I wanted to discuss relationships in this four-part series about toxic people. As I mentioned in part one about toxic employers, every human wants and needs to be loved. We are created out of two people connecting. We are connected within our mother’s womb. Then when we are born, we will still cling to and desire some form of connection. It could be a connection with other people, nature, art, music, animals, or some deeper meaning that speaks to your soul. Either way, this life journey we are all embarking upon does have a meaning and purpose. Having a healthy relationship is vital for one’s well-being and sanity. The impact we have on each other’s lives should heed some warning because one toxic partner can make a person give up on dating another person. I almost did, and many others have contemplated that thought. It is soul-crushing to think or believe love no longer exists and all the good people are taken. In my journey to better understand myself and others, I discovered that many people have yet to grow up in a healthy home environment. Why? Well, everyone can become toxic when they get angry, frustrated, tired, depressed, or experience shame or humiliation. Therefore, it is easy to find yourself in a toxic relationship. This leaves you asking yourself, “Is my partner toxic?“
Is my partner toxic?
Many of us have not been taught about toxic relationships, or are my parents toxic? It can be scary to discover the parent you held up on a pedestal is toxic. This happened to one of my family members, and it was a sizeable hard pill to swallow when they became a parent themselves. His perspective shifted and altered when he witnessed his parent being toxic towards his child when his son misbehaved. The blinders can come off with maturity and wisdom. This information is essential because our parents were our relationship role models. I grew up in a family that hugged one another. We say, I love you and sometimes don’t mean it, but say it out of obligation. The point is what our primary caregivers taught us will be how we treat our new potential partner. If you grew up in a family that never showed signs of affection, you would most likely reject someone that shows affection. Some people will push you away or think you are too needy or clingy – when in fact – affectionate people are their people, and you were taught that showing affection is a weakness. Think of building a house. One must set the foundation or structure. Then we build the walls, doors, windows, and stairs. Our parents created our foundation. Therefore, it is up to us to see if the foundation is structurally sound. Can the foundation withstand a healthy relationship when the foundation is cracked, broken, or damaged? We all know the answer to this question. The answer is no. One must work on their foundation first, or the relationship or relationships will keep falling apart. The problem is most of us are too busy with life and work to even consider if our foundation needs repair. If one does not know the toxic traits of a partner, this person will get hurt. The foundation will crack and break, and the person will fall apart when the relationship has ended.
Is my partner toxic?
If you recall, I spoke about can a narcissist change. I worked with one man that was a narcissist. When I first spoke to him over the phone, he sounded dead inside. When we met in person, he was a lifeless man who could kill me within seconds. He had a military background. In his own words, he was a killing machine and darn good at it. He had extreme anxiety and was very angry. He grew up in a toxic family environment with toxic friendships and relationships. The only reason he was alive was because of his daughter. He wanted to die and hated his life. His marriage was falling apart, and he was lost. The only way to make this man change was to use his daughter as leverage. I had to use his current marriage as a foundation for his daughter’s future. I told him that every time his daughter witnessed him yelling at his wife, being verbally abusive, and breaking things around the house, it indirectly sent negative relationship messages to her unconscious mind. She is learning by their example of what a relationship and marriage could be for her in the future if he did not change his ways. Because, in reality, she would gravitate towards a man just like her father. She will take it personal and get confused when she keeps attracting one abusive relationship after another. She might think she is not good enough, unworthy, or not loveable. She will feel broken, damaged, and it will impact her self-esteem. She might even stay in an abusive relationship because that was the norm for her growing up. She could even end up in therapy or behind bars if she tries to fight back against her abuser and he pretends to be the victim. Her future did not look bright if he was unwilling to change and manage his destructive behaviors and emotions. As soon as I explained how destructive his behaviors, actions, and words were impacting his daughter’s happiness, he wanted to change. He did not want her to meet a man like him. And let’s be honest here. His daughter adores him, and he could do no wrong in her eyes. Yet, she does not realize how wounded her father is inside. It is challenging for him, but he is doing the work because he wants her to have a good life. It might be hard to believe, but I am still friends with this man. Why? He needed a friend and someone to hold him in the light instead of the dark. He has transformed his life, and I am proud to say that his lifelong goal is to be a good man instead of a killing machine. He did say one important thing to me that I must share. He said, “The world needs more people like you in it.” I agree because people need to know this stuff and we all need to better support one another is we are going to survive.
