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 will chose better partners and friends.
Imagine yourself completely awakened, confident, happy, and healed. You’d only allow healthy partners, family, and friends in your intimate space. And, better romantic relationships means you’d raise healthier children. I’m here to remind you that this is possible.
I believe God designed relationships to be a taste of heaven. We were created to trust, hope, giggle, explore, and fall passionately in love. To find that, we must refuse to settle for dysfunction.
We were created to fall passionately in love.
In this article, you will learn about the causes of dysfunctions. Then you will be able to create boundaries with unhealed individuals and love them 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.
What is a toxic relationship?
A dysfunctional relationship is defined by constant arguing, toxic communication, and a stagnant relationship that never grows. Emotional and/or physical abuse can occur when partners struggle with toxic thoughts, behaviors, and unhealthy coping mechanisms.
When one person struggles with unhealthy patterns, it can end up disrupting the entire relationship. Often, a toxic individual refuses to change because they are not aware that they are the problem or they have too much pride. We cannot control other people, but we can work on healing ourselves so that we do not attract individuals who refuse to grow.
Related Article: Examples of Toxic Relationships
8 Causes Of Toxic Relationships
All of these factors contribute to why someone might engage in emotional abuse. It’s important to remember that while these factors can provide insight into the person’s behavior, they do not excuse or justify it. Emotional abuse is never okay, and it is important to set boundaries and seek help if you are experiencing it in a relationship.
- Unmet needs: Everyone desires to feel loved, safe, respected, and valued. An emotionally abusive person forces others to meet those desires and needs. For instance, in my past relationship, my ex would make me cry to see how much I cared about him because he wanted to feel loved. His actions were geared towards pleasing himself, and my emotions only seemed to matter to him after his own emotional needs were fulfilled.
- Reactive emotions: Some people have impulse control and emotional regulation issues. Sometimes medication or a psychological diagnosis is needed to help the person have better control over their behavior when they experience pain and stress.
- Unhealthy coping: Some people grew up in homes where abuse was normal, so they don’t know what healthy behavior is or how to start practicing it. Also, they might not realize how much pain they’re in and that it’s causing unhealthy coping patterns. For instance, an emotionally unaware person may engage in behaviors such as sleeping with multiple partners or gambling to avoid grieving over their parents’ splitting up. They may believe they have an addiction but fail to realize that the addiction started as a coping mechanism to deal with their pain.
- Trauma: The bad things that happen in our lives shape the way we deal with other events. For instance, someone who has been taken advantage of and used may start using other people themselves. This is because when others hurt you enough, you may become cold or an unhealthy version of yourself as a form of self-protection.
- Shame and guilt: People who struggle with toxic shame tend to use abuse tactics to ensure that they feel better. They give YOU their shame through gaslighting, blame-shifting, lying, etc. Their ultimate goal is to create a story in their head that makes them perfect and guilt-free.
- Victim mentality: The person might literally believe that they are the victim and you are abusing them. In this case, their mind distorts every experience and makes YOU the bad guy.
- Fear of abandonment and rejection: Someone who fears losing someone they love will react negatively to anything they perceive as rejection. This type of individual will engage in abuse tactics to ensure that you stay with them forever. Or they may make every attempt for you to think they don’t need you. This is usually to protect them from getting too attached when you leave.
- Low self-esteem: Someone who feels small, less than you, and that they don’t deserve you will hurt you with emotional abuse tactics. This type of individual wants to feel like they’re better than you, so they will do what is necessary to destroy your self-esteem. Things may have gone well in the beginning when they were helping you to build your self-esteem, but once they see you don’t need them, it will bruise their ego.
- Fixed mindset: Some people believe that they are incapable of change and growth, and therefore they accept their toxic traits and don’t make an effort to improve. They feel stuck and believe that healing is too much work, so they avoid it altogether. This fixed mindset can be detrimental to their personal growth and the growth of their relationships. It’s important to recognize this mindset and work towards developing a growth mindset, where we believe that change and growth are possible with effort and determination.
Wondering – “Am I in a toxic relationship?” Take this quiz to find out now!
16 Warning Signs of a Toxic Relationship
- Fear of Sharing: You’re afraid to share your thoughts and feelings due to the possibility of manipulation, harm, or belittlement from your partner.
