By Case Kenny

Is it a toxic relationship?

I want to talk about that term "toxic" - toxic relationship, toxic friendship, toxic boss, etc.

The term toxic encompasses all kinds of poor behavior...

It can describe a relationship where you feel unsupported, undermined, or attacked. It’s lopsided. It’s inconsistent. It’s erratic. It might include narcissism, dishonesty, gaslighting, manipulation, misunderstanding, jealousy, resentment, disrespect, poor communication, etc.

It can be difficult to realize you’re in something that's toxic when you’re looking at all those individual behaviors because you start to make excuses for each...

- "They're just not good at sharing their feelings. They’ll get better."

- "They get jealous and shut down because they love me so much."

- "They’re controlling because they want to protect me."

Let's zoom out to the larger picture. Doing this can reveal to us that something is toxic whereas on the ground floor we’re lost and apt to make excuses, etc.

So what is the larger sign that something or someone is toxic?

It’s that the other person in the relationship is not scared to lose you and they use that as leverage.

They’re not scared to lose you, they’re not scared to leave, they’re not scared to make it clear that they’ll leave "if _____."

They use leaving as their main point when it comes to arguments and communication. They deal in absolutes. It’s their way or the highway. They use that leverage to "win an argument."

Think about what a healthy relationship looks like...

It's a relationship where both people are on the same page, they’re mature in that they understand a relationship isn’t simple and requires communication, it requires both people to show each other how they want to be loved, and it requires both people to realize that neither of them knows exactly how to love each other without some guidance.

A defining feature of a healthy relationship is that the last thing on the list of possibilities when it comes to an argument, a misunderstanding, a miscommunication, or a disagreement is leaving. It’s certainly an option but it’s not the first thing turned it. It’s not used in terms of absolute. That absolute is the last option you want to turn to.

But in a toxic relationship or for a toxic person… it's the first option.

It’s the leverage they turn to first. It’s what they use to get their way. It’s what they use to gaslight you, get you to take their side, drop your guard, etc.

- "Well, if that’s the way you feel them maybe this just isn’t working for me." - "Well, if that’s the way you’re gonna be, I deserve better."

- "Well, if that’s what you really think then maybe you should find someone who agrees with you."

Don’t get so lost in the sauce of the smaller behavior.

Look at the larger theme when that behavior is confronted.

Does it become a mature conversation rooted in empathy and understanding OR does it become a knee jerk, first item on the list… the absolute of ending the relationship?

That's very telling sign.

Consider "toxic" in any context.

- With a boss who micromanages you, talks over you, doesn’t empower you and turns to "well, maybe this isn’t working out if you’re not onboard with how I manage."

- With a partner who controls you, doesn't communicate, uses your words against you and turns to "well, that’s what I need or otherwise I’m out."

Zoom out and I think you’ll find the larger theme presents itself sometimes more obviously than the smaller behavior. That’s smaller behavior that we’re quick to justify or make excuses for.

You deserve better than someone who immediately turns to this type of leverage.

You deserve better than someone who deals in absolutes. You deserve better than someone who uses the leverage of leaving to win arguments.

You deserve someone who listens with empathy, who understands the complexity of people and who is willing to see things from a different perspective.