What Is A Toxic Relationship

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What is a Toxic Relationship?

Dr. Wendy Walsh
Dr. Wendy Walsh Updated:
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Probably the hardest decision someone can make is whether to end a relationship. Could this bumpy patch be a signal that the end is near or that bright days are ahead if you wait and see?

Relationships aren’t easy and good relationships take lots of hard work. In general, I advise the wait-and-see approach while you work on some of your own relationship skills.

But there are cases where the relationship isn’t just difficult. It is downright toxic. Toxic relationships can be extremely damaging to your mental or physical health and the health of any children who might be in the nest.

Here are a few signs of toxic relationships that are probably better terminated than continuously worked on.

1. Relationships involving domestic violence

Domestic violence has become an increasingly important issue. Under no circumstances should violence be tolerated, especially when it is in front of children.

Perpetrators of violence often struggle with power in the relationship and use violence as a way of demonstrating power and control. Tolerating this behavior has severe psychological, emotional and physical consequences.

There are several therapeutic programs nationwide that offer support for victims and perpetrators of domestic violence.


“Abusers often suffer from emotional

issues involving low-self esteem.”

2. Relationships involving chronic emotional abuse

Often individuals don’t realize a partner is emotionally abusing them. It’s often perpetrated in verbal attacks, insults, manipulation, possessiveness and depreciation.

Prohibiting a partner from hanging out with his or her friends, closely monitoring a partner’s behavior and being intrusively controlling are also common forms of emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse is extremely damaging to the victim, and it’s usually perpetrated by a partner struggling with power, control or jealousy.

Most often it’s better to leave this relationship than wait around in hopes that a partner will change his or her ways.

3. Relationships involving drug and alcohol abuse

Sometimes at the beginning of a relationship partners manage to hide their “bad habits” and flaws, but eventually they are revealed for better or for worse.

A major obstacle in our relationships is accepting our partners’ flaws.

But please realize drug and alcohol abuse is more than a flaw. It is an unhealthy coping mechanism that often leads to problems, such as DUI, jail, intimate partner violence and the need for involvement of child protective services

If you suspect a partner is abusing drugs or alcohol it is probably best to break off the relationship.

Toxic relationships can be extremely difficult to manage.

It can be dangerous to confront a partner and it may even exacerbate the situation. The best thing to do is to seek professional help whether it is through therapy or the judicial system.

Unfortunately, we can’t usually change a partner’s behavior no matter how hard we try.

Abusers often suffer from emotional issues involving low-self esteem, insecurity and other psychological issues that only they have the power to change.

It can be difficult not to become codependent and exhaustively try to meet their needs.

But in order to find a healthy relationship, it is most often required that one leaves the relationship.

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