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RoseRed135

Defining "Toxic"

73 posts in this topic

I think it's easy to put all toxic people together, in one group under one label, which isn't really correct.  There are toxic people who are abusive, have a diagnosed medical illness and would be considered toxic on many levels to many different people.  Then there are people that we simply don't get along with, like BSW says, people that we are incompatible with.  I think with those types of people, in a lot of  situations it really does come down to both people having an input into that failed relationship.

Take my MIL for instance.  She took her granddaughter and got her ears pierced and cut her long hair into a bob one day, without the knowledge of my SIL (her other DIL).  Now my SIL did not care, not one bit, not an issue for her at all.  If it was me, I would feel it stepped over some boundaries and that I should have been at least spoken to about her plans.  So my MIL and SIL get along fine whereas I have considered my MIL toxic/difficult and no doubt she has said the same for me.  I could almost hear the conversation "my other DIL is so easy but this one, always has something to say, I have to tread on eggshells".  So toxic or incompatible?  I think the word toxic is thrown around too much,  what a person says, how they respond can all be considered toxic by someone even when it's not meant to be, it's just different expectations, different attitudes or beliefs or even a different communication style.  We get along better with some people than others, it's just with in-law relationship we are thrown together without a choice in the matter and have to make the best out of it.

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1 hour ago, skipped said:

I don't believe in absolutes. Always is an absolute.  So I agree.  

If you look back, The first thing I said was that I do think there are toxic people out there.  I just said that there are  people out there that like to toss the word around and use it to avoid accountability.  If the other person is toxic, they  aren't the problem.   I also think it's difficult for people to see their role in relationship issues. 

To be clear here- I think people need to be accountable for their OWN actions.  People are accountable to how they respond to others actions.

You want a real life example that doesn't have what ifs.  I've told this story before.

I have a coworker who says her mother in law is toxic because she tried to have her fired.  Co worker is a nurse, who used her role to get a Dr to prescribe a treatment that she knew the IL did not want.  The IL complained about it and she got in trouble.  Do you see how BOTH parties are to blame in this situation?

I think it is often much more than ONE incident that makes a person finally say, that one is toxic. That is not to say one incident can't be seen as toxic or making one say a person is toxic because of that one thing.

Just the reporting of this does not make this MIL toxic. It makes her concerned and rightly so. She had no way of knowing what the outcome of her complaint would be and I don't know if she complained for the outcome of having DIL fired. It could have been anyone and she should have complained, regardless of who used their role to get a Dr. to prescribe a treatment she didn't want. There are consequences to actions. So no, I guess I don't agree that BOTH parties are to blame here.

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To me, 'toxic' has to do with the impact of behaviour on others/relationships, and is often seen in the face of boundaries.

If, when told 'no', someone throws a fit, they're poisoning the relationship by their actions.

If someone slides in insults every time you see them, seeks to cause trouble in someone else's marriage, undermines parents, undermines spouses (or gives it the good old college try) then their behaviour is toxic.

If people leave your presence feeling worse about themselves, then you're toxic to them. You're not healthy for them to be around, have a relationship with.

Sometimes it's deliberate choices, sometimes it's personality conflict.

To me, personality conflict is like peanut butter. To some, it's a yummy protein. Some love it, some hate it. To some, it makes them ill. And to others yet, it's deadly, even in the smallest amount. Not the peanut butter's fault, and not the fault of the person who's sensitive or allergic. It just is.

With a toxic person, however, it's like being deliberately poisoned with peanut butter, in varying amounts, to see what gets a reaction, and then claiming it was an accident, or they forgot.

Doesn't mean that everyone finds the person toxic. Doesn't mean that the person behaves the same way with everyone. And some ppl really love peanut butter, and seem to have an obsessive need for everyone to love it too, even if they're turning blue after exposure, b/c they can't REALLY be allergic, everyone else in the family LOVES it.

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15 hours ago, Cupcake55 said:

What does that look like to you? How does someone who has asked someone else to NOT do a particular behavior but they refuse, take responsibility in that situation? Since I can't control others behaviors but have asked MIL NOT to be a jerk to kids. What, in your opinion, thoughts...is my responsibility?

