Relationship Fitness

S21 E7: Addicted to a Toxic Relationship

In this episode of Relationship Workout for Men, host Vince Vasquez and psychotherapist Roni Maislish explore the dynamics of toxic relationships and codependency. They discuss how emotional starvation, and a lack of self-awareness can lead men to see themselves and others as objects, undermining genuine connection and empathy in their relationships.

**Vince Vasquez Speaking:**

Welcome to Relationship Workout for Men, a podcast dedicated to helping men be intentional in choosing a better partner and being a better partner for the person they choose. Season 21: Men Navigating Strength, Vulnerability, and Addictions. We’re in episode seven: Addicted to a Toxic Relationship. Today, I’m speaking with Roni Maislish, a clinical social worker and psychotherapist working for 20 years on the psychological roots of emotional eating, food addiction, and obesity. So, in this topic, we’re going to discuss codependency in men’s addictions to toxic relationships. What is meant by a toxic relationship? What do you think about this?

 

**Roni Maislish speaking:**

Right. Yeah, I think, you know, I remember when I first read the chapter of Michael Eigen, “Toxic Nourishment.” He believed that the core of all addictions is the same—being addicted to toxic nourishment, actually to toxic love. So if we are going deep into our being addicted to food, eating, and alcohol, it’s all about relationships. While explaining how he worked with his patient Alice, he distinguished between Alice’s relationships with her father and her mother. With her father, it was a warm relationship, but Alice had to do a lot of stuff to earn his love. It was like a business. For every healthy nourishment, sometimes or maybe most of the time, there’s also a toxic part. I think toxic relationships are very hidden. Sometimes it’s back to covert narcissism—it’s hard to see it. A person may use the other person for their purpose, sometimes very subtly. Most people might say this person is very nice, but they don’t see that he’s taking advantage of others. Maybe the person themselves doesn’t understand that they’re doing that. It’s about seeing people as objects rather than subjects. In toxic relationships, you see others as objects. You don’t have the ability to be empathetic to this person. The other person cannot grow emotionally in a toxic relationship—they learn how to survive.

 

**Vince Vasquez speaking:**

Let’s go ahead and learn how to stop objectifying our partners. That’s going to be the next episode. But let’s combine those because they’re interrelated, right? If a toxic relationship means one person sees the other as an object, that’s going to give them something. Can we expand on what it means to look at someone as an object versus a subject?

 

**Roni Maislish speaking:**

Yeah. Sometimes it’s very hard to say who is using whom. It’s often a tango. Like, why are you with a person who is very nice? Maybe he’s looking for those kinds of toxic people in his life. Maybe he’s looking for someone to do something for him. If I understand that I need to give up my power to receive love, I let others use me as an object. But maybe I’m using others as an object because I’m not seeing them as separate persons. When we are falling in love, it’s natural to not see a lot. But after a while, it’s important to start seeing other people’s perspectives. You need to see yourself as a subject from a subjective point of view. Being an individual doesn’t mean you don’t need others in your life. I need people, but I’m not starving for them. I know who I am. I know my worth, feelings, and emotions. This is the most important part of healing from a toxic relationship. Then, I can meet others and see their subjectivity and be more careful in choosing people.

 

**Vince Vasquez speaking:**

So if you’re disconnected, going way back to the beginning episodes, you’re more likely to see yourself as an object. If you can’t see your true self, it’s hard to see that in another person. But as soon as you get more present and authentic within yourself, it’s easier to see if someone’s treating you as an object. Then, two subjects can be together.

 

**Roni Maislish speaking:**

Yeah, like I’m a complete person, and I want to meet a complete person. Then I will have less tendency to use others for my goals. It’s fine to have ambitions, but not to use or manipulate people. You want to do things together.

 

**Vince Vasquez speaking:**

I find that a lot of times, men have trouble being empathetic and putting themselves in someone else’s shoes. Is that related to this? Can you explain what it means to be empathetic in this context?

 

**Roni Maislish speaking:**

Empathy is not sympathy or even compassion. Empathy is an emotional state that you have because people were empathetic to you. Maybe it was a parent, teacher, therapist, art, or God. You know something about your true identity. You know the feeling of someone walking in your shoes. Depeche Mode has a song, “Try Walking in My Shoes.” Empathy is like going to another dimension and being inside another person. It’s a miracle, a gift. Kohut said it’s one of the five transformations—the ability to become empathetic. Every creature is born with this empathy, but society and parents can take us away from our true nature, causing us to lose this ability.

 

**Vince Vasquez speaking:**

Is it fair to say that if your partner is not empathetic, that might indicate a toxic relationship? Shouldn’t empathy be foundational in a relationship?

 

**Roni Maislish speaking:**

I agree. The opposite of empathy is objectifying someone. Seeing someone as an object and being empathetic don’t go together. The key is to not see others as objects and be aware when you’re being treated like one. Curiosity can help you become more empathetic. You need space between you and another person to be curious. If you have too much enmeshment, you can’t observe. But being curious helps.

 

**Vince Vasquez speaking:**

So it’s fair to say if you’re in a conversation and feel objectified, you should express that. If you feel the person is treating you as an object, share that feeling to start a conversation.

 

**Roni Maislish speaking:**

It’s like a businessman making an educated guess about how the person will respond. Sometimes sharing is important, and sometimes you need to run away. If you’re in a relationship where you feel objectified and there’s no empathy, it’s not a great place to be. If you’re disconnected and not sharing your emotions, it can lead your partner to objectify you. If we are not emotionally strong, it can affect the other person. They might want to go to therapy or leave if they feel objectified. You can always blame yourself, but it’s better to take responsibility for the quality of the relationship. If another person objectifies you, think about the relationship plan.

Scroll to Top
Powered by

More Fun, Less Drama