Psychological insights on relationships: rejections, breakups, making relationships happy, unhealthy dynamics, and general psychology.

What Are the Long-Term Consequences of Toxic Relationships

Inverted reality, Decreased self-esteem and self-worth, Anxiety and stress, Depression, Isolation, Physical health issues, Difficulty trusting others, Impact on future relationships, Emotional scars and trauma, Loss of identity, and Difficulty setting boundaries. These are long-term consequences of toxic relationships.

Handsome man

How To Heal From the Toxicity In Relationship

Inverted reality

If someone tells you something long enough, you’ll start to believe it. If someone tells you that you’re stupid or a bad person long enough, no matter how much you resist, millions of the same messages (you’re stupid, you’re stupid, you’re stupid) (you’re a bad person, you’re a bad person, you’re a bad person) are stored in your subconscious and influence your conscious mind from there. Later, someone may tell you you’re smart, but these millions of pieces of information that were said to you earlier have already shaped your personality. This brings us to:

Decreased Self-Esteem and Self-Worth

Because these negative messages are stored in the subconscious, a person begins to doubt their worth. And since life constantly sends us challenges, It can be proven very quickly that we are what we were told: stupid or bad.

I didn’t perform well on a task – Maybe it’s because I am stupid?

Someone doesn’t want to talk to me – Maybe it’s because I am a bad person?

This starts to erode our self-belief and self-perception. As a result, we make new mistakes that confirm our theory. Shaken self-confidence makes us even more clumsy and insecure. And in the end, with so many mistakes and a narrative looping in our heads (you’re stupid, you’re worthless, etc.), our self-confidence and self-worth are weakened or destroyed.

Self-esteem is destroyed earlier simply by allowing someone to mistreat us.

Man and woman in toxic relationship

Is my relationship worth fighting for?

Anxiety and Stress

People who live in toxic environments live in constant fear of triggering that toxicity towards themselves in some way. If you’re forced to walk on eggshells so the person next to you won’t get offended, yell, or insult you, you’ll be under constant stress. Constant stress destroys us physically with the help of cortisol, which means that being in toxic relationships will shorten your life. When we are constantly thinking about whether we are going to upset someone, we are constantly tense.

Also, your fears will turn into anxiety (a continuous tangle of irrational yet, for us, very real worries). Anxiety is a problem that is very difficult to bear psychologically. Anxiety changes our personality and destroys our life opportunities.

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If all your energy is focused on satisfying someone else, you’ll have less energy for yourself. If you lack energy for yourself, you’ll hardly find fulfillment and satisfaction in life. Your relationship with the person, their behavior, how the person sees you, etc., can also sadden you.

So here, in parallel:

  1. That you don’t take care of yourself (you never think about yourself because all your energy and attention is on the other person),
  2. You are sad because your relationship is not working out.
  3. Due to the secretion of cortisol, your level of good hormones is reduced,
  4. You feel a lack of energy because all your energy goes into satisfying a relationship.
  5. And in the end, you rarely or never get any satisfaction.

All this makes life meaningless. The fact that you no longer see the meaning of life can lead you into depression.


I’ve already talked about isolation as a manipulative method used to leave you only with that one person. However, isolation makes you antisocial and helpless. You feel like you’re alone and have lost social skills. You also feel guilty for proactively rejecting some people. Later, it is very difficult to return to relations with people because we are ashamed, people have resistance towards us, they resent us, etc. Also, because people weren’t more persistent in approaching you (and left you alone since you didn’t want them in your life), you started projecting onto them that they rejected you.

This is of course your projection and rationalization, but it helps you feel less guilty (if they’re guilty too, you’re not the only one so guilty), although the consequence is even more isolation because you can’t “forgive” yourself, but neither can they. They were not fair to you.
This is clearly a complex use of ego defense mechanisms that helps on the one hand but backfires on the other.

Man and woman in toxic relationship

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Physical Health Issues

Chronic stress and anxiety associated with hidden toxicity can have adverse effects on physical health. Long-term exposure to stress hormones can weaken the immune system, increase the risk of cardiovascular problems, and exacerbate existing health conditions.

Difficulty Trusting Others

There’s a saying: “Once bitten, twice shy.” If someone you let into your life, your closest person, has deceived or hurt you, why wouldn’t others who aren’t as close do the same? This ultimately means you’re never safe anywhere. It seems that relaxing around the people you’ve willingly let into your life and shared your secrets with is the riskiest.

Since I’ve been watching the TV show Elementary lately, there’s often a mention of someone being harmed by a person they voluntarily let into their home. This is reminiscent of that. In the end, you don’t want to let anyone into your life because they’re potentially dangerous. You’ve learned not to relax around people, so relaxation becomes impossible.

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A man and a woman look at each other

Impact on Future Relationships

Besides not letting people close to you anymore, you build walls of mistrust around yourself and create an atmosphere where people can’t approach you. And after exposure to toxic relationships, you also develop the habit of seeing such relationships as normal. You may not want it, but habits are habits, and practically, you need it. That’s why people with different intentions are unwelcome, while those who can satisfy your habits are welcome.

Of course, this is an unusual lesson because no sane person wants to be manipulated, humiliated, or badly treated, but it can also be said that no sane person overeats, drinks, or smokes. Yet people often do these things out of pure habit. I’ve had a large number of clients in my career who agreed to be mistreated in all their subsequent relationships after getting used to it once.

Bad treatment will become your habit and you will expect it in all other relationships.

In order to desire different relationships, you have to change your habits, and habits are hard to change when you are constantly in the same or similar relationships.

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Emotional Scars and Trauma

If someone keeps scratching you in the same spot, eventually a wound will form and, after that, a scar.

If someone keeps hitting the same place, eventually an injury or bruise will appear.

The same goes for internal injuries. Your inner being is as vulnerable as your external one, and traumas and scars can remain. Constant humiliation, twisting of the truth, and lying will emotionally change you. Just as an injury can alter the functionality of a part of the physical body, so can an internal injury permanently alter your functionality as a being.

Don’t forget, some scars never go away.

Toxicity in relationship

How Do You Know When It’s Over?

Loss of Identity

Considering that all your energy, time, thoughts, and other resources have been used to sustain that relationship, you focus less and less on yourself and your needs. All your concentration is on that relationship and the person in front of you. Whether it’s because you’re afraid or because you want to please them, you think a lot and do a lot to keep that person satisfied and calm.

As a result, you no longer focus on yourself. Your progress, your desires, your unresolved fears, and your needs.

Also, that person is more powerful than you, and they impose their will and ideas (fears, desires, and thoughts). You accept them because they are your authority and their needs are more important than yours. That’s the kind of relationship you’ve built. In the end, you no longer know who you are. Your essence is erased and gone.

In the country where I come from, there is a writer (Duško Radović) who said: Some people would like to live a few other people’s lives in addition to their own.

Man in toxic relationship

Difficulty Setting Boundaries

In relation to a toxic person, you have a choice. Either to set boundaries or to maintain peace. And you decide to maintain peace once. However, the same situation arises again after some time. You choose again between preventing the person from behaving in a certain way or maintaining peace because you don’t want to argue. Of course, you choose peace. And once again, and for the hundredth time… and in the end, you no longer know how to set boundaries. You always do what comes naturally to you – maintain peace. Setting boundaries becomes a distant memory.

Not only that, you no longer have boundaries, so setting them becomes very exhausting and requires extra effort.

Read more about toxic relationships:

How To Recognize Signs of Hidden Toxicity in Relationships?

How To Set Boundaries In a Relationship – 12 Steps

How To Leave Someone You Love But Is Toxic

Can unhealthy relationships become healthy?


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