I wonder this too. I tried for 50 years to  react with love and compassion with an extremely toxic sister , yes TOXIC, as in a tongue dripping with hatred, and sarcasm,  and a lifetime of spite and venom who continually verbally and emotionally abused me.  My responsibility was accepting it and teaching her that it was okay to say what she wants. I finally took responsibility after warning her repeatedly that if she abused me again I would have to cut her off. 

 

Some say the word toxic is overused but I see it more as misused.  Generally speaking  to me toxic means someone (putting aside obvious physical abuse etc) who is verbally and emotionally abusive, who has patterns of lying by omission or plain lying, who degrades or negates others, spreads malicious gossip, gaslights,  insults, manipulates.  There is only one instance in that I felt a person was toxic to me who didn't exhibit any of these, but her mental health issues were beginning to  consume my life and as a busy mum I had to let this friend go.   We talked about it years later and we hugged and she understood and accepted it was part of her responsibility to keep taking her meds otherwise accept the consequences. 

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Still dealing with Bratty Cousin, who continues to lie & manipulate to get the larger share of her parents estate over her sister. Her parents were my godparents so while I don't have anything to gain from this estate settlement, I'm working behind the scenes to make sure things come out as their parents requested...Don't care if she finds out I'm involved or not...I've had her on VLC for years. I'm always pleasant when I see her and am close to her her kids (she hates that). She's talked trash about me behind my back to her dad...who apparently chose not to buy into it because he always lit up when I came into the room...(he had several godchildren, but I'm the first and remained the favorite, or at least he made me feel that way)...

In our large and sometimes cumbersome extended family VLC is how it goes when there are issues between members. Everyone is invited, whether you go is up to you. No one makes a scene at family events, ever...you excuse yourself.

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On 11/12/2017 at 5:21 PM, skipped said:

I'm sure you are the exception Imp. The problem is that there seem to be a lot of people out there that don't want to accept responsibility and just love to deflect/ blame others for everything.

ETA- a "long" while ago Rose had a topic on whether there was something we the members of this blog could have done differently to prevent issues with our DIL/MILs.  The majority of the people stated that they should have "nipped" it in the bud earlier.   I remember it especially because it was a dil who posted how interesting the answers were- no one "really" wanted to take any responsibility

You have a good memory! :)

No doubt, saying that you (general) "should have 'nipped' it in the bud earlier" could be a way of projecting all blame onto the other person. But couldn't it also be a form of taking responsibility?

Looking back, at my own experience, for example, I can see that if I had set firmer boundaries w/ DM and MIL earlier on, it would have been better for our respective relationships. True, they might not have liked my boundaries. But, IMO, many arguments and tensions would have been avoided.

So it seems to me that failing to set/enforce boundaries, etc. is often part of the problem. And if that's the case, then realizing that you (general) "should have" done is a way of admitting your share of responsibility for those problems.

Edited by RoseRed135

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22 hours ago, Cupcake55 said:

That is not to say one incident can't be seen as toxic or making one say a person is toxic because of that one thing.

I think anyone can become toxic at any time, one incident or 2-500+ incidents, without the other person bearing any responsibility.

Just as the person raped never bears responsibility, the rapist is responsible.

ETA:  I also think nobody else gets to decide what is toxic for me, I can CO anytime, for my own reasons (which matter to me alone).

Edited by JanelleK
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 Also thinking that realizing you (general) should have taken a stand earlier can open the door to seeing other ways in which you bear responsibility for a strained relationship. Taking my own experience as an example again, I can see how my view of it has changed over the years, the more I've thought about it and learned from these boards. As many members here know, there was a point in my marriage when I blew up at MIL for trying to pressure me to change how I do certain things. It "wasn't pretty," but at the time I felt good about it b/c I was taking a strong stance w/ her and she backed down.

After I was on here for a while, though, I realized it shouldn't have been necessary/that if I had set firmer boundaries to begin w/, I probably could have resolved/prevented issues w/ her, w/o having to yell Yes, IOWs, I began to feel I should have nipped her transgressions in the bud.

