Understanding Toxic Relationships
Toxic relationship could be our own fault
Insecure relationships with the parents, deficiency of healthy boundaries, deprivation of warmth, validation, and a nurturing environment- all of these could be the reasons and also aggravating factors leading to toxic and vulnerable relationships
Surat (Gujarat) : Relationships are an integral part of our lives. Human beings are social animals. Right from birth, we have a strong need to belong. Maslow rightly describes it as one of the basic needs in our lives. Yet, sometimes there can be relationships in peoples’ lives that cause more harm than growth and this may be quite evident to others but not to the person who is a part of it.
Most of the time, we don’t realize that the reasons for being in a toxic relationship could be our own fault i.e not realizing when to say “no” or not having strong boundaries. An individual may be unknowingly stuck in a toxic relationship because they do not understand that it is toxic for them and is perhaps what they have witnessed in their families with their parents/significant elders throughout their childhood and maybe it is all they have seen. Dysfunctionality is the norm for many who have grown up in toxic environments.
Insecure relationships with the parents, deficiency of healthy boundaries, deprivation of warmth, validation, and a nurturing environment- all of these could be the reasons and also aggravating factors leading to toxic and vulnerable relationships. Sadly, not many realise there is a way out of toxic relationships. Many who do, take up therapy to refence and guard one’s boundaries and learn to manage toxic elements in their life. Therapists often come across clients looking for solutions to their problems, wanting to get out of never-ending situational loops, specifically when they do not understand where they should draw a line and put their foot down, to not take it anymore.
Traumatic experiences can set in motion a cascade of changes in people’s lives that can be challenging. These reactions interfere with an individual’s daily life and ability to function and interact with others. Traumatic reactions can include a variety of responses, such as-
- Intense and ongoing emotional turmoil
- Depressive symptoms or anxiety
- Behavioural changes
- Difficulties with emotional self-regulation
- Problems relating to forming healthy relationships
- Regression or loss of previously acquired skills
- Attention deficits and academic difficulties
- Nightmares and sleep difficulties
- Physical symptoms, such as aches, pains, and frequently falling ill.
The advent of a third world- Social Media has added a different dimension to toxicity, it has given avenues for many seeking an escape from toxic real-life situations only to realise they land in deeper complicated situations seeking love and validation- no less toxic than their non-virtual world. Many adults seeking therapy explain how they met people on virtual apps in the hope of finding support eventually to land in toxic relationships similar to real life. In some cases, some relationships start with a rosy period of love bombing and constant stimuli but later turn into emotional abuse, verbal abuse, and even exploitation of their intimacy, finances, and reputation.
Our desire to maintain and enrich these relationships, or fill voids in our real life, maybe another motivation behind why we share so much online. Given our busy lives and the limited time we have to socialize, social media provides an easy and convenient way to stay in touch with friends. This is especially true since the outset of COVID when we’ve been more separated than ever. The only shortcoming of this mode of engagement is that we don’t connect with the actual person on the other side, it is the image that they portray we relate to and create a bond with, instead of knowing them. Challenge often here is comprehending and accepting the reality of virtual personas as for many switching between real and virtual personalities has become so effortless that it often makes it hard to identify the real person.
“Healthy relationships are based on a mutual desire to see the other succeed in all areas of life,” Caraballo says. It is important to understand that a toxic relationship can be identified- so watch out for these red flags to know if you are in a toxic relationship:
- Lack of support and respect
- Toxic communication- blaming, gaslighting, belittling
- Controlling behaviors – disrespects boundaries, possessiveness
- Negative financial behaviors
It is imperative to understand that one can change the course of their life and try to bring these changes to move past toxic relationships. A few steps that can help are:
- Understanding boundaries, and talking about them to people in one’s life
- Not to dwell on the past, but make a note of the experiences to avoid mistakes
- Stop blaming self and others and practice assertiveness
- Identifying and taking responsibility for your actions in the relationship
- Take the support of a therapist/coach to analyze one’s relationships and learn skills
If only one person in a relationship is invested in creating healthy boundaries and behaviors, there is very little likelihood that change will occur, nevertheless, it spares the individual from emotional turmoil. Paying close attention to how one talks to the other, mends relationship, by being gentle, and avoiding sarcasm, and even mild jabs showing efforts put towards building healthy relationships. These steps can help turn things around with time, patience, and diligence.
Give yourself that chance to heal, find support, start therapy and regain control over your life.
(This article is written by Kamna Vigg who works as a Crisis counselor and a Psychotherapist at Vandrevala Foundation)