post written by: Marc Chernoff

10 Toxic Relationships Mentally Strong People Avoid


10 Types of Toxic Relationships Mentally Strong People Avoid

All failed relationships hurt, but letting go of a toxic relationship is actually a gain, not a loss.

As youngsters we learn about sex education in grade school, the legality of marriage in our late teens, and perhaps some social psychology in college.  But when it comes down to actually handling the intricacies of real-world relationships, we’re given very little formal guidance… or worse, we’re given advice columns in online beauty magazines.

Yes, relationships are trial-and-error from the get-go.  And if you’re like most of us, you’ve experienced plenty of error along the way.

A big part of the problem is that many toxic relationship behaviors are baked right into our culture.  We worship the idea of carefree romantic love – you know, where two people ride off into the sunset happily ever after before they even truly know each other.  And we are raised to objectify our relationships and guard them like personal property.  Thus, our friends and lovers are often treated as assets rather than human beings of free will with whom to share true love and emotional support.

Fortunately, there’s been a lot of scientific research into healthy and happy relationships over the past few decades that have allowed people in the know to build their mental strength against toxic relationships and toxic relationship behaviors.  And that’s exactly what I want to share with you today – ten common types of toxic relationships mentally strong people learn to avoid:

1.  Relationships run by one person.

A relationship is toxic when one person is running it.  Period.

When you feel out of control or a little lost it can be tempting to look for someone willing to take charge of your life for you, just to alleviate the pressure.  But before you do consider this: If you put a collar around your own neck and hand the leash to someone else, you’ll have no say about where they lead you in life.

We should never feel powerless or trapped in a relationship.  In fact, if either person feels powerless or trapped, the relationship doesn’t really exist.  Because that’s what relationships are all about: freedom.

Yes, healthy relationships are built on a solid foundation of free will and teamwork.  And since relationships are one of the greatest vehicles of personal growth and happiness, the most important trip you will ever take in life is meeting someone else halfway.  You will achieve far more by working with them, rather than working against them or trying to control them.  It really is a full circle.  The strength of a relationship depends on the individual strength of its two members, and the strength of each member in the long run depends on the quality of the relationship.

2.  Relationships that are supposed to “complete” you.

Our culture, which is predicated on fantasies of romantic love, often suggests that once you meet “The One,” you will be lifted out of your misery or boredom and elevated into a state of perpetual wholeness and bliss.

So, it’s easy to believe that it’s your partner’s job to make you feel joyful and whole.  But the truth is, while a healthy relationship can certainly bring joy, it’s not your partner’s job to fill in your empty voids.  That’s your job and yours alone, and until you accept full responsibility for your emptiness, pain, or boredom, problems will inevitably ensue in the relationship.

The longing for completion that you feel inside comes from being out of touch with who you are.  Nobody else in this world can make you happy.  It’s something you have to do on your own.  And you have to create your own happiness first before you can share it with someone else.

3.  Relationships that rely on codependency.

When your actions and thoughts revolve around another person to the complete disregard of your own needs, that’s codependency, and it’s toxic.  When you set a precedent that someone else is responsible for how you feel at all times (and vice versa), then you both will develop codependent tendencies.  Suddenly, neither one of you is allowed to plan something without getting approval.  All activities – even the mundane things such as watching a TV program – must be negotiated and compromised.  When someone begins to get upset, all personal needs go out the window because it’s now your responsibility to make one another feel better.

The biggest problem of developing these codependent tendencies is that they breed resentment.  Sure, if Angel gets mad at me once because she’s had a crappy day and is aggravated and needs attention, that’s understandable.  But if it becomes an expectation that my life revolves around her emotional well-being 24/7, then I’m eventually going to become very bitter towards her feelings and desires.

As Jim Rohn once said, “The greatest gift you can give somebody is your own personal development.  I used to say, ‘If you will take care of me, I will take care of you.  “Now I say, I will take care of me for you, if you will take care of you for me.’”

In other words, take responsibility for your own emotions and expect your partner and friends to be responsible for theirs.  There’s a subtle yet important difference between being supportive and being obligated at all times.  Any sacrifices for others should be made as a self-directed choice and not seen as an obligation.  (Read Codependent No More.)

4.  Relationships based on idealistic expectations.

You don’t love and appreciate someone because they’re perfect, you love and appreciate them in spite of the fact that they are not.  “Perfection” is a deadly fantasy – something none of us will ever be.  So beware of your tendency to “fix” someone when they’re NOT broken.  They are perfectly imperfect, just the way they should be.

