Unhealthy Relationships

Gwen Randall-Young
3 min readDec 22, 2022
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

A warm, loving, nurturing relationship is a healthy thing. In such a relationship there is laughter, connection, intimacy, communication and fun. These qualities can reduce stress, reduce anxiety and depression, improve quality of life. They cause the body to produce endorphins: hormones that make us feel good and even reduce pain.

If a good relationship can contribute to our health, what happens if the relationship is not good? Of course, there are variations depending on how negative the relationship is, and how much involvement there is, whether it is a spouse or immediate family member, extended family, a boss or colleague or a neighbor.

A negative relationship creates stress. It may also result in depression, anxiety, feelings of anger, sadness, or loneliness. Here, rather than good chemicals, the body produces stress hormones. In fact, studies have shown that after an angry or upsetting episode, the immune system is suppressed for six to eight hours! If another incident happens, or even re-living it as we tell someone about it, then the immune system suppressed for a further six to eight hours.

It is clear that if our relationship with someone in our lives is conflicted, we could be in an almost constant state of immune system suppression. We may not experience effects of this right away, but over time we may be vulnerable to a variety of health issues.

We need to think of stress, negativity, anger and conflict as things that are toxic to our bodies. We would not breathe or ingest substances we knew to be toxic to our bodies. Similarly, we should also practice ecology in our emotional environment. If the situation or interactions cannot be changed to create a more positive emotional climate, it may be time to make a move.

Some people realize they are in an unhealthy relationship, have tried to heal it, examined their part in all of it, and see it is unlikely to ever change. They can become stuck in a pattern of sharing with others all of the faults and misdeeds of the other, while doing little, if anything, to remove themselves from the situation.

Often it is fear of change that prevents them from taking steps to remove themselves from the bad situation. Some find a certain comfort is being “the victim.”

Let’s think of it like this. Imagine you are living in a house that has dangerous black mold in it. This is highly toxic. It is hard to imagine anyone acknowledging they know it is there, as well as how dangerous it is, and doing nothing about it.

Similarly imagine someone making a sizeable investment, watching it losing more and more every year, and continuing to put money into it. There comes a time when the pain of holding on becomes worse than the pain of letting go.

Just because one might have a high pain tolerance, that does not mean they should remain in painful situations.

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Originally published at https://gwen.ca on December 22, 2022.



Gwen Randall-Young

Gwen Randall-Young is a psychotherapist and author whose work bridges the worlds of self and spirituality, body, mind and soul. Visit www.gwen.ca