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Dealing with toxic relationships

Many people have been involved on what some call a toxic relationship. Merriam Webster defines "toxic" ( as "from Latin toxicum poison...1 : containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation".

Another label pertinent to this type of relationship, classic to Psychology, would be "dysfunctional". Tina Tessina, a psychologist and family therapist, defines it as "dysfunctional relationship", "codependency" and "toxic family system" ... (as) relationships that do not perform their appropriate function; that is, they do not emotionally support the participants, foster communication among them, appropriately challenge them, or prepare or fortify them for life in the larger world." (

According to Randi Guenther, a psychologist and family therapist practicing in Southern California, dysfuncttional relationships are characterized by such things as assigningassigning blame to the other, holding grudges, threatening abandonment, and cheating (

From an objective point of view, the resolution is obvious. Talk things out. Express feelings. Express affection and look for solutions. Unfortunately, if it were that easy, there would be no.need for family counselors and therapists.

Actually, the mere fact that couple engaged in a dysfunctional relationship would go see a therapist is a big step in the solution. The fact that two people are not happy with tje dysfunctioning shows a moderate amount of health and the rest, as they say, are mere details.

The big problem is getting the two sides to the negotiating table. This is difficult because neither party wants to give up what they perceive as the advantage. Part of thwthe dysfunctions are dominance and submission, and blaming. What that does is make that person right and powerful.

What is truly frustrating is when one person wants to get healthy and the other doesn't. One of the parties sees the toxicity and wants to resolve it but the other refuses to participate.

For the person in the relationship who does not want to resolve the dysfunctioning issues, its because they don't see them as problems. For them, the relatinship is meetng all their needs.

This may be difficult for some people to understand. How is a dysfunctional relationship functional for some people? To answer that question, you have to look at thethe reinforcement. People engageengage in behavior because it satisfies an emotional need.
Consider the behavior native to a dysfunctional relationship. There is a relationship of dominance, holding grudges and fighting. All of these behaviors are about power. How do you win an argument? Sometimes by yelling louder than rhe other person, who is either intimidated or does not want to engage.

The need to win an argument or have control and power in a relationship is rooted in low self-esteem. Self-esteem may one of the most powerful motivators we have. When we feel good about ourselves, we have power and confidence to rake on the world.

People who don't naturally feel good about themselves news to find ways for others to validate them. In a dysfunctional relationship, its about being in control. For this person to go to counseling is to them giving up that power and therefore taking away the only means of validation they have.

The solution is to be able to work with these people and give them something better: a way to validate themselves by themselveswirhout havin to rely on other's approval or submission.

Or the person who wants to get healthy Mau consider leaving the relationship. Sometimes, that's the only way.

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