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How to Identify Toxic Relationships

by Carrie Stemke

Anyone can be the source of a toxic relationship -- a friend, romantic partner, coworker or even a family member. And at times, the signs of an unhealthy bond can be surprisingly hard to identify. All toxic relationships cause the victim to feel drained, trapped, controlled or have similar negative feelings. Once you've identified you're in a toxic relationship, you should either extricate yourself from the relationship or, if that's not possible, learn to use assertiveness and clear communication to better protect yourself.

Everything You Do Is Wrong

If the other person consistently makes you out to be not good enough, or if you feel like yourconstantly coming under fire, that's a red flag you're in a toxic relationship, warns counselor Rosemary K. M. Sword in an article for Psychology Today. The emphasis here is not on the presence of criticism, but that it's constant, can even become nasty and makes you feel shamed. In a toxic relationship, writes Sword, you'll only avoid judgment if you act in a way the other person demands.

Your Emotions Are Consistently Negative

Think about the relationship, and be aware of the emotions that surface. A relationship that leaves you feeling depressed and exhausted is toxic. To help yourself identify the emotions you're feeling, Psych Central Associate Editor Therese J. Borchard recommends asking yourself questions like, "Do I feel energized or drained after I spent an hour with this person?" "Do I want to spend time with this person, or do I feel I have to?" "Do I come away consistently disappointed by his comments and behavior?" "Am I giving more to the relationship than she is?" And, perhaps most importantly, "Do I even like this person?"

You're Not Allowed to Grow

Personal growth and self-development are important parts of a healthy relationship. People naturally change as they grow, and, while most people are accepting of this fact, a toxic person won't be, cautions Glamour magazine contributor Jillian Kramer. In a toxic relationship, your efforts to grow as a person will often be met with mockery and a lack of support. A toxic person will not only insist that you can't change, he'll actively try to hold you back, ridiculing your work at self-improvement, Kramer writes.

You're Punished With Avoidance

A toxic person will not only punish and manipulate you to get what she wants, she'll do so with various forms of avoidance, writes psychologist Jeffrey Bernstein in an article for Psychology Today. After an argument, you'll get the silent treatment for hours, to the point where it makes you feel entirely uncomfortable. Or she'll completely ignore your attempts at physical signs of affection, condemning you as "too needy." When you try to resolve things after a fight, she's completely resistant or nowhere to be found. Avoidance is a passive-aggressive weapon, warns Bernstein, and it's a toxic element that usually just gets worse the longer it goes on.

About the Author

A New York native, Carrie Stemke is an avid writer, editor and traveler whose work has covered many different topics. She has had a lifelong fascination with and love of psychology, and hold's a bachelor's degree in the subject. Her psychology research articles have been published in Personality and Individual Differences and in Modern Psychological Studies.

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