“Every relationship can end up becoming toxic”
“It’s not what we say that matters, but what we do” “WE SHOULDN’T MAKE COMMITMENTS WHILE FALLING IN LOVE”
What is a toxic relationship?
Basically a relationship that makes us suffer. Either because it doesn’t allow for aspects important to us because we think in a different way about essential issues, or because there’s mistreatment through abusive behaviour, violence or disrespect.
Does toxicity imply violence?
There’s always toxicity in violence, but there’s not alway violence in toxicity. For example, if you have a partner who’s sure they don’t want children and you’re sure you do, then you’ll end up arguing and unable to find common ground because you stand on opposite sides of an important issue. If neither wants to give up on what you want, then you’ll inevitably end up suffering.
How do unhealthy relationships arise?
When one of the two people feels bad about the behaviour of the other but doesn’t move away from it and so allows it. It’s not so much what we say that matters, but what we do. If you tell someone: “Don’t do that again” but they know there won’t be any consequences and you’re not prepared to leave them, then they will continue to act the same. This behaviour becomes normal and you don’t even notice it anymore.
Young love is intense. Can what we see as great chemistry be toxicity?
Every relationship can become toxic. Regardless of how they start, relationships change over time. They may grow stronger and overcome difficulties or they can destroy us. That chemistry we feel when falling in love is a consequence of all the changes that occur in the brain, but we mustn’t forget that we’re experiencing an initial stage and we still don’t know the other person. It’s common for relationships to seem like one thing at the beginning but then over time we end up seeing it as completely different. That’s why we shouldn’t make long-term commitments while we’re falling in love. We should wait until the first phase of the relationship has passed and the chemistry has settled.
How do we know when things have gone bad?
If we’re suffering and we feel anxiety or sadness, if we’re depressed, if we lack energy, creativity, or the desire to do things, if we become obsessed with that person and what happens to them, if we start looking for ways to please them so they pay us attention, etc. We can also feel that we’re losing ourselves, that we get to a point that we can no longer even remember what we were like before...
Can a toxic relationship create addiction?
It’s not that the toxic relationship creates addiction but the addiction makes it hard for us to cut that toxic relationship. This is called emotional dependence, the inability to cut that link even if deep down you know it’s hurting you and is going nowhere. You feel a deep and paralysing fear that it will end, that you will lose that person forever. You’d rather be in bad company than be alone.
How do you get out of such a relationship?
It’s not easy, but it can always be done and I assure you that it’s a path that’s always worth taking. It’s necessary to go through a process to strengthen self-esteem, reconnect with our personal power, with our sense of worth and, often, also with dignity. Sometimes a process of emotional education is also necessary that allows us to understand love and relationships in a healthier way.
Sílvia Congost is a psychologist with over 20 years experience. An expert in emotional dependence, self-esteem and toxic relationships, she has centres in Barcelona, Girona and Madrid, in addition to doing online therapy with patients from all over the world (silviacongost.com). She is the author of a number of books dealing with dysfunctional relationships. In addition, Sívia will star in Objective Amarte, a group experience in the form of a stage show that will be on at the Teatre Goya in Barcelona on March 4.
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