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The 5 psychological elements that keep a toxic relationship alive

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

The truth is that beyond what may seem by common sense, once you are within one of these dynamics of Frequent dealing with someone with whom an emotional bond unites us, making a “clean slate” is usually complicated.

At the moment of truth, human beings tend not to manage our social life from pure rationality and a vision in the medium and long term, and if Well that is not necessarily bad in all situations, it predisposes us to nurture friendships, courtships and marriages that do not make us any well.

So that… What are the psychological elements that lead us to keep a toxic relationship alive and that make us "trapped" in it? Let's see.

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What is a toxic relationship?

The term “toxic relationship” is used to refer to relatively stable social interaction dynamics and that involve an affective component, and that generate a lot of discomfort in one of the people involved or in both. That is, it is a concept that can encompass a wide variety of relationships in which despite the existence of an emotional bond that leads to seeking the presence of the other person,

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in the medium and long term, this fact is psychologically negative.

Thus, toxic relationships can occur both in the context of couple relationships and in family and friendship relationships. However, in cases where the damage is more extreme and at certain key moments there is the intention to produce damage (physical or psychological) to the other person, we do not speak of toxic relationships but of mistreatment, either unidirectional or bidirectional.

Long toxic relationships
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What keeps a toxic relationship alive?

These are the aspects that predispose us to stay within toxic relationships, making their influence on our lives and on our identity to consolidate more and more. They do not have to happen all at once in all cases.

1. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a type of psychological manipulation that consists of intentionally denying reality to try to make the victim question her own mental health and her ability to perceive things.

For example, it is reflected in a friend who flatly and repeatedly denies to say something to the victim (when in fact he does said so), or in a husband who claims that an objective event occurred a few days ago that both he and his wife saw and that in fact it never took place, or even in someone who suggests that her boyfriend suffers from dementia because he has seen clear signs of infidelity because of her part of her.

At the same time that gaslighting produces emotional pain, this erosion of self-esteem in the victim makes her feel more unprotected in the face of it. world, which makes the option of breaking up with that relationship (and therefore losing the supposed support that person offers) intimidating.

Secondly, gaslighting makes it easy to go from a toxic relationship to a clear dynamic of abuse, and can even leave sequelae.

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2. Emotional blackmail

Emotional blackmail consists of make a person feel guilty for failing to offer psychological or material support to someone who doesn't really need it, or at least not as much as it allows to be intuited. That is, the entire burden of the relationship is made to rest on the back of one of the people involved, making them feel bad for the simple fact of considering cutting off that relationship or at least radically changing that dynamic to promote a more equitable and just relationship.

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

  • Related article: "Emotional blackmail: a powerful form of manipulation in the couple"

3. Social pressure

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

Similarly, the stigmatization of single people also plays an important role in the case of relationships.

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4. The illusory thought linked to the desire to "change" the other person

Illusory thinking is what is known in English as “wishful thinking”, and consists of confusing the own desires with indications that the hypothetical future we want to reach has many possibilities of occur. In the case at hand, illusory thinking keeps toxic relationships afloat leading people to think that the other is changing for the better or is about to do soSo if you have a little patience, that relationship will stop being harmful.

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5. The expectation of economic dependency

The fact of perceiving that they do not have the ability to maintain an independent life for economic reasons also makes many people feel forced to continue to reproduce all the actions necessary to maintain a toxic relationship with whom he offers them money, care, a roof ...

Are you looking for professional psychological support?

If you want to have professional psychological assistance, either in individualized psychotherapy or in family or couples therapy, get in touch with us.

On Advance Psychologists We have been treating patients for more than two decades, and we offer our services to people of all ages. You can find us in our center located in Madrid (in the Goya neighborhood) or you can opt for the online therapy modality by video call.

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