Clues That You’re In A Toxic Relationship

Have you ever been in a relationship in which you felt as if you were continually beating your head against a brick wall? Did you think “what am I doing wrong?! Is there something wrong with me?” Did you wonder if you simply had unrealistic expectations for your relationship?  



What if I told you that it’s not your fault and that you’re not crazy.  

What if I told you that you may be the victim of a toxic Power-Overer.

‘Power-Overers’ have hard, impenetrable personal boundaries and are generally unreceptive of outside influence. Powering-over others is possible only in the absence of empathy.


Those who ‘power-over’
are unmoved by the emotions
and experiences of others.


While we all are occasionally guilty of exerting power over others by virtue of being insensitive to their different and unique thoughts, feelings, perceptions and choices for their individual selves, there are some people who habitually and consistently exercise power over others. Those who habitually power-over others may do so actively or passively, but


Powering-over others
always abusive.


The former is like a bulldozer ploughing over others –this active powering-over is thus obvious.  Alternately, passive power-over doesn’t so clearly and unequivocally announce itself and its effects on others are then also much less readily apparent…but no less toxic and no less damaging.


While the Bulldozer variety inspires terror as they seek to run us over and turn us into pulp, the passive power over of the Brick Wall variety encourages despair.


We stand before the Brick Wall, pleading for him or her to see us, hear us, care for us. Nothing.  No response. The Brick Wall remains unmoved while we crumble to pieces.


In both cases, Power-Overers
inspire nervousness, anxiety,
hurt, fear or despair.


Whether we’re helplessly looking over our shoulder for the ever-lurking Bulldozer or hopelessly peering at the immoveable, looming Wall … We are in a constant state of agonizing stress, not knowing whether to fight or flee.

I’ve unfortunately been in toxic relationships with Power-Overers and I either changed the rules of the game or I got out. I want to help you do the same, but first you must understand the reality of a “relationship” with a Power-Overer [hint: it’s not a true relationship if it’s based in fear and control.] 


Part 2:

Have you ever been around someone who habitually put you on edge, made you feel as if you were walking on eggshells? Have you ever tried to receive an emotionally available and engaged response from someone else but were met with either aggression or a blank stare? Have you ever been around someone who made you feel shutdown, numb, or empty inside?



What if I told you that you don’t deserve to be treated this way.
What if I told you that you may be the victim of a toxic Power-Overer.  


Both types of Power-Overers are angry.


The anger of the Brick Wall, however, is so deeply buried inside that the Brick Wall himself is no longer aware of it. It can manifest itself in any classic form of passive aggression: snideness, insensitivity, cloaked disparagements, sarcasm.

Brick Walls are not terribly fun to be around because they insidiously emotionally wear us out. Brick Walls are exhausting because attempting to be emotionally available, responsive, and engaged with them is a one-way street exercise in futility.


Power-Overers are TOXIC.


Brick Walls want to maintain wide berths and we come under their passive aggressive attacks when we strike a chord a little too close to home.

If we touch too close to that anger, the Brick Wall subconsciously tries to scare us away with their passive aggressive meanness while simultaneously walling up another level higher.


With Brick Walls, we may slowly learn to adapt by keeping our distance --we may start employing some of the same toxic emotional avoidance strategies as the Brick Wall himself and this we do so as to not be starkly reminded of the emotional neglect we feel in the relationship.


The Bulldozer’s anger is obvious and overt. It is the Bulldozer who yells and hits, taunts the weak, tortures the small and helpless, or throws us down a flight of stairs. He is angry and we well know it.

If the Brick Wall’s anger is pent up and just shoots out the chinks in the wall from time to time, then the Bulldozer’s anger, by contrast, can seem to know no limits and can come steaming in our direction without notice.


Whereas the Brick Wall hurts us via emotional neglect or verbal abuse, the Bulldozer’s rage encompasses not only those areas but also can spill into physical and/or sexual abuse.


Thus, the Brick Wall hurts us in a relatively hands-off, passive, neglectful way.

The Bulldozer comes tearing into our personal ‘Yards’ and actively inflicts harm through force and/or threats of force.

The insidious effects of a toxic relationship with a Brick Wall are certainly dangerous to our well-being and not to be downplayed; however, the danger of being in a toxic relationship with a Bulldozer is more acute.


A Brick Wall may wear away
at your personhood for decades,
but Bulldozers tend to present
a much more immediate threat.


The blessing in disguise is, then, that victims in toxic relationships with Bulldozers may arguably have a higher chance of waking up out of their slumber and getting themselves safely out of that relationship.

Those in toxic relationships with Brick Walls may disintegrate to pieces without ever realizing what’s happened.


Part 3:

Have you ever driven yourself half-mad trying to understand why a certain someone consistently treats you so horribly?  What you’ve done to deserve it?  What you can change so that it will be better?



What if I told you that being treated badly is not a reflection on who you are and your worth.

What if I told you that you may be the victim of a Power-Overer.


In both cases of the Bulldozer and the Brick Wall, the Power-Overer is hyper-protective of his or her insecure, under-developed personhood and erroneously views the personhood of others as a threat.


Bulldozers and Brick Walls
employ black-and-white thinking
that supports their me vs.
everyone else, zero-sum mentality.


The concept of exercising personal power and nurturing relationships with others exercising personal power is a thought far removed from experience of a Power-Overer.


At the heart of it, Power-Overers have a very weak, poorly defined sense of self, for which they then overcompensate.


Very frequently, Power-Overers
were once powered-over themselves.



Instead of focusing their energies on strengthening their too weak personal boundaries and learning how to define themselves as an independent individual separate from all others –i.e. instead of growing personal power– the Once-Powered-Over-Now-Power-Overers simply vow to themselves to never be powered over again.

The formerly Powered-Over learned to equate vulnerability with annihilation because when they were vulnerable –whether by choice based in childlike trust and innocence or because they were too weak or voiceless to resist– they were actively emotionally, verbally, physically, spiritually, and/or sexually hurt or passively neglected.


Therefore, to the formerly Powered-Over, vulnerability is a terrifying idea and must be avoided at all costs.


Unfortunately, the costs include having healthy, truly intimate relationships with themselves and with others.

In their either/or world in which they’ve secretly and subconsciously sworn to themselves to never be powered over again,  this then translates to becoming the Power-Overer themselves and continuing the compassionless reign of terror or desert of neglect upon others.

Just as they were taught to unempathetically deny and invalidate their own feelings and experiences, so they now approach us the same way and are unmoved by our suffering.


How are we to lovingly respond not only to our suffering Selves, but also to the sufferers who are hurting us? In short, loving boundaries. More on this topic to come!

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Laura Bennett

Laura Bennett

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