But as more time passed, I began to see that I had an even greater responsibility in both my problems w/ MIL and DM b/c I gave them "too much" information about our lives. (Well, ok, that was probably more true of me where DM was concerned and applies more to DH where his parents were concerned. But I'm just talking about me right now.) If I had shared less, especially regarding sensitive issues, they would have had less to comment on/criticize/etc, and so, there would have been fewer tensions. But I wouldn't have begun to see that if I didn't, at first, realize that I should have set firmer boundaries - if, IOWs, I hadn't begun to look at my role in the issues.

More recently, it has occurred to me that I shouldn't have cared as much if they argued/criticized/etc. Part of setting boundaries should have been, say, bean dipping if they began to cross the line, etc (didn't have those ideas in my head back then, of course - wish I did).  Granted, I was trying to get them to respect my/DH's and my decisions as adults, etc. But I could have done it in a much calmer way. Again, however, I don't think I would have had this insight if I hadn't begun by acknowledging that I should have set boundaries/"nipped" it all "in the bud."

I'm not responsible for DM's or MIL's out-of-line behavior. But I am responsible, IMO, for not preventing/putting a halt to much of it sooner and more effectively than I did.

Then again, I don't see either DM or MIL as "toxic" - mostly just two women who had difficulty letting go. I agree w/ PPs who say that if you're a victim of toxic/abusive behavior, you shouldn't be held responsible at all.

 

Edited by RoseRed135

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Looking back, I'm not sure that nipping it in the bud would've helped anything. Maybe we wouldn't have gotten to the point where she physically assaulted me and faked Alz. Maybe not. I don't think so.

I don't think there's any way that we wouldn't have ended up where we are, not unless one of us was a different person. MIL envisioned having a daughter when her son got married. I didn't want, or need, another mother. I found someone demanding instant familiarity daunting, off putting and frankly creepy. I didn't know how to deal with someone that competed w/my husband for my loyalty, or my children for affection. My MIL was disappointed, and angry, that I wasn't insta-daughter, just add wedding ring. I mean, I met her six days before the wedding, for crying out loud. 

My MIL pictured us being close, her and I as the primary relationship. I would follow her advice, I would go to her for guidance, her word would be revered. She would move into our home to be celebrated as the matriarch, to dispense her wisdom, and we would revolve around her. I would be her 2nd in command, and she would be respected and honoured.

Me? My husband was my primary relationship. I had to flat out tell her that I would never side w/her against him, to quit trying. That I was always on my husband's side, b/c he was my husband. I'd been a single mom, running my own home for many years before meeting and marrying Wolf. I didn't want anyone's advice on marriage, housekeeping, cooking, or parenting, and if I did, I'd ask. I never had any interest in living w/my MIL, or anyone other than my dh and kids, or following anyone's dictates. My sense of independence is *exactly* one of the reasons Wolf married me (he's said so) and *exactly* what my MIL's biggest resentment of me is.

Wolf deliberately married a woman who's very opposite of his mother (he's admitted that too). There really wasn't a whole lot of hope that things wouldn't go badly, when I step back and look at it.

I never could've predicted it would've gotten as bad as it did. I hoped that we'd have a friendly relationship, at least. I didn't know we were locked in a battle for Matriarch from the time I said, "I do"

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My MIL once insisted that DH and I were "extensions" of her. She subtracts joy from our lives by choosing to guilt, manipulate, lie and demand. She complains about us, gossips incessantly, and acts as though we owe her. SILs have followed suit.

That's plain toxic. We assume zero responsibility for her chosen behavior.

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For us, nipping it in the bud may have worked, maybe not. I am sure I used to think it would have helped. However, when we finally did deal with it and tell PIL's what is acceptable and what was not, FIL apologized after 2 weeks. MIL attempted a half baked apology 8 months later. They BOTH turned around and started being ***** to ODD. THAT was the HTDO for us. NO ONE messes with our children, uses our children. If you are mad at DH or I or both, you deal with us directly, you do NOT take it out on kids. PERIOD. We called them out on that behavior right away and MIL's answer was CO us and FIL, months and now years later, still acknowledges to DH he knows he owes ODD an apology. Just has not done it yet, but he knows.