Truthfully, the less you expect from someone you care about, the happier your relationship with them will be.  No one in your life will act exactly as you hope or expect them to, ever.  They are not YOU – they will not love, give, understand or respond like you do.

The biggest disappointments in life and in relationships are the result of misplaced expectations.  Tempering unrealistic expectations of how something or someone “should be” will greatly reduce unnecessary frustration and suffering.

Bottom line: Any relationship that’s real will not be perfect, but if you’re willing to work at it and open up, it could be everything you’ve ever dreamed of.

5.  Relationships where past blame is used to justify present righteousness.

When someone you’re in a relationship with continues to blame you for your past mistakes, your relationship is toxic.  If both people in the relationship do this it becomes a hopeless battle to see who has screwed up the most over the years, and therefore who owes the other one more of an apology.

When you use someone else’s past wrongdoings in order to try and justify your own present righteousness, it’s a lose-lose situation.  Not only are you dodging the current (valid) issue itself, but you’re digging up guilt and bitterness from the past to manipulate the other person into feeling wrong in the present.

If this goes on long enough, both people in the relationship eventually spend most of their energy trying to prove that they’re less guilty than the other rather than solving the present problem.  They spend all of their time trying to be less wrong for each other instead of being more right for each other.

You must recognize that by choosing to be in a relationship with someone, you are choosing to be with all of their prior mistakes.  If you don’t accept those mistakes, then ultimately, you do not accept them.  If something bothered you that much in the past, you should have dealt with it then.  It’s time to let bygones be bygones.  (Angel and I discuss this in detail in the “Relationships” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

6.  Relationships built on daily lies.

Trust is the foundation of a healthy relationship, and when trust is broken it takes time and willingness on the part of both people to repair it and heal.  All too often, I’ll hear a coaching client say something like, “I didn’t tell him but I didn’t lie about it, either.”  This statement is a contradiction, as omissions are lies too.  If you’re covering up your tracks in any way, it’s only a matter of time before the truth is revealed and trust in the relationship is broken.

Remember, an honest adversary is always better than a friend or lover who lies.  Pay less attention to what people say, and more attention to what they do.  Their actions will show you the truth in the long run.

If you catch someone you care about lying to you, speak up.  Some people will lie to you repeatedly in a vicious effort to get you to repeat their lies over and over until they effectively become true.  Don’t partake in their nonsense.  Don’t let their lies be your reality.  Don’t be afraid to stand up for the truth – YOUR truth.  Forgiveness and reconciliation can’t begin until this truth is told.

7.  Relationships that lack forgiveness and the willingness to rebuild trust.

Failing to understand that broken trust CAN be repaired leads to a grim future.

When trust is broken, which happens in nearly every long-term relationship at some point, it’s essential to understand that it can be repaired, provided both people are willing to do the hard work of self-growth.

In fact, it’s at this time, when it feels like the solid bedrock of your relationship has crumbled into dust, that you’re being given an opportunity to shed the patterns and dynamics with each other that haven’t been serving you.  It’s painful work and a painful time, and the impulse will be to leave, especially if you believe that broken trust cannot be repaired.  But if you understand that trust levels rise and fall over the course of a lifetime you’ll be more likely to find the strength to hang in, hang on, and grow together.

8.  Relationships in which passive aggression trumps communication.

Passive aggressive behavior takes many forms but can generally be described as a non-verbal aggression that manifests in negative behavior.  Instead of openly expressing how they feel, someone makes subtle, annoying gestures directed at you.  Instead of saying what’s actually upsetting you, you find small and petty ways to take jabs at someone until they pay attention and get upset.

This is obviously a toxic relationship situation.  It shows that you two are not comfortable communicating openly and clearly with one another.  A person has no reason to be passive-aggressive if they feel safe expressing any worries or insecurities within the relationship.  A person will never feel a need to hide behind passive aggression if they feel like they won’t be judged or criticized for what they are thinking.

In healthy relationships, feelings and desires are shared openly.  Make it clear that the other person is not necessarily responsible or obligated to your ideas and opinions, but that you’d love to have their support.  If they care about you, they will likely give it, or at least compromise in some way.

9.  Relationships governed by emotional blackmail.

Emotional blackmail is when someone applies an emotional penalty against you when you don’t do exactly what they want.  The key condition here is that you change your behavior, against your will, as a result of the emotional blackmail.  In other words, absent the emotional blackmail you would do differently, but you fear the penalty so you give in.  This is extremely toxic behavior.

The solution, as with passive aggression, is simply better communication.  There should never be a penalty, just an honest conversation.  It’s crucial for both people in a relationship to know that negative thoughts and feelings can be communicated safely to one another without there being penalties and harsh repercussions.  Otherwise people will suppress their true thoughts and feelings which leads to an environment of distrust and manipulation.

