When is a Relationship Toxic to Your Health?

Do you ever wonder what makes someone attracted to someone else, while others seem to repel one another? There are a number of unseen factors that come into play, from pheromones (hormones that are present in sweat, breath, etc.) to sound waves. When I was a Music Performance major at UCF, I learned that every object resonates a certain measurable pitch. Interestingly, sometimes you might meet someone that strikes a dissonant chord, literally.

Even when these opposing or other unseen elements are present, a mature person can usually work past these things, at least long enough to hold a relationship of some sort. But when things go deeper than this, hidden dangers may be lurking.

A cancer recovering client once told me that she had been in a marriage that was all wrong, and only after permanently removing herself from the relationship was she able to gain control of her health again. That is a pretty powerful concept!

Unless you are living in rural Alaska or chosen to live on the new colony on Mars (yes, NASA really is accepting applications), chances are you are surrounded by people, and dealing with others often is a difficult, yet necessary part of life. 

Let’s explore some ways for you to identify those that may be causing more than just an annoyance.

Signs of Toxic People in Your Life

  • Disrespect For Boundaries. Sometimes it takes a life changing/life shaking event for some to grasp this concept. If someone cannot give adequate respect in a relationship, it makes it very difficult to move forward. It is the more subtle boundaries that can grate on a long term relationship day in and day out. Communication is quintessential. 

    If there is physical, emotional, or mental abuse occurring in a place of dwelling, then all efforts should be made to remove yourself from the physical environment (your life may depend on it!). Reasonable individuals will submit to boundary requests. If someone is unreasonable, remove yourself and find help for them. 

  • Getting Your Goat. I like to imagine that everyone has a beautiful imaginary goat that pastures freely, and other times is gated up for protection. Someone that repeatedly rubs you the wrong way, does not show respect, undermines authority, is immune to or has disregard for your thoughts or feelings, or has verbal emotional outbursts- those people are liable to get your goat (so to speak) from time to time.

    After identifying the offender(s), you can limit contact or approach the person knowing your goat is in safe shelter, for your health.

  • Negative People. People who are constantly on the defense, finding fault and making negative comments are functioning from the hind-brain. It is the same area used in the “fight or flight” response, when under extreme stress.

    A cell biologist by the name of Dr. Bruce Lipton has shown that cells have memory, making it harder for people to change their ways because of nurtured responses ultimately becoming nature. Being raised in a negative home environment, having an unhappy marriage, having chemicals introduced into the body (toxins, medication, drugs) or a myriad of health conditions can all cause an unbalance in individual body chemistry.

    Sometimes, in order to stay positive, we must remove ourselves from negative/toxic individuals (or at least limit to small doses).

    Or perhaps there is someone you live with that is difficult (such as a child or an ill family member). This will take some careful maneuvering to make sure you are in your best balance so you can best help them, if appropriate. Don’t forget to establish healthy boundaries so you can best help yourself.   

Even in seemingly dark or unexpected places, the light shines ever so bright… if we allow it to.

  • Unremorsefulness. For some people, saying sorry is the most difficult thing in the world. But others seem to not be able to conceptually understand wrongdoing or ever admit that they are at fault. I once waited 9 years before I heard those words fall from the mouth of someone close to me. People can learn, but being patient can be difficult if a person is also unreasonable to boundaries.

Physical Responses

Relationship stress can cause a physical body response, such as:

  • Elevated Blood Pressure
  • Heartburn
  • Acidity
  • Adrenaline Rushes
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Heart Problems
  • Slowed Digestion
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Liver Issues
  • Kidney Issues
  • Adrenal/Thyroid Issues
  • Confusion, Muddled Thoughts, Depression

Over time, this can decrease our immune system function, leaving the door wide-open to future illnesses and diseases.

Friends, we are able to chose. Family and co-workers, not so much. Whether we are in a healthy relationship or a toxic one, the key to success is establishing boundaries. The more unhealthy or turbulent the relationship, the more important the boundaries are and the tighter the boundaries need to be. In long term relationships, it is healthy to realize that ups and downs are not only expected, but a very normal part of a relationship. At times, it might be tempting to jump out of a boat during a storm rather than stay and plug up another leaking hole.

