How to cope with toxic relationships?

All our life long we build relationships with our friends, parents, colleagues and loved ones. We create families and know for sure that these are the most important ties. Well, it appears that building relationships is crucial. However, no one teaches us how to do it right.

This is the reason why things may go wrong sometimes, and people just endure it. There are many attitudes like “Time works wonders”, “Still, I’m not alone”, “What will people think of me?”, etc. As long as we follow them, we continue to bite the bullet even when it’s obvious that a relationship has taken a turn for the worse. Is that really necessary? What does a toxic relationship mean? Let’s find it out.


What are toxic relationships?

“Toxic” means “poisonous”, so the very term “a toxic relationship” can speak volumes. This is a relationship that poisons one’s life since it leads to emotional pain and drains the internal resources. A person who’s fallen in such a trap faces problems with self-esteem, endeavours and personal development. A toxic relationship between a man and a woman harms both of them.

It’s quite a common occurrence. There’s even an opinion that a toxic relationship is a kind of the norm. Sometimes, it’s instilled from childhood, other times it’s romanticized and extolled. A person may be a victim of a toxic relationship and never even know that it might be different. What’s more, not only a relationship between partners may be toxic, but also between colleagues or friends.

A toxic relationship is often a reason for domestic violence. Everything starts with prickly phrases, critics and humiliation. The partner, most often a woman, doesn’t attach much importance to it, and it ends up with a beating. This is a clear sign that family life has reached a stalemate.


How do you know that a relationship is toxic?

If you doubt about whether your relationship is toxic or not, just put a simple question to yourself - do you feel comfortable? However, there are three other certain indicators that your life is poisoned:

  1. Different importance of desires. In this case, the desires of one partner are placed above the needs of another partner. Both sides may maintain such a situation and regard it as normal. 
  2. Emotional blackmail. This occurs when one partner thinks that he/she gives too much and receives nothing instead of this. 
  3. Criticism and condemnation. This is the most common manifestation of toxic relationships. This behaviour is more common in women from single-parent families, who weren’t paid much attention to, hence the excessive requirements for a partner. Men who criticize have often been favourite boys in their families, that’s why they think that they deserve a better life.

What should you do if you don’t want to have a toxic relationship?

People with a reasonable self-esteem and a correct self-perception do not remain in toxic relationships for a long time. For them, the "You can't do this to me" rule works.

If a person cannot leave a toxic relationship, it’s better to seek help from a psychologist. There may be self-esteem problems, limiting beliefs, fears, or childhood traumas. It’s important to sift out ashes from cinders and find the cause of the problem. As long as the reason of a toxic relationship remains, one cannot get rid of this trouble.

It’s also important to refine oneself. You can also work on your self-esteem. Nowadays, there are many books on this subject. For specific problems, you can get psychological help: either a paid one from a private psychologist or by calling the free support line.


Who faces toxic relationships?

Tolerance, meekness, and submission are often attributed to women as a variant of the norm of behaviour, and men are known for their craving for aggression and the need to subordinate. If these features are sharply accentuated, toxic relationships may appear. Besides, society strengthens women's confidence that she has the right to demand a lot, and men explain this as part of the game: a woman is accepted as an unassailable fortress that needs to be won over. As long as there is a stereotype that a female "no" is a way to provoke her male partner, we will face a toxic invasion of private space or even violence.

All this along with emotional instability leads to the developing of a toxic relationship. Fits of jealousy and scandals with remembering the mistakes of a partner are not manifestations of love anymore. Refuting the value of a relationship is emotional blackmail and passive aggression which is destructive for family life.


Toxic relationships: who’s guilty?

The very first task of anyone who wants to get rid of such a relationship is to understand the reasons that contribute to it. How do you know that relationship is toxic? Here are some features indicating that you’re a toxic partner:

  • you’re controlling your partner’s life; you just want to have your loved one by your side and wouldn’t mind knowing all the passwords of your partner in social media; 
  • you try to get yours at any cost, either with a scandal, tears, or other tweaks ignoring your loved one; these are all manipulations based on guilt and shame; 
  • you constantly devaluate the feelings of your partner; if your loved one needs support and interest, that doesn’t bother you much; in a best-case scenario, you shake him/her off with useless statements like “Cheer up, it’s OK!”; 
  • you try to change your partner thus making the relationship toxic; It is impossible to change another person - the more you put pressure on him/her, the more he/she resists.


The reasons for toxic behaviour can be different. Perhaps this is the kind of relationship model that you grew up in and you can't do anything else. Perhaps you are incredibly afraid of loneliness and therefore suppress your partner thinking that it prevents him/her from leaving you. There's an ocean of options. A reasonable self-respect and compassion seem to be the keys. The more we are able to heal our soul wounds, the more sensitive we become to other people.