I’ve been asked on several occasions: “How can you tell when you’re in a toxic relationship?” The first thing you want to do is define the word “toxic” including its synonyms:
Dictionary.com defines toxic as: (1) of, pertaining to, affected with, or caused by a toxin or poison; (2) acting as or having the effect of a poison; poisonous; harmful or deadly and (3) capable of causing injury or death, especially by chemical means; poisonous.
These definitions alone can help an individual examine whether they are in a toxic relationship. Some of the first questions to ask yourself: does this person hurt me, emotionally and/or physically? Do they speak to me in a demeaning and disrespectful manner; hit, push, shove, kick or slap me around? Do they cause me to feel badly about myself, questioning myself or losing confidence in myself? Do I compromise my integrity trying to be in agreement with them?
Here’s a rule of thumb I started using years ago to help examine the type of relationship I was in. After spending time with a person(s):
do I walk away feeling happy, joyful, peaceful, jubilant, or excited?
do I feel depressed, stressed, sad, oppressed, drained, victimized, hurt, heavy, or disheartened?
do I always feel like I’ve done or said something wrong?
do I find myself defending my actions and/or apologizing a lot?
is this person oppositional and difficult to deal with most of the time?
do they contribute to my overall growing process or is everything always about them?
As I ask myself these questions, I have also learned to pay very close attention to the “check” in my spirit which I call my warning signs. Of course I don’t always get it right immediately, consequently when this happens I have to find the most expedient way to disentangle myself.
Always make sure you examine the relationship to determine its validity and viability in your life. In other words, is it viable enough to try to make adjustments? Of course if it’s abusive there are not many adjustments to be made unless the other person/partner agrees to getting help. Also there are dynamics in family relationships that may not necessarily exist in other relationships so you cannot always simply choose to walk away. But you can address the issues and try to resolve them. If the family member is abusive, oppositional and difficult you can always distance yourself without cutting the relationship off altogether.