Perhaps there’s something that really bothers you about your friend or lover.  Why aren’t you saying something?  Are you afraid they’ll get upset?  Maybe they will and maybe they won’t.  Either way you need to deal with it upfront, constructively, and avoid burying it until it worsens, festers and explodes out of you.

Remember, it’s fine to get upset at someone you care about or to not like something about them.  That’s called being an imperfect human being.  Understand that committing to a person and always liking a person’s choices is not the same thing.  One can be committed to someone and not like everything about them.  On the contrary, two people who are capable of communicating sincere criticism towards one another without judgment or emotional blackmail will strengthen their commitment to one another in the long run.  (Read Emotional Blackmail.)

10.  Relationships that are always put on the back burner.

Failing to carve out quality time for important relationships is one of the most toxic relationship mistakes of them all, and yet it often goes unnoticed… at least for a while… until everything starts falling apart.

The truth is, relationships are like any other living entity: they require dedicated time in order to survive and thrive.  It’s easy to allow life to take over, especially when you have young children, work, and a body that needs nourishing food and exercise.  But your relationship with someone is a body as well, and if it’s not watered with quality time every week, it will start to wither.  Make time every week to focus only on those you care about, and time every day to pour even just a few minutes of quality interaction into your closest relationships.

Nothing you can give is more appreciated than your sincere, focused attention – your full presence.  Being with someone, listening without a clock and without anticipation of the next event is the ultimate compliment.  It is indeed the most valued gesture you can make to another human being.

The floor is yours…

What would you add to the list?  What toxic relationship circumstances and behaviors do you try to avoid?  Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

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56 Comments

  • WOW! I just love this post today. I’ve written about my long experience of being in a very toxic relationship… it was quite healing to write it all down! It finally came down to just forcing myself to cut all ties and contact completely. With the help of friends and a professional, I was able to cut him completely from my life. He actually had the gall to say he thought I was seeking professional help to help me stay IN the relationship, which just gave me more confidence I was doing the right thing.

    I will never forget how freeing and empowering the feeling was to have that burden off my back and start taking care of myself. There was a backlash of hateful attacks from him afterwards, but I know it was just because I stopped letting him have control of me with his manipulations. In the end I came out stronger and happier than ever. In the process, I learned a lot about myself and my contribution to the toxic relationship and have used the experience to grow and help others. I continue to ignore his attempts to make contact with me.

    I don’t always comment on your posts Marc and Angel, but I do read them all and I own your paperback book, and I’ve given it to friends and family as gifts. What you write is always such a blessing! Thank you :)

  • It may sound a bit harsh, but in my 54 years on this planet I have learned to take a more cynical view of toxic people. If I have to teach someone how to behave towards others with more caring, considerate behavior…behavior that most people have learned at the age of 10…then its not going to help to “let them know” how their behavior has hurt you again and again. They probably don’t care. Better to recognize these people and cut them loose if your relationship with them is hurting you.

  • Great post filled with lots of helpful information. Thanks.

    Toxic relationships are draining. So many people will try to tell you that they’re impossible to avoid, but that isn’t true. I don’t care if they’re friends, family, etc. - if you want to distance yourself enough to get some fresh, positive air, you can. This is actually something your blog and book has reinforced for me over the years.

    Sharing this post.
    Kevin

  • I hate those relationships where you have to pay the other person to be with you - constantly buying them things to make them happy.

  • I really enjoyed the article and this is my favorite line in the article….
    As Jim Rohn once said, “The greatest gift you can give somebody is your own personal development. I used to say, ‘If you will take care of me, I will take care of you. “Now I say, I will take care of me for you, if you will take care of you for me.’”

  • I’ve been lucky enough to avoid toxic relationships for the most part. I’ve had toxic “flings” but they were just flings because I can tell pretty quickly whether someone is gonna work or not.

    I kinda feel like this all could have been expressed in fewer points. #5 and #9 probably could have been merged, for example. But I do understand the appeal of 10. It’s the basis for the metric system, super psychologically satisfying! I’m using it for my bribe-to-subscribe ebook I’m currently working on.

    Still, well written and insightful as always. Good job guys! :)

  • Thanks for the great post - really good food for thought here! One of the challenges I often find is balancing the “back burner” piece with being in a long distance relationship, and trying to find ways to keep a relationship healthy and stable over distance.

  • Totally true, as usual. I have actually seen relationships disintegrating for people due to some of these reasons mentioned above. An ideal site for youngsters too, looking for real advice, with respect to matters beyond school, education and a career.