30 Traits of a toxic partner
Today, I want to teach you the 30 traits of a toxic partner. And when you review these traits, see if you can see any of these traits in any of your past relationships, family members or friends.
- They struggle with insecurity and find it difficult or uncomfortable being vulnerable.
- They tend to display dominance over others, so they feel more secure.
- The relationship started off hot and heavy. Now the relationship is boring and dull and it’s all your fault.
- They try to control who you see, what you wear, who can be your friend, what you should eat, and every other aspect of your life.
- They use control and manipulation games to keep you complacent.
- They have this unhealthy fear of one’s safety.
- They do not have a healthy support system, therefore, they cannot provide support when one needs it the most during a crisis.
- The communication is toxic, abusive, destructive, and creates identity erosion.
- They struggle with jealousy and envy of others.
- They stay stuck in resentment and they hold a grudge. Using it as a weapon in the future when you get into a disagreement.
- They are dishonest or you find yourself having to be dishonest because they are so controlling and paranoid.
- Notice patterns of disrespect towards yourself and others.
- Your partner has negative financial habits and behaviors.
- One feels like they are walking on eggshells. There is constant stress and uncertainity.
- They ignore your needs or comfort level.
- You go along with whatever they want for fear of rocking the boat.
- Your friendships and relationships with others becomes lost. You feel isolated from your support system.
- You notice your self care has gone downhill. You can notice that you lost interest in your hobbies or your partner does not approve of your hobbies. Or you try to change your appearance to appease your partner, but it’s not the authentic you.
- You cling to hope. Hope that the relationship will be as exciting and fun as it was in the beginning. You then think that if you change, things will get better, but it’s not about you, but your toxic partner.
- Your partner can be hot and cold. Leaving you confused and walking on eggshells.
- Your partner speaks over you, dominating the conversations and putting you in your place if you interrupt or try to get a word in to defend yourself.
- Your partner doesn’t take responsibility for their actions, words, or behaviors.
- They rarely or never apologize or say they are sorry. And if they do, it is extremely uncomfortable and challenging for them. They might even make a fake apology so you won’t end the relationship.
- Your partner consistently plays the blame game. There is always someone else to blame instead of looking at their interactions and behaviors.
- They tend to be stuck in a negative mindset. Continually complaining about everything.
- They tend to play the victim and use it as an excuse for their bad behaviors or for sympathy.
- They play games to make you jealous or envious within the relationship.
- They try to control your money or spending.
- Can get stuck in black and white thinking. They are not willing to agree to disagree.
- They gaslight you into thinking you are a horrible person or nobody will love you like they do.
Why is my partner toxic?
The best way to explain why is my partner toxic is all their behaviors are learned behaviors. Someone else modeled those behaviors to them. Either the toxic behaviors were done to them directly, or they witnessed them indirectly. These behaviors become engrained, and when triggered or activated, the person will drop down from the frontal cortex brain and into the survival brain. Now they are on automatic pilot and can no longer access their creative, critical thinking, problem-solving, and rational brain. Depending upon the age the trauma occurred, this person can act relatively immature or childish and can say some irrational remarks. Your toxic partner is stuck and will say or do anything to protect themselves. You could be seen as a threat when you are just confused and concerned about their toxic behavior towards you. And, when your partner is stuck in their survival brain, you will not see eye to eye. Communication becomes black and white. It can be like all hell broke loose when anger flares and power and dominance become the driving force. If you can recall the map of consciousness, your toxic partner feels weak and powerless during an argument. Therefore, they must use FORCE over the other person to feel in control. All this FORCE comes from feeling humiliated, shame, blamed, hopelessness, fear, disappointed, and aggression. All their emotional baggage from childhood taints and damages their current relationships. The only way to heal is to take a long, hard look at oneself. At times, this self-reflection is too painful and scary. So, most people avoid this pain at all costs. It takes a patience, understanding, nurturing, and compassionate person to help this person comprehend how damaging and destructive some of their behaviors can be.
