We all have an innate desire to be close to others.
At least the vast majority of us do. A lot of what we do in life revolves around connecting with others. We want to develop a friendship with someone we enjoy being around, build a life with someone we can’t stop thinking about… And we come into this world (hopefully) with a mom and a dad, even siblings, already waiting to become close to us.
In our experience of becoming closer to other people, most of us have encountered a toxic relationship of some kind.Whether it was a boyfriend who made you feel like dirt, a father that made you feel like you were never good enough, or a boss who had a superiority complex… all attempts at connecting with other people unfortunately come with the risk of exposing yourself to a toxic person.
Sometimes we aren’t sure if the situation we find ourselves in would be considered toxic or not.It may even be rather obvious to the people around us, but we’re too deep or too close to realize it for ourselves. I spent five years is a massively unhealthy relationship with someone, and I know first hand that even in a situation as obviously destructive as mine was, I was still unable to really see it for what it was until I had found my way out of it.
The purpose of today’s article is to help you figure out if your relationships (whether they be romantic or otherwise) are causing you Anxiety.
And not just anxiety, but emotional distress in general. I’m going to list a series of questions for you to ask yourself, and by the end of the list you should have a fairly good grasp on whether your situation is a problem or not.
We’ll break this into three sections:
1. Toxic Friends
2. Toxic Romance
3. Toxic Family
You can also use these questions to get a general idea about work friends and other types of relationships, just FYI
Questions to ask yourself:
- Is this friend always gossiping and talking badly about others?
You can be sure that if they’re gossiping to you, it’s a fair assumption that they’ll gossip about you as well.
- Are they consistently a downer and/or do they always have something they are upset about?
We are who we surround ourselves with. So if you spend a lot of your time with a downer, that toxic behavior is bound to rub off.
- Does it feel like it’s nearly impossible to please them?
They tend to get fussy, picky or demanding.
- Do they behave resentful towards you?
Harping on things you did long ago that they didn’t like, maybe even using those things against you as a way to guilt you?
- Are they jealous of your good fortune?
If something exciting happens to you, do you feel uneasy telling them because you know that even if they pretend to be happy for you, they’re actually going to wish it happened to them?
- Does this friend constantly talk about themselves and what’s going on in their own life without seeming to care too much about what may be going on for you? When you try to share what’s been happening in your life, they may even give it a quick recognition but immediately get back to talking about themselves.
- Do they take advantage of your generosity and offer much less or nothing at all in return?
They asked to borrow some money and never got around to paying you back, or maybe they stayed at your house for a while and never lifted a finger to help clean or contribute in any way… there’s a lot of ways someone could be taking advantage of your good nature and assuming that because you’re nice they can get away with not reciprocating the kindness.
- Is their life a constant whirlwind of drama?
Even if a lot of the drama doesn’t appear to originate from them, a life full of drama is a definite red flag. They’re likely attracted to dramatic situations, even if it’s subconsciously, and will continue to become involved in them.
- Do they have a track record of telling other people’s secrets?
A foolproof way to tell is if they have told you someone else’s secrets, you can bet they won’t hesitate to tell yours too.
- Does this person make you feel embarrassed or small?
Do they often criticize or talk down to you? Maybe they are really nice to you when you’re alone with them, but when other people come around they suddenly begin to talk to you in a way that makes them look good and you look bad?
Questions to ask yourself:
- Does your partner make you feel like you can never do anything right?
- Do you find yourself often feeling like your worst self when you’re around them?
Do they seem to bring out the qualities you don’t like about yourself?
- Do they have a habit of telling lies?
Even if it’s “white lies”, a habitual string of small deceits is still a pattern of dishonesty. And if you see them consistently lying to other people, you can bet they won’t bat an eye when it comes to lying to you.
- Since you’ve been with them, do you feel like you’ve gotten happier or less happy?
If you’re unsure, maybe start a daily mood tracker and after a few months you’ll have a pretty good idea of what mood has been the most prominent. Here’s where I learned how to create the ‘year in perspective’ tracker: 5 bullet journal spreads for mental health
- When you’ve attempted to communicate your needs or feelings to them, have you left the conversation feeling frustrated and/or dissatisfied? Maybe they refused to communicate in an open or genuine way? Perhaps they didn’t take you seriously, or laughed your concerns off? Or they even became hostile or defensive?
Keep this in mind:
It’s generally tough for anyone to have a serious conversation in a relationship, especially if they’re being confronted in some way. So it’s not uncommon for them to react in an unhealthy way at first, but if they’re unable to reflect on their reaction and come back at the conversation in a healthier way, that’s a sign of toxic behavior. It may be that they’ve never been shown the proper way to communicate, and you could help them learn how to do it in a better way. But if they refuse to grow in this area, that’s just no good. A lack of communication is a big no-no.