  • Hello Marc and Angel,

    Great tips thank you. This is my first time on your site and I didn’t expect to read about myself quite so quickly. So, I have a question for your readers; how would you leave a toxic relationship without access to money?
    Cheers.

  • This is one of the bests posts ever. I especially liked the introduction. If only we could teach people about relationships when they are young our society would be much better. I am in my 60s and I vividly remember just once when in my teens we were shown a film about relationships and how to treat another person. It has stayed with me all my life and has helped me to stay married to the same person for over 40 years; it isn’t easy; it’s always a work in progress; it’s give and take; forgiving the past is so very important to moving on and healing. Thank you so much for this latest post full of important messages!

  • Based on these ten toxic truths I must say out loud to myself, “I am in a highly dysfunctional, toxic relationship” and have the courage to take an action step and move on. Thank you for outing what I’ve been internally roiling over.

  • I recognize every single one of these from my last relationship. It didn’t last long because he was so toxic, but the recovery for me has been long and hard. He drained me completely and left me feeling crazy. I am beginning to come out of it, but it has been a serious uphill climb. All I can say is - never again.

  • Thank you for this post. I can admit that I have a tendency to be toxic. I’m just coming out of a relationship and I know that I tortured my ex. I feel horrible about this and I want to change. I couldn’t make a bunch of excuses, but the truth is that I’m tired of going from relationship to relationship with the same pattern.

  • I read all of your articles. Such great advice! Thank you.

  • I needed to read this 25 years ago! Definitely something I will save and have my children read in their teenage years.

  • I love this post today. It has power to move a person in another direction! Are there any examples you can attach with each one? I know that for each person the example would be different but it would help us to relate. This information is so deep. It goes to the core of why we do and accept the things that we do.

  • This is truly a brilliant list… Thank you for a fantastic read (and so many great reminders) to start my day— and to reflect on weekly, monthly, yearly…

    I’m an advocate of all 10— but two that grip me hard is #5 & #7. We all will screw up— all of us… Sometimes in minor ways, sometimes in major ones… But trust CAN be rebuilt— as long as the party at fault makes aggressive strides to change the past errors AND where that offended party also grants freedom for REAL trust to be built… for “real trust” can’t be built on parameters set by only one person in the relationship (parameters that the offending party must live by “or else”). There is no freedom there and a living, breathing relationship will never be (re) established.

  • This is a big eye opener for me. I’ve faced a lot in my past relationship - so much has happened I can’t even begin to express half, but this was very good for me to be able to read. I needed this.

  • Very happy about this list, particularly as I had an 8-year relationship that ended as it never seemed to take off in all that time, and one of the main criticisms I had was that my ex was always firing the past at me rather than dealing with the matter at hand and moving on. It was like an attack is the best form of defense technique. In the end, I was so drained I just said we were going nowhere and broke it off. I had a lot of guilt about it for a very long time, as I really didn’t want to end it, but this list gives me some indication I did the right thing!
    I love the quote “I will take care of me for you, if you will take care of you for me”. I am exactly on that path. I don’t have a boyfriend right now but when I do he’s gonna get one hell of self-taken-care-of other half. I have friends who say to me: “God! Are you still reading all those books? Isn’t it time just to live life?” I think to myself, “Hey, without all those books I wouldn’t have a life right now, anyhow!” And of course, I keep reading on…

    One thing I always notice about mentally strong people is how they always manage to look beyond looks. They wait, they reassure themselves there’s something of quality there, and they don’t waste their time on drama. I always wondered how they did it, thinking their way was boring and my life was far more exciting, but they got the goods long-term. I managed to avoid another disaster last year, so I hope I’ve finally turned the corner for good! I used to believe that good looks meant good. It’s still a tough lesson for me, but I’m learning…

  • Great post that skims the surface of some of these toxic relationships. Hopefully if someone reads something that strikes a nerve they will read further on the subject. As with all people, every personality issue and toxic relationship may be more complex than first thought.

    Your comments on passive/aggressive behavior may be the case for some, that they just need someone to feel safe with so that they can speak freely, though true for some, greatly minimizes what is going on in the mind of many p/a people.

    It also puts the blame on the abused rather than the abuser. Dr. Phil calls p/a abuse a form of covert abuse and that it is some of the worse abuse you will encounter.

    Your description is a very mild form that almost everyone at sometime will do in their life out of frustration, but not with the intent to cause harm.

