We know a lot about how relationships work, less about how to solve relationship problems when cracks begin to show and even less about how to judge if your relationship has become toxic and potentially damaging to your health. A relationship in distress can cause damage to an individual’s mental health, whilst positive relationships can improve our mental health, toxic relationships can be extremely harmful.
No relationship is conflict-free all the time, but a healthy relationship should leave you feeling happy and energized, if you’re feeling depressed and depleted then this relationship could be dangerous and damaging to your mental health.
Here are some signs to help you recognize a toxic relationship:
- Inability to communicate: a lack of communication and inability to resolve conflict and express feelings, resulting in daily disputes and constant background noise of conflict
- Continuous disrespect: Lack of mutual respect and empathy, feeling cold and distant towards partner (indifference is the opposite of love rather than hate)
- One-sided relationship: Difficulty in problem solving as a couple, all take and no give
- Lack of flexibility: Inability to differentiate and maintain roles in a relationship and to accept flexibility and change within these roles
- Hostile atmosphere: Constant anger, physical or verbal abuse is a sure sign of an unhealthy relationship
- Constant judgment: where criticism is not intended to be helpful but rather to belittle, this negative energy is toxic
- Lack of trust and dishonesty: Relationships cannot function without trust especially when there are hidden external relationships involved
- Overall feelings of unhappiness: good relationships improve your life, bad ones leave you feeling drained, depleted and distraught
If any of this sounds familiar, it's time to make some big changes, stay true to yourself and your values, it’s time to remove yourself from a toxic relationship.
As humans we are relational beings; our identity, health and wellbeing and our ability to function effectively come from our ability to navigate our relational world. As such, if a major part of our relational network is toxic it will make us ill.
When we relate to others, structures form in our frontal lobes, this literally means that our relationships become a physical part of our brain’s frontal lobes, specifically the area that is related to what we call our personality. If we have toxic relationships we are training our personalities to become toxic. Most healthy people shy away from toxic people, those that don’t run the risk of becoming isolated.
Psychotherapist Noel McDermott comments: “This process of your personality adapting to the toxic relationships around you and the isolation that occurs from that will produce high levels of stress and distress. Stress and the hormones associated with that can result in physical illness, substance misuse, mental illness, relationship breakdown, absenteeism and unemployment. These are big prices to pay, avoid toxic unhealthy relationships and surround yourself with people that are uplifting, kind, compassionate and above all pro-social”.
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