Relationships are a two-way street. Only going one-way, for instance “My way or the highway” creates imbalance. Think of it like walking. Two feet create balance, right? Now try walking with just one foot. How far do you think you’d get without falling? Healthy relationships…grounded in love, respect, honesty and trust (to name a few qualities) are balanced. In contrast, instability in a relationship is a prelude into toxic territory. Webster’s definition of toxic: extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful. Granted, toxic probably wouldn’t be a term you’d choose to describe a less than desirable relationship. Although a great indicator of toxicity is how the relationship makes you feel. Speaking from a couple’s standpoint, aside from blatant emotional abuse or infidelity there are numerous other variables contributing toxicity.

FEARFUL: Feeling like you have to walk on eggshells afraid of saying the wrong thing, or worse not being allowed to speak is controlling behavior by your partner. It’s one-way and it’s toxic. A healthy relationship embraces communication. This is not saying you have to agree on everything, but partners should respect and value each other’s feelings and opinions. Each should feel heard, not silenced. Silence terminates any hope of resolution and builds resentment. Overcome this toxic territory by truly listening, hearing and understanding each other.

UNREWARDING: Amazingly, studies have shown “Please” and “Thank you” practically embody super powers. Such simple courtesies to show your partner how much you appreciate even the small things can transform a borderline toxic relationship into a more fulfilling, healthy relationship with substance. You already know how much you enjoy feeling appreciated. Share the goodness, appreciate those you love.

YOU SUCK!: Sometimes you get ‘sucked’ into behaving badly. Before you know it you’re acting out in ways that make you uncomfortable with your authentic self, often distancing you further and further from your core values. It literally becomes unhealthy for you to be in the relationship. In other words, if you wake up one day wondering who you’ve become and how you’ve gotten so far away from who you truly are…you have just woken up in toxic territory. At this point, you need distance from toxicity and a clear path back to your true self.

LIES: “No, those don’t make your butt look big.” A little white lie heard by most and uttered by others has become an acceptable peacekeeping strategy when it concerns someone you care about. Yet, blatant fabrication should never be tolerated in a relationship. Deceptive dishonesty is the implement used to manipulate, deceive and control a situation. Leading to more fibs to cover the tracks of previous untruths. Chronic liars live in toxic territory often times believing their own deception and losing sight of reality. However, the truth shall set you free and the truth is you don’t deserve to be deceived. Walk away from those who don’t respect you enough to be honest.

NARCISSISM: Is your partner supportive of your goals and ideas while caring about what you think? Or, do their interests loll solely in their own needs while neglecting yours. If the latter is true it’s time to ask yourself if this relationship is healthy or if you’re wading in toxic territory. Self-absorbed people are so focused on themselves there’s hardly room for two in the relationship anyway. In other words, if you’re not special, the relationship isn’t either.

COMPETITIVE: Relationships are give and take, not winner takes all; which brings up falling into the trap of always trying to get one-up on each other. This behavior breeds animosity and creates insecurity. Not to mention, it’s passive/aggressive to relish in anyone’s failures. Exhale those toxic fumes and toss out the score card. It’s time to even the playing field by agreeing your relationship is not a competition.

GREEN EYED MONSTER: Jealousy in diminutive doses could arguably be healthy. Operative word: could. However, jealously in mega proportions is the by-product of insecurity which leads to blame and false accusations creating mistrust. Trust is the foundation of healthy relationships. If it’s absent then you’re already deep in toxic territory. If trust isn’t recaptured, then it may be time to pull up stakes and start a new foundation elsewhere.

Thankfully not every relationship turns toxic. However, if circumstances have escalated to any of the above it’s already wallowing in toxic territory. Letting go of the person you love is painful. I know, because the pain of staying seems less intimidating than letting go. Yet, if your relationship isn’t creating a better version of you it’s time to heal your emotional self, your heart and your soul. To paraphrase something I read recently, “At some point you realize some people can stay in your heart but not in your life.” My desire for you is much love and happiness.

Can you imagine…never stepping foot in toxic territory?

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