Edited by RoseRed135
guideline 5e

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I don't think I made myself understood  I'm wasn't saying that anyone is causing another to be toxic/ responsible for another person to be toxic.   Just because someone IS toxic, and you have nothing to do with that toxicity, doesn't mean that you personally have done anything that has contributed to the demise of the relationship.   I find it hard to believe that one party is perfect and the other party horrible (which is what to me toxic means)

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27 minutes ago, skipped said:

I don't think I made myself understood  I'm wasn't saying that anyone is causing another to be toxic/ responsible for another person to be toxic.   Just because someone IS toxic, and you have nothing to do with that toxicity, doesn't mean that you personally have done anything that has contributed to the demise of the relationship.   I find it hard to believe that one party is perfect and the other party horrible (which is what to me toxic means)

With truly "toxic" people, I don't think it is healthy to beat yourself up exploring what *you* could have done to contribute to the demise of the relationship.  For example, my BIL is a diagnosed sociopath (which also makes him a narcissist as all sociopaths are).  He is a toxic person.  It is a *him* problem.  He has been violent, abusive and aggressive with many people.  I don't need to explore what I did to not have a relationship with him.  When toxic people are in your life, distancing yourself is what needs to be explored and done or practicing detachment if you have to be in the same room with these people.  So often times once you get that distance and perspective after ending these *toxic* relationships you beat yourself up enough with why you stayed in the relationship as long as you did.  I think that is often time the biggest reoccurring thought to work through not what you did to contribute to the demise.  You existed.  That is what you did when it concerns "toxic" people.  Then you got smart and you left and life is much better for it. 

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56 minutes ago, skipped said:

I don't think I made myself understood  I'm wasn't saying that anyone is causing another to be toxic/ responsible for another person to be toxic.   Just because someone IS toxic, and you have nothing to do with that toxicity, doesn't mean that you personally have done anything that has contributed to the demise of the relationship.   I find it hard to believe that one party is perfect and the other party horrible (which is what to me toxic means)

 I guess you've been very fortunate, and never had to deal with a toxic person, then.

Nobody's saying that they're perfect. But, as much as it takes two people to have a relationship, it very much IS possible for one person to drive it completely off the cliff.

I think I contributed to the demise of my relationship w/my MIL by stepping back, further and further with each stunt she pulled. Looking back, I can see that the further back I pulled, the more drastic she became. I was polite, I was respectful, but the feeling of being invaded and manipulated was overwhelming. I didn't then, and I don't now, know how to deal with someone who behaves the way she does. Nothing we ever said changed anything. She'd flat out lie, deny, and gaslight whenever she was told something was inappropriate, and dissolve into screaming hysterics when we refused to accept her gaslighting, and stood firm. I can say I contributed to the demise of the relationship by refusing to deal with MIL's behaviour any longer. Her behaviour exceeded my ability to cope with. I couldn't handle someone who hurt me every time they saw me. I couldn't handle even a phone relationship w/someone that would *lie* about Alz symptoms (and she admitted that it was to make us visit). I couldn't shrug it off, I couldn't ignore it, I couldn't rug sweep it and say, "That's just how she is, silly MIL!" I hit my done point, and walked away.

At the time, I thought it was just 'for a while'. Until I could deal with her without losing my temper. See, I didn't WANT to be mean or cruel to her. I didn't want to be a person that could do that to another person, so I stepped away, b/c I was so very angry with her, I didn't trust myself to not say something that I'd regret later.

I came to realize, there was literally nothing I could do to make anything better. She was never going to stop yanking on my bad arm, so I could never be around her. She was never going to stop lying, because she doesn't see a problem with it. She was never going to stop manipulating, b/c for *her*, what she wants is what matters.

All I *could* do was protect myself, and my children, from someone who behaved that way, and support my husband in the background while he did what he thought was the right thing. 

