8 Signs Of A Toxic Relationship | How to Set Boundaries
Healthy, stable relationships have the power to bring lots of joy, improve your resilience, boost mood, and even extend life. Positive relationships help us feel safe, valued and accepted. Research shows that people with strong social bonds are more likely to live longer.
On the other hand, toxic relationships can be a massive burden in your life, negatively impacting your mood, self-worth, health, and life quality in general.
What is a Toxic Relationship?
Every relationship requires a lot of hard work. However, a toxic relationship leaves you doubting your values, reality, and sense of self-worth. If you or your partner (or both of you) feel anxious, controlled, and drained by each other, your relationship might be a toxic one.
Every toxic relationship is potentially harmful to its members as it destabilizes healthy coping mechanisms, ruins self-esteem, and generates a lot of stress, anxiety, and depression.
The toxic environment doesn’t refer exclusively to romantic relationships but can include any dysfunctional relationship, from family relationships to toxic friendships and unhealthy work environments.
One of the most common toxic relationships is a codependent relationship. In codependent relationships, one person is always “in need” and drains the other person’s energy. The other person compulsively takes care of the other, disregarding own needs, feelings, and wellbeing.
Codependency is a relationship typically occurs when one of the members has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) or Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
Both personality disorders are characterized by sudden mood swings, impulsive behavior, abrupt aggression, potential violence, controlling behavior, and a great fear of being abandoned. A narcissist typically has exaggerated self-worth and can be exceptionally arrogant. They are often incredibly charming, fun, and persuasive. However, these individuals are self-centered, manipulative, and abusive. They lack empathy and never admit their faults.
As long as you meet their needs, a narcissist will make you feel appreciated, so you mold yourself to their expectations and needs.
Signs that You Are in a Toxic Relationship
One of the first signs of a toxic relationship is controlling behavior. If your partner restricts your contacts with friends and family, selects friends for you, tells you how to dress, talk, or where to work, you are most likely in a toxic relationship. Here are some other signs of an unhealthy relationship.
1) You continuously feel responsible for your partner’s needs.
You always feel guilty, as you believe that you are responsible for your partner’s feelings. This misconception makes you beat yourself up when your partner is unhappy.
2) You bring out the worst in each other.
One of you tries to have all the power in the relationship. Every argument between you leads to extreme reactions and brings out the worst in you.
3) There is a disproportion between giving and taking.
One of the partners gives a lot and receives very little in return.
4) You deplete each other.
People in toxic relationships always feel emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted, and unsafe.
5) You lack boundaries.
If you have problems saying “no” to your partner’s demands. You might fear disappointing your partner, so you go above and beyond to please them.
6) Your self-esteem depends on what your partner thinks of you.
You need your partner’s approval and praise to feel good about yourself.
7) You feel lonely and isolated.
Your toxic partner may isolate you from other relationships, manipulating you into codependence.
8) There is an ongoing abuse.
Whether emotional, psychological, or physical, abuse is always a clear indication that there is pathology in your relationship.
The Importance of Setting Boundaries
Setting boundaries is vital in any relationship. However, in a toxic relationship, boundaries are sometimes the only way to protect your health, sense of worth, and identity.
Boundaries represent a way we take care of ourselves. They make our expectations clear, letting other people how we want to be treated.
Narcissists are typically unable to true reciprocity and emotional exchange in relationships. Because they don’t have empathy for your needs, your toxic partner may regularly violate your boundaries, causing confusion, anxiety, and distress.
So, it is vital to establish healthy limits to feel safe and respected. Emotional boundaries mean separating your emotions and needs from your partner’s. People in a toxic relationship are greatly affected by each other’s words or actions. When you have fragile emotional boundaries, you are more likely to be taken advantage of and feel hurt and battered.
Setting boundaries means that you don’t allow your partner’s mood to dictate your stress level or anxiety and or feel responsible for their feelings and problems. It helps protect your rights and free yourself from manipulation or abuse.
Learning to Say “No”
To maintain healthy boundaries, practice assertiveness. Outline what behaviors are acceptable within a relationship and practice to offer “no” as an answer without any further explanation.
The tremendous amount of distress in toxic relationships comes from your inability to say “no.” You are used to going out of your way to meet your partner’s needs and expectations because you don’t want to disappoint them.
Learning to say “no” helps create healthy boundaries as it allows you to focus on your needs and acknowledge your responsibilities. It will enable you to clarify what you are and what you are not comfortable with, preventing your toxic partner from manipulating you.
Put yourself first, and don’t feel guilty about taking care of your needs. Exercise regularly, stay connected with family and friends, practice positive affirmations, and mindfulness meditation to boost resilience and improve confidence. The toxic person will most likely try to break your boundaries over and over again. However, try to stay firm and consistent.
Whether you decide to end your toxic relationship or maintain a connection with a toxic partner, managing your own emotion well-being is vital. Having a safe environment to address your problems can make all the difference.
Understanding your part in the toxic dynamic can help you heal.
Are you knowledgeable of the ongoing challenges that neurodiverse couples face? I’m neurotypical and my husband has asperger’s traits. NO emotional reciprocity, NO affection emotionally or physically. Ghostly quiet, if he does speak, he’s literal. He does not validate me. I am codepend I’m very lonely!!! I’m married for 44 years. It took me a very long time to connect the dots. My wellbeing continues to be threatened. I look forward to hearing back from you. Sincerely, ~Barbara