    There is a great difference from having a p/a moment, and a p/a abuser. These people have ingrained patterns of behavior that are destructive and intentionally abusive. If someone is feeling controlled, demeaned and losing their sense of self worth, wondering what is going on in their relationship with a person that is not physically abusive but knows how to make you feel worthless. A person of few words who knows just the moment to walk away in silence. P/a abusers know how to manipulate and turn the tables better than anyone making themselves look like the victim and will blame you for everything. Many abused by a p/a person have related to the description “crazy making abuse”. If someone is relating to any of this they should consider seeking a counselor and discuss if they may be in an abusive passive aggressive relationship. It is abuse, but once recognized, there is hope.

  • I am totally impressed with this article. What you mention is thoroughly amazing and helpful for all relationships.

  • I came out of a ten year marriage where it fell apart after my mom died. I was angry and hurt so I started dating right away which was a big mistake. I ended up marrying someone who I really didn’t know and was able to control me through my anger so I ended up turning my back on everyone. When I finally realized what I was doing it was too late. Now I have been sepperated from my second wife because I couldn’t take it any more and we were always fighting. She wanted me to have no past, no relationship with my kids or with any of my family. I take full blame I knew better but I let anger get in the way. Now I am trying to reconclle with my kids and my family. Don’t let this happen to you life is too short.

  • Great post, as usual. I love it!

    @Jenn: your story sounds so much like mine that it’s scary - right down to what he said to me when I sought professional help to figure out why I put up with emotional and physical abuse for as long as I did. I agree - it is quite liberating and like the quote stated above, I now view my leaving as a gain, not a loss. I’ve worked hard on me and now, three years later, I feel stronger and wiser for having gone through the experience. I guarantee that I will never allow someone to manipulate and control me like that again.

  • “…communicating sincere criticism towards one another without judgment or emotional blackmail,” OK - so I have yet to encounter a committed relationship in my adult life (I am in my 40’s) where the simple act of communicating sincere criticism isn’t immediately equated to judgement and usually either a spirited argument follows as they become defensive or they withdraw from me and punish me with days of silence or by withholding affection… And I’m a professional, successful communicator and have no problem with 100’s of clients. But in intimate relationships I can say it six-ways to Sunday and still receive dismal results. Any advice?

  • Great article– as usual.

    This has really got me thinking about how many of those things happened in my marriage. But it wasn’t just one of us who was toxic. We both contributed to the mess and in the end allowed all the petty toxicity to take the place of communicating, leading to a divorce that I never wanted. It takes two to be in a relationship- good or bad. None of us is perfect. I’ve sure learned that I need to be aware of the toxic stuff I’m giving as well as the stuff I’m getting. Stopping toxic before it begins is hard, but vital.

  • Hmm.. . I love this blog and fundamentally agree with most of what is in this one, however I disagree with part of what is contained in the ‘passive aggression’ portion of it. I think that’s only part of the issue. I have found that most people who resort to practicing passive aggressive behavior do so not because they fear judgement or are insecure, but instead practice this negative, toxic behavior as a means of control through intimidation, subterfuge and manipulation.

  • This is a great reference for anybody in a relationship or for anybody who wants to be in a good one. A couple I know is divorcing because their relationships fits six of these for sure. It’s so sad and an example to be aware of these things early on. I’ve been married for 26 years but it’s because of constantly working at having a strong relationship. It’s worth the effort! I think it would be a terrific exercise to sit down with my husband with this article and say, “Let’s talk about these things. Let’s be aware of them.” Thanks you guys!

  • Simply an awesome post!

  • As I’ve been realizing over the past year, I am in a toxic relationship. I have rationalized for so long that I was doing what was best for our children that I lost sight of myself and also how it was also harming them. Now I’m trying to figure out how to extract myself and my children from the situation, and honestly because of the toxic practices of my partner I am struggling on the best way to do it. I accept it won’t go well, but as I’ve watched him deal with other family members I expect it will be hell once I eventually am able to leave. Reading your articles validate though that I am right in what I know in my heart I need to do and also help me to work on my own self because I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t taken control earlier and put more value on myself.

    When you talk about emotional blackmail - I deal with that constantly. You say communication is the answer but when the other person won’t communicate, then what do you do? When I try to communicate, he takes a different meaning from what I say - i accept sometimes I may not express myself well, but sometimes its for a fairly straightforward thing I’ve told him. Then I try to explain what I meant - and its like nothing after the first misinterpreted thing is heard, once he has decided the meaning, there is no budging him. Then we go to the silent treatment, which is his ‘punishment’.

    I accept that its his problem, not mine and I am working on that right now to help myself but I just don’t see how to better communicate when you feel you have to approach every conversation like you are walking on eggshells.

