Identifying Positive and Toxic Relationships

Published May 4, 2020 by:

Defining Relationships: Both Positive and Negative

Relationships, by definition, are the way that we are connected to other people, objects or the world around us. Because we are social animals by nature, human beings need interpersonal relationships with each other for survival. In fact, studies have shown that loneliness is extremely detrimental to the mind and as such, to the body and soul. While some people require only a small group of close-knit relationships, others need a wide social circle in order to feel supported.

As with most things, we can break personal relationships down into a few categories:

  1. Family:
  2. The basic and likely, first relationship you will make is with your family. These are people you are bound to through some kind of deep connection, such as blood, marriage or adoption. Most of the time, your family is your strongest support system with the deepest love – however, this is not always the case.

  3. Friends:
  4. The layer under family includes your friends. Friends are people you can trust and connect with deeply, who have a love and understanding of who you are where you’ve come from. They may share a common interest, or long time history.

  5. Acquaintances:
  6. Acquaintances are a type of further removed relationship with people you encounter frequently, but don’t know well. Some coworkers or neighbors are likely in this category. These relationships are important because they can provide positive feedback and polite interaction, but are not as likely to be life changing.

  7. Romantic:
  8. Romantic relationships typically can be life changing. When you and a partner are deeply connected that it forms an attraction, it can grow into romance. A boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse are your most common romantic relationships. Because the feelings associated with romance are so deep and intense, they have a high chance of causing you distress when things go wrong or euphoria when things go well.

Positive Relationships

While it may seem rudimentary, a positive relationship is one that makes you feel good. But, what does that mean on a deeper level? At times, a toxic relationship can also make you feel good, or give you the impression of positivity, so how do you draw the line? In general, a positive relationship is one built on mutual trust, mindfulness, respect and caring. When you think about a friend, partner or relative, stop and ask yourself: Do they really listen? Do they offer sound and positive feedback? When they give advice or when you do activities together, are the interactions good, clean and healthy?

Negative Relationships

Likewise, much of the same can be thought of in reverse. How do your interactions make you feel with others? Ask yourself the same questions as above. If the person you are thinking about does not check those boxes off, you may not be in a good spot. Sometimes, the toxicity may be underlying and you only feel it subconsciously. Let’s look at a real life example to illustrate this.

You and your partner have dated for some time. You are totally enamored and still very excited by them. You have your fair share of disagreements, but doesn’t everybody? As long as you have as many positive relationships as negative ones, everything should be just fine. You notice, however, that there are small flaws in your health as of late. Stomach pains, insomnia, things that you’ve not experienced in the past. You shrug them off, but they only get worse. This goes on for a few more months, and your health continues to decline. Finally, things come to a head and your relationship ends. The emotional pain is traumatic.. But you notice, strangely, the physical pains begin to subside.

The above is a true, albeit shortened, story. Emotional toxicity can be so imperceptible that you may not even notice it, but so powerful that it causes actual, physical side effects, such as nausea or diarrhea. Another thing to note from the example above, is that the United States leads the world in divorce. Studies show that you actually should strive for five positive interactions for each negative one, to maintain a healthy relationship!

Building Positive Relationships

Positive relationships don’t just happen. While a great person may come into your life, like anything else, that relationship must be tended to and fostered or even the kindest person can turn negative. Just like a flower, you should water your good relationships with love and respect to keep them growing.

Here are some quick tips for good relationship building:

  1. Establish Trust:
  2. Trust is a huge part of every relationship. Honesty and trustworthiness are a backbone of stability in a very unstable world. With the leading cause of divorce being infidelity and lies, you can easily see how this is number one.

  3. Mindfulness:
  4. Caring about other people and their needs is just as important as caring for your own needs, if you wish to have a positive relationship. Listen closely, respond with support and take in what your peers are saying. By responding appropriately to their needs, you will establish a mindful relationship.

  5. Respect Each Other’s Strengths:
  6. Your friends, partners and family members will each be different. They will have unique experiences, mindsets and strengths. Appreciate this! Find ways that you can fill their weaknesses while they support you with their strengths. In doing so, you form a deep and positive partnership.

Eliminating Toxic Relationships

As with our example above, it is not always easy to identify that a relationship is toxic. Many times it is easy to confuse a person who has a negative outlook, or suffers from depression, as being toxic to your wellbeing. Making the distinction is an important first step when it comes to detoxing from negative influences. A truly toxic individual manipulates situations, lacks empathy and is typically only concerned with themselves. When you have made the decision that you need to remove negative people from your life, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Be Firm
  2. – You need to make a clean break. You must stand firm, and accept that your decision is the right one. They will likely resist. Many toxic people will try to manipulate the situation so that they can remain in your life, but you will need to stay strong so you can heal.

  3. Set Boundaries
  4. – This is a major point. You need to make it very clear that your boundaries are in place, to yourself and to them. Make sure they understand that this is the way it will be. Make sure you stick to these boundaries, or you risk relapsing into a hurtful environment.

  5. Don’t be TOO Nice
  6. – This is probably one of the most difficult pieces of advice to follow for so many men and women. If you are too nice, you invite hurt and manipulation from those who would seek to do you harm. This is not to say you need to become a brick wall, but recognize who you should give your full kindness and love to and who you need to be firm with.

    The Power of Positive Support during Recovery

    Positivity and support are some of the most powerful tools that you can have in your addiction recovery kit. Because positivity helps foster good healthy and mental wellbeing, it is no surprise that this triggers other aspects of your life to improve as well. In fact, happiness has shown to improve your immune system and reduce overall stress and inflammation in the body. This also helps you to achieve goals and handle problems better.

    What does that mean for recovery? It means that people with positive support groups of friends and loved ones are less likely to relapse. They are also more likely to accept their new life of sobriety. Surrounding yourself with positive influences and networks helps you to grow your support system, which can open up new opportunities for jobs or other successes. By building or nurturing a positive support system during your recovery from drug and alcohol abuse, you create an environment of physical, mental and spiritual healing. You fight back the pressures of depression and anxiety, and any other mental ailments that may have led you down the path of substance abuse in the first place. Most importantly, you set yourself up for the success you’ll need in your new life.

    The Dangers of Negativity and Solitude in Addiction

    While it should come as no surprise that a toxic relationship can lead to negative or self-destructive behaviors, especially if the toxic individual is also encouraging the use of substances, loneliness and solitude have a huge impact on addiction as well. Having a poor or non-existent social circle or support group will quickly begin to increase the risks and amplify the effects of sadness, depression and other mental illnesses. When coping becomes too hard on your own, many men and women will turn to drugs and alcohol to help fill that void or alleviate the pain.

    This is a vicious cycle. When loneliness creates addiction, addiction begins to create further loneliness when the few relationships you did have begin to become destroyed by drugs or alcohol. The cycle worsens, the addiction worsens, and inevitably, healthy could take a severe beating. When your own support comes in the form of people with no regard for your actual wellbeing, or from other substance users, it only makes matters worse.

    As you go through the process of healing and recovery, it is important you not only remove the negative influences and behaviors that lead you down a self destructive path, but build yourself up with kind and supportive relationships. This change will be a cornerstone in your long term health and wellness.

    Reach Out

    If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or mental health disorder, please reach out to us about your detox and treatment options. Royal Life Centers admissions staff is available 24/7 to answer your questions and address your concerns. We can be reached at (877)-RECOVERY or 877-732-6837. Because We Care.

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