Relationships are meant to be peaceful, energizing, and enjoyed; to be mutually beneficial, but in toxic relationships, there is no peace or love to be enjoyed.

Bisi Daniels

At the end of the day, people happily return to the comfort of their homes. Nobody provides better comfort than an understanding and loving spouse. So why would people, especially spouses, find excuses to avoid the home?

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“War – cold or hot,” a friend volunteers a response. “It is when it is safer to stay in the frying pan than to jump into the fire.”

Relationships are meant to be peaceful, energizing, and enjoyed; to be mutually beneficial, but in toxic relationships, there is no peace or love to be enjoyed.

So why do people remain in it to suffer and die prematurely?

Well, scientists are still adding to the many reasons, which include the interest of the children in a marriage and religious reasons. Before the details what really is a toxic relationship?

HealthScope defines it as “a relationship characterized by behaviours on the part of the toxic partner that are emotionally and, not infrequently, physically damaging to their partner.”

It explains: “While a healthy relationship contributes to our self-esteem and emotional energy, a toxic relationship damages self-esteem and drains energy.

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“A healthy relationship involves mutual caring, respect, and compassion, an interest in our partner’s welfare and growth, an ability to share control and decision-making, in short, a shared desire for each other’s happiness.

“A healthy relationship is a safe relationship, a relationship where we can be ourselves without fear, a place where we feel comfortable and secure. A toxic relationship, on the other hand, is not a safe place.

A toxic relationship is characterized by insecurity, self-centeredness, dominance, control. We risk our very being by staying in such a relationship. To say a toxic relationship is dysfunctional is, at best, an understatement.”

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Some common signs of toxic relationship

Although a psychotherapist Ginnie Thompson cautions about the use of the term because “every single relationship has a level of toxicity,” there are clear signs some relationships have spiraled out of control as various studies compiled be Christine Copa show.

You’re always walking on eggshells

One of the first signs of a toxic relationship is when one partner is very controlling, Andrea Bonior, PhD, author of The Friendship Fix told “This doesn’t always mean physically threatening or violent,” she said. It can simply be that you feel frightened to share your opinions because you’re nervous and afraid of your partner’s emotional reactions, says Dr. Bonior, an adjunct professor of psychology at Georgetown University. And if you find yourself dumbing things down so your partner can feel smart or save the day — huge red flag.

You feel a little queasy, or uneasy, around your partner

“Your body is smart,” says relationship expert Sofia Milan. “If you were to eat poison, your body would immediately try to throw it up. If you get something in your eye, your eye starts tearing.” Stressed? Your hair will fall out. Get it? So if you’re having physical issues like ulcers, throwing up, dizziness/passing out, chest pains, or new skin flare-ups, your body may be trying to get your attention. Milan says to ask yourself, what is the root cause of these ill feelings?

You’re always fighting

While some bickering is even healthy for your relationship, “constant misunderstanding is a bad sign,” says Sue Kolod, PhD, a psychoanalyst in New York City. “As couples get to know each other better, there should be a progression toward more understanding and less misunderstanding.” Poor communication that never improves is toxic because without communication, a relationship can never move forward.

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Everything is so dramatic, all the time

“Many couples thrive on high theatrics—screaming, accusations, hands, and words flying,” says psychiatrist Scott Haltzman, MD. “As long as there are not physical assaults, or so long as the words are not hateful or contemptuous, that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” he notes. In fact, many couples like this are considered high expressers, says Dr. Haltzman, and they often report better sex lives than more mellow couples. “But, and it’s a big but, their divorce rates are higher.” He says if your partner keeps lighting fireworks over your sea of tranquility, then that could be a sign of a destructive relationship.

Your partner wants you all to himself

When a partner or pal wants you to break off relationships with friends and family, that is a sign of a toxic relationship. Isolating the partner from friends and family is upsetting because it is an attempt to control and manipulate without interference from the partner’s support system,” advises Dr. Kolod.

You keep score

“The relationship scorecard develops over time because one or both people in a relationship use past wrongdoings in order to try and justify current righteousness. This is a double-whammy of ‘suckage,’” says author and blogger Mark Mason. “Not only are you deflecting the current issue, but you’re ginning up guilt and bitterness from the past to manipulate your partner into feeling wrong in the present.”

Your partner stonewalls

Partners need to talk about a lot of important things in relationships—not just whether to get sushi or pizza for takeout or what to watch on Netflix. If your partner flat-out refuses to talk about important relationship topics, like when to have a baby or buy a home, you may be in a toxic relationship. “When it is not possible to discuss the issues in the relationship there’s a huge problem,” says Dr. Kolod. “One patient has told me that if she tries to talk about her expectations for the future with her boyfriend, he disappears for several days. This is a toxic pattern because it results in my patient feeling afraid to bring up concerns with her boyfriend.” If you or your partner refuses to fix problems, you could be fostering a potentially toxic relationship.

There’s a constant power tug-of-war game

If you’re concerned about the balance of power in your relationship, it can be helpful to imagine your relationship as a seesaw, Suzanne Lachmann, PsyD, told “If both partners understand their power (or are empowered), the seesaw stays relatively level and balanced,” Dr. Lachmann explains. “But if one person in the relationship has brought in a feeling of powerlessness, he or she may try to compensate by baring down on the seesaw, shifting his or her weight, and perpetually uprooting, destabilizing, or ungrounding his or her partner on the other side.”

You feel drained

If your relationship feels like it’s sucking the energy out of you, that’s a sign of toxicity, says Thompson. It might even manifest physically, like if you’re tired all the time, she says. “Toxic relationships can literally make our bodies unhealthy—it’s vital to pay attention to these signs and to how our bodies are reacting,” says Thompson.

• To be continued