Get to the rotten root(s) of your issue(s)!
In the first post on this topic, Toxic Relationships (1): How to Identify Them, the table of comparisons between toxic and healthy relationships starts with the question, What are the people who fall into such a relationship in general? and the answer about toxic ones is: Low self-esteem (projected as/ hidden behind a mask of overly high self-esteem) results from the weakening of character daily at work and play. Factors for the weakening of character are a sense of unresolved guilt and shame, social and emotional isolation, lack of purpose and meaning, lack of motivation, energy, sleep, and/or even nutrition. These are arranged below in a time sequence for clarity:
1. weakening of character => 2. unresolved guilt and shame => 3. low instead of balanced self-esteem => 4. a mask of overly high self-esteem => 5. social isolation => 6. emotional isolation => 7. lack of purpose and meaning => 8. lack of motivation => 9. lack of sleep => 10. lack of energy => 11. lack of healthy nutrition => further weakening of character that marks the beginning of another cycle in a vicious circle or downward spiral (= a whirlpool of negative emotions and sensations that is hard to get out of)
Now more on why these are the particular factors generating the toxicity between two people:
We can tell a weak character by the number of things it is addicted to (cannot function without). Addictions spoil the character and create dependencies on (a) particular agent(s), such as a person, a substance, or a bad habit, by narrowing or entirely eliminating the possibilities before us to make an alternative choice (to choose the apple before the chocolate bar, for example). What's in common between all addictions is that by surrendering to a particular person, substance, or bad habit, we escape in our minds from making "the more difficult" but vitally important decision(s) on conflicts presented before us for resolution, such as What am I doing with my life?; What should I do now, really, instead of behaving on autopilot? What are the consequences of my actions in the past, and should I do something more as a continuation of that?; and so on. We choose "the easy way" when we try to hide from our thoughts and feelings in the distraction of external stimulations that provide us an alternative, apparently more pleasant thoughts, and feelings because we are scared of taking the responsibility for our choices in a particular conflict we run away from. So we just leave the pressing choice unmade. But leaving a choice unmade is a choice already! We decide not to decide when we are afraid that we could never measure up to perform as expected (by our fictional idea of what society and we ourselves expect of us and who we are supposed to be) because we are uncertain of our abilities, so we quit the real game we want to play. We may prefer to become addicts to a toxic partner because we are too scared to fight for the one we truly like due to lacking the confidence that we could ever level up to them. Addiction, and the weakening of character, are the outcome of self-doubt and procrastination in dealing with any big or small conflict(s) that need(s) our immediate attention.
Procrastination, the making of excuses, and the following addictions to waste-of-time-and-energy things, people, and actions naturally bring about unresolved guilt and shame we need to filter and fix. The more we postpone this cleaning up, the more we sink into its mess, pilling up guilt and shame with every new procrastination.
The more unresolved guilt and shame we harbor, the lower our self-esteem gets. All the things we were called to act upon, but we didn't, conquer our minds to constantly signal our failure to comply and measure up to our expectations of ourselves. We disappoint ourselves first and then others. When we realize we are losing on people and things, the sense of becoming a loser creeps in. It nestles to stay until we mobilize ourselves for action on the big conflict and tension-producing pressing questions of human existence. Welcome to philosophy!
The realization that something is embarrassing about us naturally produces a mask of overly high self-esteem; thick or thin, it is there to separate us from the world by a sugarcoating of lies we believe will help us become more digestible to others when the truth is it will not. It will only confuse people about our real nature and thus prevent us from getting what we need from our environment because it cannot make informed decisions about us even when it has our best interest. We must project our authentic selves (no matter how unpleasant we believe it is) to receive the feedback we need for our growth and development. Masks of all kinds stagnate these natural processes of expansion because they are so limiting and belittling to squeeze into that it is a form of self-offense.
Masks prevent realistic feedback loops and distort communication into mere transactions of vanities and fears that bring about social isolation - it is a phenomenon that prevents people from experiencing life HD while it subordinates us to harmful social comparison, advertisements, cliches, and etiquette.
The lack of authentic and diverse communication and social integration isolates us from the immense palette of experiences and emotions available out there. Emotional isolation blinds us to the riches of life and the true capacity of our hearts for joy and satisfaction (with or without our partner). The world is full of bliss if we dare to open the door.
The lack of blissful encounters with reality produces a lack of purpose and meaning. When we have not experienced anything much, it is hard to attribute value to anything because we can only value the thing we are emotionally linked to. Adrenaline seekers, just like toxic partners, desperately seek the bright emotion that will trill them enough to color their otherwise purposeless and meaningless lives. For if they had a purpose, that is a cause for their existence they value and put first, they wouldn't risk it for the occasional trill provided by a fast car, motorcycle, bungee rope, strong drug, gambling game, and the like, or the sum of it all that is a toxic relationship.
The lack of motivation comes around when we have no sense of purpose and meaning to fuel our present activity, and we simply do not know what to do with our time; it goes so slowly no matter how hard we try to get rid of it (at work, in the gym, in class). It is probably the most invisible issue to be spotted because it sneaks in under the radar as the common behavior we label as laziness. However benign this behavior may appear, untreated laziness degrades the character into what the French call ennui - this one word, pronounced [ɑ̃nɥi], means two things in English: 1. boredom and 2. trouble. I guess for the French speaker, boredom and trouble can be the same thing. I would agree because it's trouble being bored, and we often get into trouble out of boredom.
While pretty much everything around sleep is a mystery, and there can be many causes for lack of sleep we have no idea about, 1 thing is for sure: Unproductive days produce unproductive nights. Empty, zombie, and lazy days produce zombie nights. If you sleep during the day, don't expect to sleep during the night, obviously. If you do not waste enough energy during the day, it will be hard for you to sleep long; if your mind is excited, don't expect to fall asleep even if your body is tired; the same if you intake more calories than you burn - you are assigning extra digestion/ work to your body when it should be off. Sleeplessness may be the side effect of medication, work-related stress, toxic-relationship matters, phobias, fears, guilt and shame coming up as nightmares, general anxiety, bipolar disorder, insomnia, and the intake of stimulants, among many others.
Lack of sleep, together with poor nutrition, brings about a lack of energy and scandals with our partners when we have been with the crying baby all night while they were sleeping. The less energy you restore at night, the more you will rely on day naps and food.
The lack of energy brings about the lack of healthy nutrition because the body starts craving fast and shocking doses of stimulating substances such as coffee and sugar, which worsen the chances of a good quality night's sleep further. And building strong character and healthy relationships, for that matter, malnourished and tired, may seem glorious but is plainly impossible.
Now that we have this list of 11 factors that contribute to the sabotage of our relationships, you can see what we can do to break the vicious circle in the next post: Toxic Relationships (5): How to Make them Healthy Just remember that you need to put all you got into breaking free from this cycle and start navigating your destiny consciously by owing your actions, only then will you be free. Autopilot is your warder.
"The key to happiness is freedom and the key to freedom is courage." Thucydides (460 BC-395 BC)