Toxicity Isn’t About a Person, but a Relationship as a Whole

It’s not uncommon to go scouring the internet for clues that your partner is exhibiting toxic behaviors when a relationship starts to go sour. Hell, you might even find your partner exhibits many toxic traits. What then? Do you listen to the internet, or do you listen to your heart? Nine times out of ten, regardless of what that article says, you’re going to listen to your heart. That article isn’t talking about your partner specifically. The writer doesn’t know your situation. Maybe he really is working on improving. Maybe you have some things to work on too. Maybe he was responding to a situation which you could easily take credit for. Maybe he was just having a bad day when he went off on you like that. That article doesn’t know you and it doesn’t know the person you love. On the flipside, you might be reading into something that simply isn’t there. You might legitimately be working it up in your own head. Perhaps you’re afraid of being happy, and you’re looking for a sign that you should end it. There’s even a chance that you’re the toxic one, or that in an attempt to identify any potential toxicity in the relationship, you’re actually creating a toxic environment.

And here’s the kicker. It doesn’t matter. Why are you scouring the internet for clues in the first place? What happened that led you to believe he (or she) might be bad for you? At that point, does it really matter if your partner is toxic? Evidently you already have a sense that something is wrong, and you’re looking for something to sway your gut instincts. They don’t have to be a narcissistic prick to be wrong for you. Maybe their past trauma is getting in the way of your relationship. Maybe your past trauma is aggravated by the way they approach certain situations, and they’re simply not willing to change their approach. Maybe your friends have all noticed how differently you act around him or her and they’re concerned about your well-being.

Toxicity isn’t just about whether another person is poison. It’s about how your chemicals interact.

Sure, you should still pay attention to the signs that another person is exhibiting toxic behaviors. It’s important to decide what you’re willing to accept in a relationship and create boundaries in order to protect yourself. It’s also important to realize that no relationship is perfect and even healthy relationships have obstacles to overcome. The distinguishing factor in a healthy relationship is that both parties are willing to work toward finding a middle ground. There may be some things which you’re unwilling to budge on, and others where you’re willing to meet your partner where they’re at. In a healthy relationship, there’s a balance of give and take and both parties work together to create a mutually agreeable environment in which they both can thrive.

I feel like the distinguishing factor in determining whether or not a relationship is toxic to you is how it makes you feel. Are you able to exist outside of the relationship? If you decided you were happier without them, would they respect your decision to walk away? How do the two of you handle conflict? Do your arguments have a “winner” or are you able to come to a point of respect for each other’s differences? Does one of you always seem to bend for the other? Do they build you up or break you down? Does being with them make you feel on edge or at ease?

My suggestion? Rather than search the internet looking for signs that your partner is a toxic influence, look within yourself. How does the relationship make you feel, and why? Is there anything you can do to alter the situation without trying to change them? Are you able to express your concerns with them and work with them to create a more stable environment? If they aren’t willing to work with you, is this a dynamic you’re willing to accept?

Again, no relationship is perfect and we all have our pitfalls. It’s important to be able to recognize your own pitfalls rather than pinning everything on your partner, and it’s important to be able to recognize your partner’s pitfalls rather than pinning everything on yourself. It can be difficult to see a situation clearly when you’re emotionally invested, and it doesn’t always pay to ask for an outsider’s perspective because they may have their own biases. At the end of the day (and I will say this over and over again), what’s important is how your partner makes you feel and whether or not that’s the feeling you’re searching for in a relationship.

Toxicity isn’t about who a person is. It’s about how they affect you. If the relationship doesn’t feel right to you, it’s up to you whether you want to try and work things out or walk away. It’s possible they’re just not ready for a relationship, or you’re just not ready for a relationship. It’s possible you just aren’t a good fit. It’s possible they bring something out in you that you’d rather keep locked up, or vice versa.

Listen to your gut instinct. Your subconscious knows more than your conscious mind is willing to come to terms with.

A stroke of inspiration (pun intended) based on personal experience, helping lift people up by understanding they’re not alone and their experience is valid.

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