The psychology behind toxic relationships and friendships

Marisa Fidone, Staff Writer

A healthy relationship should have honesty, compassion, and empathy. At least once in a lifetime, young adults have faced cross-roads in friendships. Signs of toxicity come subtly in the beginning, often people feel depleted, used, criticized, or generally worse when they are with this person. 

Many toxic relationships lack empathy for problems or concerns, ultimately leading to friends or partners distancing themselves. Without communication, there is escalated conflict and mistrust.

The psychology behind toxic relationships associates with many red flags: you are giving more effort then you are receiving, you no longer trust them, you do not like yourself when you are with them, they gossip about you, you compete with them, you make excuses for them, and you feel used. 

A toxic friend causes stress and anxiety, discouraging you to be yourself. Toxic relationships are draining and make you doubt yourself. The definition of a toxic relationship is clear, however, the psychology behind it is hard to understand. 

Although friends are allowed to make mistakes because nobody is perfect, toxic relationships have a tendency to feel repetitive or have patterns of the same mistakes. 

“If there is something bothering you that you can’t get rid of, and it keeps repeating itself, there is something missing from you and your relationship. You should always be yourself, however, you never pay attention to the toxicity until the end because then you realize what or was not there,” said Zoe Alexander (21’). 

Friendships are solely built on trust. If you are not able to trust each other, neither of the two has good intentions. According to a clinical Ph.D. granted psychologist, Jill Squyres, a common toxic behavioral pattern is that some people break promises for acceptable reasons, however, if one is constantly let down, it is going to be difficult to respect the relationship enough to keep them as a friend or partner. 

Additionally, an unhealthy relationship does not allow you to be your real self because often you are in constant fear of how the other person will react, also making it feel like you are “walking on eggshells”. At length, you feel lousy about yourself most of the time because you can not express who you really are without criticism. 

If you are unsure whether you should end a friendship, look for red flags that may indicate you need to establish boundaries. The best solution is a constructive conversation that acquires the right structure to confront your feelings in a respectful way without your friend or partner feeling offended. 

“Talk to the person about what you are experiencing individually, confront them about what can be done. If you don’t communicate, it grows more toxic,” said Zoe Alexander (21’).

Nevertheless, there will be times when you need to let go of the friendship for your own well-being, however, not all friendships are meant to last a lifetime and although it can be painful to lose somebody, you can celebrate what you learned and gain this as a lesson. Just because you lost somebody as a friend, you do not have to gain them as an enemy.