    I do appreciate all you write, so much of it is helpful to me right now.

  • This was awesome! I divorced my husband almost exactly 1 year ago and it was both hard at the time and difficult still to explain what was wrong. Now I can point to #’s 3-5-6-7-8 and 9! No wonder I was such a mess.

  • It is a shocker to wake up and realize that love is not supposed to hurt from a relationship. Yet those of us that have been in a toxic relationship must own up to the fact that “Yes, I have allowed it to happen for ___ (fill in the amount of time). It has gotten so bad that I have missed the warning signs and have acclimated myself to the toxin. Until it really hurts or one gets worn down mentally and emotionally.

    Then with this new understanding comes a lot of shame about yourself. We are leaking our power to someone who is weaker emotionally than we are who chooses to use fear to manipulate us to seem stronger. Emotional pain comes in so many forms of dysfunction and they also hide their pain and fear, to which comes out in inappropriate ways. They can’t hear, see, understand, or have any empathy or compassion for us or any situation. Please remember that these ugly outbursts are people needing help, and that you may not be the person to help them (name of good therapist here). You can’t help someone who does not want to be helped or denies there is a problem and they might be contributing to it’s source. You need to help yourself out of the toxin. If you separate yourself for an amount of time and life seems better, then you know what you have to do. #beenthere #walkedaway

  • Perfect timing! I just “broke up” with a friend because our relationship was withering. I spoke my truth about how she doesn’t make time for her healthy relationships and instead devotes all her time to her toxic ex boyfriend and his friends and then wonders why she is so miserable and can’t figure out her life. I did it from a place of love and was not hurtful or cruel, I told I hope she figures things out and that she is a wonderful person without him and his circle of friends and when she realizes that on her own I will be there to cheer her on.

  • I think this is the best of your posts that I have seen. Thanks very much for putting it all together in one place. So very important.

    Regards,
    Lizzi

  • @Marcia:

    when I was a teenager I heard a song on Pacifica radio “take the children and run.” That lyric stayed with me, helping me to have the strength to leave. I left without telling anyone that I was leaving. Maybe nowadays you can use crowdsourcing for this. Someone who is in your life now, or who is on their way into your life, will provide you with refuge. For me, the strongest deterrent was SHAME. I was so used to hiding the pain from my friends and family–how could I admit to everyone that I had chosen so badly for so many years? I practiced tapping (eft) on these issues for a year and a half before I was strong enough. I was so used to being in that toxic situation. Maybe I felt like I didn’t deserve anything better. Trust that everything you need is on its way to you. Trust the Universe to receive your choice for what it is: affirming your birthright. You will be amazed at what follows when you step out in that faith. You are loved!!

  • Okay. I think that you guys are terrific and have a lot of great advice and I think that I’ve written you about this before.

    It’s #7. It’s presuming that the person who did the damage has the ABILITY to change. Even IF he says that he wants to. If he says that he wants to “grow” and “change” is he doing so in order to keep the relationship, or is he doing it because he really and truly wants to change of his own accord whether you are in the picture or not? He needs to want this even more than you do and he is going to move heaven an earth to not be that person any more, whether you leave him or not.

    Then, we might have something. Otherwise, highly unlikely. There was a reason that he cheated and lied for years and years in the first place.

    You see… if it’s a false change, the partner thinking that the other is sincere and has worked so hard to “rebuild trust.” Her partner is also working so hard to “rebuild trust.” [it appears]

    Except for one important fact.

    He’s not. He’s not because he can. not. change.

    Let’s say a man has been carrying on a double life. 10 years. Many other women… wife finds out one day. Research has shown over and over that it’s next to impossible for the man to change. He will make excuses and so will she. That’s co-dependency.

    Some things cannot be put back together again. Just like Humpty Dumpty. I think it’s naive to believe that it’s possible. On occasion, perhaps and it depends on the circumstances. However, it’s also next to impossible to completely forget. And that brings us to some of the other points you made.

    And please tell me… what prey tell happens when it’s discovered years down the road that it was all smoke and mirrors? Do you have any idea how completely shattering that is? It’s the most soul-sucking thing I’ve ever experienced.

    The cheater cannot feel our pain. Has no idea that he could possibly even have the power to hurt anyone. Most have virulent personality disorders.

    they don’t change.

    not everything can be fixed.

    Instead, I would’ve put for number 7. DENIAL; not fully understanding the truth and not willing to take a hard look at the reality of the situation. That is an extremely toxic thing that people do. Sure. It’s damned scary. But it’s even scarier living with someone who has the power to destroy your heart and soul; over and over.