Could I have discussed her overwhelming, smothering behaviour right at the start, and had a different result? I don't know. I suspect not, b/c right from the get go, anytime she was told 'no' about anything, she ignored us and blazed forth with whatever she wanted anyways. In the early days, anytime I refused her, she faked an asthma attack on the phone, because she was 'so upset'. When I started saying, "Oh dear, MIL, you sound unwell, I'll let you go!" and hanging up, the 'asthma attacks' vanished like they never were.

Could I have hung on through it all? Yeah, probably. But is it right or fair to put myself through that? For what? So she could constantly complain about all the ways we were wrong, were wronging her, the children weren't good enough, how we weren't good enough, weren't doing enough, weren't Christian enough, didn't sent the right pictures, didn't send enough pictures, didn't send pictures often enough, didn't call often enough, didn't talk long enough, didn't answer all her questions, wouldn't tell her all our finances, let her do our budget, wouldn't allow her to long distance homeschool our children, and me to be miserable, both physically and emotionally by continuing? There was no upside. She really didn't seem to *like* any of us, or enjoy being around, because she wasn't in control. I mean, she even complained about the birthday cards the kids made her when they were preschoolers! They weren't the right colours, they didn't stay in the lines, and they shouldn't be using pencil crayons, only wax crayons, they needed art lessons, and she went out and bought herself a proper card 'To Grandma' so she wasn't ashamed of having their artwork hanging up. 

Sometimes, it really is a zero sum situation.

ETA: My worst offences, in my MIL's eyes, are: having too many children, and not moving her in to take care of her. She's said that. 

Edited by ImpishMom

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1 hour ago, skipped said:

I don't think I made myself understood  I'm wasn't saying that anyone is causing another to be toxic/ responsible for another person to be toxic.   Just because someone IS toxic, and you have nothing to do with that toxicity, doesn't mean that you personally have done anything that has contributed to the demise of the relationship.   I find it hard to believe that one party is perfect and the other party horrible (which is what to me toxic means)

Just coming back to this, b/c I was thinking: just as some members have toxic DILs, and believe that the DIL is at the root of many things, well...those DILs grow up.

And a switch doesn't flip when they become MILs. They're still the nasty, manipulative, lying terrible ppl they were as DILs, but with *experience* now as MILs.

Toxic people aren't new. I figure they've existed as long as humans have (hello Cain and Abel). What seemingly *has* changed is folks refusing to put up with it, under the guise of family. Less of, "that's the way he/she is!" and more of, "No, you're not going to treat us like that, and still have a relationship with us." We no longer need each other to survive (ie hunting, farming, literal survival). As a result, people are realizing more and more that they don't *have* to accept mistreatment, or outright abuse, no matter who it is dishing it out. 

I suspect a lot of it is the result in the 'changing of the guard'. What used to be tolerated now isn't, and that's 'not fair'. "Well, my MIL/Mother/FIL/father/whoever was mean and cruel, but I never walked away!" and some folks really can't understand why others don't do what they did. "I hated my MIL, but we saw her every Sunday!" It's their turn now! They put up with crap, now it's their turn to dish it! It's the circle of life, dang it! When their (insert family member here) is their age, then they can have things how they want it, it's now my turn! But the younger generation doesn't care what dues you chose to pay. They're making their own choices.

(general 'you', of course)

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On ‎11‎/‎13‎/‎2017 at 8:40 PM, Layla said:

Take my MIL for instance.  She took her granddaughter and got her ears pierced and cut her long hair into a bob one day, without the knowledge of my SIL (her other DIL).  Now my SIL did not care, not one bit, not an issue for her at all.  If it was me, I would feel it stepped over some boundaries and that I should have been at least spoken to about her plans.  So my MIL and SIL get along fine whereas I have considered my MIL toxic/difficult and no doubt she has said the same for me.  I could almost hear the conversation "my other DIL is so easy but this one, always has something to say, I have to tread on eggshells".  So toxic or incompatible?  I think the word toxic is thrown around too much,  what a person says, how they respond can all be considered toxic by someone even when it's not meant to be, it's just different expectations, different attitudes or beliefs or even a different communication style.  We get along better with some people than others, it's just with in-law relationship we are thrown together without a choice in the matter and have to make the best out of it.

