Knowing the Signs of a Toxic Relationship

Relationships take various forms, and they go through their own peaks and valleys, just as with the rest of life. In a marriage, for instance, the couple might move from the honeymoon phase and into a season of financial hardship that tests their ability to resolve conflict and problem-solve. Some couples will struggle with that, while others will deal with the conflict and difficult circumstances in a healthy manner.

Again, couples go through all sorts of things, and many healthy relationships will face challenges, sometimes with mixed results. However, the mark of healthy relationships is that they don’t remain in a state of conflict, nor do they endlessly repeat the same mistakes without learning or growing from them.

In other words, difficult seasons will come, but healthy relationships weather those storms through mutual respect, affection, good conflict management skills, and so on.

In other relationships, what’s lacking are these same hallmarks of a healthy relationship. These toxic relationships are a hotbed of simmering conflict – one or both partners are in constant fight or flight mode, and they are not happy or fulfilled. There can be toxic patterns in a relationship, but a toxic relationship is one in which those patterns are a feature, not a bug in the system. Below are a few signs to look out for that might point to your relationship as being toxic.

Emotional detachment in a toxic relationship.

In a healthy relationship, the partners are emotionally connected and vulnerable to one another. They share themselves, offer one another validation, and show that they care for each other in various ways. Emotional detachment can happen for a season, say for instance if one partner is in a time crunch at work. However, sharing one’s feelings with their partner is what makes for a healthy relationship. Emotional detachment can happen in various ways, including:

You don’t celebrate each other’s wins. In a healthy relationship, the couple supports one another and celebrates their respective wins. If the atmosphere in the relationship is one where your wins aren’t celebrated, and possibly where an air of competition reigns, that could be problematic.

Negative spontaneous emotional reactions. Your partner’s gut-level impressions of you, such as whether they like you or find you interesting, or whether they think you are competent, or how you might compare to other people – all these can point to the health of your relationship. A relationship dominated by spontaneous negative emotional reactions is a cause for concern.

Lack of self-disclosure. Relationship health is supported by emotional self-disclosure, where you are vulnerable with, listen to, and mutually support each other. Sharing your important feelings within the relationship matters, as does listening well and being responsive to such self-disclosures. If this interplay of sharing and listening well is absent from the relationship, it is cause for concern.

Few positive non-verbal behaviors. We speak with more than just our words. We can use touch, our faces, our bodies, and the tone of our voices to communicate alongside our words. A relational environment where there are few positive non-verbal behaviors such as smiles, laughter, hugging, etc., might point to an unhealthy dynamic in the relationship.

It’s also important to ask yourself if the dominant tone of your relationship is one of affirmation or criticism. Of course, we don’t always get things right, but if your spouse is constantly criticizing you – how you dress, how you look, speak, act, and so on, that’s not a healthy situation. Emotional detachment, if it becomes a habit, signals the deterioration of a relationship, and it needs to be addressed.

A lack of safety in a toxic relationship.

In a relationship, it’s important for you and your children to feel safe. Safety can be emotional or physical safety. With emotional safety, do you feel able to express your emotions without feeling judged or like you’re failing somehow? Do you feel like people care how you feel, and that your emotions are taken into consideration?

Physical safety can be compromised if you’re threatened with violence, or if resources such as food, clothing, health care, and shelter are held at ransom. Relationships marked by the lack of safety are likely toxic.

No boundaries or boundaries are repeatedly violated

Boundaries are important for the health of any relationship. Boundaries signal that each person has their own personality and needs, and respecting those boundaries shows consideration and promotes individual integrity. Boundaries can center around finances, privacy, use of time, friendships, sex, and much else.

If in your relationship you either don’t have boundaries or the boundaries you set are violated repeatedly, it may signal a toxic relationship. Each relationship needs boundaries to prevent it from slipping into codependency or other similar dysfunction, and when boundaries are violated, there need to be consequences. Repeated violations of reasonable boundaries display a fundamental lack of respect that needs to be remedied.

Constant cover-ups in a toxic relationship.

Spouses often cover for one another. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including not wanting them to look bad, or wanting to spare them from something uncomfortable or humiliating. There is a line between that and covering up bad behavior for them so that they escape accountability, or so that truth about them doesn’t get out.

