Toxic Relationships: A dysfunctional pattern that consumes your existence

At Eden Recovery and Rehabilitation Centre we work with many forms of addiction. However what happens when a person is exposed to a toxic relationship. Many schools of thought agree that toxic relationships can potentially lead to addiction. At Eden we often see this phenomenon. However don’t be misguided by this statement. Addiction is not always caused by a toxic relationship and many people that are in a toxic relationship don’t always go on to develop an addiction. However these two factors have been proven to correlate with each other in certain situations.

A toxic relationship can be defined by using a variety of complicated sentences. However if we break down a toxic relationship to its constituent parts it will look something like this. A toxic relationship is simply a close connection that involves negative patterns and cycles. It is a relationship formula that consists of ingredients such as excessive control, jealousy, selfishness, manipulation, hostile atmosphere, feeling drained, lack of communication, feeling unworthy and the list goes on. At Eden Recovery we often see couples come in with these unhealthy patterns, and they don’t even realize it. Some patients I have worked with would label their past toxic relationships as “noxious”, “hazardous”, “poisonous” and even “deadly”. From the outside we look at these dysfunctional connections and struggle to comprehend why someone will stay in such a relationship. However it’s not always as simple as that. Toxic relationships can often be caused by two polar opposite personality types. In other words the people in the relationship are just not compatible with each other. In cases like this I have seen that no individual is truly to blame. The toxicity is just caused by the inability to communicate and establish healthy boundaries. These relationships often share different goals and believe structures, which unknowingly pushes the two individuals apart. In a toxic relationship like this it takes two to tango, two individuals that have equal devastating effect on the relationship.

However not all toxic relationships can be easily explained like this, and definitely not all requires two to tango. In cases like this I often find one unhealthy individual that for a lack of a better word preys upon others. We all have probably at some point in our lives experienced a toxic relationship of some degree or even been the perpetrator. However a true toxic relationship can cause the victim to literally feel as though they are trapped, being smothered and oppressed. It robs them of their freedom and actually dissolves their ambitions and dreams. It slowly eats away at their souls and causes chronic unhappiness. The perpetrator cunningly manipulates when the victim tries to push away and inevitably the victim return. They often do so because they were made to truly believe that it was their fault and that they need to change. One pattern I’ve seen with some of my patients is that they feel that they are being “mean” and that the person deserves a second chance or simply due to obligation. These perpetrators have an uncanny ability to make the victim feel that they are emotionally, psychologically and even physically dependant on them. However they don’t realize they have never truly made a decision they have just been coned, played like an instrument a puppet dancing to the tunes of their perpetrator. Often these

Soul assassins may have a major psychological diagnostic disorder like Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This hostile atmosphere often pushes a person to numb their emotions with various substances, often not succeeding in the process. The addiction was caused by the relationship, but because of the addiction they were even more powerless and broken. At Eden often treating the real cause can possibly resolve the addiction.

A healthy relationship involves hard and meaningful work, great discipline, motivation, a unifying purpose, intent and mutual desire. A dysfunctional relationship will never truly possess any of these qualities. “It’s not the bruises on the body that hurt. It is the wounds on the heart and the scars on the mind”- A. Mirza.

-Shaun Pyper, Counsellor, Eden Recovery Centre (011) 244 9916