    I left and although not always easy. I’m so, so glad that I did. It’s a second chance at a full, rich life.

    I don’t need a relationship to have that.

    I disagree with this notion as well.

    Not all relationships eventually get to a place where each has done something severe to erode the trust. I’m trying to be respectful here, but how can you make such a blanket statement that is not true? I am not saying that people don’t make mistakes. I’m talking about breaking that sacred, intimate trust. Once it’s gone. It’s gone and No, it doesn’t always happen sooner or later.

    I believe with all of my heart and soul that it’s foolish to go on. That is the epitome of toxicity.

    It is NOT grim! I chose life!

    Otherwise, I agree with everything else.

  • Abdallah salum massoud
    August 1st, 2014 at 2:42 am

    This is fantastic posting + great relationship reminders we all need.

  • If someone can explain something about this, I’d appreciate it. I have been married for nearly 3 decades and have never cheated nor has he. However, that is not to say that I have been tempted. I no longer have a sexual relationship with my spouse, haven’t had relations in YEARS. He never discusses it but inwardly I am very disappointed, and not at all attracted to him anymore. We are like good friends, really. It’s about companionship and security. Then came John (not his real name.) He was recommended by our realtor to do rehab work. As soon as we laid eyes on each other there was this spark that I haven’t felt since I was single. He has worked for us, lots of sexual tension in the meantime. Nothing has happened except for fatal stares, faces inches away, and some hand tickling. Sounds juvenile, I know, as I feel like I’m falling in love. ‘John’ seems very jealous and probably won’t make a move because he respects my boundaries, but I don’t know how long I can keep up this act.

  • Thanks for this rich and brave encouragement. I cautiously avoid toxic people and toxic relationships by paying attention to people’s actions.

  • no jerks allowed. it’s the best policy.

  • Nice post… relationships are all about understanding each other and compromising… life is not all sunshine and rainbows. Relationships that refuse to give a little at both ends never work.

  • This helps me a lot. I found myself too sensitive to what other people’s opinions, which drains me of energy. Besides, I’m trying to not create toxic relationship for other people too. This is great to know what I need to improve and avoid.

    Thanks for great post :)

  • My marriage is so toxic that I dare not even send this article to my wife. I will suffer and pay the price for weeks . Worse still, my kids may end up without a mom. I am waiting patiently…to get out of this toxic relationship. One day…just one day when my kids are ready. The day will come.

  • In any relationship, make sure to refill YOUR OWN oxygen tank.

    There is always a risk of giving all (or too much) of your oxygen, fuel to the other person, and neglecting your own source of energy to RECHARGE!

  • Thank you. Was great.

  • Amazing post!
    All points serve as a great reminder but points# 2, 6 & 7 are what i needed most to hear at this point.

  • This is hugely informative and provides solutions, as well. Thanks so much.

  • @Jenn: Everyone should read your comment: “In the end I came out stronger and happier than ever. In the process, I learned a lot about myself and my contribution to the toxic relationship and have used the experience to grow and help others.” Removing this toxic person from your life wasn’t easy but well worth it in the end. Thank you for sharing your story, we’re so proud of you… as you should be of yourself.

    @Kevin: It’s so great to hear “1,000 Little Things” and our blog has opened your eyes to notice the difference between positive and negative relationships, and knowing when it’s time to let go and move on.

    @Dave: It may be time to re-evaluate your relationship. You, by yourself, should be able to make the other person happy with or without your money. At the very least, money shouldn’t be the top priority.

    @Marcia: What would life be if you had no courage to attempt anything?
    It wouldn’t be. Life is movement. Inaction based on fear not only stops you from happiness, it stops you from living. Your future depends on what you do today. The fear of failure can be daunting, but it’s nowhere near as bad as the realization of looking back on a positive step forward you never took for yourself. You can do it!

    @Shawn: The better question is “Who in your life do these toxic relationships remind you of?”

    @Nickolas: Sounds like you’re on the right path. If you do not love yourself, you’re not much good to anyone else. Take this time for you!

    @Dana: Great added value in your comment. Thank you!

    @Shella: My first question would be how are you delivering this criticism? Would you be open to the feedback if you were giving it to yourself? Try a different approach: We have enough critics in this world. Be an encourager (without changing the message).

    @Shannon: Sounds like a great way to maintain a happy, healthy relationship. :)

    @Tracy: Information is the grease that keeps the engine of communication running. Start communicating clearly. Unfortunately, it sounds like you may be communicating but your partner isn’t listening. Try switching up your approach. Maybe there’s a different way to relate.

