Relationships are all around us. Whether these relationships are in families, among friends, colleagues, or churchmates, we have all benefited from being loved and cared for by others. As social beings, our well-being is tied to how well we are in relation to those around us. These different kinds of relationships help us foster emotional bonds with others and be in communion.Of all these relationships, one that is said to be the most intimate is the romantic relationship. A romantic relationship is a place we feel we can be ourselves and be as vulnerable as we can be with another person. Many of us get to experience the intimacy of being in love with someone. Books, songs, and poems have been written about love, this is to show how much people value it and how much we derive love and affection from our romantic partners.
When done right, romantic relationships can be a refuge and a provider of companionship and friendship. No other bond can bring out the best of who we are and allow us to be someone else’s love and support in the same way.
Any two people in a romantic relationship can be termed a couple, no matter the duration of their relationship or commitment levels. Couples could be married or in the dating phase. When we consider healthy couples, we are looking at those partnerships that are mutually beneficial to the partners, those that are characterized by love, respect, honor, and mutual support for each other.
We all know that relationships take work, and it’s not always smooth sailing. However, if one finds themselves in a relationship that is mostly characterized by disrespect, abuse, and a lack of support and cohesiveness, this means that this relationship is toxic.
We always think of something toxic as that which is not good for one’s health and well-being. Toxic couples are those partnerships that are mostly characterized by dysfunction. There is competition and a lack of support for each other from one or both partners.
All of us need to evaluate ourselves as a couple and see if we are not toxic to each other. This is important for the simple reason that toxic relationships can be mentally, emotionally, and physically damaging to one or both parties.
Characteristics of toxic couples.
There are many reasons why couples become toxic. It is important to list some of the characteristics of toxic couples so we are aware of what to look for in our romantic relationships or those of our loved ones. If unchecked, relationships can become abusive, even to the point of killing each other. The number of domestic abuse cases is on the rise and this information is important to safeguard our well-being and that of those close to us.
As mentioned earlier, for a couple to be deemed toxic, there must be behaviors on the part of the toxic partner that are emotionally, mentally, and at times physically harmful. Toxic couples are in a constant battle of control, one partner needing to control the other and the other one being controlled feeling helpless in their situation. This type of existence is detrimental to health and well-being and below are some patterns to look out for.
Characteristics of toxic partners.
Control by intimidation and rage.
These are partners that respond in outbursts of anger that are not proportional to the offense. They use fear and intimidation as a way of holding on to power. Even in those moments where their anger and rage are harmful, they do not take stock and apologize, they blame their partner instead for making them so angry.
Control by tearing down.
This is a common occurrence in toxic couples and their interactions. One partner is constantly belittling the other, even in front of their children. The point of this all is to have someone doubt their abilities and keep their self-esteem low so they do not change the power dynamics in the home or relationship.
Control by deflecting. This toxic partner never takes responsibility for their mistakes. They will not own up when they have done something wrong. In situations where you share something bad that’s happened to you, they want to steal the focus by sharing something worse than what you have experienced so you take care of them instead.
Even in times of good news and good experiences, they feel they always have to have one up on you by sharing something more amazing, so you celebrate them instead.
Control by guilt-tripping.
These are your manipulative partners. These types of people will guilt trip you into doing what they want you to do, not because they deserve it but because they feel entitled to it. In romantic relationships, it plays out in sulking or becoming moody when their partner does not do what they have asked for. They then temporarily remove the guilt when what they have asked for is done, only to repeat the cycle when they have another request.
Control by possessiveness.
Possessiveness and extreme jealousy in a relationship can be harmful. This is a partner that does not trust, even without reason to doubt their partner’s fidelity. They are always looking for clues and insinuating that their partner is outright cheating or feels the need to control their every move. This type of partner feels they own you and are entitled to know your every move.
Control by lack of empathy.
A couple becomes toxic when there is a lack of empathy in the relationship. All through life, we all go through trials that need us to have someone hold our hand through those difficult times. A toxic partner will always minimize the impact of hurtful situations and fail to empathize with their partner. They cannot feel for one another. All attention and focus need to be on them.
Control by isolation.
One of the most obvious and common ways in which couples become toxic is how the toxic partner seeks to isolate their partner from all relationships except theirs. Their union becomes the be-all and end-all.This means that the partner cannot seek emotional support from outsiders or report as to what is happening. By the time most people come out of toxic relationships, they have to start rebuilding old connections because, during their marriage or courtship, they would have been isolated from everyone.
Control by tyranny.
This is the partner that has vital power. They seek to control their partner by insisting that everything be done their way, exactly how they want it to be. If one thing is amiss, they can become angry and abusive.
These types of romantic partners can be quite particular about their things, bordering on OCD or diagnosed with OCD. They control the family finances and they do not let their partner have a say in anything. They have an inflated sense of self and they believe they know it all.
Finding help for relationship issues.
A loving relationship does not cost you your peace, well-being, and happiness. When you find yourself constantly feeling insecure, afraid, unloved, undesirable, and anxious in your relationship, it might be time to seek help.
Yes, relationships come with them a whole host of problems to deal with, but if yours is in a constant state of unease and feeling like you are walking on eggshells, it is important to know that this is not how relationships should be. You might be in a toxic situation.
If you suspect that you or someone you care for might be experiencing what’s been mentioned above, do not hesitate to get in touch with our office. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with me or one of the other trained counselors who will help you identify whether you are in a toxic relationship or not. We also offer marriage and relationship counseling that can help you as a couple if you see these patterns in how you relate to each other.
“Gas Mask and Flowers”, Courtesy of Dmitry Ratushny, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Light Mask”, Courtesy of Sebastiaan Stam, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Love & Respect”, Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Enjoying the View”, Courtesy of Timo Stern, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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