If you find yourself often covering up for your partner because they were drunk, rude, physically, or verbally abusive, and so on, that points to a toxic relationship dynamic. You shouldn’t be part of their personal PR and cleanup crew, and covering up for them reveals unhealthy (possibly codependent) dynamics in the relationship.

Lack of freedom in a toxic relationship.

In a meaningful relationship with our significant other, we should feel the most accepted and loved within that space. When we are with our friends, these are supposed to be the people that get us, that understand our weirdness and welcome us, nonetheless. In our family, that space above others is where we ought to feel appreciated, loved for who we are, and feel that our best interests are high up on the agenda.

If you feel that you don’t have freedom in your relationship, it’s possibly problematic. Possibly problematic because sometimes we want more freedom than we ought to get, like a teenager wanting to stay out way beyond what their parent thinks is wise, or if a spouse wants the freedom to commit adultery.

Rather, the freedom in mind here relates to things like feeling the freedom to be yourself, to make mistakes, to be with people such as your friends and family. It’s a problem when you’re constantly criticized for being who you are, if any mistakes you make are closely scrutinized while those of others aren’t, or if you get isolated from people such as your family and friends.

You should be able to meet with your family and hang with your friends, but when your partner wants to isolate you, it’s a sign of toxicity and may be a prelude to other abusive behaviors.

A lack of mutuality in a toxic relationship.

At the heart of a relationship is what you do for each other. You celebrate one another; you are there for one another during your tough times; you rebuke one another when there is a need for it, you forgive each other for mistakes that you make, you take on responsibilities to help one another flourish, and you each make compromises for the sake of the other.

If you find yourself in a situation where this is flowing in one direction, that could be a sign of a toxic relationship. A lack of mutuality in a relationship is a cause for concern that you should take seriously. There ought to be a healthy give and take within the relationship, and while things are never balanced equally, there should be some level of reciprocity in how you do things in your relationship.

It cannot be that only one person constantly needs to be forgiven, that one person is the one who makes the compromises, or that only one person needs rebuke. A relationship is the coming together of equals, and that means each of you must receive dignity, respect, and consideration.

Conclusion

If you detect these signs of toxicity in your relationship, having a conversation with your partner about them can help you begin addressing the issue. With the help of a couple’s therapist, you can turn a toxic relationship around, but it needs you both to show up and put in the work.

Photos:
“Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Shelby Deeter, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hugs”, Courtesy of Candice Picard, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “I give you my heart”, Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Pablo Heimplatz, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

4 Steps to Healthy Weight Management

Most people desire to make changes to their health and usually begin with wanting to lose weight. They have a vision and a goal number they want to see on the scale so they set goals and action steps to reach this weight loss.

Often, however, many individuals may reach their goals but then find that the weight loss doesn’t last. Or, they may not know the exact steps that are required for them to reach their weight loss goals. Instead, they find themselves on a rollercoaster without consistency. What is the missing piece?

Having healthy weight management.

If you’re thinking about making changes to maintaining your weight, it can be a difficult road to find what is best for you, your body, and your lifestyle. The majority of our thoughts are centered around the foods we choose and how much we exercise. While this is true, there are missing components to successfully find balance and ease with being able to maintain healthy stability.

Having a healthy weight management goal instead of a weight loss goal may just be the perspective shift you have been looking for all along! When you focus on what healthy weight management looks like for you, you can be set free from needing to try different diets or setting a goal weight because you begin to understand what is right for your body naturally.

In this article, you are going to learn four steps to find and successfully implement lasting healthy weight management.

Step One: Understanding your digestive health

Your digestive health is the first place you need to look when it comes to your ability to manage a healthy weight. In the context of weight management, the amount of stress you are dealing with, the number of inflammatory foods you are consuming, and the overall health of your gut are paramount and also work in tandem.

Your digestion begins before actually eating food as it relates to external factors like stress and anxiety that unknowingly greatly affect how your foods are digested. Additionally, if your diet consists of food high in sugar or processed, your gut lining and proper functions of your digestion will be impaired due to the constant state of inflammation.

This is what can cause unhealthy cravings or addiction to sugary foods. When you learn to choose the right foods that are anti-inflammatory and eat for your digestion, you’ll immediately see improvements and see your body remarkably adapt to its natural healthy state.

