There is an expression that I like to use, which is my favorite toxic relationship definition: “A toxic relationship is a relationship in which the toxic partner is considered to be self-destructive, and the partners are unaware of the toxic relationship.” Now, I’m not sure why the term toxic relationships is important here. It is probably because, as I’ve often written before, relationships are tricky beasts, and there are many dynamics that can mess things up, even when they seem to be working properly. But let’s just stick with the toxic relationship definition for now.
Toxic relationships are often characterized by: being unable to set clear boundaries between the partners, a lack of awareness that there are clear, unhealthy boundaries, an unwillingness to enforce clear, healthy boundaries, an expectation of obedience, a fear of conflict or confrontation, and an emphasis on the needs of the dominant partner. One of the key things that you can do when you are stuck in a toxic relationship is to pay attention to the behaviors of your partner, and ask yourself if you are seeing these behaviors because of their toxic role, or if they are indicative of a healthy relationship. If you feel like your partner is toxic, it is important to have them evaluated by a professional. The reason for this is simple: healthy relationships tend to be self-explanatory, and if your partner’s toxic behavior is truly unhealthy, then they need help to address it.
I have written about toxic relationships before, and one of the things I noted was that there was often an expectation that the partner with the toxic behavior was somehow responsible for being toxic, and that they were somehow flawed, or bad people. This could easily lead to painful and unnecessary guilt and blame, which just compounds the issue. As a result, people suffering from toxic relationships don’t get to the root of their problems and can sometimes feel like they are at fault for their partner’s poor behaviors. When you realize that there might be a problem with the relationship, rather than pointing the finger of blame at the person with the toxic behavior, you can empower yourself to do the work necessary to change the toxic relationship definition.