The 5 psychological elements that maintain a toxic relationship

If the very name of toxic relationships already indicates that these are not only unsatisfying relationships, but also bad ones. Why are they so common and can they last so long?

The truth is, beyond what might sound like common sense, once you’re in one of those dynamics of frequent relationships with someone we have an emotional bond with, you get blurry and new. Is often difficult. .

When it comes to truth, human beings tend not to run our social life out of pure rationality and a medium to long term view, and if not necessarily bad in all cases. situations, it predisposes us to go and nurture friendships, celebrations and marriages that do us no good.

Therefore… What are the psychological elements that lead us to keep a toxic relationship alive and that “trap” us in it? Let’s see.

    What is a toxic relationship?

    The term “toxic relationship” is used to designate relatively stable social interaction dynamics that involve an affective component and that generate a lot of discomfort in one or both of the people involved. That is, it is a concept that can encompass a wide variety of relationships in which, although there is an emotional connection that leads to seeking the presence of the other person, in the medium and long term this fact is psychologically negative.

    Thus, toxic relationships can take place in the context of couple relationships as well as in family and romantic relationships. However, in cases where the harm is more extreme and at certain key points there is an intention to cause harm (physical or psychological) to the other person, we are not talking about toxic relationships but abuse, which ‘they are unidirectional or bidirectional.

      What keeps a toxic relationship alive?

      These are the aspects that predispose us to stay in toxic relationships, which increasingly strengthens their influence on our lives and who we are. They don’t have to happen all at the same time in all cases.

      1. Gas lighting

      Gas lighting is a type of psychological manipulation that is to intentionally deny reality in order to make the victim question their own mental health and ability to perceive things.

      For example, this is reflected in a friend who categorically and repeatedly denies saying anything to the victim (even though he did), or in a husband who claims that a few days ago an objective fact has occurred. and it never happened, not even with someone who insinuates that her boyfriend has dementia because he saw obvious signs of infidelity on his part.

      At the same time as the gas lighting produces emotional pain, this wear and tear on the victim’s self-esteem makes them feel less protected from the world, making the possibility of breaking this relationship (and therefore losing the supposed support that no one offers) is intimidating.

      On another side, gas lighting makes it easy to switch from a toxic relationship to a clear dynamic of abuse, and can even leave sequelae.

        2. Emotional blackmail

        Emotional blackmail involves making a person feel guilty for not offering psychological or material support to someone who does not really need it, or at least not as much as you can guess. That is, the whole burden of the relationship rests on the backs of one of the people involved, making them feel bad for the simple fact of considering breaking up that relationship or at least drastically changing that relationship. dynamic to lead to a more equitable and just life. bind.

        Thus, emotional blackmail leads many people prone to toxic relationships to continue this harmful dynamic because otherwise they would feel bad about themselves, having internalized the conviction that the other person needs everything to continue in this way and not that they could adapt to another situation.

          3. Social pressure

          Social pressure leads many people to not daring to break up a toxic relationship for fear of disappointing friends and / or family. And it is that culturally there is a certain tendency to wish that emotional or romantic relationships materialize in a union of coexistence or daily treatment that lasts forever as long as these people live, mainly in the case of courtship and marriage.

          Likewise, the stigma of singles also plays an important role in the case of relationships.

            4. Illusionary thought linked to the desire to “change” the other

            Illusionary thinking is what is known in English as “Wishful Thinking”, and consists of confusing one’s own desires with indications that this hypothetical future that we want to achieve has many possibilities to occur. In this case, delusional thinking keeps toxic relationships on the surface. make people think the other is changing for the better or is about to do so, so if you have a little patience, this relationship will no longer be bad.

              5. The expectation of economic dependence

              The perception that one does not have the capacity to maintain an independent life for economic reasons as well makes many people feel pressured to keep repeating whatever actions are necessary to maintain a toxic relationship with whom he offers them money, care, shelter …

              Are you looking for professional psychological support?

              If you wish to benefit from professional psychological assistance, whether in individualized psychotherapy or in family or couple therapy, contact us.

              A Advanced psychologists we have been caring for patients for over two decades and we provide our services to people of all ages. You can find us in our center located in Madrid (in the Goya district) or you can opt for the online video call therapy modality.

              Bibliographical references

              • Christensen A., Atkins DC, Baucom B., Yi J. (2010). “Marital Status and Satisfaction Five Years After a Randomized Clinical Trial Comparing Traditional and Integrative Behavioral Couples Therapy.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 78 (2): 225-235.
              • by Celis, E. (2011). Prevention of gender violence. In Pérez, Jesús; Escobar, Ana. Perspectives on Gender-Based Violence. Madrid: Editorial by Group 5.
              • Harvey, JH, Ormarzu, J. (1997). Take care of the close relationship. Personality assessment and social psychology. 1: pages 223 – 239.
              • Rei-Anacona, California (2009). Physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, and economic abuse in courtship: an exploratory study. Colombian Psychology Law 12 (2): p. 27-36.

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