How to Tell When You’re In a Toxic Relationship
Earlier this week Emilie explained just how damaging toxic relationships can be to you and your career. But how do you know when you’re in one?
It’s nearly inevitable that at some point, you’ll find yourself surrounded by people and situations that leave us with an uncomfortable feeling. The feeling may be hard to describe. It could be a nagging, gut feeling or it could involve anger, frustration, sadness and disappointment.
Toxic relationships can occur in romantic relationships, work environments and in friendships.
The good news is that we can often choose how or if we engage in a relationship or situation. Learning how to create boundaries is an important life skill. It helps you determine what you will allow and won’t allow in what you put up with from other people. Let’s take a look at some examples of what a toxic relationship/situations may look like:
1. Lying, Manipulating and Deceiving
Many people are very good at covering up their lies, but only for so long. Any person that has a history of lying or manipulating people to get what they want is someone that is ultimately looking out for themselves and not for your best interest. Even if the person isn’t lying to you, doesn’t it mean they are capable of doing so if they have no problem lying to others? Trust and honesty are the foundation of any healthy relationship.
2. Taking, Taking, Taking!
You may feel drained if you feel like you are constantly bending over backwards and accommodating another person. Do you feel that everything is always about this particular friend? Do they never seem to care about your needs or happiness, especially if they don’t get their way? In any healthy relationship, you need to feel that there is reciprocity. If you feel that you are always giving and adjusting and the other person is taking and not budging, this could lead to feelings of frustration, anger and disappointment.
3. Misery Loves Company
Does the person in question seem oddly delighted if something undesirable happens to you? Do they seem like they aren’t happy for you when good things happen to you? A person you have close in your life should celebrate the happy occasions and empathize with you during the difficult times. A person you keep close to you should fully support you, yet be able to be honest and communicative with you if they disagree.
4. Lack of Empathy
Any healthy, close relationship needs a dose of empathy from both parties. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and imagine what their experience might be like for them. People who lack good empathy skills often don’t think about how their actions will affect you. They may engage in inconsiderate behavior and do what is best for them without regarding how their actions affect others.
5. Walking on Eggshells
Do you feel like you’re always having to be careful about what you say and feel bad about saying no to the person because of how they react? Do you never make your needs or feelings known because of anticipating a negative reaction if you don’t do exactly what the other person wants? This is an unbalanced power dynamic and it gets very exhausting to always work your life around someone else’s needs or feelings. It is also unrealistic to continue to appease someone to avoid drama. Most people you have to walk on eggshells with are never happy, no matter what you do.
All Words, No Action
We all know these kind of people. They will talk and butter you up with sweet words and lavish compliments. However, when it comes time to deliver on what’s really important, they are nowhere to be found. You may find yourself getting tired of hearing how great and wonderful you are without any kind of action to back it up. These type of people think that they can do whatever they want and take advantage and will never have to pay consequences because they have learned that using sweet-talk temporarily absolves them of any real responsibility.
The Toxic Boss or Colleague
These situations are tricky because a boss/employee dynamic is very complicated. Often a boss does have power over you and has a say in whether or not you have a job. Any boss who abuses their power creates a very toxic work environment that leaves employees feeling stressed, depressed, angry and overwhelmed.If you feel any of these emotions or feel like nothing you ever do is good enough, it may be a situation worth examining for the sake of your own well-being. It is complicated to leave these situations if there is a lack of better career options so it may take talking to a therapist or someone you trust to evaluate your priorities and options and how you may be able to move forward.
Remember, any situation where you feel depressed, taken advantage of or undervalued is a situation worth examining.
How much is this person/situation contributing to your unhappiness? If you were to take this person/situation out of your life, how much better would you feel? Ultimately, you have the power to decide what you will put up with, and each situation is different.
A toxic work environment may mean severing a business relationship or actively looking for other work. A toxic friendship may require you to distance yourself or cut ties altogether. A toxic relationship often means having to make a clean break.
The people in your life should make you feel good and enhance your life, not do the opposite.
A person you keep close to you should look out for you and your best interest and embody integrity. There is nothing more rewarding in life then choosing to surround yourself with people and situations that uplift and support you. Make sure you are giving the choices you make in life thoughtful and careful consideration.
Want to learn more about how to fit healthy relationships into your life and career? Join me at Bossed Up Bootcamp, where I train on managing Love & Relationships for women navigating life’s big transition moments.
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Lena Derhally is a licensed and Imago certified psychotherapist, a published writer, motivational speaker and podcaster. Her specialties include working with individual adults and couples in their 20’s-40’s on a wide range of relationship issues, workplace issues and trauma and difficult life transitions. She is also an expert on treating anxiety and panic attacks using cognitive behavioral, acceptance and commitment and solution focused therapy. Lena also offers relationship coaching and anxiety coaching plans in addition to her psychotherapy services.
As a working parent with young children in a transient city, Lena is passionate about helping her clients find inner peace, self-confidence and balance in their lives. She believes in empowering her clients and giving them the tools to make healthy choices for themselves in all aspects of their lives.
Previously, Lena has worked in hospital settings in oncology and palliative care and with the homeless and mentally ill. In her spare time, Lena is an anti-war and social justice activist and devotes her time to advocating and raising money for the disenfranchised and survivors of war. She is also a former improv comedienne and hip hop DJ.