Trust And Toxic Relationships
~ by Maria Hill
Sometimes the greatest trust we experience is with animals. Unfortunately trust between humans can be hard to come by.
Trust And Toxic Relationships
Trust is the basis of any effective and life affirming relationship. So how does trust happen and why is it that so many people including highly sensitive people find that no matter what efforts they make they are not able to get to a positive trusting place with many of their important relationships?
And while we are at it, let’s ask what happens to trust in toxic relationships including narcissistic ones.
Are There Different Kinds Of Trust?
I believe that there are different ways that people experience trust; however, trust at its most fundamental level is a feeling of safety. The feelings of safety can come from any number of sources which is one of the reasons that it can be difficult to create between two people.
So what are the different ways trust is created?
- similar expectations
- the same values
- compatible personal habits
- comfortably similar style
- in background
- a match in goals and dreams
This is a trust based on sameness, on being alike and it can help for building a foundation in a relationship.
Compatibility makes a big difference in establishing trust but does not help us with the dynamic nature of life which requires listening, paying attention, the ability to compromise and problem solve in mutually positive ways. That is a different and equally necessary component of trust.
Each of these compatibility or relating challenges provide rich opportunities for trust issues and abuse.
Where Does The Toxicity Arise?
Toxicity in relationships usually arises from some form of mishandled difference or incompatibility or some form of exploitation.
Although there is obviously nothing inherently wrong with people being different, differences can be a problem if they are used to make inappropriate demands of others. So it is not appropriate to transfer our habits, expectations and lifestyle automatically to another and demand that others conform to our preferences. For example, a person who does not celebrate holidays should not demand that people who like to celebrate them forgo their celebrations or people who dislike one kind of food insist that their friends and family eat like them. These are obviously simplistic examples. Of course context is not being considered here and context does matter.
So how we handle differences and the dynamics of the ups and downs of life can result in toxicity in our relationships.
Domination And Toxic Relationships
The need to dominate someone else is a surefire way to create a toxic relationship and deserves a special mention since it accounts for a lot of the perceived toxicity in relationships. The need to dominate is an important pattern in narcissists because narcissists only feel safe when they have the upper hand. Narcissists, however, are not the only people with a high need to dominate. People who
- have rigid ideologies
- are very competitive
- have fixed ideas about rules and roles to live by
…also have a high need to dominate others to perpetuate their worldviews or social position. They can be very toxic for those who do not share their point of view.
I have had a lot of experience with people who are like this. My family has rigid ideological and social views with a dose of narcissism for good measure. They tend to think negatively of people who do not meet their expectations and are very critical and judgmental. Being a highly sensitive person, their thinking and attitudes did not sit well with me and cause me a lot of heartache. Unfortunately, my experience is not uncommon and like many of us I tried to change those toxic expectations to something healthier and was usually disappointed. There is a reason for my disappointment which took me many years to come to terms with: people who have these rigid ideas and attitudes have a basic inner negativity that often is not open to change.
Is It Hopeless?
Is it hopeless? I think it helps to come to terms with the fact that there are people with whom one cannot have a positive relationship, people who will not see you as an equal human being. Fortunately not everyone is like that.
I know one person who describes people as coming in 3 flavors:
- the haters or hopelessly negative
- the indifferent
- your kindred spirits or tribe.
I think it is a simple but effective reminder that we cannot get along with everyone but there are still plenty of people out there who will make great companions. 33% of the human race is a large number.
What Does A Healthy Relationship Look And Feel Like?
One way to see what is a toxic relationship is to ask what is a healthy one?
In a healthy relationship, both people are peers and have a say. They respect each other and negotiate how they handle their differences. One person does not set or dominate the agenda. The relationship is actually co-created by the two people. There is a feeling of relief and acceptance that you do not get in a toxic relationship. Cocreating a relationship does not happen in toxic relationships and certainly not in relationships with a narcissist.
Changing Relationship Dynamics
Some relationships in your life will fall in a gray area of sometimes good and other times not so good. They may be worth some attention to see if you can make them better. Work relationships and family relationships can be helped by some creativity.
Here are a number of creative things you can do to change relationship dynamics:
- enlarge the concerns/agenda to include your concerns and issues
- change perceptions about pitfalls and risks to change the choices that get made
- create a compromise strategy: one day is is my way, another day your way and on a different day we try something new
- attach change to goals and important mutual concerns. By trying “x” we help us to succeed at “y”.
- move the relationship in a cocreating direction.
Some people cannot handle negotiating and so at best you can work with them on a limited basis, and some simply cannot be in your life.
Before you get involved with someone, look for these characteristics to assess whether or not you have a potentially non-toxic relationship:
- listening skills
- open, non rejecting language
- keeps promises and does not promise more than can be done
- realistic rather than inappropriate expectations
You deserve the care and regard of others. When you are willing to do your part you also deserve people in your life who meet you part way to the best of their ability. Not only is it important to your emotional and mental health to have constructive companions but also for your physical health as well. Stressful relationships are very physically damaging.
Awareness about potential sources of toxicity and a mindful way of appraising individuals can help you find people to be in relationship with who will bring out the best in life for you. Your goodwill and creativity can make the relationship joyful. You deserve no less!
Maria Hill is the webmaster for HSP Health and creator of the HSP class: There’s Nothing Wrong With You! A Special Class For Highly Sensitive People . She is a long time meditator, reiki master, student of alternative health and Ayurveda. Maria is an abstract painter whose portfolio can be found at Infinite Shape and also very interested in animal and human rights and the environment.
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