A connection, association, or involvement between persons in love or by marriage. Emotional involvement is characterised by feelings of love and attraction for another person. Romantic love can vary, it often involves feelings of infatuation, intimacy, and commitment. Experts have come up with a variety of different ways to describe how people experience and express love.
Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries is a pivotal aspect of what keeps couples together. When you set healthy boundaries and your partner respects those boundaries and vice-versa, it builds trust, respect, intimacy, and communication in the relationship.
What causes toxicity in a relationship?
In any relationship between people who do not support each other, there’s conflict, one seeks to undermine the other, and there’s competition, disrespect and a lack of cohesiveness.
Dr Kristen Fuller, a California-based family medicine physician who specialises in mental health, adds that toxic relationships are mentally, emotionally and even physically damaging to one or both participants. People who consistently cause harm to a partner – whether intentionally or not – often have a reason for their behaviour, even if it’s subconscious.
Maybe they were in a toxic relationship, either romantically or as a child. Mostly these are the prominent effects of a child that has suffered physical abuse at the hands of their parents or the child growing up witnessing their mother going through mental or physical abuse by the child’s father.
Types of toxicity
Trying to find someone you’re not only attracted to but also treats you right seems impossible, especially when you have your friends and family pointing out all of this person’s red flags and flaws.
When we think we have found the “perfect one”, it seems as if there are at least 15 pounds of baggage that comes along with them.
When you start to fall for someone, no matter how crazy your relationship may be, it’s hard to see the truth beneath all the messy bed sheets and empty bottles of wine.
But there are some types of relationships that one should steer clear of.
The silent treatment, stonewalling and/or radio silence are methods of psychological punishment and manipulation, meant to put the victim in a state of fear and distress, so the perpetrator can gain control over their mind. A form of emotional abuse.
It usually occurs when the perpetrator has done something wrong and is called out on it. Instead of taking responsibility for their actions, they shut the victim down, as if the victim were the one in the wrong.
It is characterised by a group of behaviours with the objective of ignoring the other implying a prior conflict. Things become even more unhealthy when all this happens in a cruel and cold silence, which the victim doesn’t know how to interpret.
If your man or woman is constantly trying to control your every move, run. No one needs to be told what to do and when to do it, and the right person would never put you on a leash.
If you’re with someone who tries to control your every move, there’s just no point in staying around. This person will have something to say about what you wear out with your friends and what places you go to. Oftentimes, these kinds of people can hinder your growth.
If they lie to their parents, they will lie to you (even if it’s about not eating the rest of your Ben & Jerry’s).
Never trust a liar. It’s important in any relationship that honesty is at the forefront, for the big and the small things. If someone is able to easily lie to his or her friends and family, what’s to say he or she isn’t lying to you, too?
You don’t want to be the kind of person sneaking through someone’s Facebook messages and cell phone while he or she is asleep. If you ever end up being that type of person, run as fast as you can away from this relationship.
This person is only working on things on his or her terms, not your terms. These kinds seriously mess with your head, to the point where you’re unsure of what is even going on anymore.
You don’t want to be with someone who doesn’t have the courage to ask you things uprightly and outright. If this person has to play games with you, strike him or her out of your life for good.
Need I say more? Betrayal in personal relationships refers to the violation of your trust by someone close to you. If someone cheats on you, not only does this person have no respect for themselves, but they also have no respect for you. You should never waste even a second of your day on someone who doesn’t value you. Feeling betrayed can lead to a flurry of complex emotions and they may feel difficult to manage.
It is painful when your significant other does something to hurt you. Their action likely will make you feel vulnerable as you counted on that person to be there for you. When people experience a betrayal, common reactions include lashing out in anger, self-blaming, a loss of confidence and withdrawal.
The accomplice and the ones who join the cheating partner in breaking up the marriage have also had similar abusive pasts and or unhappy childhood making them a victim. And they believe whatever the cheater convinces them of rather than comprehending the plight of the partner of the cheater. This also adds up to the alibi of not letting the married person work on the relationship since now there is an outside option.
