Toxic and Dysfunctional Relationships

The other day I did something that I don’t usually do. I watched TV. I am not talking about watching a good movie on cable, I mean I watched regular television and all of the commercials. It was interesting.

ACats__wake_up_prvnyways, I stumbled on this show about relationships. It was a show that followed three couples as they attempted to “be happy” and “be in love.” As the show progressed, so did the dysfunction that was hidden under the table. As the tangled web of intrigue increased in intensity, the story line became more and more unfolding.

One thing that was for sure during this show. The element of CONTROL was strong between/within each of the couples. What I mean is at least one of the partners from each couple attempted to control the other. That attempt to control led to more and more toxicity, which only heightened the dysfunction.

For one of the couples, it led to total self destruction. You see, “what had happened wuz’ “ an affair had taken place. The affair was the outcome of years of neglect and lack of love being offered to one of the partners of one of the couples. This “lack” created a need for fulfillment – which happened elsewhere – with someone else. I am not condoning this as the right way to deal with “lack” in a relationship, but in this case, it just happened to be an outcome.

One of the most telling components of successful relationships is what each partner brings to the table. In my humble and professional opinion, it is MOST important for one to get to know oneself. Develop a relationship with YOU!!

Some years ago I called a friend in California to see how she was doing. During the conversation, she asked my opinion of the direction she was going with her life. She said she was up for a new management position, but neither she, nor some of her friends, thought she was ready for it. She was bored, because she was not in a relationship, and had no one to occupy her time. She shared that she really wanted to “find a man.” in the meantime, during her down time she was reading philosophical books.

As she continued to share with me her story, I listened intently. Eventually, she asked, “What do you think? Should I take the position or not?”

I asked, “Are you sure you want to hear my honest response to your question?”

“Yes!” she replied.

Rather than to give her advice, I asked her three questions that I thought might help her reflect on her situation:

1. What do you really want to do with your life?

2. What legacy do you want to leave?

3. Do you want to just have fun for the moment or do you want a relational commitment?

4. Does this management position fit with the future vision for – yourself?

“Because you are not involved with anyone,”
I continued, “I would spend this time doing some real soul searching, rather than to man hunt”

I gave her the name of some good self-help books and suggested she spend her free time “getting to know herself,” instead of looking for a man.

You’ve got to get to know yourself first, set your goals, and live your dreams. Otherwise, when you meet someone, you will end up following that person and living his/her dreams instead of your own. Develop a relationship with yourself — learn to love you.

Some people are so afraid of getting to know themselves that they live and define their lives through the dreams and goals of others. This can eventually lead to false beliefs about who they are. How can a person be truly happy living the dreams of someone else? My suggestion is to WAKE UP and take the time to know you and to know what you want, and then develop relationships with others.

Understanding yourself is the first and most critical step in understanding God, your spouse/partner, your children, and anyone else with whom you enter into a relationship. Realizing the impact of those around you is the first step to changing your emotional and in some cases physical environments to better support your dreams and goals.

Until next time…


  1. Carlos says:

    This was very fullfilling to me as me and my child’s. Mother broken. Up she got pregnant. Again four months after my daughter was. Born with another. Man. It hurt. Me cause i wanted. A loving neverending realtionship like my parents. That i couldn’t. See or. Focus. On my realationship i was hurt and in denial about my actions that contributed to. Our split and i spent the last 8 months blaming. Everyone. But myself. But today. I got an eye opener and took a look at myself. And finally confronted. Myself and my inner demons. And. Finally rrealized that i cause. Things to end the way it did and now i have to live my life without. Being in my daughters. Life and the love of my life zarah. I can’t change or undue what’s been done even. Though i wish i could everyday. And i hope one day she will forgive me and let me be in my daughters. Life. I could use some good support. And advice how. To advance in a positive. Directon in my life. IM ready. To start doing me and living a fullfilling Christian. Life 😦

    1. Hi Carlos. Thanks for visiting and sharing at the Letting Go Cafe and reading about Toxic Relationships.

      First let me congratulate you on your success, in terms of your focus on living a more fulfilling life. This will allow you to be a more shining example to your daughter(s), when you finally do connect with them. Keep forging ahead in that regard.

      Make sure you continue to set your goals and your sights on one day seeing your daughter. I also hope that you ex will forgive you.

      Have you forgiven yourself? I mean have you really gone through the process of forgiving YOU? We have lots of info on forgiveness HERE. Once you are able to truly forgive yourself, the Universe will open doors you did not even know were available to you.

      I wish you the very best with your situation and stay tuned as we will be posting more info about relationships in the near future.

