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8 toxic relationship traits and how to break free

Updated: Jun 26

How do I know if I'm being gaslit?

In today's fast-paced and interconnected world, relationships play a crucial role in our mental and emotional wellbeing. Whether it's with friends, colleagues, romantic partners, or family members, all relationships have the potential to experience toxic traits. It's important to recognise that toxic behaviour can manifest in any relationship regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or the nature of the relationship.

Gaslighting, for example, is a form of emotional abuse that can occur in any relationship, and it's essential to understand that it's not always easy to recognise. It involves one person manipulating the other into questioning their sanity, memory, or perception of reality. This can lead the victim to feel paranoid, confused, and emotionally drained. Gaslighting tactics can include denying events that have occurred, shifting blame onto the victim, trivialising the victim's emotions, and creating doubt about the victim's memories.

In this blog post, we'll delve into some of the typical signs of toxic relationships and offer insights on how to break free should you find yourself in the thralls of a toxic relationship.

Identifying toxic traits in your relationship

toxic relationship, couple arguing

1. Lack of respect: In toxic relationships, there is often a lack of mutual respect between partners. Your partner may demean or belittle you, leaving you experiencing feelings of worthlessness or inadequacy.

2. Control and manipulation: Toxic relationships are often characterised by controlling and manipulative behaviours. Your partner may try to control your actions, emotions, or decisions. This creates a sense of power imbalance and dependency. You often feel confused, disoriented, or unable to make decisions, even about simple things.

3. Constant criticism: Criticism is a natural part of any relationship, but in a toxic one, criticism becomes relentless and destructive. Constant criticism will eventually make you feel insecure and like you can't ever get things right. You experience a significant drop in self-esteem, often feeling unworthy or incompetent.

4. Gaslighting: Recognising gaslighting can be challenging because it's a form of psychological manipulation designed to make you doubt your perceptions, memories, and reality. You frequently second-guess yourself and question your perceptions or memories. You feel like you’re “going crazy” or overly sensitive. The gaslighter dismisses your feelings, thoughts, or experiences, often making you feel that your concerns are invalid or unimportant. The person may frequently contradict themselves or deny saying things you know they said. They might change narratives or events to confuse you. The person may undermine your confidence in your abilities, making you doubt your competence and self-worth.

5. Isolation: In toxic relationships, one partner may try to isolate the other from friends, family, and support networks, making it harder for you to get an outside perspective. This isolation can lead to increased dependence on the toxic partner and a sense of alienation from others. Extended periods of isolation from your friends and loved ones could lead you to feelings of depression.

6. Unpredictable mood swings: In a toxic relationship, one partner may exhibit unpredictable mood swings and emotional outbursts, creating an environment of fear and unease for the other partner. In these cases, it's natural for you to have a heightened sense of anxiety as you never know what to expect, you always feel as though you're walking on eggshells.

7. Lack of accountability: Toxic partners often refuse to take responsibility for their actions and may shift blame onto their partners, creating a cycle of guilt and self-doubt. You find yourself constantly apologising for things you didn’t do or for things that shouldn’t require an apology.

8. Unhealthy communication patterns: Communication in toxic relationships is often marked by defensiveness, stonewalling, and a lack of empathy. This can lead to misunderstandings and unresolved conflicts, further deteriorating the relationship. You feel like you constantly need to defend yourself against accusations or criticisms, even if you’re not sure what you did wrong.

Breaking Free From a Toxic Relationship

1. Trust your feelings: Pay attention to your feelings and instincts. If something feels off, it probably is.

2. Seek professional help: It's important to seek support from a mental health professional who specialises in relationships and mental wellbeing. They can provide valuable insights and support as you navigate the process of breaking free from a toxic relationship.

3. Establish boundaries: Setting clear boundaries is crucial when trying to break free from a toxic relationship. This may involve limiting contact with the toxic individual and surrounding yourself with a support network of friends and family.

4. Focus on self-care: Engaging in self-care activities such as exercise, meditation, and hobbies can help restore a sense of balance and self-worth. Prioritising self-care is essential for rebuilding confidence and resilience.

5. Reflect and heal: Take the time to reflect on the relationship and its impact on your mental health. Healing from a toxic relationship may involve processing emotions, seeking closure, and working through any trauma experienced during the relationship.

Here at Schoen Clinic, our team of mental health specialists in London understands the complex dynamics of toxic relationships and is dedicated to supporting individuals in breaking free from them. We offer one-to-one mental health therapy for a range of conditions including, resilience and self-esteem, depression, emotional trauma and more. We also provide couples counselling and relationship therapy with a number of our specialists, as well as specialised group therapies for social support.

Please don't hesitate to contact our team today if you need support.

If you or someone you know is struggling in a toxic relationship, we encourage you to seek professional guidance and support. Remember, your mental wellbeing is paramount, and it's okay to seek help in navigating challenging relationship dynamics.

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