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Toxic Relationship: Signs And How To Get Out

A toxic relationship is often full of mental abuse and controlling behavior.

A toxic relationship is harmful to at least one person or even all of the people involved. This is a type of unhealthy relationship where there is both affection and suffering. That's why it's hard to identify and get out of a toxic relationship. In the following article,  we take a look at the signs of a toxic relationship, and we define it. Finally, we take a look at signs of a toxic person and explain how to get out of a toxic relationship and move on.


What is a toxic relationship?

The word 'toxic' means 'of or relating to a toxin or poison,' or, 'having the effect of a poison; poisonous.' So, a toxic relationship is a connection or bond between two or more people that harms one or all parties involved.


While humans constantly engage in relationships since in large part we satisfy our basic needs through them, these relations are also a source of constant stress and discomfort. In part, this depends on the personality traits of each person as well as preferences and interests. But it also depends on the time and context in which living together as a couple occurs. This can either lead to a healthy environment, or on the other hand, ruin the chances of this.


Abusive relationship types and traits

Generally speaking, a toxic relationship comes from a toxic environment. Besides, all parties involved are usually responsible to some extent for creating said atmosphere, depending on how they participate in and what role they play in the group. On the same note, it's important to recognize that toxic relationships don't just occur in romantic relationships.


This type of connection can also arise between family members, coworkers, classmates, and generally in any context where conflicts can arise. On the other hand, 'toxic love' is a term that's often associated with this type of relationship, and it refers to contradictory connections that focus on caring for someone. However, this constantly hurts this other person. Said contradiction is one of the main obstacles when it comes to recognizing and getting out of a toxic relationship.


Related: Couples Therapy: When To Go And What To Expect


Signs of a toxic person

Just like there are toxic environments or contexts, there are also conflictive or toxic people. Besides, without realizing it, a lot of times we ourselves are toxic to other people. In spite of good intentions and even caring for others, our behavior at times can create an unhealthy environment. For the same reason, it's important to be aware of the influence we have on others and vice-versa.


Una pareja de mujeres cogida de la mano en un día soleado y especial
Signs of a toxic relationship include controlling behavior and verbal abuse. | PixaBay

Fortunately,  there are ways to stop being a toxic person, once you realize that you have an unhealthy relationship with others. To do this, it's important to start recognizing the times when you hurt people and think about how to change these situations.


But, sometimes people in and of themselves aren't toxic. However, the environment or connection between them ends up being harmful to one or both parts. That means that the same person can have healthy relations with some people in specific contexts, and not necessarily do the same thing with other people in different settings.


On the other hand, some people cause conflicts no matter what environment they find themselves in. In this case, you need to detect the circumstances and attitudes that are harmful  and practice assertive communication. The most important thing is drawing the line in relationships.


Related: Personality Disorders: Types And Clusters


5 Signs of a toxic relationship

As we've seen, toxic relationships can be hard to detect and get out of  since they occur between people with emotional bonds. In any case, it's important to recognize when there are harmful components in any relationship. Below, we explain 5 signs of a toxic relationship.


1. One person is constantly suffering and uncomfortable

One of the first and most visible signs of a toxic relationship is when one or more people involved are constantly uncomfortable or suffering. In other words, when happy, non-stressful moments happen less, and those of intense suffering replace them.


Often this last point is experienced more intensely by one of the parties involved, which is one sign of a toxic relationship. That's why it's important not to minimize uncomfortable experiences or overrate isolated happy moments.


2. One person is more committed than the other

Related to the prior point, another way to know if you're in an unhealthy relationship is when someone doesn't follow through with measures to resolve conflicts, or rather, only one of the people involved does.


Besides this is a sign that the extent of the discomfort is perceived differently: what one person views as suffering, the other person might not even notice. Finally, this creates a harmful environment and opens up the path to different types of abuse and discrimination.


Una pareja cogida de la mano paseando por las calles de su localidad en un día de sol
Find out how to get out of a toxic relationship by seeking support from friends and family. | pixabay

3. Constant emotionally abusive blaming

Another sign of a toxic relationship is when strategies to force the relationship down a specific path appear. That means, pushing one of the members to make certain decisions to achieve a particular goal, even if this only interests one person involved and not everyone. Communication styles that blame the other person mark this, but not to solve a problem healthily, but instead to manipulate, control, or dominate a member of this relationship.


Often this way of communicating is used to reduce fear, stress, or insecurity, and includes behaviors like raising one's voice, showing anger in an aggressive way, constantly pointing fingers, etcetera.


Related: Relationship Anarchy: Attempted Definition


4. A toxic person degrades you with their behavior or words

Another way to detect a toxic bond is when one person or a group of people continuously make degrading comments about others, or when they act in this way towards them. In other words  when emotionally abusive behavior or psychological violence is involved. For example, when comments that belittle or slight one or more people concerned are made.


If the person receiving the brunt of these comments is also less able to defend themselves or to leave the relationship, then it might even go one step beyond a toxic bond, becoming a full-fledged abusive relationship.


5. Implicit and explicit violence

Finally, one of the most obvious signs of a toxic relationship is both explicit and implicit violence. This includes psychological abuse, as well as degrading comments; physical violence like hitting, pinching, pushing, etcetera; or rather, sexual violence, which means forcing or persuading the other person to take part in sexual practices against their will.


Usually, after several violent episodes, the aggressor apologizes, after which there is a period of reconciliation and even explicit promises made to change the violence, although later on, it starts up again.

How to get out of a toxic relationship

How can you end a toxic relationship with someone you love?  First, it's important to recognize and respect personal limits as well as those of others, in a way that you know when to keep your distance at the right times. Besides, it's crucial to detect times, behaviors, circumstances, and even words or gestures that make you feel uncomfortable with the relationship and give them the importance that they deserve.


After, you'll need to express these to the parties concerned and use assertive communication to explain why you are troubled about these matters using empathy.  Creating an environment that favors negotiation, beyond enforcing relationship rules, is one of the best strategies to get out of a toxic relationship.


On the same note, fostering commitment on both sides in agreements and anticipating the possibility of giving each other space when these aren't met is essential. Finally, creating a group or support network in case the distance needed in this situation turns out to be painful emotionally.


  • This article about "Toxic Relationships" was originally published in Spanish in Viviendo La Salud



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