I am a lifestyle enthusiast. I believe that with few positive changes in lifestyle we can improve the quality of our life, and health.
We share everything with our close friends but certain healthy boundaries have to be maintained even with them. Especially as far as their personal life is concerned. There is a certain line which cannot be crossed unless it is absolutely important. Women are more comfortable discussing their relationship woes with dear friends than men.
My friend Rita, normally a lovable happy person, had turned sad and lost in her thoughts with rarely a smile on her face. We had been close friends since our school days and shared everything. Of late she talked very little and was not accessible most of the time. I was starting to worry about her.
I knew she had relationship problems that she did not want to discuss with anyone. She turned defensive when we asked her about it and said she could sort things out by herself and did not want to bother anyone. It was painful for me to see my best friend go through this stuff. It was then that the idea of intervention occurred to me.
A healthy relationship will never require you to sacrifice your friends, your dream, or your dignity.
— Mandy Hale
So, what is a toxic relationship?
A relationship between two people where there is constant conflict, jealousy, competition and who do not support each other but one tries to undermine or cause harm to the other is termed a toxic relationship. The term was first conceived by Dr.Lillian Glass, in her 1995 book “Toxic People”. Dr.Glass is a communication and psychology expert based in California.
Characteristics of a toxic relationship
No relationship is perfect. Ups and downs in a relationship are normal. But when there is consistent unpleasantness and draining and when negative moments far outweigh the positive moments, it is categorized as a toxic relationship as per Dr.Glass. Such relationships are mentally, emotionally and sometimes even physically damaging to one or both parties as per Dr.Kristen Fuller a renowned mental health specialist based in California. There is often a lack of trust, lying and controlling behavior in the relationship.
What are red flags in a relationship?
Dating psychologist ‘Madeleine Mason Roantree’ defines a red flag as “something a partner does that indicates a lack of respect, integrity, or interest towards the relationship”.
Some of the major red flags in a relationship according to Jill Weber are:
- Lack of communication
- Lack of trust
- Controlling behavior
- Abusive behavior
- Wanting different things
- Not being able to be your true self
- Friends and family don’t approve
- Possessiveness, jealously and bad temper
All the parameters seemed to match in my friend’s case. So I felt an intervention was needed to save her from the negativity of the toxic relationship . When I asked her to tick the boxes for the red flags, she ticked all the boxes which confirmed my fears.
So here is what I did to help her:
No point in beating around the bush
I thought that there was no point in beating around the bush when I knew my friend was going through something difficult. I told her straight away that I needed to talk to her about something concerning her life that I was concerned about. At first she was taken aback and started saying everything was fine and she was alright. I assured her that I did not want to interfere but felt the need to help her by just talking to her about it. I was not out to give any advice or lecture her about anything. I assured her it was just a friendly chat.
Being on point
I decided to be precise and on point. Having the lengthy conversation with ifs and buts would not solve the problem. Someone who is upset can take in only so much information at a time especially negative information. I told her my main concern about the issue and gave her time to respond. When her response was favorable, I continued the conversation further.
Being a good listener
I knew that the first and foremost rule of intervention is not being aggressive but sympathetic. I realized that being aggressive would only push her away. The best thing I did was listen to her story patiently, when she started sharing her side of the story. I did not push my beliefs into the conversation, but shared positive experiences from my own life. I made her understand how as I had not ignored the red flags; I was able to redeemed myself from destruction. I allowed her to unfold naturally never once suggesting that she break up with her partner. I assured her that I would always be there for her, no matter what the situation.
Remove yourself from people who treat you like your time doesn’t matter like your feelings are worthless, or like your soul is replaceable
— S. Mcnutt
Boosting her self-image and self-worth
Her morale was down because of the relationship problems. The constant negativity with the frequent fights had broken her confidence. I tried to lift her spirits by boosting her ego, reminding her of all her achievements and comforting her that this was just a phase in life which would pass eventually. Facing constant criticism and blaming can cause a severe dent in the self-image of a person. I shared an account of my own life when I had to face a tough time but how I pulled out of it. I tried everything possible to boost her self-image. I encouraged her to have confidence in herself and reminded her that no matter what anyone thought of or felt about her, she should always know her worth and not believe in others' opinion about her.
Listening to her reaction patiently
At first, she tried to brush it off completely. I realized she was in denial and was very uncomfortable. She kept repeating that I wouldn’t understand so let it be. The key is to not judge or react to your friend’s response. So, I was patient and heard her out, giving valuable inputs whenever necessary. I was neither judgmental nor critical about the situation even once. I advised her to read books and watch movies that deal with the subject so that she could view her own experiences in retrospect and check for similarities. I advised her that the psychological trauma that she was subjected to could be affect her physical and mental health.
Not working the First time, Try Again Later
The first time, I did not seem to get through to my friend. But I did not worry. I gave her some time to heal and tried to talk about it again after a few days. The second and third conversations are often crucial. I checked on her regularly lest she become a victim of depression. I knew that she would give in and talk to me about everything and start sharing relevant bits of information. Whatever it was she was going through, I did not pressurize her to divulge. When she saw me as someone she could trust, she started to confide, and shared her problems with me. The most important aspect of intervention is to not judge and not to approach aggressively because if you do so they may just be unwilling to talk.
I was able to convince her to consult a counsellor because only a professional can be truly unbiased and non-judgmental and help find solutions to such problems. I am glad that my intervention helped my friend and she was able to take a decision.