- One-Sided Growth: You’re the only one actively working on personal growth and improvement, while your partner refuses to acknowledge any flaws.
- Physical and Emotional Hurt: The relationship causes emotional and physical pain, and your partner doesn’t take responsibility for their actions.
- Disregard for Boundaries: Your partner consistently disrespects your boundaries and forces you into unwanted activities or emotional states.
- Confusion and Fear: You frequently feel confused and fearful due to the unpredictable dynamics of the relationship.
- Dependency for Happiness: You believe you need your partner for happiness and love, rather than finding fulfillment within yourself.
- Emotional and Physical Abuse: Emotional manipulation, belittling, and physical harm are present in the relationship.
- Lack of Growth Orientation: One or both partners are not interested in personal growth or self-improvement.
- Repetitive Arguments: You engage in repetitive arguments about the same unresolved issues.
- Concerns from Loved Ones: Family and friends consistently express concerns or point out red flags regarding your partner’s behavior or the relationship’s dynamics.
- Embarrassment: You feel embarrassed or ashamed about certain aspects of the relationship when discussing it with others.
- Sacrificing Personal Aspects: You consistently sacrifice your job, finances, or friendships for your partner’s needs or desires.
- Emotional Depletion: The relationship leaves you emotionally drained and depleted.
- Constant Confusion: You are frequently confused about where you stand in the relationship.
- Constant Pleasing: You often find yourself striving to please your partner while disregarding your own needs and desires.
- Imbalanced Effort: You give significantly more effort and attention to the relationship than your partner does.
- Emotional Disconnect: The relationship revolves primarily around physical intimacy without emotional commitment.
- Seeking Reassurance Online: You turn to online platforms for reassurance and validation due to a lack of support and understanding within the relationship.
Read more: 42 Signs of a Toxic Relationship
4 Steps for Ending Toxic Relationships and Healing
- Understand your own dysfunction: We all have our own issues. For instance, you may have a tendency to allow people into your heart too quickly, which can make it harder to let go of someone once you realize they’re unhealthy. Overall, learning why we allow toxic behaviors in our lives is key to stopping the cycle.
- Understand and identify dysfunction in others: When you are able to see dysfunction in yourself, it becomes easier to recognize it in others. If you can identify dysfunction in others, you can make better decisions about who should and shouldn’t be close to you. You can also love others better without judging them.
- Identify who is and isn’t for you: You can avoid pain by learning who is meant 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: Walking away from a toxic relationship or setting boundaries doesn’t make you a bad person. It also doesn’t mean the other person is a bad person. Some people just need to be loved from a distance in order to protect yourself and give them space to grow.
11 Resources to End Toxic Relationships
Ending toxic relationships are HARD! Here are a few resources to help you heal and move on!
- 5 Tips To Let Go of Toxic Relationships!
- 7 Reasons Why Advice Isn’t Working For You !
- TOXIC Shame: How Regret & Guilt Destroys Relationships!
- 6 Toxic Traits in a Relationship!
- How to Avoid Toxic Relationships When You’re Drunk in Love
- In Love With A Prideful Man? 6 Helpful Tips!
- How To Find The Source Of Happiness & Love
- People pleasers & Enablers Attract The Narcissist: 3 Keys To End The Cycle!
- 4 Reasons You Are Dating The Wrong Men!
- 12 Toxic Traits in a Relationship!
- 13 Consequences of Lying in Relationships
What causes someone to be emotionally abusive?
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.
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 when 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 bad behavior may “look” different in each relationship, but it’s the same.
Examples of Toxic Relationships
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 lets 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. Therefore, she accepts men that don’t value her.
Without healing, Sally enters new dysfunctional situations 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. Because that person feels powerful, when they may Sally feel powerful. But, what happens when Sally doesn’t need their encouragement anymore? The abuse cycle will then kick in, read more in The God Complex Causes Dysfunctional Relationships.
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 and revealed Bill has low self-esteem and is paranoid that others think negatively of him when things aren’t going his way.
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 dysfunctional pattern is left unhealed 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.
If you want help navigating this sign up for your First 20 Minutes Free: 1:1 Empowerment Coaching!
How do I pick better partners?
1. 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!
2. Identify 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.
- Learning more about your own dysfunctions makes it easier to see
them in other people.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.