Step Two: Define what is healthy management

As above-mentioned, focusing on setting a healthy weight management goal instead of a weight loss goal will help you in the long run. Every day we are bombarded with advertisements, promotions, and sales for healthy foods, products, supplements, and diets. Through social media channels, magazines with headlines on the front cover, or even if you ask Google what is healthy management, it’s very noisy!

What happens is that all of the images, phrases, diets, and advertisements that we see, subconsciously begin to build the wrong impression of what is right and true for your health. It becomes easier to focus on all of the things you “should” be doing instead of learning, knowing, and understanding what is right for you and your body. The key factor is to read between the lines and find what you need for your health.

How do you do this?

The answer is to set a goal for success. Before you begin a new health journey, ask yourself these four questions:

  1. What does my desired weight management look like?
  2. How will I know when I am successfully managing my health?
  3. What is my desired look, feel, and lifestyle?
  4. Why am I choosing to focus on maintaining my weight?

When you take the time to ask yourself these four questions, you are setting yourself up for success before you even begin. What happens is that most individuals want to choose better foods, make changes to their eating and exercise habits, and immediately jump into the new diet that everyone is speaking about, such as the one that promised instant results that you read about on the magazine cover while waiting in line at the grocery.

So because this is all the craze, many people rush into then buying those suggested ingredients, supplements, or diet plans without truly preparing for the course that aligns with long-term sustainability.

Maintaining a healthy weight goes beyond the food choices and amounts of exercise because it has everything to do with your reasons, definitions, and lifestyle. If you never measure what success in this area means to you, how will you know when you have reached it?

If you do a personal inventory, you may already be maintaining your weight from a goal you set years ago, but without knowing what it looked like back then, it’s easy to want to keep doing new things because without realizing that you already met your initial goal.

When you consider what asking yourself these four questions means to you, you will start to see the connection between the how, what, why, and your will. These four questions are pivotal in helping you set your vision and determine what steps are needed to help you reach your goals. Coupled with a better understanding of your digestive health, you’ll be empowered to choose the right foods for long-term health rather than short-term satisfaction.

Step Three: Find an activity you love to do

One of the largest areas where people “fall off the wagon” is not loving what they were committed to doing, especially in the area of exercise. Most people end up feeling less motivated because it resembles a chore that interrupts their day and must be done. When you find an activity you love to do, your inspiration is automatic and you end up excited about it, becoming naturally committed.

When it comes to exercise, try an activity that is something new and different. Notice the change in words from exercise to activity. Placing your focus on a daily activity also changes your perspective from it feeling like a chore. Make small commitments then increase your frequency over time. When trying a new activity and you realize you don’t like that one you picked, try something new. Exercise does not have to be hours on a treadmill or doing squats.

Finding new trails in nature with gorgeous views. You can even try switching up the times you decide to commit to your activity and couple it with a benefit, much like going on a walk to go watch the sun rise or set. Consider trying a new sport and joining a league like rowing, softball, or volleyball. Sometimes when you reflect on a sport you used to play when you were young, you may find you are inspired to pick it back up as an adult. What is on your list to try?

Step Four: Fight those negative thoughts

Another contributing factor to why it is difficult to maintain a healthy weight is because we let our thoughts and words defeat us. Sometimes when it comes to not seeing progress as soon as one thought would happen allows an open door for negativity, frustration, and setbacks to enter in.

When you act upon the four questions you attached to your goal (hint: see step two), you end up staying committed to the lifestyle goal you are seeking instead of the feelings when you let negativity lead.

With that said, when you surrender your health to God’s power, you can maintain anything when you rely upon His strength. Another encouragement is to study Scriptures that reflect your goals and partner with the Holy Spirit to pour out His ability for you to stay committed to your health management goals.

If you are looking to take these four steps in a practical way, consider coaching. When you work with a coach, you get to discover and design your goals through a series of questions to help you get clear on your vision and steps. Not only do you get to make a step-by-step plan with a coach, but you also get to work alongside them as they help guide you through each step to make sure you are on track to reaching your goals and that you stay in line with your vision.

Contact me today if this article resonated with you and if you want to explore the benefits of coaching when it comes to maintaining your healthy weight.

Photos:
“Weighing out the Beans”, Courtesy of Tyler Nix, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Fruit Breakfast”, Courtesy of Jannis Brandt, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Watermelon Smile”, Courtesy of Caju Gomes, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Planning”, Courtesy of KOBU Agency, Unsplash.com, CC0 License