      All the best Carlos.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks like your Toxic Relationships post on the Letting Go Cafe. I related to it.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. Hope you subscribe to the blog and come back to the Letting Go Cafe often.

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  8. toxic love relationships says:

    I think everyone has various ideas on this subject and a lot reckons on the age of the respondent. As I have aged, my antecedences have changed. I no richer look for anyone to make me happy, I look for companionship, individual that will work with me for a general goal. Other than that, it is up to yourself to be happy, and until you acquire to take care of yourself, your only scene yourself up for heartache and annoyance by looking on others to do that for you. One thing is that a loving relationship is to much to charish to be pressing in the first direct. Maybe you don’t have the soft for her, but if she enjoys you she will help you with that. Just ask her what am i doing wrong to piss you off and also make sure that each conversation at to the lowest degree one thing is right.

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  9. mattEmogack says:

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  10. Facing my Fear says:

    I have read everyone’s comments and it is comfort to my soul. I am a 30 year old mother of 2 and I go from one toxic relationship to another, but while I have grown tired, I fear being alone. I’m in the process of ending yet another relationship and want to conquer my fear! What I don’t undestand is why is this so hard for me? I am an educated professional, a social worker for crying out loud! I can fix anything…just not myself.

  11. yo, great name for site)))

  12. Darren,

    The most important statement for me was: Learn to love yourself. It was not until I became content enough to be with myself, and to be by myself, that love found me and wanted to be with me, also. Before this, love deluded me: I hit the proverbial “30-something” and where I had not really been looking before, I found myself almost in despair because I could not “keep a man”. It was so disheartening, because I thought I was doing all the right things, and surely I was ready, right???

    At 36 I left it all alone. I did not even care anymore. I just wanted to enjoy the rest of my years loving me, and doing whatever made me happy – with, or without a man, it did not matter. At first it seemed selfish. But then, the more I read, and the more I educated myself with champion experts such as you, Darren, I understood that this could not be selfish. For, if I am truly happy, and if I am truly in love with myself, this is the ONLY true way for other’s to be fed through me.

    It took almost three years from that enlightenment until my soul mate “found me”. I wasn’t looking for a mate; and from what he says, neither was he. It just happened that we were both in the same proverbial place. Fortunately, the universe gave us the right of passage and we were able to really “see” each other. He says he was on a sabbatical from women at the time. I had already been through my sabbatical from men. Truly I am grateful that God lined us up for each other — we had both been living on opposite sides of the nation and was brought together by the tragedy of Katrina where we were both compelled to migrate and give of ourselves.

    Before I met my husband I would only come in contact with gentlemen I could merely say I had learned from. All were toxic to my well being. Perhaps they can say the same in reference to me, for I was not the “right one” for them, either — I still had a lot of growing to do, because I did not love me enough.

    I thank God everyday for my past as it helped to move me into my future. Today, my husband and I are embarking on a lifetime mission to help as many people as we can to realize life to its fullest with, or without, a soul mate.

    Mrs. Intimacy

  13. D Martin says:

    Hi Darren,
    In the past year I have let go of a few toxic relationships. Even though it gets lonely at times, I’m in a very peaceful place while getting to know me. Relationsihps that don’t add any value to your life and simply brings about stress must be removed from our circles. Life is too short to be stressed out by others who could care less about your happiness. Thanks for the article. It reinforces the fact that I did the right thing, let go of toxic relationships (stuff).

  14. Tia says:

    I had a elderly female client ask me recently if I had met the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I responded by telling her that I thought I had, but discovered that maybe I was wrong. She retorted with “Well, aren’t you glad you didn’t end up marrying him?” I began thinking about me and the choices I have continuously made regarding relationships and realized that maybe I really need to re-evaluate me; take some time with just me; work on being me, loving me, and, finally, accepting me. As women, we are looked at as the nurturer and many times we feel the need to have to carry everything while wearing multiple hats. We may work a full time job or two; we may be a full time stay at home mother; we may be raising our children alone, and sometimes even when there is a partner involved, we may still feel like we are doing it alone; we may be in school attempting to better ourselves; we are taking care of our families; we are taking care of our homes; we are taking care of everything else, but somewhere, along the way, we neglect us. We put off taking care of us, so then comes the attacks on our physical, mental and spiritual health. So many women are and remain ill physically, mentally and spiritually simply because of what they choose to hold on to. It’s important to love us: YOU because if you don’t no one else will. While everything else may be important, you have to decide to make you and your well being priority. Sometimes and most of the time that means having to LET GO OF SOME STUFF.

