toxic relationshipHollywood’s romance factory runs on stories of women finding themselves attracted to exactly the wrong man, and then regretting it bitterly. It’s actually true — the mind and the body do tend to be attracted to completely different things. Often, knowing that someone is completely wrong for you and even detesting them can do little to tone down the attraction.

When you think of toxic relationships, you may imagine lovelessness where one person does nothing but be cruel to the other. It’s usually less cut-and-dried, though. People who indulge in toxic behavior tend to be wonderful in many ways, faithful, responsible and supportive; it’s what draws their partners to them. Their good behavior simply tends to come with a terrible sting in the tail in the form of terrible harshness, criticism, anger, controlling behavior and unfairness.

If you’re in such a relationship, you could find that the mixed up behavior gets to you. It can get so confusing, pretty soon, you won’t even know whether you are loved or not.

The answer is to think scientifically: are the behaviors that you experience the classic signs of controlling, toxic behavior? Far too many people neglect to recognize toxic relationship signs that are clearly textbook, simply because they don’t realize that these behaviors are scientifically studied and recorded. Objectivity can help immensely with arriving at meaningful insight  

What kind of textbook behaviors might one observe in such a relationship?

Do they keep detailed accounts?

Everyone keeps score to some degree. It can be hard to resolve disputes in relationships, and they can simmer away somewhere deep inside. There isn’t too much simmering in most relationships, though. Problems are usually forgotten after a while. In some relationships, though, they simply keep surfacing. People who run toxic relationships, usually have additional tricks. They will, for instance, use scores as ammunition, bringing up past issues anytime they are criticized.

This type of defense tends to confuse many people. Many are fooled into staying in toxic relationships simply because they aren’t sure if having past mistakes thrown in their face all the time is wrong. It’s important to understand, though, that one person’s mistake can rarely excuse the mistake of another. Constantly short-circuiting arguments by pointing to past problems can keep a relationship from moving forward, and cause constant hurt.

There is contempt in the air 

Contempt should never show up in a romantic relationship. If it shows up more than once, it should be treated as an important sign that it’s time to reconsider the relationship. Contempt isn’t always easy to recognize, though. In many cases, people using contempt to dominate will mix fair criticism with the unfair kind, making things very confusing for the victim. They may also mix in admiring talk in public with extreme contempt in private. It can be hard to know where the perpetrator’s heart is. It’s important to not be fooled. Contemptuous behavior, no matter how much sweet talk it is mixed in with, is always unacceptable.

There are hurtful things said in passing

Many people tend to be insensitive and hurtful sometimes. Snarkiness about a person’s abilities, doubt called upon their achievements, playful gibes about a weakness, all tend to be common. Pinpricks about your honesty, your abilities, and mistakes you may have made, though, can be unproductive. When hurtful comments are made seemingly in passing, it’s important to remember that these aren’t what they seem. These are used as weapons. 

Can a toxic relationship be fixed?

If you find yourself in a toxic relationship, it’s always a good idea to get out; not only because it can feel terrible and affect your emotional health, but also because staying is likely to eventually hurt those who are close to you. It’s natural to feel a certain amount of guilt when contemplating escape — shouldn’t you try to fix the problem? 

Therapy certainly can help in some cases, but the toxic person would need to truly be committed to becoming better. It would only be possible to bring about such commitment in a long-term relationship. It would hardly make sense to commit to a relationship simply to enable such treatment. People who indulge in such emotional terrorism are also not above manipulating such therapy. They might accept treatment, for instance, but craftily refuse to engage fully in it, making all involved unsure of where the process stands. It can turn out to be hugely costly affair. In most cases, the sensible idea is to simply walk.

Joy Sanderson is a relationship consultant with a degree in psychology. She writes for relationship and lifestyle blogs to raise awareness, offer advice and help people move on from bad relationships.

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