Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Big Girl's Guide to Identifying Toxic Relationships

The Big Girl Chronicles:  The Big Girl’s Guide to Identifying Toxic Relationships

When we think of love, we imagine an exchange of warmth and kindness, intimacy, playful affection and mutual care one for the other.  We think of sharing and building a life together.  Yet, there are times when what we want isn’t our reality.  Instead of the desirable qualities mentioned above, we’re caught up in some sort of morbid coexistence with pleasurable moments few and far between.  Why is it that we continue to engage in unhealthy relationships?  And how can we begin to break this cycle?

Start with you.

There is little that can be done to mend any situation until you’ve taken an honest look at yourself.  Personal self-reflection allows you to examine your own thoughts and patterns of behavior so that you can identify what it is you continue to do that keeps you hostage.  Is it fear that keeps you clinging in an unhealthy relationship?   Fear of being alone?  Is it a skewed idea of what a healthy relationship is?  Did you learn that your unhealthy relationship is the “norm” or what you deserve?  Poor self-esteem or self-image?  Ask yourself some hard questions and do a little soul searching. 

Weigh the pros and cons.

Sorting through the good and bad of an unhealthy relationship requires us to set aside our feelings.  Chances are that you’ve remained in the relationship because you love your mate.  And as cliché as it sounds, love really can be blind – sometimes to your detriment.  Sit down and actually make a list.  Itemize each and every quality it is that you enjoy and would like to experience more of with your mate.  Then, list every undesirable quality.  Be thorough.  Include each and every annoyance.  But here’s the hard part – now list all those things that you say you do that make your mate upset.  That’s right.  Take a look at those things that you accept the blame for.  Write them on your list.  Done?  Now read all that you’ve written.  Does the good outweigh the bad?  How many of the things of which you accept the blame actually your fault?  What you’ve included on your list could surprise you.  Now ask yourself if what you and your partner share is generally pleasant, or if those less desirable moments are of such magnitude that the good times are overshadowed.  The answer to these questions is the starting point for your decision whether or not to continue in the relationship or abandon it.

Identify the toxins.

Now that you have some idea of the dynamics of your relationship and your relationship cycle, begin to pinpoint those behaviors that are ruining it.  Include your self assessment first because you are the starting point for the changes you hope to make.  Are you enabling?  Too passive?  Are there barriers to communication?  Selfishness?  Manipulation?  Emotional sabotage?  Any forms of abuse?  Identify those flaws that you feel weigh on the relationship with your partner.  It could be helpful to have him or her make a “pros and cons” list also.    

Make the choice.

Choosing to continue in an unhealthy relationship is an option.  Should you choose to stay, seek the help of a professional like a relationship expert, life coach, social worker or other behavioral health specialist, either with your partner or alone.  Decide what goals the two of you together have towards bettering your relationship.  If both of you are willing to put forth the effort, rank your goals in order of importance and begin to tackle those toxins that are holding you back.  With a positive outlook and creativity, this experience could draw the two of you closer.
 However, if the two of you are past the point of no return or are too “set in your ways” to accept the challenges, resolve as amicably as possible to part company.  Keep in mind all the things that you’ve learned from this relationship so that you don’t find yourself in a repetitious cycle of forming and nursing unhealthy relationships.   

*Blogger’s note:  Abuse of any kind is unacceptable.  The seriousness of physical abuse is not to be taken lightly.  If there is physical violence in your relationship, consider your safety first.  However, if you choose to continue in a physically abusive relationship, seek the help of a professional either alone or with your partner.  Consider removing yourself from that environment until the two of you have met with a professional and are working towards ending the violence.  To get assistance, go online to or call 800.799.SAFE. 

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