Ask the Loveologist: Is this Relationship Toxic?

I have been with the same partner for many years and have tried to make our relationship work, but it seems like the longer I am with him the worse I feel about myself. He makes fun of me when I say what I think and then thinks I am ridiculous because, I “canít take a joke.Ē†† We used to have some good conversations but now I can almost never find the right time to talk about anything. I donít want to leave but my life feels like it is closing in on me. Any ideas?

Your descriptions of your relationship certainly qualify for many of the definitions of a toxic relationship which means that instead of helping you to live your best life, the relationship actually diminishes your sense of self worth and ability. Being with someone who has no respect for you and belittles what you do, say or think makes living a satisfying life incredibly difficult.

Often both people in a toxic relationship have low self esteem and little sense of their own self worth. Many people grow up in families where these kinds of relationships are the norm and creating them in our adult relationships is easy because they are so familiar and often because we continue to try to resolve our childhood issues in our adult relationships. People often hurt each other in relationships to ease their own pain and donít even see that they are doing it.

People accept these kinds of relationships as normal because they donít believe they are deserving of anything better.

Although all relationships go through difficult periods of conflict and disappointment, relationships that weather these difficulties share some important qualities that toxic relationships donít. Mature and growing relationships are a reflection of the well being of each individual in the relationship. The process of working through problems does not start and end with blaming and belittling one partner. When each person brings their own self-respect to the conflict, there is an opening to look at the problem not point the finger at each other.

Fear is a driving force in many if not most toxic relationships and often the fears that are driving the relationship live between the partners unnamed.†† Whether the fear is of not being good enough, or losing control or of change,† the unwillingness or inability to look at and name what is happening between you can become the elephant in the room which can consume the relationship and both partners.†† Having the courage to bear witness and describe your experience with your partner is crucial to any chances that you have of redefining how you relate to each other.

The truth about all relationships is that when either partner decides that they are no longer going to participate in the relationship as it exists, both partners are forced to shift or the relationship will end because there is no more room for it.† It is easy to get caught in seeing your partner in just one negative way.† Make sure that you have a realistic view of both the positive and negative aspects of your partner and relationship and acknowledge both as you approach your needs to have the relationship change.†† Seek out a unbiased third opinion about your relationship so that you know your views are grounded in reality.

By taking responsibility for your own feelings and your participation in the toxicity between you, you will be more able to do the challenging yet satisfying work of setting firm boundaries around the way you are willing to relate and communicate.† Know that the heart of any relationship begins with your relationship to yourself and honor it.††† By remaining focused on your own inner work and keeping your commitment to your own self worth, your relationship will adapt or find itís end.


Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola3 years ago

Thank you, great article

Jennifer U.
Jennifer A.3 years ago

I've been in a similar relationship, it was difficult to let go of him but in the end I'm better off without him because he made me feel so terrible about myself. Relationships such as these make you realize how truly fragile emotions are. The relationship only lasted about 6 weeks but it took almost a year to recover my self esteem and start feeling confident enough to date again.

For anyone that's in a relationship where the other person verbally abuses you, just ask yourself "Does this relationship fit my idea of love?"

Patricia Garcia Ces
Patricia Ces4 years ago

I agree a 100% with Ke T.!

Patricia Garcia Ces
Patricia Ces4 years ago

I agree 100% with Ke T.

Dent H.
Dent H.4 years ago

Communication is the key. Relationships are one of the most difficult things I have ever faced. One need to give allot at times, and considering the lack of honor and commitment now a days in every day life for most people I am surprised relationships last a year for most people. There are way to many excuses to move on and it has become socially accepted to do so. I see so many older people alone in their golden years now and it seems there are more now than when I was young. I look at the older couples who are still so much in love after 50 years together and hope I manage to have the same thing at that age. It is so cool to watch the caring between people like that. One knows they put in a whole bunch of work over the years to get to that point. Big Sigh!

Patricia H.
Patricia H.4 years ago

thanks for sharing

Ke T.
Ke T.5 years ago

The best thing to do when in a toxic relationship is simply leave. It is harder than it sounds, though.

Rachel R.
RK R.5 years ago

Crazy. Life is so hard when dealing with these awful emotions. My relationship is a constant roller coaster and walking on eggshells; and I don't back down from anything and give it right back. I even warn that I am so angry it is best that they walk away, but instead they keep on "pushing my buttons" and make it worse. So exhausting. I feel that I have no way out.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.5 years ago

All relationships are toxic by definition.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.5 years ago

All relationships are toxic by definition.