Toxic relationships are so prevalent in pop culture it is tough to select a perfect case. For an abusive family unit, you are able to look at that of sociopathic drug lord Walter White in”Breaking Bad”; to get a toxic amorous relationship, look at the Joker and Harley Quinn in”Suicide Squad”; to get a toxic boss, have a look at the beloved chef Gordon Ramsay on”Hell’s Kitchen” or”Kitchen Nightmares.” Toxic relationships also permeate conversations about our general health, with morning talk show hosts from Oprah into Dr. Phil frequently airing other people’s dirty laundry on national tv. They exist in politics, with a few observers imagining that Donald Trump’s connection with a number of his die-hard followers has attributes of narcissism by proxy.
Given how prevalent they are in fiction and in the real world, it’s surprising that there is not more of a cultural conversation about what they are, the way to escape — and even to figure out if you’re in one to begin with. That’s what about toxic relationships: sometimes, what’s unusual to an outsider seems normal to those of us inside.
Do you understand that you’re toxic?
Psychologists say that if you find yourself in a toxic relationship, the most important thing to do is figure out how to protect your own mental (and possibly physical) health, in addition to that of your loved ones. But first, how can you know if you’re in such a connection?
“A toxic relationship, whether it is one with family members, romantic partners, or professional colleagues, employers or employees, or social friendships, is one that makes you feel bad about yourself or less than who you are,” Dr. Lillian Glass, a world-renowned communication specialist and writer of the bestselling book “Toxic People: 10 Ways of Dealing With People who make Your Life Miserable,” advised Salon by email. “It is where the person doesn’t support you emotionally and makes you feel uncomfortable just by being in their presence.”
As Dr. Madeleine Fugère, a psychology professor at Eastern Connecticut State University, wrote to Salon, it can be rather difficult to leave these kinds of relationships because they lead to confusing thoughts. Victims struggle between feeling love for the person or people hurting them and knowing that the connections are unhealthy. They are also frequently anxious about having to create significant modifications to their behavior, prompting them to finally default to continuing with the status quo.
“If you are in a bad relationship, it can help to rely on your friends or family members for support,” Fugère explained. “If you are a friend or family member of someone involved in a bad relationship, consider talking with that person about your perceptions of the relationship. Research shows that when friends and family members express their feelings about bad relationships we are more likely to end those bad relationships.”
Do you want to leave?
Tragically, not everyone who is in a poisonous relationship kno