degree that isn’t appropriate.
So, so far I have found purely sexual relationships and ones where feelings are excessively intense and demands from the partner unreasonable to be toxic. My needs are not being met. I either feel like a sex object, or almost like a mother, reassuring a child that they are okay.
Toxic relationships can also take the form of abusive interactions. The other person may have an emotional disorder – however, even while taking blame and judgement away for it is my understanding that they may not be able to always help it, the moodiness expressed by the other leaves me feeling unsafe. I feel cherished when they are in one of their loving moods, but worthless for no tangible reason after a string of abuse when it’s not going well.
Healthy relationships are the ones where both partners have insight and respect for the others’ emotional needs – providing the other with space where appropriate and being able to validate their own feelings, but yet being vulnerable enough to open up and express a more tender side that is responsive to nurturance.
In romantic relationships, there needs to be both a chemical, intellectual, spiritual and emotional bond. It can’t be just about sex. However, beautiful relationships can take the platonic form. These are hardly toxic just because neither partner feels sexually towards each other – but they are healthy if they contain none of the negative aspects of relationships that can rear their ugly head, such as emotional guilt trips, and trouble with boundaries, leading to excessive neediness.
Relationships of convenience are never healthy. Essentially, both parties are using the other in some way – for example the male wants sex, and the woman wants the man to buy things for her is one example. If suddenly the man or woman’s one-dimensional and unhealthy needs of questionable motivation about whether they truly care for the other anyway, unsustainable (for example, the man may lose his job and stop being able to meet the woman's high maintenance needs) the relationship would crumble. It would be like the house made of straw, where the wolf puffs and presto – there is no house. The relationship is built on no foundation that is lasting. Then again, if both parties are aware of the, superficiality of the so-called ‘relationship’ and know it’s about mutual ‘friends with benefits’ with benefits being the basis of the ‘friendship’ and are not bothered by it there’s no reason this kind of union may not work. It’s important though that both parties are away of the fragility and lack of real depth here.
A difficulty with intimacy can have its roots in hurt from the past where the partner has put up emotional armour or walls, so refuses to let others become close to them – these relationships are toxic to the one who is trying to climb over the walls. Unless the person is ready to be in a relationship, it can be toxic for the other person to be continually rejected and pushed away.
So here are some of the signs of toxic relationships:
1. They are based on a one-dimensional component, for example lust. This is not to be confused with love. Sex is just one part of a relationship despite being an extension of loving feelings is not love itself.
2. One or both parties are clearly being used or it is a relationship of convenience. If these benefits were to disappear, where would the relationship go?
3. One or both parties either is excessively needy and demanding, and depends on the other person to feel ‘whole’.
4. One or both parties find it hard to be intimate, to trust and to open up and become vulnerable to the other.
5. There is purely little in common between the two people – this may not be so much toxic, but when love is expected, it is disappointing to try to create commonalities where none exist.
6. One or both parties are abusive, or the swings between loving behaviour and hurtful behaviour, leaving the other person feeling the relationship is unpredictable. If there is physical violence, this is %%definite toxicity – there is no other way to describe it, and there are no excuses for it – the person needs to get out as soon as possible**.
A healthy relationship on the other hand, is based on many dimensions, including but not exclusively sexual if romantic – but there will be other commonalities, or similar interests between the couples. There will be emotional and intellectual reciprocal connections. Both parties will feel both that they can give and take, there is listening and opening up, there is the ability to be vulnerable and that to be accepting and non-judgemental.
At the same time, there will be a willingness to understand that no relationship is perfect, and things won’t run smoothly all the time. However, if any or more of the signs of a toxic relationship overwhelm your feelings about the relationship, then it may be that you are better off to he end the relationship.
So, when do you end the relationship? How do you do it? I believe it’s quite simple: time should be taken to consider the relationship and it’s pathway over the time you’ve known the person. Is their behaviour typical, or something that has been good and is now deteriorating? Has it shown signs of being open to healing before? Importantly are the good points about the relationship more tangible, evident and easily accessible to your memory than the bad points, the negative feelings? It’s really about the balance of the scales. If it tips in turn of being more positive than toxic, then continuation in the relationship seems like a logical choice.
However, the depth of the interaction may also be needed to taken into account. The positives may outweigh the negatives, but this may be a person who can be toxic at times, and when these behaviours are demonstrated by them, you need to take a step back or show that you won’t deal with that kind of treatment.
If you want to end the relationship, it’s generally considered to be polite and respectful to do it in person. The relationship has, for better or for worse, taken up a great deal of your time and the other person’s. It deserves more than a superficial, perfunctory and cowardly text message that gives the message that the whole relationship was worth hardly anything.
However, having said that, as introduced in the article, I am actually changing my number. For in this instance, the person does not respect 'no' as an answer, and will continuously ring even after explicit requests not to. In this case, a discussion will never work.
However, when it will, think about what you are going to say. Take time to explain your reasons.
Be polite and respectful. Don’t blame the other person or even accuse them of being toxic to you. Don’t blame at all, in fact. It’s best just to discuss how both of you are probably better off not investing as much time in it – talk about your own faults too. Even if you think they are not that many, sometimes it’s better to be wrong than to fight.
If the person becomes defensive and abusive, tell them you won’t be spoken to in that way, and that you will talk to them when they calmer. If they seem particularly upset about your decision to end the relationship, it may be that they do have deeper caring feelings that haven’t been demonstrated. Relationship counselling may be worth it here, or reassessment of the relationship. It may be worthwhile just talking one on one if even one of you considers it a huge loss.
If the person becomes threatened by ‘abandonment’ and begins to make self-harming friends, contact a health care professional. Don’t be manipulated, but at the same time show you care and clearly restate your reasons. If they make physical or other threats toward you, you are not over-reacting to contact the police.
Your life, your relationships are about you. For you to contribute back in a relationship, it’s got to be a happy, non-toxic one.
However, staying around if it’s toxic is like living in a crowded city with greenhouse gases and poisons…you won’t know straight away, but long time, they take their toll.