What is a bad relationship like

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With few exceptions, human beings want to be emotionally and physically close to each other. Life seems better shared. And yet no area of human endeavor seems more fraught with challenges and difficulties than our relationships with others. Relationships, like most things in life worth having, require effort. Updated with new content for by Camille Platt. Think of it this way: Even good relationships take work.

We have to learn how to accommodate and adapt to their idiosyncrasies, their faults, their moods, etc. Some relationships, however, are more difficult and require proportionately more work. We are not clones but individuals, and some individuals in relationships are going to have more difficulties, more disagreements.

And then there are toxic relationships. These relationships have mutated themselves into something that has the potential, if not corrected, to be extremely harmful to our well being. These relationships are not necessarily hopeless, but they require substantial and difficult work if they are to be changed into something healthy. The paradox is that in order to have a reasonable chance to turn a toxic relationship into a healthy relationship, we have to be prepared to leave it more about this later.

The importance of understanding what defines a toxic relationship is elevated in a global pandemic. Pandemic precautions have us spending more time at home. Many of us have lost the outlets that bring balance to our social, physical, and mental health—work, friends, the gym, school. Isolation at home can shed new light on the indicators that a relationship is toxic, meaning recent months have been key in identifying unhealthy patterns in our relationships.

By definition, a toxic relationship is a relationship characterized by behaviors on the part of the toxic partner that are emotionally and, not infrequently, physically damaging to their partner. While a healthy relationship contributes to our self-esteem and emotional energy, a toxic relationship damages self-esteem and drains energy.

A healthy relationship is a safe What is a bad relationship like, a relationship where we can be ourselves without fear, a place where we feel comfortable and secure. A toxic relationship, on the other hand, is not a safe place. A toxic relationship is characterized by insecurity, self-centeredness, dominance, control.

We risk our very being by staying in such a relationship. To say a toxic relationship is dysfunctional is, at best, an understatement. Keep in mind that it takes two individuals to have a toxic relationship, meaning our own words and actions matter as well. And we must ask, Why? And what, if anything can we do short of leaving that might help mend such a relationship?

Even a good relationship may have brief periods of behaviors we could label toxic on the part of one or both partners. Human beings, after all, are not perfect. Few of us have had any formal education in how to relate to others. As mentioned above, however, what defines a toxic relationship is dysfunction as the norm. The toxic partner engages in inappropriate controlling and manipulative behaviors on pretty much a daily basis.

Paradoxically, to the outside world, the toxic partner often behaves in an exemplary manner.

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Note: Any relationship involving physical violence or substance abuse is by definition extremely toxic and requires immediate intervention and, with very few exceptions, separation of the two partners. While these relationships are not necessarily irreparable, I cannot emphasize too much how destructive they are. A toxic individual behaves the way he or she does essentially for one main reason: he or she must be in complete control and must have all the power in his or her relationship.

Power sharing does not occur in any ificant way in a toxic relationship, meaning one person is overtly passive whether they know it or not. And while power struggles are normal in any relationship, particularly in the early stages of a marriage, toxic relationships are characterized by one partner absolutely insisting on being in control. Keep in mind, the methods used by such an individual to control his or her partner in a toxic relationship may or may not be readily apparent, even to their partner. These should not be seen as exclusive.

Frequently, a toxic individual will use several types of controlling behaviors to achieve his or her ends.

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In reality, however, this individual is not a victim, at least not in the sense that they are helpless to do anything about their relationship. This type of toxic individual will constantly belittle you. He or she will make fun of you, essentially implying that pretty much anything you say that expresses your ideas, beliefs, or wants is silly or stupid.

A toxic spouse will not hesitate to belittle you in public, in front of your friends or family. The toxic partner wants all the decision making power. Again, it is noteworthy that this type of emotionally abusive partner rarely shows this side of his or her self to the outside world. No one else would label the relationship toxic, meaning he or she is frequently thought of as a pleasant, easy-going person who almost everyone likes. This disowning of responsibility for their dysfunctional behavior is typical of a toxic partner. A toxic relationship can, of course, occur not only between two individuals in a committed relationship, but also between friends or parents and their adult children.

