For enriching relationships

As we address negative behaviour patterns in our relationships, we can look forward to happier and more fulfilling times

Happy FamilyRelationships change because of factors like time, roles and responsibilities. But all these are natural elements. There also exist toxic elements which have a negative impact on relationships like selfishness, ego, control, jealousy, secrecy, and passivity. Let us see how these toxic elements affect our relationships and how we can deal with them.


Both spirituality and psychology recommend that we focus on ‘self’. They explain that only our ‘self’ can guide us to the path of righteousness. But, focusing on self is different from selfishness. Selfishness is when we continuously think only about our own wishes and needs, overlooking those of others.

Impact on relationships

By being selfish, we often demean others. It suffocates those involved in the relationship. They feel offended and slowly start distancing from us.

Way out

  • Believe in mutual nourishment as fulfilment cannot happen in isolation.
  • Discuss the needs and wishes of ourselves and of the others involved.
  • Ensure that the other’s needs are fulfilled
  • Encourage and motivate the other in achieving his/her goals


Ego is a sense of self worth and importance. It gets hurt when challenged or criticised. It strengthens on getting appreciation and respect.

Impact on relationships

When all transactions in our relationship are driven by our ego, we are impulsive and vulnerable to either hurting our emotions or the emotions of others. Others are always careful while interacting with us. Doing so, they start feeling a constant pressure and frustration. But our unmoved attitude repels them.

Way out

  • Listen to other’s statements carefully to distinguish whether they are giving their view or they intend to put us down, prove us wrong or demean us.
  • Remember that the control of our self-worth is only with us and it cannot be affected by others. It is we who perceive others statements as demeaning.
  • If we feel hurt by somebody’s statements, we should bring it to their notice very humbly.


Control is power to influence other’s behaviour. We constantly assess and form judgments about others. Negative judgments make us insecure and we develop the need to control.

Impact on relationships

When we assume control of everything, we make others feel unimportant. The other feels choked and entrapped in the relationship. As a result, s/he becomes passive and this builds tension and arguments in the relationship.

Way out

  • Understand your insecurities and its causes and express the same.
  • Ask for help to deal with insecurities and know what they can do.
  • Negotiate with others a mutual comfortable situation.
  • Accept some facts which cannot be changed or manipulated.


Jealousy is when we are envious and resentful of others’ achievements and advantages. Often, the feeling of jealousy comes when we compare ourselves or our situations with others. This gives us a feeling of inferiority which is generated from fear of getting isolated and abandoned.

Impact on relationships

Our inferiority complex develops a sense of rivalry and unhealthy competition. We end up making critical remarks and blindly imitating others’ actions. By doing so, we harm ourselves and the relationship.

Way out

  • Become aware of inferiorities. Write them down or share them with someone you trust.
  • Work on the workable inferiorities and accept the ones which you can do nothing about.
  • Appreciate others and their qualities. True relationships are the ones where we accept the person as s/he is and not we want them to be.
  • Work on identifying your strengths and feel confident.


Also read

Many of us confuse secrecy with privacy, thinking that hiding will not make any difference. Secrecy is when we hide some information, which the other person has the right to know as the information is directly or indirectly related to the basic purpose of the relationship. Privacy, on the other hand, is holding away information that the other has no right to know.

Impact on relationships

Hiding information that defies the mutually agreed terms breaks trust and curbs transparency, giving the other feeling of betrayal.

Way out

  • Refrain from having any secret.
  • Even if we have kept a secret, which is critical to the relationship, then we should humbly admit it to the person. This might have a risk of the other blaming you as an initial shock reflex. But slowly this revelation can make us more connected to the other.
  • If the secret is not critical, then use any situation to bring it to the notice of the other.
  • Promise the other that henceforth you will not keep any secrets.


Passivity is when we are neutral and have no orientation to nurture the relationship.

Impact on relationships

Most people who are neutral get a sudden shock when they find themselves away from their relationships. And when the relationship suddenly collapses, there is ambiguity around the reasons. We either give explanations or go in a denial mode.

Way out

  • Work at our passivity towards life at general, if it exists.
  • If some issues with others have brought us in passive mode, address them immediately.
  • Reactions from the other person on our passivity is an alarm to start working on it.
  • Bring creativity and passion in the relationship by small gestures and tokens of care and concern. It does not mean that we need to spend huge money.
  • Be in touch with others’ feelings and needs by talking to them.
  • Have a playful approach occasionally in the relationship.

Thus, we can have truly enriching relationships by identifying the toxic elements and banishing them from our life and relationship.

This was first published in the September 2009 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

Kamal Khurana
Dr Kamal Khurana, PhD, is a marriage and relationship therapist based in New Delhi. He works on the "perception, communication and action" model of relationship counselling. His focus areas include pre-marriage counselling, post-marriage therapy and relationship counselling.


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