Toxic relationships seem to be at the forefront of some people’s minds as I meet with individuals. It seems like many are suddenly awakened to the reality of the status of their relationships and are weighing whether their relationships are healthy or toxic. Toxic activity is harder to identify than some other types of behaviors in poor relationships because the words of the individual doing you harm do not match with the actions of the person doing you harm. Relationships such as these can be confusing because it is hard to define unhealthy behaviors when there is no physical abuse, dramatic events, and other forms of gross misconduct. I liken toxic relationships to a food allergy such as peanuts. When suffering from a food allergy, there are times you cannot get the oxygen flow you need and feel like you will choke to death. Sometimes you cannot control exposure to the allergy, but you will do all you can to limit the exposure because you know the affected outcome could be fatal. Unfortunately, many people have not learned to identify the nature of their relationship as toxic. It feels like being around individuals who are toxic to you drain the life out of you, but many times we do not identify it as the person that is causing the reaction. Many times we equate our feelings to our own issues and not the other person. Both food allergies and toxic relationships share similar negative traits listed below:
1. You make decisions out of fear of the outcome.
Many times people with a food allergy will choose to not eat food for fear of losing their ability to breathe. When you are in a toxic relationship, you choose your activities based on how it will negatively impact your relationship. You fear the toxic individual’s negative response to whatever you do, who you invite, and their response to you during the activity so you carefully choose your time spent with or without the toxic individual.
2. You find yourself unable to respond in a healthy way to a toxic individual’s accusations because nothing you say is validated as truth.
Sometimes when we have had a food allergy reaction, we cannot get relief from the symptoms in our own home and have to make a trip to the emergency room to get the treatment they need to relieve their constricted airways. Nothing done in the home for the allergy is changing the body’s airflow. Toxic relationships can make you feel as if there is nothing that you do or say that will change that person’s perspective of you because no matter what is done, you are always to blame. Many times the only way you can free yourself from the blame and shame of the relationship is to seek the help of someone outside of your relationship, such as a counselor or trusted adviser.
3. You feel the life is drained out of you after spending time with the person.
Toxic relationships slowly drain the life out of you like a toxic poison. What was once a life-giving relationship is slowly transformed into a relationship that sucks the emotional life and well being out of you. Sometimes seasons in life can cause the nature of relationships to change, and you need to plan accordingly. The same is true with food allergies. We can suddenly begin to experience allergy symptoms that were not previously present. The food allergy develops over time.
4. You feel weaker than you used to be, and that is reflected in the depression and lack of confidence you now experience in your personal life.
Toxic relationships cause you to doubt yourself because the toxic individual rarely apologizes, frequently blame shifts and acts as if you are victimizing them. If a person is regularly told confusing messages that are not consistent with how they view themselves, or how other people view them, that confused individual will do one of two things: a. Become hyper-vigilant and anxious with their interactions with others as a means of trying to stave off a bad relationship experience, or b. Become more passive and depressive because they feel as if nothing they do or say will impact how things are felt by others or how they feel about themselves. This can be similar to how a food allergy sufferer can experience their ailment: hyper-vigilant and anxious to contain the problem or too passive or powerless in their self-monitoring because they feel like whatever they do will not be enough to stave off the reaction.
5. You are expected to be giving, be loving and respect the boundaries of the other individual, but they fail to do the same for you.
Food allergies can suddenly develop in an individual and are no respecter of persons, but people who you give a lot of your time and energy should be. Do not let another person tell you that you are not worth good and do not push aside the needs you have in the interest of another. No relationship is healthy when one person does the majority of the giving, and the other does not. Entitlement can sneak into our relationships when you are giving, and the other party is not, and entitlement is the birthplace of disrespectful, rude, and uncompassionate behaviors.
Beloved, there is no reason you should be allowing a toxic relationship to continue to steal your life from you. You are of value, and you should not be allowing people to hold important places in your life who are stealing life from you. The important persons in your life should be life giving and honoring.
Isaiah 43:4 The Message (MSG)
When You’re Between a Rock and a Hard Place
43 1-4 But now, God’s Message,
the God who made you in the first place, Jacob,
the One who got you started, Israel:
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you:
all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!
That’s how much you mean to me!
That’s how much I love you!
I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
trade the creation just for you.