- Do you both either constantly avoid each other or on the other side of the spectrum, do you feel unable to leave their side? On the one end, if you avoid each other regularly it may be a sign that you simply don’t enjoy each other’s company. And not enjoying each other but remaining in the relationship is a fast track to being in a toxic situation. Toxic relationships don’t always have to be dramatic or volatile. Toxicity can be quieter than that.
On the other end, obsessiveness is no good either. I’m going to go into this one a little deeper. The abusive relationship I was in started out with that obsessive feeling of never wanting to leave each other’s side. Not to say that every obsessive relationship turns into an abusive one, but extremes of any kind are never good. And this is an extreme. If you have to go away for the day and your partner can’t handle being away from you for that long..that’s probably not a good sign.
My personal example of this: In my obsessive relationship, we hadn’t been away from each other for even an hour for… maybe months? I started beauty school about a 35 minute drive from the house we were living in. On my first day I started at 8am and was supposed to get out around 5pm. My boyfriend decided to make the grand gesture of walking all the way to my school. He had no car and it took him several hours. At the time I thought it was the most romantic thing anyone had ever done for me. Now I can see that it was a huge red flag.
- Do they have to be in control of everything that happens?
It may feel like you have no control over your own life or choices.
- Do they speak disrespectfully to you and put you down often?
- Do they frequently get angry?
- Do they make you feel like they’re your victim in some way?
And/Or do you sometimes feel confused and question your own memory or sanity after arguing with them?
Questions to ask yourself:
- Do you feel that your parents exert the same amount of control over you that they did when you were a kid? It may feel like you’re unable to individualize yourself
- Do you feel manipulated in any way by someone in your family?
Manipulation can take many forms and can be obvious or it can be subtle. Emotional or financial manipulation are common in toxic family situations.
- Does it feel like nothing you do is ever good enough?
- Do you have a family member who is always stirring up drama?
- Is love and support shown only when you do what they want, and taken away when you don’t do what they want?
- Do you feel like there are people in your family who like to gang up on you?
- Is there a family member who likes to “divide and conquer”?
For example, your mother calls you to tell you about what your sister did, knowing it will upset you. Any family member who tries to break family apart in order to gain some advantage is a toxic person.
- Does someone in your family steal from you or from other family members?
- Is there that one family member who is always asking the family for money?
Does it seem like they’re taking advantage of the fact that your family will feel obligated to help family out?
- Is there a lot of the silent treatment, blame games or arguments that you just can’t ‘win’?
Something I didn’t mention because hopefully it’s an obvious one: if in any type of relationship there is abuse happening, that is 100% a toxic situation and you need to immediately figure out how to get yourself out of it. Abuse doesn’t always manifest as a black eye or broken bones. Abuse can be someone spitting in your face every time you argue with them, or calling you horrible names or telling you you’re ugly, bad or not good enough. It can take so many forms. It took me a long time to understand that I was in a highly abusive relationship because I didn’t have a black eye or broken bones. And because of that it took me longer than it should have to leave that person.
If you think you might be experiencing abuse, you probably are.
Do you think you may be involved in a toxic relationship?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, either in the realm of friendships, romance or family… You may want to consider that the relationship(s) in question could be causing you some unnecessary Anxiety. Especially if you found yourself answering yes several times.
It may be an uncomfortable thing to accept, and an even more uncomfortable thing to confront. But you’ll find a lot of relief in your life if you distance yourself from a toxic relationship. The relief might not come right away. Most likely there will be a period where there’s an awkward or even painful time of transition. Don’t let a temporary period of discomfort stop you from doing what can significantly help you in the long run.
You might even help the other person too by being brave enough to confront the situation. Sometimes toxic people have no idea how their behavior is affecting those around them. It won’t feel very good when they’re suddenly forced to stop and look at themselves critically, but nobody ever became a better person by ignoring their faults. We all have to look at ourselves honestly at one point or another and ask if we could be behaving in a better way. It’s a necessary part of being human if you ever want to grow and become a person you feel proud to be.
So there you have it. That about does it for Part Two of the Causes of Anxiety series. I hope you’re getting a lot out of this article series so far, and I’d love for you come back for Part Three next week! (you can click below to sign up for the email list and I’ll let you know when part three comes out)
We’ll be talking about an area I personally feel very passionate about. I’ll be telling you about how your health could be causing you anxiety. I’ll try to cover as much as possible without writing a whole freaking novel, but if you’ve read enough of my articles by now you probably noticed I’m a fan of long-form writing.
I realize a lot of people nowadays like their articles bite-sized, probably due to our ever diminishing level of patience as a society. And while I may attempt to accommodate that, I will likely continue to be the long-winded and endlessly thorough person that I am. I figure there has to be other fans of long-form writing like myself out there who really enjoy diving into a nice long piece as much as I do. So while I may try to accommodate you short-form fans out there, know that I will probably end up over-explaining and writing a novel pretty much every time whether I set out to do that or not.
Anyways, thanks for reading. I hope it was helpful!
Until Next Time,
Keep Calm and Grow On