To me this is a good example of incompatibility.  MIL taking the GD out to get her ears pierced and hair cut wasn't an issue in this relationship, however it would be in other relationships. 

There were things my MIL/FIL did that would have been welcomed and appreciated by some that I did not appreciate -  doing my laundry, buying and putting things in my home like area rugs or new sheets for the kids' beds when I was not there, installing flower bushes in my front yard are 3 examples.  I found this to be annoying and totally unwelcome.  Someone else could view this as nice gestures and wouldn't have an issue with it.  When it came to this stuff, my IL's and I just did not have compatibility. 

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3 hours ago, skipped said:

I don't think I made myself understood  I'm wasn't saying that anyone is causing another to be toxic/ responsible for another person to be toxic.   Just because someone IS toxic, and you have nothing to do with that toxicity, doesn't mean that you personally have done anything that has contributed to the demise of the relationship.   I find it hard to believe that one party is perfect and the other party horrible (which is what to me toxic means)

Here's what I think .. :)

It's impossible to maintain any kind of "relationship" without a certain amount of accountability- If you (general) maintain a relationship with XYZ, and XYZ is toxic, how are you (general) not contributing to creating situations for toxic developments to occur? Toxic people use others for fuel, they generally don't discriminate who, how kind or polite someone might be, or how happy- As long as you (general) provide them with an opportunity to unleash their meanness, you're accountable- But not toxic-

Edited by Komorebi
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32 minutes ago, Komorebi said:

Here's what I think .. :)

It's impossible to maintain any kind of "relationship" without a certain amount of accountability- If you (general) maintain a relationship with XYZ, and XYZ is toxic, how are you (general) not contributing to creating situations for toxic developments to occur? Toxic people use others for fuel, they generally don't discriminate who, how kind or polite someone might be, or how happy- As long as you (general) provide them with an opportunity to unleash their meanness, you're accountable- But not toxic-

I once read that, from the Christian perspective, estrangement can be viewed as removing the ability for someone to continue to sin against you.

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1 hour ago, ImpishMom said:

I once read that, from the Christian perspective, estrangement can be viewed as removing the ability for someone to continue to sin against you.

That's a lovely perspective-

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So it seems that some of you see a difference between "contributing to the problem" and "contributing to the demise of the relationship."  So do I. If you (general) continue to allow a difficult person to be fully in your life, often causing drama, etc., you're furthering the problems in the relationship, even though you're helping to keep that relationship alive. If you pull away/lower contact/cut them off, you may bring on its demise. But in some cases, especially if the difficult person is toxic, that "demise" might be a good thing. Make sense?

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My MIL is a liar.  She lies about big things, little things and everything in between.  DH had been dealing with it his whole life and then we dealt with it for the first few years of our marriage.  She is CO and so are a few others that won’t leave the fact that she is CO alone.  (Screaming at us about it, trying to arrange accidental meetings with MIL, etc)

I personally would qualify MIL as toxic.  I think all habitual compulsive liars are toxic.  When confronted about lies we could prove with facts she would lie more or gaslight.  I am certainly not “completely innocent” in the demise of our relationship with her.  I totally got mad and lashed out at her when she would lie.  But do my faults make her less toxic?  Nope!

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Seems to me that most, if not all, toxic people are verbally/psychologically abusive.

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14 hours ago, ImpishMom said:

Seems to me that most, if not all, toxic people are verbally/psychologically abusive.

I think that is the differentiator.  Also, there are a lot of "toxic" people in the world.  Think of all the shooters in the news - toxic,  Child abusers - toxic.  Kevin Spacey's of the world - toxic, Rapists - toxic, etc. etc., and all the people they victimized and then move on to families and work environments, etc. and all the psychological and verbal abuse that can happen there from a personality disordered person or a person who is just nasty to the core, etc.  Is it fair to ask the victim, "what was your responsibility in this?"   If anything the questions always center around, why you didn't take action to distance yourself sooner or get authorities involved or report the person?  I think it's hard sometimes for normal, adjusted people to understand that there are evil or seriously character flawed people in the world for which your only responsibility is to preserving yourself and those in harms way.

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