Toxic relationships are evaluated from the legal prism, if there is a crime, or medical, if there is a disorder, but in reality, the key is in how we feel
What is a toxic relationship? Of course, if there is physical or psychological abuse, but with the advent of the Internet, many other problematic behaviors have also appeared with names in English that nevertheless refer to very real harmful behaviors: ghosting, haunting, submarining, zombieing, slow fading, icing , simmering, benching, breadcrumbing, orbiting.
In general, conduct is classified as problematic from two approaches: legal and medical, which tell us whether relationships are beneficial or harmful.
The toxic relationship and the problematic legal approach
According to the legal or criminal approach, certain crimes, serious or minor, are sought and the finger is pointed at the “toxic” member of the relationship. The biggest problem with this approach is that it assumes an intention to harm, control, or harm the other. And this is not always the case.
But assuming that the person with whom you have a relationship has bad intentions behind their actions installs permanent mistrust and suspicion … Thus begins the search for evidence that confirms that this person is lying to us, that they have hidden their true (and perfidious) from us. ) intentions. This is incompatible with the foundation of any relationship: trust.
Does that mean we should always trust? Not at all. Malice exists in some relationships, to the point of reaching the outrageous numbers of deaths and assaults that have occurred daily for decades.
The criminalist vision of toxic relationships makes us pay attention to EXTERNAL behavior, and we have to assess whether there is a good or bad intention behind it. If there is bad intention, the relationship is toxic, but if it is without bad intention, then no.
Thus, we find ourselves in an impossible task: to know for sure what is the intention behind someone’s behavior. Paying attention to an external behavior leads us to lose sight of what is most important in the relationship: our own emotions. How am i feeling
Changing the focus to our own emotions is not something as simple as changing our gaze, it is not something that can be done from one moment to the next. Sometimes we have been aware of other people’s behavior for so long that we have forgotten to identify what we are feeling.
How do you feel?
By focusing on our own emotions, sometimes we become aware of being fed up, tired, and exhausted. We find that this relationship is not doing us any good. It is not necessary to identify the intentions of the other to know if we feel bad.
Of course, there is the possibility of malicious intent, and it is good to know how to identify it. This is what often happens in situations of abuse. When someone who is in that situation recounts his experience, the person who listens becomes aware that he is in the same situation. Suddenly all those little things that he had not related to each other make sense, those emotions and discomfort that he did not know how to identify.
But, without reaching those extreme cases, being a bad person is not a crime. It is also not a crime to be a very boring person, with little initiative or selfishness. Always arriving late, speaking too loudly, not cleaning, not taking responsibility for one’s own tasks and always appealing to the flexibility of others so that they accept it, the lack of empathy. These behaviors, which we do not like in a relationship, with few exceptions, are not a crime. It is true that there are some personality traits that can be changed with therapy, but it is important to remember that it is a crime to put someone in therapy against their will.
That is why it is so important that we focus on how we feel, even when the other person is behaving with the best intention. If we realize that we feel bad, that will lead us to consider changes in our relationship, or where appropriate, that we end it.
This is especially important for those of us outside the heteronormative, patriarchal, or monogamous norm. Our relationships, practices, situations and identities are not common, and we do not have enough references about what a good relationship looks like. That is why it is essential to maintain the connection with our emotions, to change the relationship or run if necessary.
The medical approach: problems are diseases
A person or behavior is also often classified as medically toxic. It consists of turning life into an experience that must be measured according to criteria of normality or pathology, and for which there will always be a medical solution, a pill or a therapy. This makes very common problems, which we all encounter sooner or later in our life, turn into diseases.
Both approaches, the criminal and the medical, place on our shoulders the responsibility to avoid toxic relationships, to be able to detect them, to advise other people and save our friends from them.
This sometimes hides the absence of a social structure that avoids these situations from the beginning: sexual education (which does not have to do only with the genitalia ) that teaches us to live more comfortably in our relationships and their paradoxical dynamics. Advice and medical and psychological care guaranteed as a public service. Simple, fast and accessible legal and social solutions to everyone to leave relationships that are not doing them well.
But of course, it is much cheaper and more profitable to hold each person responsible for their toxic relationships. And while, at the same time, the public services that provide the care to which every human being has the right are being dismantled, stigmatized or deprived of resources. But that will be the subject of another article.
Glossary of toxic behaviors in relationships
- Ghosting : end the relationship abruptly and cut off all communication without giving any signals or explanations, like a ghost that vanishes.
- Haunting : when a person who has ghosted again establishes some subtle contact, such as a like or a comment on social networks.
- Submarining : it is the extreme version of haunting, the person who has vanished re-emerges, like a submarine, and reestablishes communication as if nothing had happened.
- Zombieing : when a ghost that disappeared returns after many months or years to re-establish communication.
- Orbiting : it is the modern version of ghosting, when the person does not disappear completely, but remains on the victim’s social networks, monitoring what they are doing, but without establishing a connection.
- Breadcrumbing : named after the breadcrumbs in the Hansel and Gretel story, it consists of leaving signs of interest, such as likes or messages, which seem to lead to a relationship, but do not lead to anything .
- Benching : literally, on the bench, when a contact is maintained, for example through breadcrumbing, with someone who is “in reserve” but with no intention of starting a relationship immediately.
- Icing : It has nothing to do with the ice, but with the sweet topping of the cakes, and it happens when someone behaves very warmly and praises us, but does not really want to invest in a relationship .
- Simmering : Similar to benching, it is keeping a person on a “low heat” as an alternative in case other plans go wrong.
- Slow fading : similar to ghosting, but in slow motion, when the person leaves contact little by little, increasingly spacing the messages.