Identifying Toxic Relationships

Toxic | Carolina Malagamba

It’s no secret that relationships can be difficult. Two (or more) people are not going to agree on every little thing in life, no matter how in love they are, and this is okay. The occasional quarrels and rare silent patches are okay, so long as they actually are occasional and rare. However, the minute they become consistent, and you begin to feel more bad than good, it’s time to ask yourself the dreadful question: Are you in a toxic relationship?

Are you in a toxic relationship?

The term toxic relationship has become very popular in the age of twitter and other social media forms. It seems as though everyday I come across a new thread of tweets related to the topic. In the Time article, How To Tell If You’re In a Toxic Relationship - And What To Do About It, we learn that Dr. Lillian Glass claims to have coined the term in 1995. According to her definition, a toxic relationship is “any relationship between people who don’t support each other,” or where there is “disrespect and a lack of cohesiveness.” This applies to romantic relationships, relationships with friends, family, and co-workers. Any meaningful relationship in your life can potentially turn rotten. If you feel constantly drained and unhappy, if you notice a loss in your self-esteem, or if you begin to feel unsafe, you may be in a toxic relationship.

According to her definition, a toxic relationship is ‘any relationship between people who don’t support each other,’ or where there is ‘disrespect and a lack of cohesiveness.’

It seems simple enough. The signs sound obvious; abuse, violence, harassment, persistent unhappiness. So why do so many people remain in these toxic relationships? Why is the person in the toxic relationship always the last to know? Kristen Fuller, family medicine physician notes that “when you’re not your individual self anymore and you’re giving everything to your partner,” you should take a closer look at the relationship. She also urges people to listen to the concerns of your family and friends. It’s not uncommon for people to refuse to acknowledge and admit when they are in a toxic relationship. Often times, we are afraid to let go, or we believe it will get better.

Toxicity breeds toxicity.

According to Glass, sometimes it does. While sometimes toxic relationships stem from two personalities that simply clash, usually it is something deeper. Toxicity breeds toxicity. In other words, people have reasons for their behavior, whether it be previous abuse or some other form of trauma, or an undiagnosed mental health illness. If an individual is willing to work through those reasons rather than use them as excuses, Glass believes the relationship can be salvaged. In the midst of cancel culture becoming so popular, it seems that once a person is considered toxic, they are no longer worth the time and energy. People don’t want to attempt to work on the relationship.

Of course, that choice is up to the individual. The important thing is to learn how to identify a toxic relationship in the first place, so that you may make that decision rather than being stuck and blind. Pay attention to the signs, and have consistent, honest conversations with yourself. Know what you deserve, and never settle for less than what you require.