Why It's Toxic To Label Relationships As "Toxic"

Written by Shelly Bullard, MFT

There's an epidemic of blame going around.

We love to play the victim. We don't like to admit it, but we do it all the time.

What I mean is we're obsessed with blaming other people for the strife in our own lives. The main place we do this is in our relationships. It's their fault we're unhappy; they're to blame for the relationship not working.

Ick. Talk about toxicity.

Here's the real truth about "toxic" relationships:

If you label other people or your relationship as toxic, then you're perpetuating a state of toxicity, too. 

I know it may sound harsh. But sometimes it takes a firm reality check to wake us up. Taking responsibility for why our relationships don't feel good is the only way we can change them (while complaining about them won't do a thing). Personally, I'm all about change, so let's make that happen, shall we?

We each play a huge role in how our relationships feel. We aren't victims of circumstance; we co-create our experience with others. So if your relationship doesn't feel good, then the truth is you're contributing to the problem. Here are a few ways this could be happening:

  • You are being toxic with yourself.
  • You are being toxic with your partner.
  • A combination of the two.

99.98% of the time, it's a combination of the two.

If you aren't very nice to yourself, then how do you expect other people to be nice to you? Really. People can only give us what we give ourselves. If we listen to and believe the unloving messages that are rolling around in our heads, there's no other choice but for those messages to be mirrored back to us in our relationships.

And the same goes for how we treat others. If we aren't very nice to ourselves, then how can we remain loving towards other people? We might put a smile on and pretend to be nice, but it's hard to let genuine feelings of love flow if there's anger and criticism happening upstairs.

This is just how it works. Any behavior that's considered "toxic" is the result of a lot of internal toxicity going on. 

So now that we know this, let's do something about it. While we can't clean up other people's internal worlds, we can absolutely transform our own.

The biggest problem with a blame-centric mentality is that it renders you powerless. It leads you to believe that your problems are the result of something outside of you. But if your problem is someone else, then you can't change the situation (because we don't have control over other people)!

Luckily, I have some good news for you: You are not powerless! In fact, you're very powerful. You have the strength within you to change your life; you just have to make a decision to do so.

That decision starts with not blaming others for your experience in the world.

This doesn't mean that you're never going to feel annoyed, angry, or any other negative emotion towards other people. What it does mean is that you are not going to allow yourself to remain stuck there.

You feel upset, you explore why, you take steps to change your own experience. It can be as simple as that.

Something to remember when you are struggling with other people (and we all have those days) is this: No one is actually toxic.

Are we wounded? Yes. But toxic? No.

Try to keep in mind that we are all people with hearts, and feelings, and sensitivities and vulnerabilities. We all make mistakes, and we all are trying to do the best we can.

Let's make an effort to stop blaming each other for being imperfect. Let's move beyond labeling people and relationships as toxic, and work on making them feel better for us and everyone else involved.

I know I'm striving towards this ideal; I hope you will too.

By individually tending to ourselves, we can collectively shift this epidemic of blame into a movement of empowerment. By healing ourselves from the inside-out, we can takes steps towards healing each other and the world.

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Shelly Bullard, MFT
Shelly Bullard, MFT
Shelly Bullard, MFT, is a Marriage and Family Therapist, Love Coach and Spiritual Teacher. She's the...
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Shelly Bullard, MFT
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