Are You in a Toxic Work Relationship?

Are you in a toxic work relationship?

Job interviewing is a lot like going on first dates. There are highs and lows. In between interviews you imagine how wonderful this company may be and how it could meet your professional needs. Or you may be worried about some red flags that could lead to an unhealthy work environment. Knowing when to take a new job, or to leave a current job that isn’t a good fit, can be hard (just like a relationship) because normally it isn’t all bad.  

Work is where you spend the majority of your week and a positive or negative environment can really impact your overall health and life. Here are some warning signs that may make you want to rethink your workplace situation:

  • Does your boss/company keep making promises they do not fulfill to keep you ‘happy’?  Examples are: No-to-little raise this year but we really value your work and will be giving raises next year (repeat cycle).

  • Company is under resourced (not enough employees, funds, etc.) and ask you to work more because the work is so important and the need is so great (without adequate compensation for you).  

  • You feel blamed, belittled, or unsupported by your manager.

  • Do you lack influence on what you do or the work environment you are in?

  • Are you not credited for the work you do?

If these things are present, spend some time thinking about your work environment. Are there concrete ways you can imagine improving your work environment? Do you feel able to approach your supervisor or HR manager about your professional needs and ask what they could do to support you?  It can also be helpful to set check-ins with yourself to gauge how you’re feeling and honestly assess how your work environment is impacting you in all areas of your life. Is it so energy-consuming that you’re not tending to other needs - physical health, mental wellness, being a present romantic partner or family member?  

Making the decision to leave can be a hard and complex one. For example, it can be scary to bring up concerns if you fear that you may experience a negative consequence at work. It can be terrifying (and perhaps not feasible) to leave a job if you do not have another one lined up. Or if the work situation has become toxic, you may not have the energy to even look for another job. You may also be concerned about the impact on your friends and colleagues if you left.

Getting support during these times to help you understand what is going and why, can bring clarity on what you want to do.  A few steps to help make a decision are:

  1. Spend time examining your values and goals.  

  2. Reflect if your work environment is aligning with your values and goals.

  3. Examine your boundaries around your values.  Are there boundaries that are too flexible or strict?

    1. Sometimes it’s helpful to think of what you would want for a loved one or your child. Would you think it’s ok for them to put up with (fill in the blank) environment or behavior?  If it’s ok for you, but not for them, that’s a sign that you may need a better boundary for yourself.

  4. Examine any ways you may be able to influence your work environment to be a healthier fit.

  5. Weigh the pros and cons of staying in the job or leaving, and the impacts this would have in all areas of your life - financial, professional, personal.

  6. Intentionally make a decision knowing the potential consequences and accept that whatever happens, you made the best decision with the information you had at the time.  

If you find yourself struggling with a particular boundary, therapy may be helpful.  Many times, intense feelings at work can be a sign of unresolved pain from the past. Seeking therapy can help heal from past events that may be influencing your current work situation, like helping you realize how work situations are actually triggers for painful, unresolved feelings unconnected to your job.  An example of this are children who helped their families by over functioning (the parent was sick or unavailable, or a sibling needed a lot of attention). These children may grow into adults who tend to dismiss their own needs and prioritize the needs of others or the company to the detriment of their own health.  

If you’re someone who compartmentalizes your emotions, it’s difficult to predict how a workplace environment will impact other carefully guarded areas of your life. This doesn’t make it any less urgent. Sometimes realizing that the workplace has become toxic is the first step in figuring out the solution - not only to your professional happiness, but also within your other intimate relationships. And just like a relationship,  the earlier you work on areas of concern the easier it can be to make a positive change.

Sometimes Getting it Wrong is Getting It Right

As parents, we are bombarded with information  telling us how to do things right, or all the things we are doing wrong. In the era of information overload, parenting guilt and worry are taken to a new level.

But there is a simple truth in parenting that is so powerful, it is often forgotten:

Good parenting means you get it WRONG at times so you can make a repair. You acknowledge what happened and  honor your child’s experience. This is more powerful and helpful than always getting it ‘right’.

