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There is a proverb that goes something like this:  ” Become wise by walking with the wise”    Hang out with fools and watch your life shatter into  pieces.  This is what I keep telling a friend who is struggling with life right now.  This friend is in a toxic relationship that has caused  her own career to plummet into the nadir of despair, and that has caused her personal life to be reduced to a pathetic existence.  Absolutely pathetic.  She is living an existence that she never would have envisioned for herself.  Not ever.  I have known this woman for more than 20 years, and she is almost unrecognizable at this point in her life.   Her partner has imposed an emotional noose around her neck, even to the point of dictating her religious beliefs.

These relationships begin in an exciting way….and usually with great sex.  At the time, there seems to be lots of passion. Big highs. But also lows. This drama cycle can easily be mistaken for True Love. A deep connection. Intense intimacy.  It isn’t.  The intensity comes from deception, in most cases.  Someone has a need and will put whatever strings it takes to fill that need, even if it means playing a fake “passionate sex” card temporarily….but as the relationship becomes toxic, so does the sex life.  In many cases, it dwindles down to nothing, or when it occurs, it is just bad.  Of course, in any relationship, there are things that are black and white and there are grey areas.  This is a given.   However, when one person begins to try to control the other, the beginning of a toxic relationship is born.  Everything goes downhill from there.

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People can be health conscious and read labels, eat nutritious foods, make their environments as safe and healthful as possible, but if they are involved in toxic relationships, their health is going to fail as much as it would if they ate junk food every day of their lives.  Creating a toxic internal environment for oneself is tantamount to inviting depression, stress, anxiety and even heart problems into one’s life with open arms.  Being in a toxic relationship invites problems, not only including the events that transpire from day-to-day, but also ones that can end up literally killing that person.

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A long term study that looked at the adverse affects of living in unhappy relationships found a distinct correlation between toxic relationships and heart disease.  The 1985 study followed a group of more than 10,000 participants for an average of 12.2 years. Participants consisted of both men and women and ranged in age from 35 – 55 years old. Researchers controlled for psychosocial factors (depression, anxiety, worry, stress) as well as lifestyle, social demographics (age, marital status, sex, employment status,) and biological factors (high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and cholesterol levels).  Researchers only evaluated the relationships which were identified as being the closest by the participants.

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The overall, study results suggested that participants whose closest personal relationship was negative were at a greater risk of a cardiac event, including a fatal cardiac event, than their counterparts whose close relationships were not negative.   In other words, toxic relationships can be toxic to our heart health.  A good way to tell is this….Look at your life when you first started a relationship.  If you are a doctor, was your practice thriving?  If you are an artist, were you getting lots of shows?  Did you have steady work?  If you are a teacher, were you involved with many colleagues, working on projects, thriving on the job?  NOW look at your life.  Are you failing, not only in your career…but also in your personal life?

I pray for my friend’s heart.  It is a good heart.

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