What Is a Toxic Relationship?
Relationship issues and substance use often go hand in hand. Toxic relationship traits can drive people to engage in addictive behaviors, while harmful substance use patterns can also create toxic conflict in formerly healthy relationships. Breaking the toxic relationship cycle is vital to both your personal health and your relationship quality.1
A toxic relationship is one where you feel emotionally drained, abused, or taken advantage of on a regular basis. These types of relationship issues can happen in both romantic relationships and platonic friendships, and they are often draining or abusive in both situations.2
Toxic vs. Healthy Relationships
Ideally, a healthy relationship is one where two people build each other up and are there to support each other. Interaction with one another should enhance each person’s overall sense of well-being and happiness. Toxic relationship issues can break down this healthy cycle and also wear people down over time.
What Makes a Relationship Toxic?
Toxic relationship traits might not appear right away. Yet, over time, toxic behavior in relationships can begin to start as challenges and disagreements arise. One person might start to feel resentment or contempt for the other, or they might attempt to take advantage of the other person’s kindness.
It’s important to pay attention to the warning signs of a toxic relationship so that you can address the problem promptly if you notice it happening to yourself or to a loved one.
Signs of a Toxic Relationship
The signs of toxic relationships often build over time, and many are hard to notice because of this fact. Some common signs of toxic relationships may include:
- A Lack of Support: People in toxic relationships don’t feel as though their partner has their best interests at heart or don’t support them emotionally.
- Toxic Communication: Partners can exhibit constant negativity, criticism, or stonewalling to their partner.
- Controlling Behaviors: A person who attempts to overly control their partner’s life can be a sign of a negative downward spiral for the relationship.
- Patterns of Disrespect: Not feeling appreciated or respected by your partner are also signs of toxic relationships.
- Negative Financial Behaviors: Attempting to control finances, even if they are meant to be shared, is a frequent element of a toxic relationship cycle.
Any of these signs of toxic relationships could be an indicator that the issues in the relationship are severe enough to be of concern.
Is It Possible to Fix a Toxic Relationship?
Acceptance of Responsibility
People in toxic relationships need to accept responsibility for their actions in order to change their behavior. This means identifying potential toxic relationship risks, understanding your own potential toxic relationship traits, and resetting toxic relationship expectations.
Willingness to Invest
Changing the behaviors that lead to toxic relationship issues takes time, energy, and commitment. Partners trying to fix a toxic relationship need to be willing to invest that energy into growth.
Shift from Blaming to Understanding
One of the most common relationship issues that leads to toxicity is blaming your partner for relationship problems. Working toward understanding why these toxic relationship traits exist can go a long way in fixing toxic relationship issues.
Openness to Outside Help
Therapists, counselors, and mental health treatment centers can all help to alleviate toxic behavior in relationships. If you’re experiencing the symptoms of a bad relationship, receiving relationship advice from professionals is often the best path toward healing.
How Can We Move Forward?
Relationship issues can be driven by certain internal or external factors that, in some cases, can ultimately be resolved. Substance use disorders, for instance, may be the driving force behind some toxic behavior in relationships. Treating this underlying condition can often break the toxic relationship cycle, but it’s also important to note that memories or certain behaviors of the past may make it difficult to move forward.
Mitigating Risks and Making Positive Changes
If you and your partner are committed to staying in the relationship and working through things, a few simple tips that can help you manage toxic relationship risks and move forward include:
- Not dwelling on the past
- Viewing your partner with compassion
- Starting therapy for relationship issues
- Holding space for each other’s change
Of course, some of these behaviors are easier said than done. Working with a professional can help you and your partner stay on track, or may also help you realize that the relationship has been too toxic for each of your individual growth.
How Does Substance and Drug Abuse Play a Role in Relationships?
The relationship between substance use and toxic relationship issues can be potentially destructive. People living with a substance use disorder may find that it makes toxic behavior in relationships even worse, and on the other hand, toxic relationship risks may also drive people toward substance use.
Toxic Relationships and Substance MisuseWarning signs of toxic relationships influencing substance use include:
- Behaviors from a toxic relationship may cause a partner to use drugs or alcohol
- Substance use makes relationship issues worse
- Talking about substance use causes an explosive event
- Avoiding treatment for either relationship help or substance use
- Enabling behavior from one or both members of the relationship
- Insecure attachment styles driving substance use
How to Leave a Toxic Relationship
Getting out of a toxic relationship is often easier said than done. Toxic aspects of a relationship can compel people to stay even though it’s against their own best interests. Reaching out for help as soon as you see the early signs of a toxic relationship can help you avoid an unhealthy situation.
If you’re ready to leave, taking the following advice for someone in a toxic relationship can help you along in this difficult process:
Open Up to Loved Ones
Often, friends and family won’t see the warning signs of toxic relationships if you don’t talk to them about it. Opening up about relationship issues can help you receive emotional support for your decision and help you when dealing with potential toxic relationship risks.
Get Support from a Therapist
Therapists can help you deal with the emotional fallout of a relationship loss and help you find services that can assist you in the process of dealing with relationship issues or getting out of toxic relationships.
Get Help from a Domestic Violence Advocate
Domestic violence advocates are available 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE or at www.thehotline.org.
Take Care of Yourself
Remember to be kind to yourself and take the time to practice self-care.
Get Support and Help From Soledad House
Soledad House is a women’s only clinic that can give you the support and help you may need if you or a loved one are currently in or attempting to leave toxic relationships. We offer multiple types of therapy, including group and individual therapy. We can also offer detox and treatment for any substance-related issues. Reach out to us today; we will be with you every step of the way.
- 2 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0306624X211049187