Teenagers also require an extra measure of patience. Remembering that a person’s brain is not fully developed until age 25 can help with expectations. Even mild-mannered teens can go through unexpected ups and downs. As adulthood is entered, great maturity is usually not far around the corner, with the true beautiful colors of an individual waiting to be revealed.

Cultivate Your Balance

If you find yourself struggling in a relationship, here are some things you can try to create a positive atmosphere and a clear conscience:

  • Create a thankfulness journal. Everyday, or when you are thinking of it, write down something you are thankful for about your relationship with your spouse, lover, child, extended family or friends. or acquaintance.  Revisit good times and good deeds during dark times if someone close needs to be reminded.
  • Momma’s Mantra. My momma had a mantra during her drug-free childbirths, “And this too shall pass”. I have remembered that often during difficult times (and childbirth too). She was 2 weeks late with me.  As she was being rolled to the OR for a C-section (which they rarely ever did in the early 70’s),  and after laboring long, I visually flipped in her belly solving the problem of my breech position just in time. The doctor told her it was a miracle. I like to tell this story as an example that when faced with a challenge, we may not readily see the end of the tunnel and it may seem like eons before relief it coming. Sometimes freedom is only mere minutes away once our perseverance puts our eyes on the finish line.
  • Communicate openly. If something is bothering you, don’t stuff it. If you need to, first write down your thoughts or talk about them with another person to pinpoint what is truly offending you. Problems have to be identified before they can be solved. Sometimes people just have a bad day and say or do something they don’t really mean. Know when to give grace. If negative behavior becomes a habit though, then that means a larger problem that needs to be addressed.
  • Establish Boundaries. Once issues have been identified, figure out a solution. This will take team work. Respect is a foundation for any relationship. If someone is repeatedly taxing on you and your psyche, and you are in a required relationship (with a family member), sometimes it is necessary to limit contact. I have known people who decided to move out of town or out of state to put in some healthy distance in this type of situation, so they could their own lives on track and in a healthy place. No one should put so much demand on you that it prevents you from living a normal, healthy life.

    Peace in our relationships and peace in our soul is the goal.

  • Self Evaluate. Often times, it is easy to miss the splinter in our own eye. Relationships are all about compromises. When we give a little, we should also receive a little and vice-versa. If we are in the wrong however, it is up to us to admit wrongdoing and seek an apology. That is a sign of a healthy relationship.

    Did you know that anger often stems from an overwhelmed liver? Quite a loaded topic indeed. Great relief can be felt through careful evaluation and detoxing. Allergies and Hormones all play a role.

  • Define Expectations. People can’t read minds (well, only sometimes ;-), and others need to know what you are thinking, what is important to you, and what is expected from them. Defining these can really help foster a positive experience in relationships. Sometimes we have to have a less than pleasant experience before this is realized, but future experiences will likely get better. There is something so grounding in the discovery of “know thyself”. Once we realize who we are as a person and what makes us tick (how we are designed), expectations become more easy to identify instead of a surprise for all parties. 
  • Date Night. Nothing can perk up a relationship better than some quality time. This is true of a spouse, a friend, or a child. If someone is important in our life, we need to make time doing something mutually agreed upon. Getting out of a regular setting does a lot to help foster new ideas and conversations. Slowing down to appreciate one another and to re-establish connecting points will go far in getting through hidden challenges that may lie ahead, cleaning up the past, and being available to one another in the present.
  • Love. Most problems in life are solved by this powerful 4 letter verb. Love can cause us to do unthinkable acts, give unimaginable grace, and unfathomable forgiveness.

Know your limits and how to balance. Some people think that in order to heal from illnesses, you must put yourself in a completely gentle/non-stressed environment. While that is a nice idea in a perfect world, I believe that we are equipped to deal with the normal stresses of the day (such as dealing with daily work and the people that come with it, raising children, etc.) while on our healing journey.

Relationship restoration is a beautiful thing. But it takes two to tango, and the other party must be willing to be an active partner in revival. You must discover when to patch the hole or to jump ship.

Here is another mantra-

 I welcome people in my life who have positive energy and offer support.

Perhaps the greatest gift we can give the world is fostering and creating the most healthy and balanced life we can for ourselves. We will have more margins for dealing and helping others who are less balanced. We all will have dark times at one point in life or another, but they may lead us to be the light for others’ tomorrows. But before you help someone else, you must first help yourself. 

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