Is it possible to fix a toxic relationship?
Many assume a toxic relationship is doomed, but everyone can change if they put in the effort and work. You might be wondering, “Can my toxic partner change?” The deciding factor is if both parties are willing to do the work and you can invest in creating new healthy habits and behaviors that will benefit you both. The problem I have experienced is that the toxic person will first go through the motions of change, but it’s smoke and mirrors. That is why stopping and assessing the progress is essential. And it is best if both parties attend couples counseling. Most men refuse to attend couples counseling, which creates a third-party perspective. It gives an outsider a view into the relationship, and this person is trained to see things couples cannot because they are so enmeshed in the toxic relationship. Below are ten signs that the relationship can be fixed.
- Acceptance of responsibility. This can be highly challenging for someone narcissistic because they learn to survive by dodging blame and blaming others when growing up. Accepting responsibility takes maturity, courage, and humility. This can be scary for someone narcissistic because they want to appear as if they are perfect. And both parties need to accept that we all can become toxic. We all can be or play the villain or victim. Being willing to accept responsibility for past harmful behaviors and actions is one step closer to fixing the toxic relationship. The next step is to stop yourself when you notice those old past harmful behaviors and actions interfering with your relationship and to take a healthy action step to prevent past mishaps.
- Willing to shift from blame into understanding. As I said above, the toxic person grew up using blame as a survival tool. Now the person is an adult and needs to learn a new way of living, acting, and responding. The problem is this person has the blame set on the automatic pilot. The only way to stop a habit is to be willing to catch yourself consciously in the act. You will be at a crossroads as soon as you catch it consciously. You can play the blame game from childhood or act like a mature adult and find understanding. This takes work and practice.
- Learn healthy communication skills. If your partner dominates the conversation and keeps putting you in your place when you try to get a word into the conversation, then each party needs to take turns. Each party is equally important and needs to be heard. Each party communicates with kindness and respect. Each party learns to validate the other person’s concerns and repeats what they heard. One can discover miscommunication when we repeat back what we heard. And always try to find a solution instead of staying stuck in fault-finding or blame.
- Willingness to invest in change and quality time. As I said above, both parties have to be willing to change. Therefore, it is recommended that the couple set aside time to reconnect. If you think about it, currently, the relationship is disconnected, and you are unhappy. Investing in quality time together to talk, have fun, explore, and reconnect can repair the damage of the past.
- Openness to outside support. As I have said before, outside support can shine a light on areas within the relationship that keep both people stuck.
- Setting healthy boundaries with one another. When people grow up in a toxic home environment, they most likely do not grow up with healthy boundaries. Toxic people love to push and cross boundaries. In this relationship, one must communicate about boundaries. Then agree upon showing each other mutual respect and common decency regarding each person’s boundaries. Boundaries are designed to keep a person feeling safe and secure within the relationship. Therefore, if your toxic partner is a constant flirt and knows it hurts the relationship, be willing to stop that destructive behavior. Because this person is setting you up to get jealous so they feel more secure, but it makes you feel insecure.
- Learn to agree to disagree. We all have our own thoughts, ideas, and opinions. Accepting your partners differences is important when it comes to matters of the heart.
- Discover each person’s attachment style.
- Individual love language. Do you know your partners love language?
- Core values and deal breakers. We all have our own core values and deal breakers. Most people do not take the time to stop and figure out what core values and deal breakers they desire in a partner. There could be a habit or behavior that needs to be address or boundaries set in place when a deal breaker is cross by accident.
How can you move forward in a toxic relationship?
Moving forward in a toxic relationship will take patience, time, commitment, and consistency. How willing are each party? Can you give each other a timeline of change and reflection? If you can agree on these things, then the relationship can be repaired. Here are ten steps in how can you move forward in a toxic relationship.
- Stop bring up the past or dwelling on the past failures.
- View your partner with compassion and forgiveness.
- Find support and make sure the person can be bias.
- Implement and practice healthy communication.
- Be accountable and present.
- Strive to have both parties individually heal.
- Hold space for each other and for change.
