The short answer to what is a toxic relationship is that it is one in which toxic traits are expressed by a person in that relationship.
This is part two of a two-part article.
You can read the first part here.
A quick recap... Toxic traits are characteristics of an individual that cause injury or unpleasantness in one form or another. These traits manifest themselves in behaviours, in how one person treats another. As I have already pointed out, toxic traits can manifest in good behaviours but the effect of these good behaviours is to manipulate the impressions of the person on the receiving end to think that the actor is actually a good person. Treating another person well in order to fool them and take advantage of them is, of course, another toxic trait.
So let's have a look at some more toxic traits, how they're expressed and how they actually cause damage.
Many manipulators believe that they are superior beings. A sense of entitlement leads them to believe that there are special and above everybody else. They expect to be treated as such. They believe they can have whatever they want, when they want it and how they want it. This, of course, is an impossible task for those around them.
Trying to get things perfect, doing it exactly how the manipulator wants, in the right timeframe, with the right attitude and getting the exact result is the job of the victim. In fact, this becomes their whole life.
The superior being aspect of the manipulator means that they never consider themselves to be wrong or out of order. They will have a list of reasons and justifications as to why it's not their fault. They believe that if everybody simply listened to them and followed their instructions that life would be perfect. Perfect for the manipulator, maybe!
This sense of entitlement also shows up in the manipulator believing that the rules are not for them. The rules are for the plebs. They prefer to make the rules themselves and apply their personal rules to everybody else (Hence the term "antisocial behavior").
They're also quite happy to change the rules in an instant if it suits them. Even when there is a court order in place they're prepared to go against them or skirt around them and generally make it difficult for everybody else.
Most people don't want to be thought of as a liar. They want other people to consider them coherent, consistent and reliable. Not so with abusers and manipulators. These people are professional liars. They basically make a living through lies and deception.They're quite happy to weave a reality and then to force others around them to live within this reality. (Don't mistake this for delusions and schizophrenia. These types are not considered insane. They know the difference between right and wrong.) Their lack of responsibility means they don't care what harm comes to people who are living in their world.
The manipulator can make all sorts of promises and guarantees but they have zero sense of obligation in backing these things up. They can change their mind in an instant if it suits them, even if it disrupts or even destroys other people's lives.
They can borrow money, even huge sums, and not be concerned about paying it back. They weasel their way into jobs and don't produce the work, miss deadlines or even do different tasks altogether, without a worry in the world. They commit to projects, promise support of all sorts, swear blind that they will turn up and when they don't actually provide they have the gall to get offended when other people are upset.
They literally do not care about keeping their word. They will lie, justify themselves, make excuses and generally play on people's emotions when they're caught out breaking their own promises. Caught in a lie? No problem! They simply tell more lies. They will even tell lies when it would actually more beneficial for them to tell the truth.
In a relationship of equals, respect for the other partner is fundamental. A toxic relationship is absolutely not a relationship of equals. In fact a toxic relationship is set up to have a power imbalance by the manipulator. They may initially give the impression of looking after and caring for their partner but very quickly the disrespect shows up.
It may start in small ways, for example not showing up on time, not tidying up after themselves or pretending to forget various things. Once they start getting away with these things then the lack of respect, even going to outright contempt, begins to kick in.
Their time is more important than yours. Their work is more important than yours. There needs are more important than yours. Tell them what you want, sometimes repeatedly, and you still don't get it. You might think that you have not been able to communicate properly or they don't seem to get it or they just don't understand. The fact is they understand perfectly. Knowing that you want it is precisely why they don't give it to you.
They don't respect you when you are right and they are wrong. Don't expect an apology. If they do say something it's not a proper apology. "I'm sorry you got upset at what I said," is not a proper apology. Any attempt at an apology is typically lies because five minutes later they are back doing the same thing again.
They don't respect your ideas, they don't respect your beliefs, they don't respect your efforts and most of all, they don't respect you. They make you feel bad about yourself. And they do this on a regular basis. They destroy your self-esteem, your self-respect, your self-confidence, whatever you like to call it. This is done on purpose because that way it's easier to control you.
It means you become willing to change or adapt yourself in order to please them. You know what it's like to have good times with him, because it was like that at the start, and you want more of that. It sounds ridiculous but all this criticism and disrespect actually drives you to step up and try harder to please them. The more they humiliate you, the more you become dependent on them. This sounds counterintuitive, ridiculous even, but this is what happens in mind control situations.
Abusive people can be very cold and callous and heartless. Sometimes you may wonder how this person that loves you can do something so horrible to you. It just doesn't make sense. For example, they may know perfectly well that something is very hurtful for you and they just rub your face in it. And it may not be the first time they've done this.
You may have noticed that they don't seem to express emotions any more. Initially, they were full of them. Everything was great, wonderful, marvellous and exciting. But now that they have settled into the relationship there is none of that initial emotional charge. They no longer get upset at the things that you get upset about, either. They don't seem to care any more. There may be very little show of emotion at all, except for that temper of theirs.
Did you know that there are people on this planet who don't actually have emotions? These are the people with personality disorders, also known as psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists. One of the things about these manipulators is that they can be very good at faking emotions and they often expert at manipulating other people's emotions.
So, while they can act callously and do very cruel things to others without being affected by it, if anybody tries to take advantage of them they become brilliant actors and play the victim role very well. In fact they can be incredibly "sensitive", responding as if the world is coming to an end at the tiniest, verbal sleight. If they're not treated with the utmost respect they can feign indignation as good as any movie star.
Some of them make this their way of living a life. The food in a restaurant is so bad it has to be sent back and replaced and the replacement is free. They were fired from a job, probably for a very valid reason, but they're going to sue anyway, because they deserve better. They may marry several times, and in each divorce they seek financial recompense for how badly they've been treated. Any medical procedure instantly becomes another source of income.
Lack of empathy, greed, bossiness, bullying, controlling, strict, rigid, judgemental, thoughtless, inconsiderate, all these are traits that show up in toxic relationships and are more or less self-explanatory.
The difficulty here is that at the start of such a relationship the manipulator makes the victim feel that they have met the perfect partner. The victim believes the person is kind, loving, attentive, caring, charming, funny and so on. This makes it difficult for the victim later on to change this initial impression. It is difficult for the victim to believe that this person that they love, and they believe loves them back, is actually abusive and controlling.
The behaviours have been redefined along the way for the victim. For example, "my husband is jealous of me talking to other men because he was cheated on in previous relationships," or "my wife doesn't give me compliments or praise because that was never done in her family when she was a child," or "she is better at math so it makes sense that she takes care of all the finances." You can read more about this idea in this article on signs of a controlling relationship.
Let's have a look at more characteristics of a toxic relationship in the first part of this article here.
If you think you're in a toxic relationship than protecting yourself is vital. Understanding why you are being controlled, and specifically how you are being controlled, is a very important part of this. Some people need to learn more about the situation to recognise that it's actually abusive. Some people know it's abusive but cannot do anything about it because there are so dependent on the manipulator. In these cases they need to undo the damage and the dependency in order to be able to move away. Simply moving away is not enough either. It's important to get the manipulator out of your head and out of your life and this is done by understanding how they got into your head in the first place.
You can read more about mind control, the profile of a sociopath, signs of mental abuse, the stages of an abusive relationship, the warning signs of an abusive relationship and recovery from a psychopathic relationship.
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