Toxic Relationships – Recognizing one

What defines a toxic relationship? Whether it be with a friend, co-worker, spouse, family member, or someone else in your life. We’ve all come across people who we immediately don’t jive with, so we don’t bother to develop a relationship with them. That should sound perfectly familiar and totally understandable. Nothing lost, nothing gained. But what happens when you do work well with someone, develop something beautiful together, but one day it just starts going south? There’s an endless amount of reasons why a relationship can go all wrong. This is where the situation gets hair. Hairy, but more so, unhealthy.

Depending on the depth of the relationship determines how easily it is to escape from the sour connection. Sometimes its as easy as having a falling out with a co-worker – both of you just can’t fill in the gaps. So you stay civil but go out of your way to avoid each other in the work place. Yes, it could be an inconvenience but you’re not tied to this person aside from having to work with them. But how about when you have a falling out with a friend or spouse; which usually holds more value than a co-worker per se? This develops a much more complicated situation.

Step 1 – Try to fix things

So what do we do first? Human nature, we try to fix things with this person. How could we throw away a relationship that was once so wonderful. So many memories made with this person, to what – just walk out the door and throw it all away? Well, not necessarily. And I’m not trying to propose the walking out the door thing, just yet. Fixing things should always be a first option, so long as the relationship hasn’t escalated to something abusive and dangerous – then walk out the damn door ASAP.

Step 2 – Talk it out. Communication & More Communication.

Sit down with this person and have a serious, level headed, calm talk with them. See if you’re on the same page with your issues and try to see through the other persons view, not just yours. Keep an open mind. I think this is something most people fail to do. They fail to see that every story has two sides. Many times we are bias towards our own opinions, feelings, and issues; and rightfully so. I mean, we are living these issues through our own mind, body, and soul. Thus, we should have our own story to tell. But when you’re trying to give this coupled story a happy ending, you have to listen and understand both sides. Whether you agree or not, is somewhat irrelevant.

Step 3 – Map out what needs to change.

And not what ONE person needs to change; what both parties need to change. Notice change here. Many times the thought or action of change gets a bad rap. You shouldn’t try to change someone. Well I happen to disagree – and I’ll tell you why. When I say change, I don’t mean completely re-wiring another persons being. But I am saying that change is normal, necessary, and a prerequisite to fixing a relationship that isn’t working. If someone opposes change, how do you suppose anything will get fixed? The act of fixing something involves things not being the same as they were previously. Comparable to the act of changing which involves making or becoming different. Fixing something requires change, which should not be viewed in a negative light.

So the mapping out part. Each party should propose the main things they wish to see change; be sure they are clear cut, ethical, and practical changes. If a change is somewhat broad, expand the idea to the other person. Use examples of an issue and how it could be approached differently in the future.  Important thing to think about here – ask do not demand change. For instance expandable ideas may include:

  • ask to be more affectionate
  • ask for more time together
  • ask for more open mindedness
  • ask for more trust
  • ask for more help around the house
  • ask for more independence
  • ask to be more involved
  • ask for more spontaneity
  • ask for less hostile behavior
  • ask for less jealous behavior
  • ask for more respect

Step 4 – Give each other time to change.

Fixing things don’t happen over night – by no means should that be the expectation. Its hard to say how long a change may take or should take. I suppose it depends on the severity, importance, and threshold from person to person. I think the important thing to consider here is whether or not ANY change is occurring. Theres a clear difference between a person who is noticeably working on things versus someone who isn’t putting in any effort. Sure, there may be moments where the same issues surface. In these moments its important to remain calm, collected, and understanding.  Respectfully try to redirect the issue and bring it to the other persons attention. You’ll notice one of two things in these moments:

  1. The person recognizes their faults, makes a shift to take responsibility, and redirects themselves even the slightest bit in a positive manner.
  2. The behavior overall gets worse and ends in a cycle of unsolved negativity.

If you experiencing number 2, you may find yourself at a cross roads. It could take days, months, and sometimes even years to come to this crossroads point; it may take a lot of number 2 moments. But eventually everyone gets there. At this point the relationship is not longer moving forward and the whole fixing thing becomes a figment of the past. You most likely will find yourself being stressed out, depressed, overwhelmed, and confused all at the same time. I’m letting you know feeling this way SOMETIMES is normal, but when these feelings start to overtake you – you’ve just recognized a toxic relationship.

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