What is a toxic relationship? What causes toxic relationships?

dating friendship love marriage parentingLeave a Comment on What is a toxic relationship? What causes toxic relationships?

What is a toxic relationship? What causes toxic relationships?

Please share with others!

I strongly believe that relationships were never intended to be toxic. I also believe that if we take the time to heal our own dysfunctions we chose better partners and friends.

Better romantic relationships means healthier children. Healthier friendships and stronger family relationships means that your happier. You are then able to show your children healthy tactics for social relationships which helps to heal the dysfunctional cycles in the world.

I believe God designed relationships to be a taste of heaven. We can access the love He intended for us to have; If we refuse to settle for dysfunction.

I’m a strong advocate that we need to learn about dysfunction so we can love ourselves and others from a safe distance. Knowing how to love someone from a safe distance is healthier for their own growth and allows them to heal. It tells them that you love yourself and them, but not the  bad behaviors.

Related Article: Let Your Light Shine & Brighten Up This Dark World

To have healthy relationships we need to follow a few steps:
    • Understand Our Dysfunction – We all have our own issues. If we pretend we are perfect we will make people intimidated and scared to be around us. If we aren’t aware of our dysfunction we will hurt people or allow people to hurt us.
    • Understand & Identify Dysfunction in Others – When you see dysfunction in yourself it’s easier to see it in others. If you are able to identify dysfunction in others you can know who you should and shouldn’t keep close to you. You can also love others better without judging them.
    • Identify Who Is & Isn’t Your Close Friends –  You can avoid hurting others or them hurting you if you know who is and isn’t for you. Less energy spent on the wrong relationships will give you more energy to love yourself and the important people in your life.
    • Learn to Love With Boundaries & Unconditionally  – Just because someone is broken doesn’t mean they’re evil. Some people just need to be loved from afar till changes are made.

What causes dysfunctional relationships?

1. Trauma & Attachment Styles

Everyone has a history. No one has a perfect childhood but some people have it a little better than others. The lucky children have a stable and healthy life – a sweet blessing from God.

Some children have experienced nothing but coldness, bitterness, anger, rage, hunger, physical pain, and trauma. Can you imagine experiencing this for the foundational years of your life? It’s deeply chilling. 

Children that have a healthy family life are more likely to be excited for relationships. They see relationships as way to experience another facet of happiness. These children have secure attachment styles.

Children from highly dysfunctional families grow up fearful and scared of relationships. They see relationships as a reminder of the trauma they experienced from their family or guardians. In fear of entering the cycle of pain, they accidentally cause the cycle in their life (The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy – you expect bad things to happen. While trying to prevent it, you end up causing it). For example, they may fear being rejected or abandoned so they abandon others first – Leaving them lonely and even more scared.

Not all  people develop unhealthy relationship patterns as kids. Some people develop them as adults. Imagine: Entering into multiple destructive relationships with others. Your heart is broken and bruised. You decide to close your heart. You decide to never love again. Or, you drive away people because you lash out on partners expecting them to treat you the same way your past partners did.

Ultimately, people develop different patterns of behavior in childhood or as adults. Usually the patterns are developed to protect themselves and survive bad situations. It is always easy to feel sympathy for the “toxic” person because they have experienced horrific things. This is what makes it so hard for people that love a broken person; They love the individual and understand the cause of their toxic behavior. But, You can feel sympathy for someone’s pain yet still use boundaries.

Related Article: How To Avoid The Wreckage When You’re Drunk In Love

Boundaries are precautions put in place to protect yourself from an abuser. Boundaries can be put in place to protect your emotional or physical health. In fact, boundaries are important because we are not likely to “notice” someone’s dysfunctions upon meeting them the first time. Remember the high of a new relationship is blinding for both people. However, true dysfunctions will be revealed as time goes on.

2. Internal Dysfunctions Impact on Adult Relationships

Adults with traumatic childhoods or relational experiences tend to continue in that pattern. They use incorrect skills that they learned from their guardian to handle relational problems. The unhealthy skills they learned to deal with internal turmoil causes them to repeat toxic patterns in almost every relationship.

