Hitting Close to Home

Relationship toxicity is something my co-contributor, Kristen Fuller, M.D., experienced firsthand, which resulted in her passion for communicating about the topic. She writes:

“I myself had all the tools to avoid a toxic relationship, but I entered into an emotionally and mentally toxic relationship with someone who seemed like he had everything—a great family, a prestigious education, a successful career, and an apparently kind personality. I quickly realized this was all a facade. I learned how deep toxicity runs and why it is so hard to escape emotional and mental torture when someone looks so ‘perfect’ on the outside.

Dr.-Ralph-RybackDr. Ralph Ryback is a psychiatrist with the Sovereign Health Group. He has all taught at many institutions including Harvard Medical School.. Receiving his M.D. from Wayne State School of Medicine and completing his residency at Boston City Hospital, Dr. Ryback brings over half a century of psychiatric experience to Sovereign Health. Serving past appointments as a director for addiction treatment facilities and hospitals, he has also had posts as a medical officer for National Institute on Alcohol Abuse.

Editor: Arman Ahmed

"As the saying goes, ‘Beauty is only skin deep.’ I learned the importance of recognizing toxic relationships and friendships and how to navigate these types of relationships. I have learned to cut out the bad people in my life and treasure those who bring positivity. In the end, I have become a stronger person in all capacities, even though it took being dragged through what seemed like endless amounts of darkness.”

Whether it is cutting ties to a friendship, romantic partner, family member, or co-worker, most of us can relate to the feeling of drowning because of a toxic individual. Of course, there are many more than five faces of toxic relationships, but those described below are among the most common. These faces can overlap, and two or more may occur simultaneously. If you are in a relationship with a person who possesses any of these traits, it may be wise to spend time reflecting on how you really feel when you're around that individual.


1. The Critic

Have you ever been in a relationship in which you feel judged and criticized no matter what you do? Criticism is different than advice, and it is important to understand the difference. Consider tardiness: It can hinder your professional and personal relationships, and most of us find it to be a negative trait. However, each individual has personal kinks to work out, and we all make mistakes.

Image that you arrive 15 minutes late to dinner without giving your significant other any warning. Your significant other is visibly angry and, instead of asking why you were late or what happened, he or she automatically begins insulting you: “You are always late and never have any consideration for anyone except yourself. I have been sitting here for 15 minutes waiting for you, and no matter what, you cannot seem to ever show up on time.”

This is a perfect example of criticism; this partner may criticize your every move: “You are going to wear that?” “Why don’t you ever…?” “What is wrong with you?” The list goes on and on. You feel belittled and believe that you can never do anything right, no matter how hard you try.