Friendship | 03.07.2022

Can a Toxic Relationship Really Be Fixed?

Can you fix a toxic relationship? That depends on the relationship.

By Franki Hanke

We won’t hold back or sugar-coat you about the truth. 

Every relationship has ups and downs. But, when a relationship verges into toxic territory, the wait-and-see approach will not work. Toxicity must be addressed head-on. Now, can you fix a toxic relationship, it depends.

Wine and cheese nights don’t make a friendship, respect does.

What are the signs of a toxic relationship?

So, you think your relationship dynamic might be toxic but what are the red flags of a toxic unhealthy relationship? The golden rule of relationships is mutual respect. These behaviors are signs that respect is not happening: 

Lack of Support

A healthy relationship supports your dreams, self-esteem, and struggles. In an unhealthy behavior, you might feel unsupported or question your self-worth. 

Aggressive Communication

Ongoing sarcasm, criticism, hostility, and name-calling within your conversations don’t happen in a loving relationship. A rough patch or little spats are normal, but ongoing toxicity in your conversations isn’t. Gaslighting, in particular, is a red flag. 

Attempts to Control

Healthy relationships are between two equals on even footing. When one party uses controlling behaviors constantly, like limiting access to finances or communication to manipulate the situation, it’s toxic behavior. 

Resentment & Jealousy

You might feel like you’re walking on eggshells to avoid triggering them. Over time, this can lead to resentment of their success or jealousy about what they are experiencing. Or, they might be overly jealous and distrustful of your family members, friends, or successes. 

Lying & Dishonesty 

A toxic person may lie or omit information to control the situation. 

Lack of Respect & Consideration

There’s a multitude of ways that a lack of respect may appear in a relationship. It might look like consistently showing up late or canceling plans last minute. It might look like verbal put-downs or sharing private information with friends. However it appears, a healthy relationship is built on shared trust and respect. 

Separation from Other Loved Ones 

A toxic person often drives a wedge between yourself and your loved ones. This can easily divulge into abuse, but it may be subtle in a toxic relationship. It’s another element of undermining or not caring about your overall wellness. 

If you’re noticing toxic behavior in a friendship, it might look different than a romantic relationship. Read about toxic friendships for help identifying and addressing toxicity in friends. 

Moments of toxic behavior can be just a rough patch in a relationship. But an ongoing toxic dynamic is a sign to make a change. 

What cannot be fixed? 

An accumulation of red flags may be a sign of an abusive relationship. 

Consider the severity of these signs and contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline for 24/7 help. They can provide professional help from an outside point of view. If the relationship is abusive, they can make a plan with you for your well-being. 

If there’s any physical abuse, that’s domestic violence. An abusive relationship is not something to fix. Call the hotline or involve loved ones to make a safety plan.  

Should you fix it? 

Relationships are a two-way street. Both members need to take responsibility for their own actions and put in the work to change. If that self-awareness isn’t possible for your partner, they might not be willing to change. 

If you’re spending time in this relationship being the caregiver, that’s not a strong foundation for change. The more unequal the current give/take of the relationship, the less likely they’ll be prepared for the inner work required to re-balance the relationship. 

You won’t know this until you talk to them, but prepare yourself for the most likely reality at play. The best course of action might be to break up or end the relationship. 

Be sure to ask yourself if you’re in this relationship for this person or to be in a relationship. Don’t stay and repair a toxic relationship out of fear. Only try to repair this bond if it’s built on love and care for that person. 

Can you fix a toxic relationship?

To fix a toxic relationship, you will need clear communication to refresh your boundaries. 

All parties need to be invested in the change. It will likely be uncomfortable. 

If you want to improve things, start with direct communication. 

“I love you and want you in my life, but right now there are things in our relationship I cannot accept long-term. I want to make changes together, but to do that I need to tell you what’s not working for me.” 

Practice direct honesty. Proceed with care, but don’t sugarcoat things and lose clarity. You need to be very clear about what you need. Beyond your partnered work, you may need individual work. If your partner’s toxicity is a result of their mental state, this fix might be multifaceted. 

Consider connecting with a couples therapist to guide you through this process and create a space dedicated to this work. There’s no shame in putting in the work with a professional to improve your relationship, and it will take some pressure off of you both. 

The process might be long and hard. Reiterate often why you’re doing this work and what you’re working towards. Love and mutual respect should always be your foundation. 

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