Recently, the term “toxic masculinity” has been appearing as a top subject in today’s news and discussion groups. To be honest, I had to do a bit of research to understand what was actually being meant by this as it seemed that the term was being applied in various ways, and for different reasons. What I learned is that the more “experts” that were involved in defining this, the wider the definition became.
If we were to look at what it means to be “toxic”, we would find in its most basic form that it refers to any negative impact a person would have on another person. This impact is either physical, mental, spiritual, financial, emotional, or a combination of some or all of these. And, although the present focus is on men and masculinity, we would be wrong to conclude that this is only a phenomenon among men. It should be noted that “toxic femininity” also exists. In fact, the reality is that this is something that is found within the human condition. Not everyone is toxic. But the ability to be toxic is ever present.
The human condition is imperfect. And because it is imperfect, we find that the opportunity always exists for one or more people to “poison the well”. Today it seems our politics are more toxic than ever. There is the toxic workplace, a toxic social online environment, our schools, our neighborhoods and in our local communities. And finally… there is the toxic relationship.
Toxicity is not the outcome of simply being a man or woman. Of being masculine or feminine. It is the outcome of the condition of the heart. However, there can also be a mental health component to this as well that should be considered.
The definition of “toxic”, as it relates to relationships, is characterized by behaviors that are specifically damaging to their partner. Naturally, no relationship is perfect, however, a healthy relationship makes each partner feel secure, happy, cared for, respected and free to be themselves. The opposite is true of a relationship that is toxic.
Here are some common signs that can help identify a toxic relationship:
Takers and not givers. Those that are in a toxic relationship will experience having to always give of their energy into that relationship but never seem to receive anything back. The other person takes from you to meet their needs and desires, leaving you exhausted and depleted. Instead of being happy and feeling productive together, you are always mentally, emotionally and physically drained.
Lack of trust. Someone wrote that a relationship without trust is like a care without gas: You can stay in it all you want, but it won’t go anywhere.
Hostile atmosphere. There seems to be a constant anger hanging over the relationship. The mood, the actions and words make this easy to identify. This is an unhealthy relationship that makes you feel unsafe.
Always judgmental. Constant judgment and criticism is not intended to be helpful but to control and belittle. To boost their ego and feel more important while making you feel inferior.
Lack of communication. There exists little or no interest in carrying on a meaningful conversation. Without it you really don’t have a relationship.
Massive negativity. This is constant and pervasive. You cannot do anything right, and you regularly feel unhappy. As discussed in a previous post on the topic of the power of the tongue, the words directed at you are painful, humiliating, lack compassion or love, diminish your self-worth and are disrespectful.
Narcissism. Narcissists are self-centered, self-absorbed and lack empathy. The relationship is all about them. They are vain, manipulative, arrogant and demanding. Narcissists believe they are superior to others, demand attention constantly and have a sense of entitlement. This leaves no room for you, or for a balanced relationship.
Never-ending drama. It seems that there is never a period of peace and tranquility. Instead there exists a continual parade of issues and blowups. Instead of a life improved through your relationship, it just gets more complicated and messy.
Attempts at manipulation or control tactics. Constant calls or text to follow-up on you if you are out shopping or running errands. Giving you a time limit or curfew anytime you leave to go somewhere. Constant display of a lack of trust.
Disagreements are about winning, not solving some issue. It is more important to win the argument, or get their way rather than to find a way to resolve an issue or problem.
If this represents your marriage or relationship, then you do have problems. And honestly, if you think all you need is more time to get the person to change, you will be sorely disappointed. This is something you cannot do on your own. Nor is it in your power. You are part of the whirlwind that is your relationship. Rarely can a situation like this be solved, if it is to be or can be solved, without outside help and guidance.
Some relationships start out exactly like this, but feelings get in the way to blind us to this reality. We may convince ourselves it is just a fluke, a one-off situation, a temporary thing. It will pass. We are “sooo in love” and enamored that we fail to see the signs. Signs that most likely were there in the beginning. Or, we remain in denial and refuse to acknowledge them. Friends and family may have pointed things out but “what do they know”? Right? At least that is what you told yourself. And, may be telling yourself even now.
So how does a relationship go south like this?
And, what can be done?
We’ll explore some of this in Part II …..
Until then, we wish you LOVE, JOY & PEACE!