  15. Bill says:

    Relationships…what a powerful word! The minute we’re brought into this world, we’re part of a relationship. As we grow in our years, we develop many relationships on just as many levels. Our relationships vary from those with our parents, siblings, spouse, children, friends, coworkers, customers, and suppliers. But guess what? They all have the same common denominator: us! So, it only makes sense we need to understand our relationship with ourselves. You know who I’m talking about; it’s that voice inside us that responds to me, myself, and I. If we can’t get along with those guys and get them all singing the same tune, then all other relationships will be out of sync with who we really are (or want to be). Hence, toxic relationships begin with (in) us.

    I believe there is a direct correlation between of our relationship with ourself and our true, authentic self. The stronger the relationship, the greater our authenticity. The greater our authenticity, the stronger our relationships can be with others. But how can all that happen? Try “Letting Go of Stuff!”

    1. @Bill. I totally agree with your final statement in particular, “The greater our authenticity, the stronger our relationships can be with others.” That is such a powerful statement Bill. Thanks for sharing that back then. The Letting Go Cafe has really grown since your first post, thanks for coming back again. Happy New Year!!

  16. ELisha says:

    Ooh –
    Here’s a topic that could go on for a long time! Well I’ll just say this:

    1. People will only treat you the way you allow them to.

    2. Be in a relationship because you CHOOSE to; not because you think you NEED to.

    3. A lot of times we think our significant other has ‘changed’ in the relationship. However, consider the possibility that you may have changed the way you think about the person or your relationship in general. For example, that certain little habit they have that you thought was so cute when you first started dating my annoy the crap out of you as the relationship goes on. Eventually we may develop a tendency to take something personally that is just a part of that person’s personality.

    4. Mutually focus on what you can bring to a relationship instead of what you can get out of it. Giving feels good, too! 🙂

    5. Many relationships become toxic because we put someone else in charge of our happiness. Love, enjoy, treat, fascinate, educate, challenge, and celebrate yourself! If you don’t like being around you, what makes you think others will?

    6. Be open to new ideas and new experiences. When relationships become ‘stale’ and bogged down by the routines of making a living, it’s probably time to do something spontaneous. Dust off some of your old fantasies and amusements and consider sharing them with your partner. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised at what you two still can enjoy together!

    7. Most importantly – if you feel there may be an ounce of sparkle left in your relationship, FIGHT FOR IT! Be honest with yourself about what it is you’re fighting for, and whether or not it’s worth holding on to. But if there is nothing left (or worse – it becomes violent!), then maybe it’s time to start LETTING GO OF STUFF.

    1. @E. You should totally repost this one as I bet, at this point, it would get even more attention as a topic for discussion. There are WAY more folks following the Letting Go Cafe now than back when you first posted it. Think about it. happy new year my friend!

  17. Michelle says:

    I agree. As women we often vacilate between being in control and being controlled. By this I mean that we say we want a man to “take care of us”, rather than to care “for” us. Which in turn leads to being controlled. When we are more independent we say we don’t need a man, and go to great lenghts to prove it. In the mean time we are loosing focus on what we really want from a relationship. We also eventually loose sight of who we really are. We become either the dominating, can’t tell me nothing, my way or the highway, and end up angry and bitter, or we begin to cower and hope someone will want us for our meekness.

    Taking the time to learn about ourselves, what makes us happy, what makes us tick, getting our spiritual selves in order, give us balance, and brings out our true best self.

  18. Gary says:

    How are you Darren?

    I got your article on ridding oneself of stuff. It is interesting to note that as I was reading It occurred to me that in order to rid oneself of stuff they first have to embrace change. I think that’s the one common denominator that prevents folks were from dumping the baggage that they have carried for such a long time.

    I contract to companies performing aviation maintenance on their aircraft and in the past eight months I’ve worked in three states coming up on my fourth this weekend and still find myself trying to eliminate some of the stuff which I managed to accumulate over the years, both mentally and physically. It is interesting to note that I am cognizant of the fact I must pack lightly, in order to make my transitions more seamlessly.

    My entrepreneurial pursuits and personal responsibilities often collide with the conveniences of a nine to five that pays the bills. That being said, the creature comforts that we all come accustomed to have a tendency to prevent us from shedding unwanted stuff for nothing else, but to delude ourselves into thinking that someday we will need to fall back on that stuff, because stuff can be a convenient safety net for those who resist change.

    Old habits are hard to break, but then again, if you looking for a change in lifestyle, A better lifestyle, we’re certainly not going to get it with the same old stuff. Or there be no reason to change in the first place.

  19. D Brown says:

    I totally agree. Being a woman and as a woman sometimes we have a tendency to believe that we NEED a man to make us happy when what we truly need is to know ones self. It’s important to be in a relationship with yourself and get to know you. I believe doing so will produce healthy relationship as well as include the “right” people in your life.

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