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Toxic Relationships Part 1: How to Identify

Written by: Emily Harrison, M.S.
Toxic Relationships Part 1: How to Identify

It is no secret that interpersonal relationships require compassion, time, and effort. Whether it is a romantic relationship, friendship, or a family member, it is crucial that each person is utilizing effective communication skills and doing their best to grow and nurture the relationship. But, when one person is unable to put forth the necessary effort, a relationship can grow to be unhealthy or, more commonly referred to in mainstream media as “toxic”.

Obviously, most relationships don’t always start off toxic, and relationships that are growing toxic can be difficult to spot if you don’t know what to be aware of. It is easy to turn a blind eye to toxic individuals because of our inherent need for love. Sometimes though, our desire to be loved can be fed by toxic behavior. When this happens, our definition of mutual love and respect changes and we begin to accept the love that we think we deserve.

Here are some ways to identify if a person in your life is toxic:

#1. The individual gaslights you and makes you doubt yourself

Gaslighting can be defined as “manipulating someone with psychological means into questioning their own sanity.” Gaslighting is a key factor in toxic/abusive relationships as it forces the victim to question if their own perception of negative behavior is actually problematic. Often, victims will be told they are being “too sensitive” after having an emotional reaction if a toxic individual was bullying the victim. Other times, the gaslighter may deny all abusive behavior in attempt to make the victim think they are overreacting or creating more “issues”.

#2. The individual doesn’t respect your boundaries

Many of us have boundaries. Boundaries can include requesting not to be texted or called after 11pm or asking your friend not to call you that nickname that you actually hate. Whatever it may be, your boundaries should be respected in any relationship. If you start to notice that a friend, significant other, or family member repeatedly violates your boundaries after you have made them clear, it may be a sign this person or relationship is unhealthy.

#3. The individual lies or doesn’t keep personal information confidential when asked

If there is a clear pattern of an individual lying within a relationship, that is an indication that the individual does not have your best interest in mind. Additionally, if a person is not keeping information that you told them in confidence private, it is an indicator that the relationship is taking a turn.

The quality of our relationships directly affects our mental health. That is why it is so important to know the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship as some signs can be difficult to spot. If you feel you may be experiencing an unhealthy relationship, start a conversation with the individual to see what changes need to be made. If an individual is unwilling to change behaviors to promote positive change, it may be time to consider parting ways. Although cutting ties in a relationship can be difficult, your overall mental health is a priority and should be treated as such.