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For guilt-prone individuals, anything or anyone that removes guilt is very desirable and potentially almost addictive, so the guilt inducer has an extremely powerful means of control at their disposal. Incidentally, guilt induction is the most common form of control used by a toxic parent s to control their adult children. During COVID lockdowns, toxic relationships between adult children and their parents may result in conflict about restricting access to grandchildren.

Or an attempt to convince you that you are limiting their ability to love you when you limit the of gifts and surprise packages they can drop off at the house. Frequently, a spouse or ificant other will disguise their guilt-inducing control by seemingly supporting a decision you make — i. As with all toxic behaviors, guilt-inducing is deed to control your behavior so your toxic partner, parent, or friend gets what he or she wants. You find yourself comforting them instead of getting comfort yourself.

Odd as it may seem, one method of toxic control is for your partner to be so passive that you have to make most decisions for them. These toxic controllers want you to make virtually every decision for them, from where to go to dinner to what car to buy. Remember, not deciding is a decision that has the advantage of making someone else — namely you — responsible for the outcome of that decision. Passivity can be an extremely powerful means of control. This type of toxic marriage, by definition, may hinge on control induced by anxiety. The Journal of Neuroscience has reported that the pre-frontal cortex allows us to be flexible in our decision making while logically weighing the consequences of one decision over another.

This toxic individual will only rarely keep his or her commitments. Something always comes up.

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The anxiety you feel in such a relationship can, and often does, eat away at your emotional and physical health. Users — especially at the beginning of a relationship — often seem to be very nice, courteous, and pleasant individuals. What defines a toxic relationship with a user is its one-way nature and the fact that you will end up never having done enough for them.

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Users are big-time energy drainers who will in fact leave you if they find someone else who will do more for them. This type of toxic individual is really bad news. These toxic individuals will become more and more suspicious and controlling as time goes on.

They may even use technology to their advantage, using smart devices to check on your physical location or doorbell cameras to eavesdrop or verify you actually arrived at home when you said you would. They do not see themselves in a relationship with you; they see themselves as possessing you. Your efforts to reassure a toxic possessive about your fidelity and commitment to them will be in vain. If you stay in a relationship with such an individual you will cease to really have a life of your own. COVID has complicated the already delicate dance at home for people dealing with a toxic spouse or partner.

The truth is, in a pandemic, toxic relationships can worsen. While what defines a toxic relationship is not necessarily physical violence, the World Health Organization did see a 60 percent increase in women reporting emergency domestic abuse situations in April The loss of routine, perhaps even the loss of finances can take someone who is already difficult to communicate with and turn up the heat. In the short term, you will need to claim space as your own and prioritize activities that bring you peace.

Now is also the time to protect yourself from developing your own toxic patterns with the people you love. Creating an unhealthy relationship during COVID may also look like making someone feel guilty for communicating the boundaries they need or deflecting responsibility for emotional outbursts by using pandemic stress as an excuse.

Keep in mind that the toxicity of the above individuals is clearly a What is a bad relationship like of degree. You may have experienced some, if not all, of these behaviors — hopefully in a mild form — occasionally in your relationships.

In a toxic relationship these behaviors are the norm, not the exception. Most of us manipulate once in a while, play helpless, induce guilt, etc.

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What distinguishes a toxic relationship is both the severity of these behaviors and how frequently they occur. So why do people behave in toxic ways and why do others put up with such behaviors? The answer is the same for both individuals: poor self-esteem rooted in underlying insecurity. Their partners stay with toxic individuals because they too believe they are unlovable and that no one would willingly meet their needs. Occasionally, particularly in the case of the toxic user, narcissism may be part of the problem, but narcissism itself is often a reaction to underlying insecurity.

And while there certainly are things an individual can do to attempt to change the way a toxic partner behaves, most of my clients are often hesitant to do them, fearing their toxic partner may leave the relationship. The paradox is this: If you want to improve your relationship with a toxic partner, you have to be willing to leave that relationship if nothing changes.

So before you attempt to confront a toxic partner, make sure your self-esteem and self-confidence are good enough for you to know that you will be all right if they end the relationship with you or you end up having to end it with them.

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The bad news is that you cannot change your partner. The good news is that you can change yourself which may lead you to behave differently with your partner, resulting in your partner deciding to change his or her behavior.

What is a bad relationship like

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How Can I Tell If This Is a Bad Relationship?