By Dr. Brenda Wade Is a toxic relationship ruining your health? Learn the warning signs and the 7 detoxifying secrets.
Engaged couple Marci and Dan were just two months away from their wedding day when they joined one of my seminars. We opened with a quiz asking all the participants to rate their relationship on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 on the scale equaling “fantastic” and 5 equaling “failing.” Dan rated their relationship a 4, and Marci a 5 – just two months away from their big day! Those high numbers could only mean one thing; their relationship was becoming toxic.
When I listened to Marci and Dan talk to one another this is how they sounded: "It's all your fault.” “You just want to keep fighting" "What's wrong with you?" "You're too controlling,” and "Don't be stupid.” Marci explained that she went on the "bride diet" so she could look her best in her wedding photos, and Dan suddenly turned into the food police "coaching" her on what she should and shouldn't eat.
"If he says, 'Don't eat that' one more time, I'm going to scream. Even though I know it's wrong, I lash out at him. Then he gets angry because he’s ‘only trying to help.’ We get in a fight and I end up with a headache."
Have you ever had your best friend, mother or spouse say something like those nasty sound bites to you? If you have, then you know how Marci and Dan felt. These are examples of toxic communication, which leads to toxic relationships. If you feel stuck, worn down and unsupported or you wonder why your best friend isn't the person you can count on when you need support, you may be in a toxic relationship.
Toxic relationships are seriously bad for your health. When you feel hurt or upset your body produces stress hormones, which may lead to illness. Once your body tightens up in response to upset feelings, you're may be in for a domino effect that includes shallow breathing, accelerated heart rate and stomach upset. Over time, these stress symptoms trigger stress-related illness. That's why Marci was getting headaches.
With Dr. Oz, I had the opportunity to work with another couple, Bill and Susan, who came on the show desperate for help. Unlike Marci and Dan, they’ve been married over 20 years, yet their relationship was extremely toxic and was having a life-threatening impact on Susan’s health. Their issue was that Bill loved to cook and cooked food high in fat and sugar, obviously making Susan’s diabetes much worse and her weight control impossible. He just couldn’t seem to hear or understand Susan's concerns. Bad listening can turn any relationship toxic.
If you recognize any of the toxic relationship signs I’ve mentioned above, just like our two couples, you may be wondering how this toxicity got started. We all learn our communication patterns in childhood – no, we're not blaming your parents! Think of it this way, it's like learning to tie your shoes; once you've learned it, it becomes a habit and you don’t have to think about it. Just like brushing your teeth and driving your car, we have relationship patterns that have become habits. Some of those habits are good and some really just don't work. We're all doing the best we can based on what we've learned so far. Once you identify a pattern and understand where you learned it, it's much easier to change it.
Here are the seven secrets I’ve taught to thousands of people. Use them to start ridding yourself of old, toxic habits and begin to replace them with new, healthy patterns.
7 Secrets to Detoxify Your Relationships
This is where we begin and end in any healthy relationship. The 7 Secrets actually spell out the word "respect." This is one of the most important tools I teach. I’m giving it to you here because along with Dr. Oz, I am committed to your health and well-being, and relationships are a cornerstone of both.
Become a better person by upgrading your listening and expressing skills. It's never too late to learn how to make your relationships better.
Step on solid ground by remembering the good times you've shared and the special qualities you both have. Focus on the solid foundation you've built. What we focus on expands and becomes stronger.
This means letting go and forgiving. Once you've communicated and solved an issue, bury it and don't dig it up again.
Use the power of expectation to set clear positive goals in your relationship and expect to reach them. Practice seeing your goal already completed with your inner eye. This exercise pulls you forward toward the goal.
There are three parts to healthy, non-toxic communication.
- Express feelings as opposed to blaming. Use, "I feel" instead of "You never" or "It’s your fault."
- Make a request. Ask for what you would like or need without guilt tripping or manipulating
- Listen deeply.
Top it off by showing extra acts of acceptance, kindness and loving support.
Following the show with Dr. Oz and me, Bill and Susan completed a six-week aftercare teleseminar with me, Your Healthiest Love Ever. They took the seminar one hour a week by phone, and between classes they listened to custom programs I recorded for them on special equipment called The Masterkey. At the end of the six weeks, Bill had lost 30 pounds and Susan has lost 10! Best of all, Susan said she felt closer to Bill and more tender toward him than she’d ever felt before, and Bill said he was a much happier man because he had a much happier wife. Now that’s what I call detox! If they can do it, you can do it.