Cyber-space is chock full of different definitions of toxic relationships to include numerous checklists to determine if you are in one. At StoneRoller, our definition is first rooted in who we are as human beings. We believe that all people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28). As “image-bearers”, we all have divine value and worth, and no one person is greater than another. A toxic relationship is characterized by behaviors that contribute to the demeaning of, degradation of, damage to and/or destruction of that image. Fundamentally it is relational abuse.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline describes relational abuse as “a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.” (http://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/abuse-defined/)
We extend the types of relationships to also include familial, workplace and friends. It is also important to point out that this is a pattern of behaviors. That means behaviors are repeated. Just because your partner yelled at you out of frustration one time does not mean the relationship is “toxic.” Relationships can also be challenging and disappointing. There can be conflict. This does not mean the relationship is toxic. In healthy relationships, there is still a mutual respect for one another, a respect for the “image-bearer”!
We should also point out that the behaviors exhibited in a toxic relationship fall along a spectrum. No two relationships are the same. Some abusive behaviors may be more severe and extreme in one relationship than in another. But regardless of whether or not the abuse has just ‘cracked’ your foundation or made the whole house come tumbling down, any abuse is ABUSE – no matter how “trivial” you may think it is. Abusive behaviors also tend to escalate. Do not dismiss what may be a toxic relationship simply because you do not feel your situation is ‘as bad’ as what some example scenarios may describe.
Finally, in speaking about toxic relationships, on this site we will often refer to the one being abused as the “victim.” This is not to make that individual seem weak or less than, but serves as a reminder that they were/are in fact a victim. They are NOT to blame for the abuse. No one is ever deserving of abuse.
In an upcoming article we will discuss more about our definition of “toxic relationship” and what it looks like to demean/damage/destroy an image-bearer. Stay tuned!