This person will always be jealous and always blame you. When insecurity often comes into play, this person will try to make it out like you’re some crazy basket case planning to leave him or her tomorrow and get back with your ex’s best friend who lives across the country.
Yeah, we’ve all had one of those relationships. If your partner isn’t confident in him or herself, you and your relationship, it won’t be long before he or she is looking through your phone.
Criticism in a relationship occurs when we focus on our partner’s flaws and pass judgment. It is expressed through disapproving, critiquing, correcting, blaming, nit-picking, or fixing. Constant criticism is not constructive, encouraging, or inspiring. Over time, criticism widens the emotional distance between you and your partner. The warm, positive feelings you once shared diminish and are replaced by resentment and hostility. Habitual criticism can corrode the very foundation of a relationship – and that’s not an overstatement. In fact, criticism is so damaging that relationship researcher John Gottman identified it as one of the top predictors of divorce; though it could spell disaster for non-married couples too.
Stonewalling and gaslighting
Dr John Gottman’s term for one or both partners shutting down when feeling overwhelmed during the conflict. Rather than confronting the issue, someone who is stonewalling will be unresponsive, making evasive manoeuvres such as tuning out, turning away, or acting busy.
When someone is frequently dismissed or ignored, they can begin to devalue themselves which leads to feelings of being helpless, worthless and powerless. This is a natural response particularly as stonewalling is considered a form of gas lighting. This means that your spouse refuses to listen to you and your concerns. Stonewalling is one of the most prevalent narcissistic abuse techniques.
The difference between gaslighting and stonewalling is that gaslighting involves trying to convince the other person of a different reality than the one they have experienced whereas Stonewalling can be more about shutting down to avoid confrontation or to hurt the other person’s feelings.
How does such toxicity affect the brain of the victim?
Scientists have proven that feeling excluded or ignored can cause changes in a zone of the human brain called the “anterior cingulate cortex” responsible for detecting different levels of pain, threats to needs of belonging, self-esteem, control, and meaningful existence.
- The silent treatment, stonewalling, and radio silence are manipulative tactics used to emotionally abuse victims, causing fear and distress while giving control to the perpetrator. Victims may feel isolated and unsupported, leading to long-term psychological damage.
- Gaslighting is another form of emotional abuse that can increase anxiety and depression in victims. It can also make them question their own memory and perception of reality, causing confusion and self-doubt.
- Poor communication in relationships can lead to misunderstandings, conflict, mistrust, and even breakups or divorce. It can also prevent partners from resolving issues and building stronger bonds.
- Living in a negative and toxic environment can lead to mental strain, stress, and health problems. This can affect physical health as well as mental well-being, causing long-term damage to the body and mind.
- Children’s mental health can be affected when one parent is under constant emotional abuse. They may struggle with their own emotions and relationships, and may even repeat the same patterns of abuse in their own adult lives.
- Unpleasant social interactions can have adverse effects, such as rapid cognitive ageing, anxiety, and depression. This can lead to social isolation and a reduced quality of life, especially for older adults who may be more vulnerable to the effects of negative social interactions.
How can one regain health from emotional abuse and improve the inner self to lead a life of fulfilment?
- Do not stay where you are not valued.
- Do not stay where someone doesn’t respect you.
- Do not stay only because you feel sorry for them.
- Letting go is not a tragedy.
- Improvise a healthier relationship.
- Being able to have heart-to-heart talks as well as open and honest communication about everything is vital to any healthy relationship.
- Recognise the victim’s feelings and rectify them.
- Give yourself a break, meditate and calm your mind.
- Don’t go through this alone, support from relatives or friends or considering professional help is advisable.
- Take care of yourself emotionally and physically.
- Take time to explore your interests rather than the interests of others.
- Think positively.
How coaching can help
- Improve their knowledge, skills and abilities to manage interpersonal disputes
- Develop an understanding of how responses to conflict and changes in attitude and behaviour can impact our near and dear ones
- Prevent an unnecessary escalation of a conflict situation
- Prepare for a challenging conversation with another person or group
- Develop stronger conflict management skills, for example in performance management and managing as a leader
- Staying calm and in control.