- Communicate and respond to them based upon your partner’s attachment style.
- Practice showing that you care by implementing the love language tools.
- Plan a weekly date night to reconnect as you did at the beginning of the relationship.
Relationship Abuse vs. toxicity
In my years of working with clients, I have discovered that several people struggle with recognizing the difference between relationship abuse and toxicity. If your father repeatedly called your mom names, put her down, diminished her self-worth, threatened, and when she did stand up and speak her truth and regretted it later – well this form of treatment becomes normal and acceptable behavior. One can get numb to the abuse. Other’s might make excuses or justify it. Abuse is abuse. If any of these actions or behaviors are happening in your current relationship, then you are in a trauma bonded abusive relationship.
- Chronic stress, anxiety, or doubt.
- Diminished self-worth.
- Name calling, bullying, and put downs.
- Fear and intimidation.
- Financial restrictions.
- Fear of speaking your truth.
- Treated like an object or property.
- Threats of rejection, abandonment, or betrayal.
- Threats of self-harm to themselves or another.
- Physical violence.
- Destruction of personal property.
- Sex becomes a weapon or sex turns into rape.
- Control over your life choices, hobbies, and free will.
- Interference with school or work.
- Passive aggressive behaviors.
- Separation from family and friends.
I know people say that life is short, and it is true. When someone thinks of regrets in life, we are really thinking of our life choices and investments in time. And let’s be open and honest here. When we finally leave the nest/home, life is now in our own hands. We cling to the idea of getting a job to survive and finding someone to love us. The clock is ticking. For example, if you do not know about reactive abuse, you could end up in jail for five to ten years for assault charges because your toxic partner pushed you over the edge. One life event could alter one’s life forever. When someone does not know about gaslighting, a person could mess with someone’s mind into changing their beliefs about significant life events or be convinced that nobody will love them like their abuser.
I did not know about trauma bonding relationships; if I knew about trauma bonding in high school or college, my life would be completely different. I would have dated different people. My life would have been altered completely because I would have understood what an unhealthy relationship looks like. Same goes for employers. I could have changed jobs sooner, took less abuse tactics personal, and not invested so much energy and time into a dead end job or relationship. I would not be the person I am today, I would not say that I have regrets, but I do see value in the work I do. I do it so others can have a choice. I did not have a choice because I was unaware that this information was available in the 80’s. And let’s be honest. This information was not available to the masses during the 80’s. People were still trying to figure it out, but now I want to share it to better support humanity as a whole.
How can you move forward in a toxic relationship?
Connect brings us all together. When a relationship becomes toxic is when our painful past bleeds into our current relationship. Change is possible, but it takes commitment, patience, and time. Moving forward slowly and patiently can be a struggle since we live in such a busy world that provides instant gratification. Everyone has their own pace in how they heal and process information. And I’d like to express this final part. We can love someone and know that they are not suitable for us. Love is unconditional, and we sometimes have to let that person go. We can still love them. We do not like how they treat us. Sometimes, we can still be friends; other times, we cannot. Listen to your heart; if you can’t because your heart is bleeding, listen to someone who loves you unconditionally. What advice would they give you? It might not be the advice you want to hear, but at least it comes from unconditional love and acceptance. How can you move forward in a toxic relationship by honoring your relationship with yourself? Maybe it is time for you to finally be selfish because your selfish toxic partner dominated the relationship. You are just as important and worthy of happiness. This is a perfect time to work on yourself. To discover your core values, deal breakers, and what toxic or abusive behaviors went under the radar because growing up around toxic people was never easy. And if you grew up in a healthy household, you are lucky. Just know that you can still attract a toxic person into your life. Learning, growing, and becoming a wiser, healthier person is vital for everyone’s well-being. Take a break from dating and date yourself. Treat yourself the way you deserve to be treated. When your heart has healed, and you feel confident in attracting the right person, give it a go. Take your time. It’s not a race. Enjoy meeting new people, and stay safe.
Like always, I hope you have enjoyed this blog post about, “Is my partner toxic?“. The final toxic people series will be done soon. Next, I will focus on toxic family members. Take care and make the most of your day.