Letting go of toxic people is an act of self-care. – Karen Salmansohn
Are you in a relationship that involves someone who emotionally, mentally or physically damages you? Do you feel like a shell of your former self since becoming involved with this person? After you spend time with this person, do you feel energized and refreshed, or do you feel drained and exhausted?
While toxic relationships are both damaging and devastating to those who are involved in them, they have a much deeper effect than most people realize. Despite popular opinion, most victims of toxic relationships are far from your standard “victim-type” personality; in fact, most are intelligent, attractive and capable. This is part of what attracts the toxic partner.
The Toxic Relationship Cycle
Toxic relationships start quickly and they are as firey as they are fast. But unlike their healthier counterparts, toxic relationships don’t settle into a comfortable place – rather, the toxic partner gets “bored” and quickly begins to devalue the victim. This will inevitably be followed by a discard phase, which will lead to what we call the hoovering phase – where the toxic person attempts to suck the victim back in.
Could my relationship be toxic?
Ask yourself the following questions.
- Are you in a relationship with someone who is making you miserable?
- Do you ever feel drained when you spend time with that person?
- Do you often find yourself feeling tired and unmotivated or even sort of paralyzed?
- Do you find yourself putting that person’s needs before your own?
- Do you often feel shocked by someone’s disrespectful behavior?
- Does someone in your life make you feel like you don’t matter or like you’re not as important as they are?
- Have you ever described the way you feel as emotionally “dead” or numb (or something similar)?
- Have you ever found yourself questioning your own sanity?
- Have you started to think you’re just not good enough?
What is a toxic relationship?
A toxic relationship is similar to a dysfunctional relationship but less repairable, often due to at least one partner being unable or unwilling to change and/or take responsibility for their wrongdoings. When you’re in a toxic relationship, you’ll find that it involves more negativity than positivity. Most importantly, a toxic relationship does not emotionally support one or both of the people involved. A toxic relationship will also often involve resentment, contempt, communication problems and varying forms of physical, emotional and psychological abuse.
Being involved with a toxic person (or a narcissist) in a toxic relationship will lead to a serious loss of self and a significantly reduced ability to be happy, healthy and fulfilled in your life. These relationships often feel empty or one-sided and leave one or both partners feeling codependent and miserable.
Can a toxic relationship be fixed?
While dysfunctional relationships can often be repaired, toxic ones are less likely to be worth the trouble of trying. That’s because while it does theoretically seem that narcissists and toxic people are capable of personal growth and change, it is rarely seen. So, while most narcissists COULD change, they most often will not, at least not long-term.
While a few clinicians claim that they can heal narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), their evidence is thin and often refuted. Remember too that the longer you remain in the toxic relationship, the further damaged you will become, mentally, physically and otherwise. And, despite appearances, toxic people generally maintain the same cycle of abuse throughout each relationship in their lives – meaning that your partner will not be happier with someone else.
What are the signs I’m in a toxic relationship?
Be sure to click the links on the points that resonate with you below – each opens up to a detailed post that outlines the signs of a toxic relationship as they relate to that point.
- You find yourself behaving in ways that you normally would not as a result of the way your partner behaves.
- You constantly feel like you’re not good enough.
- You don’t bother to share your feelings, thoughts or ideas with this person because you know you won’t be heard, or that it will always be taken the wrong way.
- You’ve forgotten how to talk about yourself.
- You’re always worrying more about how your partner will react to things than about how YOU feel about things. You are walking on eggshells more often than not.
- You are blamed for all the problems in your relationship, whether or not you caused them.
- You are being emotionally abused. (Here’s how you can recognize emotional abuse.)
- You are being gaslighted and manipulated as a method to control or oppress you.
- You feel like your relationship is kind of fake or not as real as those of other people – like you have to try too hard to make it work. You have become codependent with this person.
- Your physical health is being affected. You may gain or lose weight, struggle with autoimmune disorders and more.
- You desperately want to leave, but something keeps stopping you. Sometimes you aren’t sure exactly what that is.
- Even though you dream about running away from this person, you feel some weird sense of obligation to them, or a strange, painful feeling of fear overcomes you when you think of actually leaving. You totally get it when people say “love/hate relationship.”
- You know you should let go and walk away, but you’re not sure how or what to do next.
- Spending time with this person makes you anxious, upset, angry or miserable most of the time – you rarely feel happy when you’re around this person.
What causes toxic relationships?
I know, you’re probably asking yourself, “How did I end up in a toxic relationship?” I get it. It’s almost always a shock when you realize you’re in a toxic relationship, and this may be due to the fact that you’re a strong, intelligent and attractive person who generally reads people like a book. But in many cases, you also had a difficult or traumatic childhood, whether it was a result of abuse, neglect or some other sort of situational trauma.
There are certain features that make you an ideal source of narcissistic supply – learn about those features here.
Helpful Resources for Understanding Why You Got Into a Toxic Relationship
- Why narcissists pick you
- How to stop being a narcissistic supply.
- Am I a narcissist magnet?
- Why do I attract narcissists?
How do I know if my relationship is unhealthy? What do I do if my relationship is toxic?
Take the Toxic Relationship Test below to be directed to helpful resources for your situation.
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.