- Focus on your breath if you notice yourself becoming agitated or angry, and take long, deep breaths until you feel your body and mind settling down.
- Embrace the space instead of resenting or becoming upset about their actions, appreciate the space and use the time.
- Put the focus on yourself by asking yourself, “What am I feeling?”
- Set boundaries by identifying your physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental limits. Think about what makes you feel upset or stressed and what you feel is intolerable in your relationships.
The coaching methods I use
- Transformational coaching. Transformational coaching is backed by evidence-based psychological science. It’s a coaching style that enables individuals and groups to transform themselves into their best versions. Under the influence of a suitable transformation coach, people are empowered to rethink and rewrite their reality. The four dimensions of transformational coaching are idealised influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualised consideration.
- Neurobehavioural coaching. Neuro-based coaching or brain-based coaching is a science-based approach that integrates principles, insights, and practices from social neuroscience, positive psychology, and behaviour change theory, with top-end professional coaching principles and techniques. By harnessing the principle of neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to change itself), neurobehavioral coaching change models and tools focus on accessing the subconscious mind and the limbic section of the brain, which is a critical link to the brain-mind union and affects neural changes and growth. Neuro-based coaches are trained to guide and support their clients in self-directed neuroplasticity – a process that expedites the coachee’s ability to reach their goals and achieve lasting transformation.
- Law of attractions coaching. The Law of attraction uses the power of minds to convert our thoughts into reality. All thoughts turn into reality eventually. If one dwells more on negativity, more negative thoughts will come. If one is positive and dedicated to a goal, one will find massive actions to reach the goal. It helps people to realise their spiritual tools to achieve success by pinpointing the things that hold them back and helping to cut them with a unique perspective. Manifestation coaches use ways such as the law of attraction and the power of one’s subconscious mind to help clients achieve their goals. The law of attraction coaches helps clients to embrace habits to improve manifesting skills. They help clients to release limiting beliefs and other forms of resistance. They keep reminding the clients that they are creating their world and that whatever they want is completely within reach.
- Positive intelligent quotient. Positive Intelligence (PQ) measures Mental Fitness by assessing how quickly individuals recover from negative to positive responses to challenges. This improves performance and productivity, and helps individuals respond to challenging situations with a calm, clear, and happier mindset. As a result, individuals develop powerful mental muscles to deal with challenges with less stress, greater clarity, creativity, and resilience. Positive Intelligence is a synthesis of recent breakthroughs in neuroscience, cognitive and positive psychology, and performance science that has been validated by over half a million participants in 50 countries. PQ measures the strength of positive mental muscles (Sage) versus negative ones (Saboteurs). Saboteurs react to challenges in ways that generate negative emotions such as stress, disappointment, self-doubt, regret, anger, shame, guilt, or worry. On the other hand, the Sage handles challenges through positive emotions like empathy, gratitude, curiosity, creativity, self-confidence, calmness, clear-headedness, and laser-focused action.
As a coach, I am committed to supporting my clients in their personal growth and development. I believe that every individual has the potential to achieve greatness and live a fulfilling life. By working together, we can identify areas of improvement and create an action plan to overcome obstacles and achieve goals.
One of the key benefits of coaching is that it provides a safe space for clients to explore their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs without judgment. This helps clients gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their experiences, which can lead to greater self-awareness and self-acceptance.
Coaching also encourages clients to take ownership of their lives and make intentional choices that align with their values and aspirations. This can lead to a sense of purpose and meaning, which is essential for overall well-being and happiness.
In addition, coaching can help clients develop important skills such as communication, problem-solving, and decision-making, which are valuable in both personal and professional settings. Coaching can also improve relationships with others, leading to more fulfilling connections and a sense of community.
Coaching is a powerful tool for personal growth and transformation. It provides a supportive and empowering environment for individuals to achieve their goals and live their best lives. I am passionate about coaching and dedicated to helping my clients reach their full potential.
Mary Gandhi, PhD- ACC ICF, is the founder and director of Mary Magnetic Mind Coaching and Consultancy.