How to escape a toxic relationship (when you might not even know you are in one)

Toxic relationships are so prevalent in pop culture that it’s hard to pick a perfect example. For an abusive family unit, you can watch that of sociopath drug lord Walter White in “Breaking Bad”; for a toxic romantic relationship, watch the Joker and Harley Quinn in “Suicide Squad”; for a toxic boss, check out beloved chef Gordon Ramsay on “Hell’s Kitchen” or “Kitchen Nightmares”. Toxic relationships permeate conversations about our public health as well, with morning show hosts from Oprah to Dr Phil frequently airing other people’s dirty laundry on national television. They even exist in politics, with some observers noting that Donald Trump’s relationship with some of his staunch devotees exhibits characteristics of vicarious narcissism.

Given how common they are in fiction and the real world, it’s surprising that there isn’t more of a cultural conversation about what they are, how to escape – and even whether you are in one to begin with. This is the problem with toxic relationships: Sometimes what is unusual for a stranger seems normal to those of us who are on the inside.

Do you know that you are toxic?

Psychologists say that if you find yourself in a toxic relationship, the most important thing to do is figure out how to protect your own mental (and possibly physical) health, as well as that of those close to you. But first, how do you know if you are in such a relationship?

“A toxic relationship, whether it’s a relationship with family members, romantic partners or work colleagues, employers or employees, or social friendships, is a relationship that makes you feel bad. in your skin or less than what you are, “Dr. Lillian Glass, a world-renowned communications expert and author of the best-selling book” Toxic People: 10 Ways of Gealing With People who Make Your Life Miserable, “Salon said by E-mail. “This is where the person doesn’t support you emotionally and makes you uncomfortable just being in their presence.”

As Dr Madeleine Fugère, professor of psychology at Eastern Connecticut State University, wrote to Salon, it can be very difficult to leave these types of relationships because they lead to confused thoughts. Victims struggle between feeling love for the person or people who are harming them and knowing that relationships are unhealthy. They also often fear that they will have to make significant changes in their behavior, which ultimately causes them not to continue with the status quo.

“If you’re in a bad relationship, it can help to count on your friends or family to support you,” Fugère explained. “If you are a friend or family member of someone in a bad relationship, consider speaking with that person about your perceptions of the relationship. Research shows that when friends and family express their feelings, feelings about bad relationships, we’re more likely to end those relationships. bad relationships. “

Do you want to go?

Sadly, not everyone in a toxic relationship knows this is the case – or at least is willing to admit it.

“Those who refuse to acknowledge that they are in a toxic relationship may do so because they are in denial or it will be too painful to face the reality of the situation,” Glass told Salon. “Others may choose to ignore it because of factors that would be more damaging to them. For example, they may ignore or downplay the effects of a toxic boss because they are in desperate need of the job. children or financial or religious or even social concerns. “

There’s also the fact that when stuck in a relationship with a narcissist, victims can so desperately demand the narcissist’s approval that they either forgive or fail to acknowledge destructive behavior. Narcissists will often systematically idealize and then denigrate their partners until they behave like vicarious narcissists, extensions of the narcissist’s will. (This, for example, has been theorized as an explanation for the behavior of some of Donald Trump’s most zealous supporters.)

“Because a victim can then mimic the behavior of narcissists, any ability to question or condemn the behavior ceases,” Dr. Jessica January Behr, a licensed psychologist who practices in New York City, told Salon in an article. march on vicarious narcissism.

Glass advised people in toxic relationships to remember that “there are many ways to get out of a toxic relationship… Being honest and direct is the best way. It allows for discussion and the possibility of healing a once toxic relationship ”.

The misidentification of one’s own toxic relationships may, ironically, be in part the effect of pop culture glorifying such dysfunction. All of the fictional examples cited at the start of this article have their supporters, people who side with the abusive husband in “Breaking Bad,” romanticize the Joker / Harley Quinn romance in memes, and admire Gordon’s angry management style. Ramsay. There are people who insist that denigrating others shows their own strength, that humiliating employees make them better at their jobs, or that someone who truly loves you will torture you psychologically. Yet toxicity, to be overcome, must be frankly recognized – and then extracted.

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