The Difference Between Toxic and Healthy Relationships

Relationships

So often the lines between healthy and toxic people are blurred by TV, movies, books, and a society that says forgive and forget no matter the offense. This allows unhealthy people and behaviors to go unchecked. In the midst of this, the vast differences between the healthy and the toxic are lost, leaving many wondering how can you tell?

What Does Toxic Look Like?

Toxic relationships are like a patchwork quilt; the pieces don't all match, and you have to step back from it to see the full effect. When you are in the midst of it, it's hard to see exactly how bad it is. You might even think that it's normal.

You can have a toxic relationship with anyone, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, grandparents, friends, aunts, uncles, cousins; it doesn't matter who they are, they can be toxic. Just because they are close to you, does not mean you have to put up with their behavior.

Signs Of A Toxic Relationship

(NOTE: A toxic relationship will not necessarily exhibit all of these traits, This is simply to give an idea of some things that happen in toxic relationships.)

1. Disregard For Your Boundaries

You get to decide what happens to you and your body. Toxic people, however, will try to make it seem as though you have no choice, that they own you.

This includes hugging or kissing you after you have asked them not to, going through your belongings without permission, anything that makes you feel like your privacy has been invaded.

2. Manipulation

Toxic people love to have control. One way of doing this is through manipulation. They use tactics such as gaslighting (telling you that you're crazy, that things that you know to be true, aren't), humiliation, deprivation of basic needs, and name-calling.

Often manipulation is used to keep victims from talking about what has happened to them.

3. Tears You Down

In my experience, toxic people like to be the top dog, the one that is good at everything. If they see that someone is good at something they are not, they will tell them it's stupid and that they are not any good.

Often, the victim will quit to avoid ridicule, even if they are actually good at whatever it is.

4. Physical Abuse

This can be anything from slapping, punching, kicking and anything else that causes you physical harm. Often physical abuse is the first thing that comes to mind when people hear of someone in a toxic relationship. Usually, though, physical abuse is only a small piece of the puzzle. Often it is combined with some form of manipulation to keep the victim quiet. (Look what you made me do. This is your fault.)

5. Sexual Abuse

When most people think of sexual abuse, they think of rape, but it is so much more. Inappropriate touching, forcing you to take off your clothes while they watch or making you watch them undress.

According to National Sexual Violence Resource Center, over half of women are raped by an intimate partner, and 40.8 percent by an acquaintance. For men, 52.4 percent reported being raped by an acquaintance.

6. Narcissism

Narcissists think it's all about them. People are only there to serve them and make them happy. They love to command attention from anyone who will give them the time of day.

Narcissistic parents or grandparents think of their children or grandchildren as extensions of themselves, who do and say what they want them to.

What Does Healthy Look Like?

Healthy relationships are based on honesty and a willingness to take responsibility for yourself, instead of blaming others. People who strive to be healthy continually work to better themselves. They realize that relationships are about loving another person not controlling them.

Signs of a Healthy Relationship:

1. Honesty

The people in the relationship should tell the truth even if is the hardest thing to do. Lying might stave off the pain for a little while, but in the end, the truth always comes out. It's better for both parties if the truth is told outright.

2. Unconditional Love

Love is not a commodity. Someone who truly loves won't love you because of what you've accomplished or what you can give to them, but because of who you are.

To a healthy person, it won't matter if you don't drive the right car, make the right amount of money, or have the right kind of job. They will love you anyway.

3. Willingness To Fight For You

Sometimes it might be a literal fight, but it doesn't even have to be. It could be just standing up for you when you can't take anything else from the world. They won't go behind your back and tell lies or spread rumors about you, and they will tell you if they find out someone else is.

4. Encourages You

Everyone needs a pat on the back sometimes. The people you surround yourself with should tell you that you're doing a good job every once in a while. They might not even say it with words. It could be as simple as leaving notes for around the house or smiling at you on a bad day.

Being there for them is encouraging too. It has been said that actions speak louder than words, and it's true.

Can Toxic People Change?

Loving someone toxic won't make them change. This a lie that has been perpetuated by Hollywood for a long time. The only way a person's behavior will change is if they make the conscious decision to change. You can't play Beauty to their Beast and hope that somehow loving them will fix it.

Instead, you often end up having to leave them for your own safety

Some people change, others don't. Only they can do the work.

Toxic relationships can be so hard to deal with. If you're in a toxic relationship or have been in one in the past, you know how hard it is. It can feel like you're having to constantly defend yourself, but you are not a lost cause. As long as your alive and breathing you have a chance to break free. It all starts with saying no.

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Cassandra Stinger
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Cassandra Stinger is a journalist and aspiring author from central Kansas. When she's not writing, she can be found reading, cooking, or pursuing photography.