What harm can toxic relationships do?

Toxic relationships are relationships that are harmful, damaging, and unhealthy for one or both parties involved.


These relationships can manifest in different ways, such as emotional abuse, physical abuse, manipulation, controlling behaviour, constant criticism, and more. They can occur between romantic partners, family members, friends, or coworkers.

What to do if you suspect you're in a toxic relationship

If you suspect that you are in a toxic relationship, it is essential to take action to protect yourself. Here are some steps you can take:

Recognise the signs

Learn to recognise the signs of a toxic relationship, such as feeling drained, anxious, or controlled. Suppose you feel like you're walking on eggshells around the other person or constantly trying to please them. In that case, it may be a sign of a toxic relationship.

Set boundaries

Establishing clear boundaries is essential in any relationship but especially important in a toxic one. Communicate your boundaries firmly and stick to them. If the other person repeatedly violates your boundaries, consider ending the relationship.

Seek support

Reach out to friends, family members, or a therapist for support. Talking to someone about your situation can help you gain perspective and determine the next steps.

You may need to end the relationship

If the toxic behaviour continues and you have tried to address it, it may be time to end the relationship. This can be difficult, especially if the other person is a family member or a long-term partner. Still, it is necessary to prioritise your well-being.

Remember that you deserve to be in a healthy and respectful relationship. Don't hesitate to seek help and support if you need it.

What harm can toxic relationships do?

Toxic relationships can cause a significant amount of harm, both physical and emotional, to the people involved. Here are some of the ways that toxic relationships can be harmful:

Emotional distress

Toxic relationships can cause a great deal of emotional distress, leading to anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Constant criticism, controlling behaviour, and manipulation can leave the person feeling drained and powerless.

Physical health problems

Toxic relationships can also have a negative impact on physical health. The constant stress and anxiety can lead to physical symptoms like headaches, fatigue, and even chronic pain.


A toxic partner may try to isolate the other person from friends and family, leaving them feeling alone and unsupported. This can also make it harder for the person to leave the relationship.

Financial difficulties

In some cases, a toxic partner may control the finances, making it difficult for the other person to leave the relationship or even support themselves.

Long-term effects

The effects of toxic relationships can be long-lasting, even after the relationship has ended. The person may struggle with trust issues, low self-esteem, and other emotional and physical problems.

It is important to recognise the signs of a toxic relationship and take steps to protect yourself from harm. Seeking support from friends, family, or a counsellor can help overcome the negative effects of a toxic relationship.

Can couples counselling help with a toxic relationship?

Couples counselling can be an effective way to address the issues in a toxic relationship. Still, it is important to note that counselling is not always effective, especially if the other person is unwilling to participate or make changes. Nevertheless, here are some ways counselling can help in a toxic relationship:

Provides a safe space to communicate

Counselling provides a neutral and safe environment where both parties can communicate their feelings and concerns without fear of judgment or retaliation.

Helps identify toxic behaviour

A counsellor can help identify toxic behaviour in a relationship and help both parties understand the impact of their actions on the other person.

Teaches communication skills

A counsellor can teach communication skills that help both parties express their needs and feelings more constructively.

Offers guidance

A counsellor can offer guidance on how to set healthy boundaries, manage conflicts, and make decisions that are in the relationship's best interest.

Provides support

Counselling provides support and encouragement to both parties during the healing process, helping them work through the issues that have caused the relationship to become toxic.

If the relationship is violent in some way or has the potential to be, then there may be safeguarding issues that need to be considered which means that openly discussing these things may not always be wise. In such cases, you may consider speaking to a counsellor privately.

It is important to remember that couples counselling is not a cure-all for a toxic relationship, and both parties need to be willing to participate and make changes for it to be effective. In some cases, ending the relationship may be the best option for everyone involved.

What if my partner won't engage in counselling?

Suppose your partner is unwilling to engage in counselling. In that case, addressing the issues in a toxic relationship can be challenging. However, here are some steps you can take:

Focus on your own healing

Even if your partner is unwilling to participate in counselling, you can still work on your own healing and growth. Consider seeking individual counselling to work through the issues that have been caused by the toxic relationship.

Set boundaries

If your partner is unwilling to change, it is important to set clear boundaries to protect yourself. This may involve limiting contact or even ending the relationship.

Seek support from others

Reach out to friends, family members, or a support group for help and guidance. It can be helpful to talk to others who have gone through similar experiences and can offer empathy and understanding.

Accept that you may need to move on

If your partner is unwilling to make changes, you may need to accept that the relationship is unhealthy and move on. This can be a difficult decision, but it is important to prioritize your own well-being and safety.

Remember that you deserve to be in a healthy and respectful relationship. If your partner is unwilling to make changes, it may be necessary to let go and move on.

I'm worried counselling won't help

Feeling unsure or worried about counselling is natural, especially when dealing with a toxic relationship. However, counselling can be a valuable tool for healing and growth, even if it may not be a solution for every situation. Here are some ways to address your concerns about counselling:

Find a counsellor you feel comfortable with

It is important to find a counsellor you feel comfortable with and can trust. This may involve trying out different counsellors until you find the right fit.

Discuss your concerns with your counsellor

Talk to your counsellor about your concerns and any reservations you may have about counselling. They can address your concerns and help you understand what to expect.

Be open-minded

Keep an open mind and be willing to try new things. Counselling may involve confronting difficult emotions and addressing patterns of behaviour that may be uncomfortable. Still, it can ultimately lead to growth and healing.

Be patient

Healing takes time, and progress may not be immediate. Be patient with yourself and the counselling process, and trust that positive changes will come with time and effort.

Remember that counselling is a tool to help you navigate difficult situations and emotions, and it can be a valuable resource in addressing toxic relationships. If you feel overwhelmed or unsure, don't hesitate to reach out to your counsellor or seek support from others.

How can Hope Therapy and Counselling Services help?

Hope Therapy and Counselling Services has an experienced team of counsellors and couples counsellors who have experience working with these issues.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Wantage OX12 & Rickmansworth WD3
Written by Hope Therapy & Counselling Services, Offering Counselling, CBT, Hypnotherapy, EMDR & Mindfulness.
Wantage OX12 & Rickmansworth WD3

Ian Stockbridge is the founder and lead counsellor at Hope Therapy and Counselling Services. 

As an experienced Counsellor, Ian recognised a huge societal need for therapeutic services that were often not being met. As such the 'Hope Agency'was born and its counselling team now offers counselling and therapeutic support throughout the UK.

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