Difficult or toxic relationships do not at first appear to be toxic because Pop Culture has taught us to mate based on the idea of love — people tend to see and believe what they want to see and believe about the other person and the relationship. In some cases, the people involved in these toxic relationships are in so deep that what to some would appear toxic feels normal to them.
See if you can relate to any of these types of toxic relationships:
1. The “Parent-Child” Relationship
People who get into parent-child relationships have an intense need to recreate or compensate for the relationship they had with their own parent. Regardless of the psychological reasons behind this kind of relationship, in most cases this substantial “re-parenting arrangement” tends to reinforce the dysfunctional behavior — enabling, fantasy, ambivalence, confusion, guilt projection, double-bind messages, hostility and chronic negativity. You know this is not how a healthy relationship should be, but you have no idea how to make it right — or even want to make it right. Something about the toxicity of the relationship feels so familiar, even safe in a twisted kind of way.
2. The “Martyr” Relationship
This is where someone sacrifices and gives up everything — including their mental/emotional well-being — in the name of love. In your craving to be loved, you give and give, and nurture and nurture to a degree where it’s controlling and unhealthy. Because you believe that being “a martyr to love” makes you a loveable person, you tell yourself your love is unconditional but actually it is very conditional and selfish. Even when the relationship is abusive, you feel that you must really love this person to sacrifice and give up everything, though you can’t understand why you’d love someone who treats you badly.
3. The “Change Agent” Relationship
Most people who get into these relationships are convinced on some level that they can really make the other person a “better” person. Even faced with the reality that the other person will not change, you can’t accept and break free of the illusions of the “power to change someone” that you have created. In some way you actually feel “responsible” for the other person, and see leaving as abandoning him or her. But as they say, a man who marries a woman to “educate” her falls a victim to the same fallacy as the woman who marries a man to “reform” him.
4. The “Sponsor” Relationship
In this relationship, one person provides a sense of financial security and the other person feels obligated to the person who pays the bills. The only reason you are still in the relationship is because you 1) have the obligation to support the other person, 2) have no other way to support yourself or 3) both of you feel entitled to the “investment” you have made in the relationship and won’t let the other person have it all. But because the relationship is not about love, rage attacks, lies, cheating etc. are the menu of the day. The only thing you seem to agree on is the colour of money.
5. The “Exotic” Relationship
People obsessed with “exoticness” and “foreignness” often confuse love with obsession. They seek out a man or woman specifically because he or she is from a certain race, religion or culture; or because they’re obsessed with a particular accent, look or other characteristic associated with someone from a particular race, religion or culture etc. Even though the relationship feels exciting in many ways, almost all of your fights are about race, religion or culture. It’s always about one or the other feeling lonely, isolated, unconfident, unloved, or like the “outsider” — especially around the other’s socio-cultural networks.
6. The “Rebel” Relationship
Rebel-type daters choose a partner, who is exactly the opposite of everything their families and friends would want for them. You may be merely angry with your parents, family or social network or attempting to establish a sense of your own identity. You get a kick from watching your parent’s, sibling’s or friend’s reaction to your partner more than you actually get from the relationship. The relationship is simply “entertainment” and your partner the pawn in your reality TV Show.
7. The “Social Network” Relationship
This is when one or both people get into a relationship to have access to the other’s social circle, widen their social circle, or advance themselves up the social ladder. At first glance, everything looks “picture perfect” yet digging deeper reveals that you are a mere extension of a calculated social equation. Though this is a touchy subject that neither of you necessarily wants to talk about, one or both of you somehow manages to never let the other person “forget” who is dating up or dating down, who married up or married down the social ladder.
8. The “Neutered” Relationship
This kind of relationship is usually based on a great friendship; a close and mutual bond cemented by many years of being each other’s best friend. The sexual attraction/chemistry may or may not have been there in the initial stages, but you feel obligated to stay with each other because you see eye to eye in almost all areas of your lives. Though there is no sexual attraction between the two of you and you are not even physically sexually intimate, one or both of you feels jealous and rejected if the other is sexually attracted to someone else and feels betrayed and hurt if the other even mentions that he or she has sexual urges. You feel that if you don’t feel like having any or can’t have any, neither should he or she!
Bottom line: When we have toxic or dysfunctional relationships with others, it means we have a toxic relationship with ourselves. Remove what you view to be a toxic person from the relationship, and you are left on your own with only the mirror to look at.