Tag Archives: love

Toxic Trouble

15 Mar

This morning, for whatever reason, I woke up with Britney Spears’ song “Toxic” stuck in my head. Yeah, talk about a nightmare. Did you know that at 29 years of age, she’s finally debuting her “most upbeat and mature album yet” on March 29th? Hold on to your hats ladies and gentlemen.

On a heavier note, Spears’ song inspired me to tackle the issue of toxic relationships as today’s blog topic. I hope that this post serves as an inspiration to those of you who find yourselves lost. And if you’re at your wits end with a friend who complains about their relationship but refuses to leave it despite your support and encouragement, I hope that this post might give you clarity as well. And I don’t want to sound like an Eeyore, so I’m going to keep my attitude light for the sake of everyone’s mood. Hope you don’t mind!

So let’s start with defining and identifying characteristics of a toxic relationship. Basically, a toxic relationship is a relationship in which behaviors on the part of the toxic partner are emotionally (and sometimes phsyically) damaging to their partner. I’ve decided that there are five toxic types. Let’s get to know them:

“Independent” Ian

Ian is an independent toxic controller. He disguises his controlling behavior by asserting his independence — “You can’t control me.” Ian keeps his partner feeling insecure by rarely keeping his commitments and being essentially non-dependable. He will promise to call and not follow through. He avoids making commitments  and concrete plans, and when his partner asks for a commitment or expresses her feelings about his behavior, he accuses her of being controlling. Ian is a toxic individual because he makes his partner feel unsafe and insecure within the relationship; his unpredictable habits make her feel like she isn’t a priority. Anxiety over Ian’s behavior causes her to constantly try to “earn” his commitment, an effort that can be  very emotionally draining.

Beth the Belittler

Beth belittles and depreciates her partner by making fun of him when he tries to express his opinions, beliefs, and values, often teasing him about how stupid they are. When he asks her to stop, she will often respond with something like, “chill out, I’m just kidding,” or “can’t you take a joke?” which makes him feel as though he is overreacting. Beth also has no quams about doing this to her partner in public. Beth is toxic because when she belittles and depreciates her partner, she leads him to believe that he can’t make good decisions and that his opinions are wrong or stupid. Sometimes, Beth will even go so far as to make her partner believe that he is “lucky” to be with her, because nobody else would want him.

Bad Temper Trevor

Trevor controls his partner using intimidation. He has an often unpredictable “hair-trigger” temper that makes his partner walk on eggshells around him because she never knows what is going to set him off next. She has given up on trying to disagree with Trevor because he gets so angry. Sometimes he gets so angry that he yells, punches walls, throws things, breaks things, or hurts her. Trevor keeps this side of himself hidden from the outside world, and others often see him as a friendly, nice, likeable person. When his partner confronts him about the inappropriateness of his temper, he frequently blames his outburst on her — somehow it’s her fault that he yells and screams. In doing this, Trevor disowns responsibility for his own behavior and successfully prevents his partner from feeling that she can discuss problems with him openly.

Paranoid Pam

Pam gets jealous over her partner easily. In the beginning of their relationship, he appreciated her jealousy and even felt flattered by it. Over time, however, Pam’s jealousy got out of hand — she became more and more suspicious. She often accuses her partner of cheating on her and fabricates scenarios that lead her to such a conclusion. She becomes outraged when he interacts with any other women on any level — even when he gets a text from his good friend who has a boyfriend. Pam is so paranoid and controlling that her partner is forced to cut ties with meaningful friends for reasons that are not valid.

Deflecting David

Sometimes, David’s partner tries to express that she’s hurt, angry, or upset over something that he did. But when she tries to tell him how she’s feeling, she somehow ends up comforting him and helping him cope with his own unhappiness, hurt, or anger. David manages to deflect ownership and turn his partner into the culprit instead. He breaks down, sometimes to tears, and accuses his partner of making him feel badly. Unfortunately, she gets so caught up in comforting him that no one ends up comforting her. His behavior is harmful because by avoiding validating her feelings, David neglects his partner’s needs by manipulating her to feel guilty. Conflict aside, David often controls his partner by making her believe that she is “lucky” to be with him because no one else would love her, and sometimes he might even be verbally abusive to get his point across.

———

Maybe some of you have met Ian, Beth, Pam, David, or Trevor. Maybe you’ve met all of them — although I hope not. It’s important to note that we all experience our partners behaving in some of these ways occasionally. The difference between whether or not it is typical or toxic lies in the frequency of these behaviors: if you find any of these habits to be the norm, then you are dealing with a toxic personality. Also, it’s not uncommon for an extremely toxic person to possess traits of all five of these characters.

If you’ve never been in a toxic relationship, you probably have a lot of trouble understanding why someone would stay in one. You might be the friend who gets frustrated because you cannot for the life of yourself figure out why your friend won’t just leave already. You might be fed up with their complaining or their apparent blindness. While it’s understandable that you would feel that way, I encourage you to consider the emotional damage that a toxic personality can inflict on someone. Often, people who find themselves stuck in an unhealthy relationship have been broken down to the point where they are only a shadow of the person they were prior to the relationship. They have been made to feel worthless, invaluable, stupid, selfish, insecure and unloveable. Their toxic partner has gotten inside their head, and they are terrified that if they leave, they will never find someone who loves them again. Their self-esteem is so low, and their image of themselves is so distorted, that they genuinely believe that they don’t deserve better.

So, what can you do to help? Remind them, persistently, that they deserve better. Remind them who they were before this relationship, and remind them that people (including you) will still love them when they end it. And above all, be patient, because it will take time and effort to bring them back. I know that usually when someone is in an emotional deadlock with a toxic person, what their friends and family have to say will likely fall on deaf ears. So even if you stop trying to get through to them, at the very least make sure that they know that when they are ready to take that step, they have a support system waiting for them.


Happy belated Pi Day (:

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