When you notice yourself feeling guilty or bad about snapping at your kid, remember that this is a POWERFUL moment to acknowledge how you feel and how you behaved is not ok. And then you make amends. This skill will help your child in every aspect of his/her life and strengthen your relationship. So take a deep breath, and show your child that it is ok to not be perfect, to make mistakes and make amends.  This is has more impact in teaching your child how to navigate life when he/she loses it. It demonstrates how to be accountable, how to acknowledge someone else’s experience without it defining oneself (i.e, if they feel bad that means I am bad), and how to use the important emotion of guilt that will make a relationship stronger. Parenting is tough. Hopefully knowing that it is beneficial to mess up (and make a repair) can hopefully make it a little easier.

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Premarital Counseling



A long-term investment with immediate benefits

Relationships have a deep impact on your overall health. Strong, long-term relationships reduce stress and anxiety, increase life expectancy, and help people be more productive. However, in relationships where there is a lot of conflict, uncertainty, or instability people find themselves so preoccupied  that it’s hard to concentrate at work or enjoy normal activities. 

It’s important to realize that all relationships will have conflict, but it’s possible for couples to use conflict to bring them closer together. This is a learned skill that takes special knowledge and practice. Generally, people do not want to hurt each other. When couples disconnect or behave differently, it is usually because their defensive instincts kick in. This is why it’s so important to learn how to counteract those instincts by developing the skill for staying connected. 

Premarital counseling is a great way to learn these skills  that has huge benefits. Imagine not feeling stressed when you and your partner fight. Most people will say that their relationships are great 99% of the time but that 1% is incredibly painful. These skills teach couples how to fight well, be emotionally responsible to one another, and to invest in their relationship on a daily basis. It also makes it easier to come in for a quick tune up session if either person notices more fights or arguments. The sooner a couple comes in, the easier it is to repair and re-connect. Otherwise, it’s like an open wound that, without treatment, can fester and become more complicated to treat. If a couple neglects this caretaking and continues to have unresolved issues, these infect many other areas of the relationship, making treatment that much harder. 

An analogy I like to use is that strengthening your relationship is like going to the gym. You can do it on your own, go to a class, or get a personal trainer. Using a personal trainer will help you achieve your goals more quickly and easily, and enable you to make modifications depending on your body and needs. Taking a class helps you complete a full work out when you might otherwise stop earlier on your own. Similarly, using a relationship ‘trainer’ can help you dig deeper, and safely explore insecurities and vulnerabilities. Strengthening your relationship in this way is really hard, mentally and emotionally, but the payoff is tremendous. Trying to do this work on your own can lead to relationship injuries (think of sharing something vulnerable and if your partner rejects or dismisses it, it can create a hesitancy to share things in the future). 

Why is premarital counseling better with a trained premarital couples counselor? 

●      Licensed Couples Counselors pick up on any underlying issues that may impact healthy communication.

○      This can include dysfunctional  family dynamics, past trauma, personality differences, or having ‘non-neurotypical’ brains.

○      For example, look at my article on the ADHD and Non-ADHD couple. Many of common communication techniques won’t work for a couple like this because they need to learn how to communicate specifically with a different type of brain. 

●      A premarital counselor can explain the research and why people are wired differently.

●      Premarital counselors experience working with couples in all stages of their life and relationship.

●      Couples can come back in for counseling with someone who knows their history.

●      Unlike trained premarital counselors, many couples counselors will see premarital couples but will not cover a curriculum, use an assessment, and explore future times that are stressful for most relationships. 

●      Premarital counseling is a non religious approach that can be beneficial for those who may not share the same religious beliefs or identify as agnostic or atheist. 

There is evidence that even taking 8 hours before marrying to explore your relationship and learn these skills is huge. Positive outcomes include:

●      Increasing marital satisfaction by 52%

●      Decreasing chance of divorce by 30%

●      Decreasing areas of conflict by 83%

●      Increasing communication and conflict resolution skills

●      Reducing wedding planning stress

One of the reasons I love working with couples, especially in premarital counseling, is that relationships are powerful. They restore, heal and create safety. I love helping couples learn those skills so they can have a better relationship and be able to identify the signs of when to come in for extra support. Ultimately, we know this to be about prevention. No matter where you are in your relationship, stepping into marriage with a strong foundation and the confidence to use these skills will remove many barriers that most couples typically face. Why wait until your relationship doesn’t feel good to take action, when you can make it feel even better today? Check out my Premarital Group and Private Classes today!