Have you ever been in a relationship where your interactions leave you feeling less valuable or questioning yourself and your worth? You might even have a gut feeling that something doesn’t seem right, or you feel you need to please the person instead of acknowledging what you need in the relationship? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have experience with ‘toxic’ relationships. It is notable that not all relationships that present difficulty are toxic but it is important to be able to recognize toxic behaviors when they arise.

How do we know if a relationship is hard v. toxic?

Psychology Today says the key difference is noticing what happens for you when you are with this person. Your body tells you a lot (or keeps the score!):

● Do you feel tense, anxious, alarmed, or stressed in your body?
● Do you feel exhausted, criticized, put down when you are with this person, or when you leave having spent time with them?

These physical and emotional feelings can be a strong indication that the relationship is toxic.

Do you have a vision for friendship?

As a coach, I talk alot about vision. At my firm Novus Global, we define vision as a picture of the future that thrills you and is worth the weight of growth.

Do you have a clear vision for friendship that you want to experience?

Ultimately, you get to decide what the picture of the kind of relationships you want to experience looks like. What is a picture of friendship that thrills you? Do your current friendships fit that picture? Are the friendships inviting growth that you are up for? Creating a clear vision for what you want in relationships is crucial to your experience of them.

What if you notice a pattern in friendships that lead to relational turmoil for you?

I have witnessed gaps in myself and others who are in relational turmoil or experiencing toxic patterns in relationships longer than is healthy or necessary. For those reading who may believe they are in toxic relationships, I want you to know that there is no judgment here. I have been in the exact same spot and know that it can be very hard to notice patterns of toxic behavior. We aren’t taught how to have healthy relationships!

John 15: 12-13 says, “Friends love each other the same way Christ loves us”. Over time this verse has slowly become more of an anchor for me. Often a lack of confidence in my own identity in Christ is what has me overlook my own experience in the relationship. Through time, prayer, counseling, and healthy relationships, I have discovered that our loving God loves me, and while I may want to continue to love someone else, the lack of my belief of God’s delight and love for me can lead to me being dependent on a toxic relationship. I have recently discovered that I have spent a lot of my life focusing on loving people who bring me pain, not realizing that God wants me to be safe and relationally and loved. And Lovelies, He wants this for you too. It is important to know what we are worthy of in relationships. This is why a clear vision for friendship is so important.

So what now?

A big shift for me has been what we, at Novus Global, call leaning into the value of LOVE – which we define as “fierce advocacy”. I invite you to consider how you can love and fiercely advocate for yourself and for your friendships. There are so many opportunities for growth and ownership when you choose to think about love and friendship as fierce advocacy.

You Don’t Have to Do this Alone:

We teach people how to treat us. We can own how people treat us and draw a line for what is acceptable and what is not. I say this knowing that it isn’t easy. It can be a challenge and seeking help in your community can be so important to the process. We encourage you to connect with a trusted therapist, mentor, and look to healthy friendships for support.

So, how can you turn up the volume from your support team to help get clear on your vision or patterns in friendships? I don’t want you to hear that I am suggesting we victim blame. I am suggesting that we look at what we might bring as a contribution to the toxic relationship and own how we can heal and grow relationally. In all of this know that God is with you. He Sees You, Hears You and Loves You. Let His love be your starting place.

Shauna Lang Barnes
Executive Coach, Trainer and Facilitator
Novus Global