Student Question: How do I identify a toxic relationship; how do I leave one?
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What is a toxic relationship?
Dr. Lillian Glass, a communication and psychology expert who says she coined the term in her 1995 book Toxic People, indicates the following markers of toxic relationships:
a lack of support for each other
there’s conflict and one person (or both) seeks to undermine the other
there’s disrespect and a lack of unity in your values or goals
negative moments outweigh and outnumber the positive ones
The relationship is mentally, emotionally and possibly even physically damaging to one or both participants.
Why does someone remain in a toxic relationship?
None of those descriptions sound like fun, so why do some have a hard time leaving these relationships?
One may recognize their own role in the problems, and therefore does not want to give up on the relationship, hoping they can make it improve.
A co-dependence has developed - one partner’s self-esteem and self-worth comes from sacrificing themselves for their partner, who is only too glad to receive their sacrifices.
Fear of change and therefore accepting what is familiar (perhaps because this kind of relationship was also displayed in their family of origin).
Fear of being alone.
How do I leave?
Identify what’s holding you back - fear, guilt, co-dependence, threats?
Talk to someone who can support you through the change. If you are being threatened, this may include intervention through legal means.
Identify the healthy relationships in your life and shift more time and focus on those - feeling care and support within these relationships may increase your motivation and provide the help you need to make the break.
Identify and begin to focus on your own personal goals and values, and then make relationship decisions based on these, rather than on fear or guilt.
Spend time in activities that give you joy and build up your confidence.
If you are being threatened, you can reach out to these resources:
Waterloo Region Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centre: 519-749-6994
Carizon Counselling : 519-743-6333
Legal Aid Ontario : 1-800-668-8258
Waterloo Region Police Services- emergency 911
Domestic Violence Branch 519-579-9668
Victim Services Unit 519-743-7243