Mental Health Monday

Toxic Relationships

They exist. We know it. But we might not always realize we are in one. It could be our boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, or it could be our siblings, parents, friends.

That’s where we get into trouble. We very rarely consider toxic relationships between our friends or family because they’re supposed to be our support network. Where we learn how to love. Where we begin growing our understanding of the world. Our morals.

So how do you know if any of your relationships are toxic? And what to do you do if they are?

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First things first, Google the signs because there are a million and two. But come into it honestly. No excuses, but also be fair to the opposing party. It’s not a smart idea to look into it when you’re angry because you’ll believe more signs than are actually applicable.

Next, let’s look at just a handful of symptoms of a toxic relationship.

Boundaries.

There are none. Or there are too many. This is often the case with enmeshed (or isolated) parents or significant others where there are no boundaries. Constant texting, lack of privacy, and the feeling of being smothered are often how this presents itself. You should have your own “me time” separate from your partner. You should have your own life separate from your parents.

There is no “right” amount of affection or inclusion. It’s the amount that you feel comfortable with. If you want to call a parent or brother every week…cool! If you want to every other day, cool! It’s about what makes you comfortable. I happen to be a very closed, private person so I’m not as big of a fan of interaction between me and, well, anyone else. Even my husband and I have loads of alone time and we are absolutely so happy that way.

It’s important to set up boundaries that you feel comfortable with. If you’re with someone who isn’t quite compatible with you and they need more than you do, it is okay to leave over something like that. But it is probably better to find a middle-ground. Something you’re both happy with.

Negativity

And verbal abuse. You should never feel like a piece of garbage because of something your partner or family members say. It does happen. But constant negativity, name calling, bad attitudes, are toxic and will impact your emotional and mental health.

Someone who is sitting around all day doing nothing but brewing up dark clouds will only drag you down. Instead of aggressively confronting or cowering beneath the bad attitude, see if you can help them help themselves. Asking if they’re all right, slowly introducing them to various self-help books/articles/ideas, and maybe even taking them to a therapist are all great starts.

It’s also a nice idea to try home cooking, exercising, and walks together. However, like with boundaries, keep in mind that at some point if it doesn’t change you will need to say, “I cannot do this”. Sometimes, you have to break up with your parents too.

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Responsibility

You either have to take all of it or the other half of your relationship takes none of it. Sometimes people will push blame to you or sometimes they’ll push it onto their upbringing, their trauma, their fatigue, fault, workload…the stars aren’t aligned.

Responsibility and accountability are big parts of any relationship because it transfers over into characteristics. If I can’t be responsible for cleaning my dishes, I sure won’t be responsible for emotional outbursts. This may even end up with someone blaming you for their feelings.

Drained

This is the final one I’ll touch on (for now) before we get into the “now what” aspect. If you’re feeling drained around someone, something isn’t right. This is so important to keep in mind and keep track of. It should not feel like a chore to be with someone. It should not be emotionally, mentally, physically draining.

Toxic relationships wear us down over time and that becomes apparent. If you’re constantly exhausted or suddenly tired when you’re around someone, take a look at the dynamic between the two of you. Something probably isn’t right.


Okay, so you’re in a toxic relationship. Now what?

Well, I’m not a personal fan of the “cut everything toxic” approach. It’s not a healthy attitude. But sometimes it is.

That’s where we’ll begin. Do we need this person in our lives? Do we want this person in our lives?

Sometimes we aren’t willing to put in the work to fix a friendship, an intimate relationship, or even a familial one because we realize that it’s not going to work. We know that we’ve grown apart, things have changed, and that being close is no longer something that is healthy for either of us.

That’s okay.

However, sometimes we can work things out. Or at least, fix some of the toxic attitudes. Now keep in mind, this is not a quick process and it is infuriating at times.

So we go back over our list. We set boundaries. We enforce those boundaries. We are vocal about what hurts us, what we do not appreciate, and we ask questions about the other party in an honest, caring way to gain insight.

We can also work together to cook healthy meals, workout, go for walks, engage in healthy habits. Everything has two sides to it and while I’m not saying we are responsible for the health of our partners, a little nudge wouldn’t hurt.

Learning to say no is also an extremely important skill because it goes hand in hand with establishing boundaries. If you don’t want to go out or see someone, family or otherwise, “no” is honestly the only answer you need. You do not need to justify your personal space.

And if you do find yourself in a toxic or enmeshed relationship please seek out therapy. Read books on the topic. Talk to someone. Odds are this has been going on for longer than you realize and there are habits not associated with that. There are things that might be damaged inside of you and that deserves attention.

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