The repeated behavior may “look” different but it’s the same.

EXAMPLE: Sally is dating Bill for 5+ years. She leaves Bill because he hit her whenever she voiced her opinion. Sally will eventually feel better and enter a new relationship. She dates Bob. Bob let’s her speak but convinces her that she doesn’t know what she talking about or that she is wrong. Bob’s opinion is always right and best. Ultimately, Sally still doesn’t have a voice in the relationship. The dynamics changes but Sally’s dysfunction is still very present: She doesn’t have high self-esteem and she doesn’t value her opinion and self outside of a man.

Without healing, Sally enters new dysfunctions without realizing. Next, Sally may date someone that is obsessed with being the perfect mate for her. He may feel like a GOD by making her feel like she has never felt. But, it will cause problems eventually. Related Article: The God Complex Causes Dysfunctional Relationships; 3 Keys To End The Cycle


In Bill’s perspective every-time Sally voiced her opinion he felt attacked, accused, and criticized. When Sally leaves Bill, he is happy because she didn’t respect his manhood. Bill ends up dating Mary and it’s great. Mary explains how she feels and he doesn’t feel attacked, accused, and criticized. After a 3+ years of dating, Bill loses his job. Mary starts to help him look for job, prints motivational articles for him, and prepares clothes for him to go on the job hunt. Bill starts to hit Mary and accuses her of controlling him. The dynamics changed but Bill still has low self-esteem and is paranoid that others think negatively of him.

I won’t even get into the full potential of Bob’s and Mary’s dysfunctions.. But I hope my point is noted, Bill and Sally left one dysfunction and entered into a totally new one.

Whatever dysfunction is left undealt with will repeat.

Per my prior examples, the patterns “look different” but they all end the same way. Whether you are the “victim” or the “abuser” in a relationship… You have things within you that needs to be worked out.

3. Identifying Your Own Dysfunction

The journey to understanding your own dysfunction isn’t a two day fix. It is a commitment to learning about yourself and the unhealthy patterns you picked up from others and your parents. My journey to awareness and healing is fused with mentors, prayers, and giving my life to Jesus Christ. This has allowed me to shed the broken patterns that kept me dating insecure men with self-destructive tendencies.

I give practical steps, emotional exercises, and talk about my entire process to a healthy heart in the FREE E-Book: The Heart Detox.

The Heart Detox will help you explore the underlying causes to unhealthy relationships in your life. It’s just the beginning to you unlocking your full potential to have healthy relationships!

4. Identifying Who Is Safe

For romantic relationships, you can read this related article: 4 Reasons You Are Dating The Wrong Men to determine ways to avoid unsafe men.

To identify who are safe friends, business partners, and family members… In short, I would say:  There are fours things that help us to navigate whether someone is safe or not.

  1. Learning more about your own dysfunctions makes it easier to see
    them in other people.
  2. Look at their patterns with other people, it reveals a lot. It’s easy to only take their “side” of the story… But best believe, there is always more to it than you know. Read More: 3 Strategies to End of Generational Patterns In Relationships
  3. Pray. Jesus will expose the things about people we can’t see or don’t understand. Ask him to let you know if someone is healthy enough to be in your life.
  4. Take your time getting to know someone. Don’t automatically become friends, business partners, etc. with someone you just met. Take the time to evaluate their track sheet. Your heart and business are worth 5million+ dollars… Only let the best of the best be apart of it.

For further tips, I talk about how to have healthy relationships in the FREE E-Book: The Heart Detox. I explain tips on navigating conflict, bitterness, etc. Remember, relationships can and should be a taste of heaven.

Christina Daniels is the founder of Adorned Heart. She is devoted to learning about human behavior and its affects on society. She received a B.A. in Psychology and M.A. in Public Policy. She hopes to use her life and academic experience to empower & heal the hearts of women!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top
shares