Toxic relationships are common. They are all around us. You can probably think of a couple of toxic relationships that you have now or have experienced over the years. If you cannot think of any, I believe you may either be a hermit, or you may need to assess the quality of your relationships.
Traditionally, people think of toxic relationships between romantic partners, but that is a limited scope of reference. Toxic relationships can be found at work, in our social circles, with activities and habits such as food, and even in a relationship with ourselves. Toxic relationships steal our energy, joy, and can make us question our sense of self. Toxic relationships can cause us to forget what we know to be true and can skew our sense of direction for our lives.
One of the first things you must do to stay clear of toxic relationships is to do a lot of self-work. What does self-work mean? It means investing in getting to know yourself. Many people do not take the time to do this, and it could possibly be the underlying reason why they find themselves in repetitive toxic relationships. Some people say all-inclusive statements such as, “People are toxic,” or claim, “That person is toxic,” but truthfully, it may just be that the relationship is toxic—not necessarily the person.
My basis for saying this is based on the observation that what works for one person may not work for another. We all have tendencies that are not natural to others but are natural for us. The same goes for what is considered normal. What is normal for us, may not be normal for someone else.
This stems all the way from our upbringing as children. One family may be quiet, and another family dynamic could be loud and boisterous. Now imagine how two individuals, coming from these different familial backgrounds, would manage their own shared household. One partner may prefer noise and like the TV on while they sleep. The other partner desires peace and silence in order to wind down—this is a conflict waiting to happen.
What is noteworthy about this example is neither of the parties is in the wrong. Being comforted by sounds or being comforted by noise is fairly arbitrary. One is not “toxic” for their preferences. What can turn these differences into a major conflict is how the conflict is managed. If the conflict is not managed effectively, the relationship can turn toxic.
So, what can you do to prevent this? Well, there are a few things you can do:
One thing we talked about already is self-work. Spend time increasing your self-awareness. Knowing yourself and knowing your deeper “whys” (reasons why you do the things you do) can help you understand what you may need in order to advocate for yourself in an imbalanced or non-reciprocal relationship. It can also help you have more empathy for other peoples’ “whys” too.
2) Don't avoid conflict
Another thing you can do is stop avoiding conflict. Part of advocating for yourself is bringing your needs to the forefront in a compassionate and respectful way. There is a reason the loudest kitten always gets fed by its mother. Conflict is a natural part of life. Yes, it can feel unnatural; yes, it can be awkward and uncomfortable. Yet, conflict is unavoidable, and if you try to avoid it, it will fester and build up like a boiling pot of water on the hot stove. There is a fine line between conflict avoidance and conflict management. Don’t spend your time and energy avoiding conflict. Spend your time managing conflict in an effective way.
3) Practice self-care
Lastly, practice self-care. When we love and validate ourselves, we free ourselves of the expectation of others having to do this for us. When we love ourselves, we foster our own autonomy; we are empowered, and we provide ourselves with the skills needed to manage our emotional reactions even with the people with whom we may share a toxic relationship.
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About Sam Nabil
Sam offers therapy in Boston and Boston Marriage Counseling for adults suffering from relationship challenges, life transitions and anxiety. Sam Nabil was featured in many prestigious publications. Check out his interview with Aljazeera English, The Washington post, The Boston Globe, Fatherly magazine, Women's health magazine, Cornell university, Yahoo News, USA Today, Marriage.com
Naya Clinics offers Marriage Counselors near me, individual therapy near me, and life coaching near me in various locations across the USA and the world. Naya Clinics also offers Online marriage counseling, online therapy, and online life coaching.
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