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How to Identify a Toxic Relationship

Toxic relationships can be hazardous to ones health.

Toxic relationships can be hazardous to ones health.

How to Know When a Relationship or Friendship is Toxic

Friendships and relationships in life can be very heart warming, loving, caring, and are an important aspect in ones life. Relationships help build ones character and personality. Each person in the relationship should allow one to grow, each person should show respect and not judge one another. Even though there are many friendships and relationships that are extremely positive in ones life and important to maintain, there are relationships and friendships that are toxic that many people cultivate as well. It can become difficult to identify a toxic relationship at times, and it can also be hard to end a toxic relationship, especially if the two people involved have given all of their strength to keep the relationship or friendship alive. Even when someone tries to stay strong in a toxic relationship, they still become poisoned, and inevitably the relationship and friendship will not survive, instead it will slowly kill each person slowly, sucking all of the emotion out of each individual, causing depression, anxiety, stress, and other negative effects to ones mental and physical health. It is difficult to create and maintain healthy relationships in life, but it should never cause one to become overwhelmed, angry, and stressed to try to preserve the relationship or friendship. A friendship or relationship should allow one to feel happy, loved, and comfortable in all aspects of life. There are many signs for one to become aware of to identify whether or not they are trying to maintain a relationship or friendship that is toxic, and if one believes they are trying to preserve a toxic relationship, one must make the critical decision to stop poisoning themselves, and move on so one is able to grow strong in a positive and healthy manner.

The Signs of a Toxic Relationship:

The Relationship has Ceased in Growth and has Come to a Stand Still

A healthy relationship or friendship is in a constant state of growth, the people involved always learn and accept something new about the other, while supporting and helping each other along the way. When a relationship becomes toxic, the relationship stops growing and becomes still, and the people involved no longer gain a desire to support or help each other to begin to grow once again.

The People Involved in the Relationship Compete with Each Other

In a healthy relationship there is no need for unnecessary competition because each individual understands that they are different and use their differences in a positive way. In a toxic relationship the people involved unknowingly compete with each other and try to “one up” each other. Sometimes competition can be extremely healthy and useful, because competition allows people to overcome obstacles they once believed that they could not, but when people compete in every aspect of life it is unhealthy since it causes tension, stress, anxiety, and feelings of not being good enough. If people are competing for unnecessary reasons it is a sign that the relationship or friendship has become toxic.

The People in the Relationship Judge Each Others Character

When maintaining a healthy relationship the people involved never judge each other, instead there is an understanding and knowledge that mistakes are a part of life, and instead of judging, they give advice and aid one in learning the necessary lessons that the mistakes should teach. In a toxic relationship, instead of giving advice and helping one to come to the realization of mistakes, the people involved judge each other, keep quite, and then in turn talk negatively about each other to other people. When people openly judge each other it becomes demeaning and causes depression (judgment leads to one to feel negative about themselves, their character, and their life). A relationship should be uplifting to ones character, not judgmental and demeaning.

The People in the Relationship Dwell on the Past and Hold onto Anger

Mistakes are a part of life, for people to build and maintain a healthy relationship the people involved must let go of the past, forgive mistakes, and never hold on to unnecessary anger. When people are involved in a friendship or relationship and cannot let go of anger that was developed in the past, they will never be able to grow together and move into the future, instead they must let go of each other and grow apart. Ones past mistakes should never come back to haunt them, the other person in the friendship or relationship should help expel past mistakes and anger instead of throwing it in their face every opportunity that presents itself.

The Relationship has an Abundance of Jealousy

Trust is a crucial aspect of any friendship and relationship, the people involved must trust each other and allow each other to live as individuals. When jealousy begins to form it proves that there is a serious lack of trust in the friendship or relationship. Jealousy also highlights ones insecurities and self consciousness. When one is jealous of another it most generally has nothing to do with the other person but it is a conscious and subconscious reaction to ones personal emotions. If there is an abundance of jealousy in a friendship or relationship it is a clear sign that it will not work for the long haul.

