Signs of Toxic Relationships

by Kelvin Belfon

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Taking inventory of one’s possessions and minimizing excess is no small task. Yet, when it comes to managing relationships, this area of life can be a bit more unwieldy. People can require a pretty significant amount of emotional and time commitment. And while people relationships can be complicated, they are also potentially our most valuable possession. So let’s admit from the start–letting people go is never an easy task.

Still we need to be intentional with the people we allow in our personal circle. Our relationships can either make us or break us. And our quality of life is dependent on it. Positive relationships add value; but toxic relationships can be harmful to our health.

We’ve all come across these sorts of people within our family, among friends or in the workplace. Toxic relationships don’t only involve physical abuse, either. Some of the most life debilitating forms come in very discreet packaging, through both verbal and nonverbal interactions.

These interactions are nevertheless toxic because they bring on feelings of guilt, unhappiness, condemnation, and unworthiness. They can leave us emotionally drained. Toxic people cause unnecessary stress, anxiety, depression and serious medical problems such as high blood pressure and even heart issues.

In my experience with toxic people, they’ve left me feeling trapped and controlled on account of me suppressing my true feelings over time. I’ve even blamed myself in the past for issues that arise as a result of their boundary crossing.  Like most of us, I knew something was wrong in the relationship; but I didn’t know how to read the signs of toxic relationships. I ignored my own intuition and allowed the dysfunction to continue for too long.

Learning the Signs of Toxic Relationships

Learning from the lived trials and pain caused by these types of people, I’ve become much better over the years at identifying the signs that tell when a relationship has reached its expiration. Here are a few:

You are not allowed to grow. Toxic people love to bring up your past and enjoy talking about your mistakes and failures. They are often judgmental and will make feeble attempts at fixing you. You can’t do anything right around them. And even when you take steps to improve yourself, toxic individuals get uncomfortable with the new you. They may even laugh at the thought of your positive intentions.

Your physical appearance is belittled. These unhealthy individuals will make you self-conscious about your looks. Physical features such as your weight, height, skin color, or even certain cultural distinctions are a constant subject of conversation. Toxic people will even banter about your physical disabilities, such as in the way you walk or speak. After being around them, you may leave feeling small, deflated, lonely or unsatisfied with yourself.

You’ll hear more trigger words. I’m sure you’ve heard them, “If you love me, then you’ll…” “Forgive me, I’ll do better next time…” “I didn’t mean those words…” Toxic people are liars and deceptive. They may even use tears for an emotional pity party. But there is no change. The truth is, there will never be. They break promises to continue their manipulative abusive behavior.

You are abused by their position. We are taught as children to honor and respect authority; and we should. But toxic people don’t play fair. They use their roles and titles to control and often get away with it. Because of their status, they are able to cowardly hide their shortcomings and make themselves unaccountable. And they play that game very well. They also tend to demand recognition and dependency on them.

Serving their agenda is priority. Toxic people are narcissistic and tend to use others for their aggrandizement. They use people’s emotions, time, skills and financial resources for their gain. Their agenda must be your goal. There is no mutual positive exchange in this relationship. Only the toxic partner benefits while your feelings and opinions are ignored.

You lack energy instead of feeling motivated. Toxic people are needy, weak individuals. They drain your energy with their constant complaints, frustrations, ongoing drama, and need for attention. So you retreat, become non-communicative and even hesitate to spend time with this person. The relationship grows to be superficial and you only meet out of obligation.

You feel isolated from other relationships. This is the “divide and conquer” strategy where toxic people try to alienate you from others important people in your life. Over time, you become suspicious of them. Later you find yourself fighting or disagreeing with these friends or loved ones for no apparent reason. This is because your manipulator has craftily succeeded in sowing his/her seed of distrust in you already.

You defend your abuser. This follows the previous point. The toxic individual demands loyalty and you willingly play that role. Yet they may betray your trust to others without any feeling of remorse. And because you are so emotionally attached to this person, you justify their unhealthy behaviors. When outsiders point out any abuse or inconsistency in this relationship, the toxic individual expects that you, the victim, will fully defend their cause. This is one of the most sinister strategies, sometimes called Stockholm Syndrome.

Toxic relationships are NOT normal or healthy. They demand too much energy and deplete from your sense of well-being. Life is too short to allow others to control you. Learn to read the signs or take a profile test to determine the health of your relationships. If you are in a toxic relationship, seek help and get out now.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to going uncomplicated, comment below or join me on Facebook.

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16 thoughts on “Signs of Toxic Relationships

  1. Gabriele says:

    This is another great blog! Well done Kelvin. I know all about toxic relationships. It used to take me a long time to see it and break free when I was younger. Now I can see it a mile away and steer clear. God gave me the gift of discernment and I use it. The worst toxic relationships I have seen are codependent ones though…thanks again for a great read. I truly enjoyed it!

    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      Thank you Gabriele. It’s taken me a long time, even into my adulthood, to recognized these signs. And yes, we all need to be more discerning.

  2. Good stuff, Kevin! It’s great to see someone much younger than I am realizing how complicated life is and discovering how challenging it is to simplify one’s life in this chaotic world. I would make a guess and think life was probably much simpler in Grenada. In the U.S. we have too much of everything and the push is constant to have as much of it as possible. Toxic relationships go hand in hand with this. Simplifying, downsizing, economizing, working on relationships, etc. is what I’m all about and discuss in my Living Free in an Unfree World blog. You’ve just become another resource for me.


    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      Hi Ed, thank you for visiting. Yes, life for me in Grenada was less complicated. Though it’s more challenging here in the US, I’m finding my simplicity sweet spot as I change my thinking and approach to life. Thanks again for sharing!

  3. Terry Lawrence says:

    Very good information I can see a few Relationship I need to work on adjusting:-)


  4. Barbra says:

    This is an excellent blog! As a counselor, I have seen many people reeling from the results of toxicity — whether in a relationship, environment or past encounters. Often, they don’t even have a way to put into words the experience, and this will help. Thank you for sharing!

    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      Elder Barbara thank you for your kind words and assistance. You’ve been instrumental in this process. Thanks!

  5. Gillian Claudia Johnson-Baptiste says:

    This is an uncannily accurate description of toxic relationships and their effects. It is very useful information .

  6. Sue says:

    Thanks for the great post. These are great points in identifying a toxic relationship. I’m still trying to figure out what to do when it’s a very close family member. Take care and cheers.

    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      Family members can be a tough one. Setting healthy boundaries helped me. I’ll give you a few more ideas in my follow up post. Thanks for visiting Sue…much appreciated!

  7. Sharon says:

    Wow Kevin this is such a helpful post. 5 years ago I had to walk away from one such relationship and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do…. yet it set me free in so many ways. It is very hard to set healthy boundaries at times and yet so important. Guilt plays a huge role when you are dealing with a close family member.I’m looking forward to the next post.

    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      Thank you Sharon. I’m glad you were able to walk away from such relationships. It’s never an easy thing to do, especially when loved ones are involved. But you did and were set free. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Lisa says:

    Awesome breakdown! This describes my mother with each point. It is not easy to keep a difficult person in my life with such a significant role as a mother. I have learned that not everyone deserves the same amount of myself or closeness I have to offer. It is tough stuff. Goal #1 is to keep a connection. Toxic people’s strategies are all about distance and disconnection. Great Post!

    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      Dealing with a family member can be tough. I like the way you said it Lisa, “not everyone deserves the same amount of myself or closeness I have to offer. Tough lesson to learn but key to our wholeness and health. Thanks for sharing.

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