It’s better to be healthy alone than sick with someone else.
— Dr. Phil
Is it possible to mend or fix a toxic relationship?
It is possible to mend a toxic relationship only when each partner is keen on trying to make it a healthy relationship. Some tips to mend a toxic relationship and make it healthy:
- The relationship should be mutually beneficial for it to remain healthy
- Both partners must be willing to take the assistance of a therapist or counsellor.
- The partners must be willing to forget the past and make a fresh start at a healthy relationship.
- Have compassion for each other and support each other at all times
- Give ample space to each other to heal and grow mentally, emotionally, and physically.
- Good communication is the key to a healthy relationship, and should be practiced.
- Both have to work towards winning each other’s trust back.
- Being honest with each other and discussing the expectations each has of the other helps a lot.
- Each should keep up with their own interests and hobbies without infringing on the other's interests.
- To ardently follow the remedies mentioned by the therapist, because a skilled professional in the field can provide new solutions by analyzing the challenges faced by the couple.
Relationships are categorized as toxic when there is a lack of trust, controlling behaviors and frequent lying. Often one partner dominating and belittling the other, refusing to work on the relationship is noticed in such relationships. Toxic relationships can be healed only when the partners are willing to adjust and strive on making it work.
If allowed to continue there are chances of the relationship turning unhealthy and abusive. When there is violence of any sort, be it physical, emotional or sexual and where there is loss of self-respect and one partner is forced to live a life lacking in human dignity, it is termed as abusive relationship. It is up to an individual to recognize the red flags early on and seek intervention and decide whether to continue with the relationship or end it. Abuse of any sort should never be condoned and a person in an abusive relationship should seek immediate help.
When a person is in an abusive relationship and it is possible to contact someone for help and support then it is best to seek their help and make a plan to leave before it is too late. On our part , when we see someone is in an unhealthy relationship and feel that she is prone to danger whether with the risk of self- harm or harm from another person, it is best to alert the authorities, even at the cost of displeasing your friend or them feeling betrayed because saving a life is far more important than anything else.
- Psychological abuse - Wikipedia
- Toxic Relationships: Signs, Help and What To Do | Time
How to tell if you're in a toxic relationship with a romantic partner, friend or family member and what to do about it.
The idea of toxic relationships gets thrown around a lot, but what actually makes a relationship toxic? Learn how to recognize the signs and build a healthier relationship.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 VIDYA D SAGAR
VIDYA D SAGAR (author) on June 16, 2021:
You are absolutely right Devika. The victim carries on in the relationship hoping that the other person changes one day. But It only gets worse. The best option is to come out of it when there's time. Thanks for the visit and comments. Much appreciated. Take care.
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on June 16, 2021:
Toxic relationships aren't worth having I learned that years ago and will never go back there. Sometimes it is best to come out with it and don't be in a toxic relationship. It hurts when you stay longer and not talk about it.
VIDYA D SAGAR (author) on June 15, 2021:
Thanks Flourish for the visit and comments. Much appreciated. Intervention helped my friend. There are many who do not receive help and suffer being stuck in a toxic relationship. Have a great day.
FlourishAnyway from USA on June 15, 2021:
It's good that she at least heard you out. I liked the topic and your account.
VIDYA D SAGAR (author) on June 14, 2021:
Thank you so much Pamela. Much appreciated. Many women suffer silently due to social taboo and other reasons. They fail to see the red flags and carry on hoping things will improve. They never do, but only get worse.Timely intervention can save many innocent lives. I am glad I was able to help my friend at the right time. Have a great day and stay blessed.
VIDYA D SAGAR (author) on June 14, 2021:
Thanks Rawan. Happy you liked it. Have a great day. Blessings.
Rawan Osama from Egypt on June 14, 2021:
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 14, 2021:
This is a very well-written article with excellent points about toxic relationships, Vidya. I like your suggestions for those toxic relationships. I am glad you reached out to your friend.
The points of a healthy relationship are so important also. It is so important to know where your relationship stands always.
VIDYA D SAGAR (author) on June 14, 2021:
Thanks Rozlin. I am glad you liked the article. Have a great day. Blessings.
VIDYA D SAGAR (author) on June 14, 2021:
Well said Misbah. Love, trust, compromise, and sacrifice all are the key elements of a healthy relationship. Many women get stuck in toxic relationships and many times even in abusive ones due to reasons like children, lack of financial independence etc. Social stigma makes them suffer in silence. More awareness need to be created and more resources allotted to protect women from abusive environments. More people need to participate in campaigns to protect women. Have a nice day my friend, stay blessed.
Misbah Sheikh from The World of Poets on June 14, 2021:
It's always important to help out friends and anyone who is in need. Many people don't share their stories with others just because they don't want themselves to get judge by others. They hide and die inside. No doubt, Society plays a very big role. I believe, Relationships only work if there's equal effort by both people in it. If, you feel bad or burdened both partners should discuss it with each other. Love, trust, compromise, and sacrifice all are the key elements of a healthy relationship. I think that One should know when to stand up and when to kneel down.
Thanks for sharing your friend's story. I like this quote: It’s better to be healthy alone than sick with someone else.— Dr. Phil
Many Blessings to you, Vidya
Rozlin from UAE on June 14, 2021:
Hi, Vidya. This is a very informative, helpful and well researched article.
Thanks for sharing.
Blessings to you.