When Someone You Love Is Toxic: 8 Steps To Moving On
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By Terry Gaspard, Featured Journalist - December 19, 2016

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You may be at risk for toxic relationships if you become so absorbed in your partner’s problems you don’t often have time to identify, or solve, your own. Or, you care so deeply about your partner that you’ve lost track of your own needs.


Do your romantic relationships bring out your insecurities and cause you to mistrust your own judgment? Many people become involved or even obsessed with the wrong partner – someone who is emotionally unavailable, with other partners, addicted to substances – or who cannot love them back.

People who are attracted to partners who hurt them often confuse chemistry and compatibility. In fact, they are both essential to a long-lasting healthy intimate relationship. Whereas chemistry (how interesting and stimulating you find the person) is essential to keeping couples interested, compatibility (sharing common values, goals, and having fun together) will help a couple get through tough times.

Perhaps the first step in evaluating whether a relationship is toxic is looking at the difference between compatibility and chemistry.      

  1. Chemistry: This usually refers to physical attraction but can include intellectual attraction as well. It is about how interesting and stimulating you find the person. Do you enjoy each other’s touch and is their sexual chemistry? It’s essential because, without it, you are little more than friends.
  2. Compatibility:  Is about sharing common values and goals, having fun together, and liking each other: it helps to sustain a couple through tough times. However, both chemistry and compatibility are essential to a long-lasting healthy intimate relationship.

If you find yourself attracted to someone you don’t have both chemistry and compatibility with, you may be inclined to have toxic relationships. Perhaps you grew up in a family where you were a caretaker or focused more on making others happy. Maybe you even felt that you had to be in a good mood regardless of your true feelings.

Many women are in toxic relationships because they consistently put their partner’s needs before their own. Girls are often raised to tune out their inner voice and this can set the stage for one-sided or toxic relationships because they look for their partner to validate them. Keep in mind that emotional intimacy is not emotional dependency. If your relationship causes you to be anxious or causes you to question your sense of self, it may not be the best relationship for you.

You may be at risk for toxic relationships if you become so absorbed in your partner’s problems you don’t often have time to identify, or solve, your own. Or, you care so deeply about your partner that you’ve lost track of your own needs.  If you have this tendency, you may find setting limits hard and have trouble asking for what you need from your partner. The good news is that this pattern, which often begins in childhood, can be reversed.

Before you can begin to build successful relationships, you must have healthy self-esteem – which means believing in yourself. One of the key things to consider is: how do you treat yourself? No one will treat you with respect if you devalue yourself. You must rid yourself of self-defeating thoughts such as "I'm stupid" or “No one will ever love me” if you want to build relationships based on love, trust, and intimacy.

For example, Kara, an outgoing thirty-year-old, provided Tim with unconditional love and did her best to make up for his dysfunctional childhood by trying to please him. After they moved in together, she cooked Tim his favorite meals, did his laundry, and even helped take care of his four-year-old son on weekends.

Kara reflects: “It took a breakup for me to realize that I was not responsible for Tim’s happiness and can only truly make myself happy. He didn’t appreciate me and was unwilling to plan a future with me. Kara realized that she didn’t have any energy left for herself when she was so concerned about Tim’s well-being.  But since moving on, she has been able to put more energy into finishing her college degree and nurturing other relationships and interests.

Is there something about the way your partner treats you that makes you a bigger and better person? If the answer is no, ask yourself: Am I settling for less than I deserve in the relationship? Research shows that one of the main reasons why people stay in bad relationships is the fear of being single.  If this is the case, gently remind yourself that you are a worthwhile person regardless of whether or not you are in a romantic relationship.

8 ways to let so of toxic relationships:

1. Raise Your Self-awareness. Do you seek a partner who you feel comfortable with and is easy to be close to? In other words, who you feel you can be yourself and don’t have to walk on eggshells. In a healthy relationship, you will feel safe and free to express your thoughts, feelings, and desires openly and honestly without fear of rejection.

2. Set an expectation of healthy communication and mutual respect. To have a successful relationship, you need to accept, admire, and respect each other for who you are. If you don’t have mutual respect with your partner, it will eat away at chemistry until you have nothing left.

3. Notice if your partner keeps his or her agreements.  Does he/she call when they say they say they’re going to? Does he or she take you out when they say they’re going to? When someone is interested in a romantic partner, they keep their agreements.

4. Make sure your partner carves out time for you on a regular basis. Does he or she make you a priority because they value your relationship? This includes regular text messages or phone calls to show they’re thinking of you.

5. Don’t settle for less than you deserve. Listen to your inner voice and ask yourself: Does my partner ask me questions about my day, work, hobbies, friends, and family?

6. Pick a partner who makes plans to do things with you and includes you in his/her inner circle. If something special is going on in his/her life, they invite you and encourages you to come.

7. Don’t have sex or engage with a partner who make you feel insecure. A partner who truly cares about you is a boost to your self-esteem. He or she values you, gives you compliments, and encourages you to do things that are in your best interest.

8. Select a partner who talks about your future together. If he/she says they’re not ready for a commitment, take him/her seriously – they’re just not that into you.  Don’t waste your time on a relationship that doesn’t have a future.

The best partner will compliment you and bring out your very best. When you are with him or her, you will begin to see untapped possibilities within yourself and in the world. Author Jill P. Weber writes: “The more you view others’ mistreatment of you as something you have the ability to fix, tweak, or amend, the harder it is to develop a positive sense of yourself. Seeing yourself exclusively from the eyes of others disconnects you from the day-to-day, moment to moment experience of your life.”

Follow Terry Gaspard on Twitter, Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com

More from Terry

5 Ways of Breaking The Negative Cycle of Relating To Your Partner

11 Skills That Predict Success in Marriage And Relationships

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