If you’ve ever taken a geometry class you’ll know that while all squares are parallelograms, not all parallelograms are squares. The same is true with abusive and toxic relationships. While all abusive relationships are toxic, not all toxic relationships are abusive. It’s important that you understand the difference as sometimes the lines can be thin.

Abusive relationships consist of manipulation, control, emotional stress, and at times physical and/or sexual abuse. These are all things that are 100% toxic. But there are also many things in life that are toxic that don’t qualify as abuse.

Toxic relationships can come in many forms. Some may be toxic yo just you. Others may be toxic to both parties involved. Some can be fixed and some cannot. You may be great friends with someone until you live together. Once you live together you find you constantly butt heads and you’re always fighting. Whether you’re in a romantic relationship or a platonic one, this happens quite often.

Another toxic component that isn’t abusive is not accepting someone for who they are. While it may not be abusive to tell your son that you won’t show up to his wedding because he’s marrying another man, it is most certainly toxic. You might have been the most amazing mother while he was growing up. Taking him to soccer practice, helping with homework, providing warm meals or a roof for any of his friends in need, getting excited when he went to prom with the cute blonde girl from his science class. But, then he came out and you didn’t approve. That’s all it takes. But, I’m a great mom, you say. Are you though? That one thing makes you more toxic than you could ever realize. It’s all it takes to be toxic.

I’m pointing all of this out because I see the two terms misused a lot. Many seem to think that they are interchangeable, which just isn’t the case. Yes, abusive is always toxic. It’s harmful and in most instances it can’t be fixed without leaving. But, if the relationship is toxic there are ways to fix it. Sometimes just changing the relationship dynamic helps. Realizing that the pair is better off as friends rather than lovers can actually work. Telling your best friend that while you love them so very much, you just can’t live with them, can work.

Please, be aware of this when you are trying to help someone realize they have a toxic or abusive relationship.

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