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Toxic Relationships — Who Is The Toxic One?

Finding yourself in a toxic relationship does not mean your partner is toxic

It is hard enough to know that we are in a toxic relationship, but once we have discovered this unhealthy dynamic, our mind’s next mission is to find out exactly who and what is to blame — for this toxicity we have discovered.

Usually, we ask ourselves…

“Who is the toxic one?”

Other times, our sole focus is on how we can prove to ourselves and others that the toxic one is not us.

We want to know how this started, what led us here, and how we let it happen. Dissecting every mistake and every red flag, we think somehow, someway — if we can put our finger on things — we can fix them.

Our typical knee-jerk reaction is to find every ‘toxic’ thing we can about our soon to be (maybe?) ex. We want to easily define their toxicity and how we lay prey to such evil and narcissistic behavior.

When we vindicate our participation in the toxicity by placing these labels upon the other, we do not have to take responsibility for how we participated in and often facilitated this unhealthy dynamic.

Maybe, just maybe, we have been asking the wrong question all along.

Maybe it is not who in the relationship is toxic that we should be asking — but how the relationship is toxic and why. After all, doesn’t it “take two to tango” — as the old saying goes?

Maybe there is no ‘toxic one’ or maybe it’s you.

Maybe it is not about a person being toxic, but simply the relationship itself.

“frog in a pot 1” by jronaldlee is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Instead of asking who in the relationship is toxic, we should be asking what is toxic, why, and where it came from.

If we are in a toxic relationship, chances are we have participated in said toxicity on some level.

Maybe we had no choice up to a certain point. Maybe we were oblivious.

Everyone has been the frog in the water at some point in their lives— it is part of being human.

Either way, it would serve us to find how we got in that pot in the first place.

Photo by Fred Moon on Unsplash

Inevitably, the same patterns repeat in our lives until we learn what we need to from them.

I have more experience than I would have chosen in the area of toxic relationships.

Even in the situations where I was preyed upon by intentional abusers and even when I was a child, there is always a part that I played in my half of the relationship — a part that if discovered, could lead me to a better understanding of myself and the ability to make better choices and attract better relationships in the future.

Of course, we do not have to beat ourselves up for not knowing what we didn’t know before we learned it, but being the victim of an abuser does not rob us of the opportunity to learn and grow from the experience.

It is only possible to learn and grow from failed relationships when we avoid the temptation of placing all the blame and ugly toxic labels on the other person.

One person does not have to be labeled as the bad or toxic one — while the other is labeled the victim, to get through and heal from a toxic relationship.

It is the toxic labeling of people — instead of simply the relationship itself — that leads to the never-ending patterns of toxic relationships many of us find ourselves in today.

By not allowing ourselves to take any responsibility for the toxicity, we never learn what the situation has to teach us and we never truly grieve. Therefore, the same cycle repeats itself, indefinitely.

When we realize we are in a toxic relationship, it is very tempting to use our condemnation of the other as a crutch.

If we can paint them ugly enough in our minds, we can have the courage to walk away. But crutches do not heal us, they only help hold us up as we move forward. Using the crutch to move forward, without healing, only leads to unhealed wounds which will manifest in all our other relationships — including our relationship with ourselves.

When we choose to leave a relationship or accept that it has become toxic, it feels better to be mad than to be sad.

Sometimes leaving is the hardest and most painful thing we have ever done. It feels better to call the other person a narcissist and a crazy maker. It feels better to tell ourselves…

“None of it was real, anyway.”

It is easier this way.

When leaving is more than we can bear, it is easier. When we are consumed by guilt, it is easier. It is easier when we know people will support us, because, after all — it wasn’t our fault. It is easier when we can remove any hope in our minds of healing the relationship and remove the possibility that we could have done something… anything — differently, to make it work.

It is also easy to buy the narrative of finding the toxic person in the relationship instead of the toxicity itself.

And, hey, everyone is doing it!

We find thousands of articles and listicles at our disposal to help us justify our condemnation of the other. There are entire groups on the internet filled with people whose sole purpose there is to help each other blame the other — the narcissist — that they so innocently fell victim to.

We can find a plethora of information on how to prove our partner is the toxic one. This is not because it is true, however, it is simply because it is what people want to hear. It will get clicks, reads, and views.

It may be easy, but it’s just not worth it.

Blaming only the toxicity of our partner for our toxic relationship is not worth it.

It’s not worth it because it allows us to place all the blame on the other and it hinders our growth. It’s not worth it because until we allow ourselves to grow, we will keep attracting the same relationship. Most importantly, it’s not worth it because we don’t want everyone we love to have to deal with the ugly things that toxicity will leave inside of us, if we do not focus on ourselves and heal the wounds left behind.

Written by Holly Kellums

Originally published on

Featured image by Artem Kniaz on Unsplash

Published by hollykellums

Internationally Published Author * Influencer * Recovery Coach * Human Potential Activist

One thought on “Toxic Relationships — Who Is The Toxic One?

  1. Very nice thoughts on finding the source of the toxicity rather than blaming another person for it. Walking away, though, is a privilege we often don’t have, especially when a toxic relationship exists in a family. The path then is to brush off the toxicity and learn to move ahead despite it, somthing I’m learning to do.

    Liked by 1 person

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