A toxic relationship is a relationship characterized by behaviors on the part of the toxic partner that are emotionally and, not infrequently, physically damaging to their partner. While a healthy relationship contributes to our self-esteem and emotional energy, a toxic relationship damages self-esteem and drains energy. A healthy relationship involves mutual caring, respect, and compassion, an interest in our partner’s welfare and growth, and the ability to share control and decision-making, in short, a shared desire for each other’s happiness.
A healthy relationship is a safe relationship, a relationship where we can be ourselves without fear, a place where we feel comfortable and secure. A toxic relationship, on the other hand, is not a safe place. A toxic relationship is characterized by insecurity, self-centeredness, dominance, control. We risk our very being by staying in such a relationship. To say a toxic relationship is dysfunctional is, at best, an understatement.
Keep in mind that it takes two individuals to have a toxic relationship, meaning our own words and actions matter as well. Initially, we’ll look at the behaviors of the toxic partner, but we must look equally hard at the individual who is the recipient of the toxic behavior. And we must ask, Why? Why does an adult stay in a relationship that will almost inevitably damage him or her emotionally and/or physically? And what, if anything can we do short of leaving that might help mend such a relationship? We’ll examine both of these questions later. First, however, let’s examine toxic behaviors and relationships in our next blog post.