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Identifying Toxic Relationships

Person hugging someone and wondering, "Am I in a toxic relationship?"

Relationships, romantic or otherwise, can be very tricky, especially for teenagers. Media messaging can sometimes romanticize problematic behaviors like being possessive or controlling, leading young people to normalize toxic relationships. Undergoing relationship therapy for teens can help in identifying toxic behaviors, avoiding trauma, and encouraging healthier relationships as they grow into adulthood.

At Imagine Fort Collins, we have extensive experience in counseling teens. Our friendly and compassionate staff, through our relationship therapy program, can help teens establish healthy dating habits that they can bring into adulthood. Contact us at 970.680.5887 to learn more about what we can offer.

Signs of a Toxic Relationship

While a healthy relationship involves mutual growth, care, and compassion, a toxic relationship damages self-esteem and drains energy. Toxic relationships can negatively affect a person’s mental and physical health. Here are a few signs that a relationship is toxic:

  • Lower self-esteem – A toxic person may constantly question their partner’s feelings and actions, leading them to have less confidence in their instincts and abilities.
  • Decreased energy – Being in a toxic relationship can be exhausting. A person in a toxic relationship may find their energy levels dropping, making it difficult for them to be motivated to do anything.
  • Neglected self-care – Negative emotions, lack of energy, and low self-esteem all contribute to the breakdown of healthy self-care practices. One may not have the energy or motivation or feel like they don’t deserve to treat themselves properly.
  • Isolation from others – Someone going through a toxic relationship may not have the energy to nurture their other relationships. They may be embarrassed by their situation and keep other people at arm’s length. Or their partner may be actively blocking them from their support system. This social isolation can lead to anxiety and loneliness.
  • Increased stress – Toxic relationships can make people feel like they are always in fight-or-flight mode. The constant stress can lead to various health concerns, like heart problems, increased blood pressure, increased blood sugar, and a weaker immune system.

In the simplest terms, toxic relationships are relationships that are emotionally, and sometimes physically, damaging to one or both partners.

Identifying Toxic Behaviors in a Loved One

While it is easy to list the effects of a toxic relationship, it is just as easy to rationalize these effects, primarily if it is caused by someone you are in love with at the moment. One should try to look at their relationship and their partner to see if there are toxic behaviors that need to be addressed. Here are some toxic behaviors to look out for:

  • Hostility – Yelling, name-calling, throwing things, and physical harm are all sure signs of a toxic relationship. Alternatively, giving the silent treatment or withholding intimacy may also signify hostility.
  • Extreme jealousy – While jealousy is an entirely normal human emotion, a severe case in which one person constantly doubts, restricts, or surveils their partner is a sure sign of a toxic relationship.
  • Being belittled, demeaned, or unsupported – This happens when someone constantly questions or gaslights their partner’s actions and emotions or is patronizing or makes fun of their loved one’s achievements.
  • Always being blamed – This happens when one partner is always blamed for the other’s negative feelings or bad behavior.
  • Controlling behavior – This is sometimes not limited to jealousy-related behaviors, like restricting who their partner interacts with in day-to-day life. It can also include dictating how the other person should act or feel, or even controlling their finances. This behavior usually stems from a need for control.
  • Ignoring needs – If only the needs of one partner are being met, whether or not the other partner’s needs have already been communicated.

However, a significant toxic behavior that is easily observed is constant lying. This is a sign of disrespect and is always destructive to a relationship.

Get Relationship Therapy for Teens at Fort Collins

Being in a toxic relationship is complex and often traumatizing. At Imagine Fort Collins, we believe that teens would benefit from learning how to identify, repair, and avoid toxic situations. Our caring and qualified staff are ready to help you and your family with your relationship therapy needs. Call us at 970.680.5887 today to begin the journey to better relationships.