The Relationship has a Serious Lack of Communication

Open communication is very important when trying to establish a long lasting relationship. If the people involved keep their feelings and emotions bottled up inside of them instead of talking to the other when certain feelings arise, anger and resentment begins to present itself, which causes one to explode and ruin the relationship very quickly.

Either One or All People Involved in the Relationship Manipulate, Use and Abuse the Other(s)

In every relationship there is always something that the people involved want and desire. In a healthy relationship the people involved crave love, compassion, and intimacy, but in a toxic relationship there is a different, underlying desire and that desire is not love, but something that may be a bit more materialistic. In a relationship there should never be any manipulation for one to get what they want, no one should feel used, and one should ever feel emotionally and/or physically abused. If any person feels manipulated, used, and abused it is a clear sign that the relationship is toxic and is slowly causing harm in ones life.

The Relationship Highlights Negative Attributes, Flaws, and Insecurities

In a strong and healthy relationship each persons positive attributes and assets become apparent, but in a toxic relationship it is the exact opposite. A toxic and unstable relationship will highlight each persons flaws, mistakes, negative attributes, and insecurities. One should always surround themselves with those who are uplifting, caring, loving, and aid in ones growth, instead of surrounding oneself with those who create negativity, stress, and anxiety in ones life.

The Relationship Causes Anxiety, Stress, Depression and Other Ill Effects

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A toxic relationship causes a lot of ill effects in ones life, it will cause depression, anxiety, fear, stress, insecurities, and many other negative emotional and physical health effects. If one begins to feel sick with stress, begins to experience panic attacks due to anxiety, can't get out of bad because of depression, or having any feelings of fear, anger, and/or being undermined at all, it is a very strong sign that the friendship or relationship is toxic and it is actually causing one to become ill.

How to End the Toxic Relationship in A Mature Manner so Each Individual can Grow Apart

When one comes to the realization that a relationship or friendship has become or always has been toxic, it is important to end the relationship in a mature manner so each individual can move on with their lives, grow apart, so that they can lead healthy lives and focus on and build positive relationships. When people focus all of their attention and puts all of their energy into a toxic relationship there is not any time to focus on other friendships and relationships that allow one to grow in a positive way and to become a better person. It is extremely difficult to come to a realization that a relationship is hurtful and it is even more difficult to be able to walk away in a mature way, but if the relationship is not ended in a mature manner then people will hold on to unnecessary anger toward each other for an extended period of time, which only hurts the people involved more deeply. Since there tends to be a serious lack of communication in toxic relationships, it can become difficult to end the relationship in a healthy manner, and usually leads to ending the relationship through text, email, letters, or other forms of impersonal means of communication. It is not necessarily a bad thing to communicate and end a relationship or friendship in an impersonal way because it is impossible to get into a heated argument and screaming match (if the people involved chose spoke face to face it is almost impossible not to argue). If each person explains to the other of their feelings, anger, and pain and come to an equal understanding that the relationship is toxic then hatred and feelings of revenge will lessen. When ending a toxic relationship it is important for each person to vent, come to an equal understanding, wish each other luck, cease communication, and never worry about the how the other lives their lives again.

Always forgive, let go, move on, and be free from the negativity.

One should never allow a toxic relationship or friendship to close off ones mind and heart. One should always keep the mind open and the heart warm and allow for others to reach into ones soul. Even if one has come to the decision to let go of a toxic relationship it is important to keep the favorable memories alive and learn the valuable lessons. Just because a relationship or friendship had turned sour does not mean one cannot keep them close in ones heart forever especially if they were once near and dear.

  • Forgiveness is Powerful
    Forgiveness is power. Forgiveness is happiness. Forgiveness is healthy. Learn how to forgive for yourself, not for anyone else.

© 2013 Jami Johnson


Huntgoddess from Midwest U.S.A. on February 27, 2015:

Yes, I agree with MPG Narratives. Thanks.

