8 Signs of a Healthy or Toxic Relationship

Relationship: The way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected. (1) a connection, association, or involvement.
(2) connection between persons by blood or marriage. (3) An emotional or other connection between people.

Expectation: The act or the state of expecting: to wait in expectation.
(1) The act or state of looking forward or anticipating. An expectant mental attitude: a high pitch of expectation. (2) Something expected; a thing looked forward to.
(3) Often expectations; a prospect of future good or profit: to have great expectations. (4) The degree of probability that something will occur.

There are so many types of relationships, and everyone is in one or more. From the not-so-deep relationship, such as the driver of the car next to you, sharing the road on the morning commute, to the deeper business relationships such as employer-employee; landlord-tenet; bank-borrower; seller-buyer. Then, of course, there are the relationships we have with our friends and co-workers. Then the relationships go even deeper. How about a family? Mom, dad, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The family relationship dynamic can be even more personal, such as husband, wife, and children.

Regardless of the size, scope, depth, and proximity of the relationship, the fact remains that we are all in one.

As we saw in the opening definition, a relationship is essentially the description of how two or more people are connected. With every relationship comes a certain level of expectation. A landlord expects the rent to be on time. The bank expects the borrower to repay the debt per the terms of lending. The employer expects the employee to do an honest day’s work. If the expectations of the business relationship are not met, there are consequences; things like eviction, repossession, and being fired. Likewise, the tenant expects a decent place to live, the borrower expects the bank to adhere to the terms of the loan, and the employee expects to be paid for his or her hard work.

Just as there are expectations to be met in our business relationships, so there are expectations to be met in our personal relationships. The most common expectations within every personal relationship are:

  • To be enriched
  • To be valued
  • To be respected

Relationships can be divided into two basic categories: toxic and healthy. The more personal and close the relationship, the deeper these categories come into focus.

Here is a quick list of 8 signs you’re in a relationship with someone who’s toxic and 8 signs you’re in a relationship with someone who’s healthy:

8 signs you’re in a relationship with someone who’s toxic:

1. They are thin-skinned and look for reasons to be offended. In other words, some people are on a quest to find offense in places, where most REASONABLE people won’t. Nearly every action/word is scrutinized & picked apart to find SOMETHING to be a victim over.
2. They hold grudges and are slow to forgive. It’s all about keeping score of every offense for a toxic person; not ever actually coming to a resolution or moving past faults or mistakes. As long as there is a grudge, they feel validated in being a victim.
3. They blame shift. This means they never take ownership and grow from their mistakes; instead, they point fingers and shift the topic of blame to someone or something else. They subscribe to the notion that two wrongs make a right, everyone else is wrong, and it’s someone else’s fault.
4. They don’t self-reflect. Self-reflection is like personal hygiene. It has to be done consistently every day. Failure to do so results in bad breath and body odor. The same goes for hearts and minds, hence the saying, “Your attitude stinks.” Toxic people rarely look inward to see how they can grow, improve, and be a better person. They expect everyone else to adapt to them and simply accept their dysfunction.
5. They have anti-social behavior. Toxic people have a hard time engaging in meaningful and enhancing group dynamics (big or small). In their mind, three’s a crowd; because more people mean less of an opportunity to be the center of attention.
6. They like to be spoon-fed. A toxic person wants to be pampered and coddled. It keeps them at the center of your attention. It also prevents them from ever assuming responsibility or risk. They’ll rely on others to make even the most straightforward decisions; why? So, they don’t have to think for themselves. If the decision fails, they can always divert blame away from themselves and onto the decision-maker.
7. They like using guilt. Toxic people are the travel agents for guilt trips. It’s one of their primary means to manipulate those around them and hurt those who are closest to them. They will try to leverage your personal beliefs/values/experiences/education or economic status as a way to compel a sense of shame in order to get you to respond their way.
8. They play relationship games. Toxic people handpick those who they think they can manipulate and align with to make themselves look good. To a toxic person, people can be used as pawns on a chessboard, to shape the perceptions that other people have. In other words, a toxic person will pretend sincerity and innocence to gain unwitting allies.

8 Signs you’re in a relationship with someone who’s healthy

1. They have thick skin, are not easily offended, and see the best in others. They have a great sense of humor and don’t sweat the small stuff. They have a genuine, engaging nature and always have something positive/encouraging to say.
2. They don’t live in the past. They live by the motto of “forgive, grow, and move forward,” They don’t focus on the negative or keep a list of offenses and hurt feelings.
3. They take ownership of their mistakes, learn from them, and become better. They are quick to offer a genuine apology and then invest in the mending process.
4. They take the time to do daily self-reflection. They measure their thoughts, words, and actions by doing honest gut checks. They are self-aware and have high emotional intelligence.
5. They love engaging in meaningful and enriching relationships. They play well with others and don’t seek to be the center of attention. They seek out people who will challenge and encourage them to grow; they are a fountain and not a drain.
6. They are self-sustaining and like a challenge. They are not co-dependent on others but are secure in their personhood and have a positive self-image. They are equitable partners both in business and personally.
7. They are above-board and honest. Integrity is their watchword – no hidden agendas or ‘sleight-of-hand.’ They share their opinions and feelings with authenticity and respect without resorting to name-calling, manipulation, or guilt.
8. They treasure and protect the relationships they have. They believe people are priceless gems to be valued, not chess pieces to be played. They never play ‘both sides against the middle or use one person to spite or tear down the reputation of another.

Everyone has their bad days; no human being will exhibit all of the healthy qualities all the time, but a good way to gauge which direction the relationship is leaning, is to do a measurement. If there are more toxic behaviors than healthy, then it’s a safe bet that you’re in a negative relationship. Likewise, the opposite holds true; if there are far more healthy traits than toxic traits, then odds are the relationship is healthy.

Remember, relationships take work and we engage in the intentional ‘care-and-feeding’ of the relationships which we value most.

I challenge all of us to reflect on the above list. Jesus was the only one who ever lived that was perfect, but He left for us a model to live by and showed us how to steward the relationships we have with each other.

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