BreatheUni: What are Toxic Relationships and How to Deal with Them?

By Anisa D., MSc Health Psychology Student & Nazia U., MSc Psychology Student and Volunteers


Toxic relationships are broadly defined as ones that are repetitive, mutually destructive and have unhealthy patterns that cause more harm than good for both parties. Toxic relationships can be with friends, family and/or your partner. We have had our fair share of dealing with toxic relationships throughout our lives. We also know how difficult it can be to identify whether a relationship is healthy for us or not. This is because it is normal to experience tough times during relationships, however, when the bad exceeds the good, we need to take a step back and ask ourselves “Is this relationship toxic?”. Experiencing a toxic relationship can have a detrimental impact on your mental health and well-being. This can lead to lower self-esteem, increases in feelings of worthlessness and anxiety. It is important to note that some people may want to walk away or may want to stay in the relationships and work through the issues.

Thus, if you do decide you want to work through the issues, here are some strategies that may help to implement a healthier relationship:

Setting Healthy Boundaries

We know it is easier said than done, but setting boundaries is an important step to maintaining a healthy relationship. This can be achieved through identifying things you can and cannot tolerate. Also, what behaviours will you accept or will not accept. One tangible way this can be done is by producing a non-negotiable list (something that has worked for us very well). Furthermore, making your boundaries clear and known as well as communicating when the other party has overstepped is important.

Practising Healthy Communication
Healthy communication is important for a healthy relationship. This also somewhat ties into setting boundaries as by doing so you will have to communicate and be transparent. Healthy communication can also be reflected in the way you communicate with your relative, friend or partner, making them feel heard and seen if they flag an issue. Not shifting the blame constantly, taking accountability and responsibility for your words and actions is integral.

Seeking Support and/or Therapy
Seeking support from trusted ones can help a great deal. Surrounding yourself with people that care about you can greatly aid you to feel less lonely, and also allows you to not bottle your issues up. Even if you are seeking support from your social circle, seeking professional help can also enhance your relationships. Therapy has been established as helping relationships mend and move forward in a healthy way, whether this be individual therapy or couple therapy.

Feel like learning a bit more about other people’s experiences and get a chance to share your own? Come join us at our online events such as the Breathe Café and ManCave. And follow us on Instagram @breathe_uni!