Maria Giunta from Sydney, Australia on February 27, 2015:

I hope people who are in toxic relationships read this hub. It will certainly help them to identify where the problems are coming from. Well done and congrats on the HOTD. Voted up and beautiful.

Lee John from Preston on February 22, 2015:

Amazing hub and totally true, Some family members of mine seem to be in these types of relationships

MP from West Virginia on February 22, 2015:

This is an excellent hub and a very interesting read. I agree that toxic relationships should be ended whether they are romantic relationships, friendships, or even family.

However, I do have to disagree that the appropriate course of action to end toxic relationships is a face-to-face meeting. This works if the two people in the relationship are reasonable, but the relationship itself has become toxic.

But often, at least in my experience, toxic people tend to be unreasonable, and depending on the nature of their toxicity can sometimes be unstable and dangerous. In these cases, it is completely acceptable to end the relationship through text or email or by simply ceasing contact all together.

I think we should also keep in mind that removing a toxic relationship from our lives usually results in a grieving process, and it is okay to take some time to mourn the relationship we wish we had.

Suzie from Carson City on February 22, 2015:

Jami.....I'm afraid I've had to remove myself from more than one extremely toxic friendship, as well as relationship, throughout my lifetime. It wasn't difficult to recognize nor come to terms with, but I found it ultimately necessary to examine my penchant for poor choices.

Eventually, it all made sense to me and I learned very valuable lessons, but the journey itself was uncomfortable.

Basically I had to comes to terms with my own limitations and put to rest my naïve view of the basic goodness of human nature.

Congratulations on your HOTD. You have certainly earned the honor. This is an interesting & helpful piece of work...UP++++

stella vadakin from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619 on February 22, 2015:

Hi, A very good hub with a lot of useful information. You have to be strong enough to get out of these types of relationships.

Pamela Lipscomb from Charlotte, North Carolina on February 22, 2015:

An excellent outline on how to recognize a toxic relationship. I believe many who are in toxic relationships, know it isn't normal. The key thing is to have the will and means to get out!

rapecantstopme on February 22, 2015:

This is a great piece.It is really hard to get out of a toxic union, especially when you have children that are involved.

Deborah Demander from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on February 22, 2015:

Thank you for writing this interesting and informative article. I would only add that sometimes it can be dangerous to end a toxic relationship in person. Be wary of putting yourself in danger.


Rev Bruce S Noll HMN from Asheville NC on February 22, 2015:

Nice job Jami on an often difficult topic to discuss...maturely. Self examination is critical to helping ourselves from becoming entwined in relationships that do not feed our spirit. When we know who we are, we also know who we are not and thus prevent the possibility of involvement not only in a toxic relationship but, also with toxic people!

Keep us the good work.




Huntgoddess from Midwest U.S.A. on February 22, 2015:

This is a good one. Up, etc. Congrats on HOTD.

I see you are in Vermont. I've always wanted to go there. It looks so beautiful!

Bill Tollefson from Southwest Florida on February 22, 2015:

Thank you for such an enlightening HUB. After being in many toxic relationships in my life, you described it extremely well.

Keep writing such good HUBs and spread your wisdom.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on February 22, 2015:

Congrats on HOTD. In my 64 years, I am lucky not to have been in serious toxic relationships. There are toxic persons around but I keep my distance from them even if they are related to me in one way or another.

drake on March 28, 2014:

I know plenty of men in toxic. relationships.

Thank you for this interesting article

Dr Abby Campbell from Charlotte, North Carolina on October 01, 2013:

Awesome hub, JamiJay! I know way too many women who stay in extremely toxic relationships. It's so sad because they don't know how to break away. I just want to shake them to wake them up.

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 22, 2013:

A lot of people are in toxic relationships and simply just need to cut the cord, work on themselves, and only get into another relationship when they are healthy enough to do so without re-living the old patterns. Interesting presentation of signs and symptoms.

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on September 19, 2013:

Very impressive! Thank you for you effort putting this together.

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