    @Laurel: I understand where you’re coming from and please know every relationship and situation is unique. Remember, actions often speak much louder than words. Someone can say sorry a thousand times, or say “I love you” as much as they want, but if they’re not going to prove that the things they say are true, they aren’t. If they can’t show it, their words are not sincere.

    @Jeannie: Why aren’t you saying something? Are you afraid your husband will get upset? Maybe he will and maybe he won’t. Either way you need to deal with it upfront, constructively, and avoid burying it until it worsens, festers and explodes out of you or better yet through actions you’ll regret later.

    @All: Just another reminder: Don’t ever fool yourself; staying in a toxic relationship is not healthy for anyone. If you find yourself relating to one or more of these relationships in your current situation, it’s time to take action. Don’t let fear stop you, start putting your own happiness first. Thoroughly read through the comments and gain the strength and inspiration you need to make YOU a priority. As always, thank you for the insightful, encouraging words.

  • I’m just out of a relationship now, had to put it to bed. It was toxic.

  • I think one thing that would be great to add to this post is when people are wanting out of a toxic relationship and one person is unable to accept the relationship ending. We have to remember that we cannot make someone stay with us and love us and that if one person wants out, that is okay.

  • I have been in a toxic marriage for 25 years, a toxic family for 54, a toxic life out of fear so profound I can’t explain it. I am going back to my marriage, after a three year separation because I am so afraid of my husbands burning temper. We suffer from all ten of the above and have from the start. I am going back for one reason Fear. If I out live him I may be able to experience a few years of peace before I die. My late mother allowed my step father to abuse me for many years and now I am caring for him as well while he continues to abuse me the same way he always has. I know all of this sounds insane as I am a highly educated person, as well as an Empath, Psychic, Mystic in training. It is simple terror that keeps me where I am at the moment. Death to one of us seems the only way to peace for me, sad don’t you think? Sometimes all the knowledge, and good sense in the world cannot trump Fear.

  • I just broke up with someone who exhibited the passive aggressive behaviour and emotional blackmail… I thank God I managed to get over him and end things between us.

  • Emotional Black mail… I’ve done this to my wife and I was entirely justified. This list isn’t black and white and it doesn’t address the root of all issues in a relationship.

    I had to tell my wife that she could either receive counseling for an anxiety disorder or I would be divorcing her. I simply could not live with her anymore with all that the anxiety drove her to do. It affected everything in our relationship and I was entirely justified in using that threat to ensure she ultimately got help - if reluctantly.

  • First I’m really impressed by your blog and wanted to congratulate you on your success. To be perfectly honest there are very few blogs I read on a regular basis and this has always been one of them ever since I first stumbled upon it and added it to my bookmarks. The whole concept of applied psychology to assist in making our lives and relationships that much better has been something I’ve believed in for quite some time. This is my first time commenting but I’m hoping it’s not the last because I feel that we are on the same page with our way of thinking. This post reminded me a lot of a similar one I wrote awhile back (solongmediocrity.com/relationship-advice-and-perspective/) Please check it out if you have a chance and keep the quality content coming!

  • True, very true post. I recently lost my brother, he was really depressed, and I did not try to help him, he put all his life’s happiness , directions around me which used to make me feel suffocated, I did not look for a better way to tell him ‘get your own life’ so I started passive aggression, he understood it and tried to talk to to me about it, but I took it as nagging, very pathetic of me, he started to get really depressed , and I put him in the backburner, all he wanted to spend some time with me everyday and I ran and ran away from him. one morning I found him dead in my parents home where he used to live alone for six years. A few days later I found a note written by him saying that the last thing he wanted to do in this world is to upset me, since he got an idea that he mastered the art of upsetting me , so he decided to give me a break from himself. I found no way to handle the amount of guilt I feel every moment. Living has become such a burden.

  • This was a brilliant, insightful and hopeful story. It is missing one item: psychological abuse. Google it. Passive aggression and control are a part of it, its terribly common, and if you are in such a relationship you must try to leave as soon as you can safely do so. Staying will destroy your sense of self, your happiness, and possibly your very desire to live.

    If you are the abuser, separate and get professional help now.

  • I have always experienced issues in relationships and it is so true that our culture does not teach us how to create healthy relationships. I recently ended this unhealthy friendship I was involved in for over a year. And honestly, I feel much better now that this girl and I are no longer in touch. It was my boyfriend who told me that the friendship was unhealthy and that I deserved to be treated better. An article like this does basically the same thing. I hope that the good advice may help others as much having good advice helped me. Thank you.

    heart Lynne
    emotionalseas.com

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