5 Faces of Toxic Relationships - The Critic, Passive Aggressor, Narcissist, Stone Waller

Posted on November 30, 2016

Photo: flickr

As humans, we can read all the brilliant self-help books and possess wisdom about relationships, yet so many of us still are hindered by toxicity. We are often scared to speak up to those who produce toxic vibes and are even more fearful of leaving a romantic relationship, a friendship or a job due to toxicity.
There are many different forms of toxicity and some of the worst come from individuals who appear shiny and nice. Such façade can be an illusion, as things aren’t always as they appear and same goes to people. The five faces of toxic relationships are common personality traits that are prevalent in abusive relationships but may be hidden behind a successful and superficially kind person.
There are many more than just five faces of toxic relationships, but these seem to be fairly common.
The Critic
Criticism is different from advices, and it is important to understand the difference. Have you ever been in a relationship where you feel judged and criticized no matter what you do? Let’s take a look at an example of tardiness.
Scenario #1: 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 the perfect example of criticism and, often, this person criticizes your every move: “You are going to wear that?” “Why don’t you ever … ?” “What is wrong with you?” and the list goes on. You feel belittled and that you can never do anything right no matter how hard you try.
Scenario #2: You arrive 15 minutes late to dinner without giving your significant other any warning. Your significant other is visibly angry, but instead of lashing out in criticism, he or she inquires about this pattern. “I realized you are late quite often. Is there a reason, or has anyone else ever noticed this trend?” This is an example of when one individual is trying to inquire why this maladaptive pattern is occurring. Instead of blaming the actual person, he or she may blame the action.
A Critic can bring a lot of toxicity into a relationship. They may never call you insulting names, but your beliefs, appearance and your thoughts may be constantly insulted by them. In most cases, they want to be in control due to their low self-esteem. Instead of trying to make suggestions to improve your bad habits, they took the chance to berate these habits and hinder you as a person.
The Critic criticizes the person instead of the behaviour. A classic deleterious experience a person can have is when a parent says, “You are a bad boy/girl,” instead of saying, “You did a bad thing.”

The Passive Aggressor
People who are passive-aggressive are one of the most toxic, as you never know what message that person is trying to convey. Denial of feelings, sarcasm and backhanded compliments are sure ways to tell that someone is passive-aggressive.
Scenario: You did something to upset your partner, but you are unsure of what exactly you did. You ask why he or she is angry and inquire for insight as to what you have done so you can prevent upsetting your partner in the future. However, your partner will not tell you why he or she is mad and instead replies, “I am fine” or “I am not mad,” even though he or she appears to be withdrawing from you. This can cause your brain to run in circles trying to figure out what this person is thinking and why he or she keeps sending these “hidden messages.” You may spend countless hours trying to read the person’s mind and backtrack over your every move or word.
If a person cannot communicate in a straightforward manner and uses sarcasm as a defense mechanism, sends mixed messages or acts like nothing is wrong regardless of exhibiting angry emotions, you might be dealing with a Passive Aggressor.
Passive-aggression is the passive expression of anger. Common examples include repeatedly keeping you waiting or making you late for an appointment.
The Narcissist
No matter how smart or experienced you are, you can never measure up to this person who acts like he or she is God’s gift to the universe, knows everything, is the best at everything and is not afraid to let you know. Similarly to passive-aggressiveness, narcissism is considered a personality disorder and is toxic. A Narcissist places himself or herself on a pedestal and looks down at you. You may feel you are constantly competing with this person in every circumstance. Narcissists are often unwilling to compromise, lack insight and empathy, and want to be the center of attention. They may make it a point to ruin special occasions, such as your birthday or a milestone in your professional career, as they constantly need praise in every situation, even when it is your time to shine.

The Stone Waller

Stone Waller, a person who refuses to engage in conversation or share feelings when issues come up. It refers to the act of refusing communication. The Stone Waller may come off as cold and refuse to admit the existence of a problem. Such act creates negative feelings and barriers to furthering a successful relationship in the future. Additionally, it can cause you to harbour feelings of resentment and guilt. If you are trying to communicate with a person you know well and he or she refuses to open up with you, then you may want to reconsider why you are involved in that relationship in the first place.
Stone walling behaviour has qualities similar to passive-aggressive behaviour and such tactic might be useful in a political debate but not in an interpersonal discourse.

The Antisocial Personality

Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) as defined in the DSM-5 includes traits of a sociopath (thought to result from social conditions such as childhood abuse, characterized by explosive and sometimes violent behavior, but presumed to possess the capacity for empathy and remorse) and a psychopath who allegedly feels no remorse or empathy, takes advantage of others legally, and is often involved in fraud or other white collar crimes with varying motivations including greed and revenge. The etiology of psychopathic behaviour is thought to be genetic and/or congenital.
Psychopaths are psychological chameleons who act the required emotional part to manipulate each situation and others for money, sex, power, ego gratification, etc. They are usually so skilled that their victims are unaware of what is happening. The psychopath’s “love” is mainly concern for control, adulation and power, which are hidden under the cover of their book.

Time for Reflection

If you are in a relationship with a person who possesses any of these personality traits, it may be wise to spend some time reflecting on how you feel around this person.

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Category(s):Antisocial personality, Personality problems, Relationships & Marriage

Source material from Psychology Today