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Andrea Anderson Polk’s Blog

Clinically Practiced, Biblically Informed

  • Writer's pictureAndrea Anderson Polk

Toxic Communication Characteristics: Help – I feel crazy!

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

How to understand communication in a toxic relationship

One of the most challenging parts of being in a toxic relationship is communication. Trying to communicate with the person in your toxic relationship about how you feel and what is happening can lead to chronic experiences of feeling disillusioned.

They repeatedly make excuses for their hurtful behavior and blame you instead. Many clients say to me, “Maybe it is my fault.”

Toxic communication tactics are manipulative and deceptive. I explain to my clients, they complicate the simple and emote the factual. They twist the truth, avoid dealing with facts/reality in conversation and become overly emotional.

It is challenging to have a rational conversation because they make simple things (the facts) extremely confusing and complicated, leaving you questioning yourself, doubting reality, and wondering if you are somehow wrong.

For example, let’s say you are at a company dinner or happy hour for your spouse or significant other when you witness them acting in an inappropriate, romantic way with their colleague. When you gently bring your concern to their attention, they angrily respond, “You’re controlling. You want to dictate what I do and who I am friends with. You are just jealous and insecure.”

They ignore the reality of what happened between them and their colleague while becoming overly emotional. They are also complicating the facts of what you saw by accusing you of things that are not true.

When conflicts arise, these people focus on being right instead of being open and desiring to understand your perspective. They operate with a closed mentality during conversations, expect you to read their minds, and criticize you for not understanding them. If you disagree with them and share your opinion, they take it personally and become offended.

When you share your thoughts and needs, you receive no acknowledgment, and they continue their selfish and harmful behavior patterns toward you. When you communicate with them how you feel, they respond by saying how they think based on what you said rather than acknowledging your emotions and actively listening to you.

Here are some examples of toxic communication from my counseling sessions:

“When I gently share with my mother that she hurt my feelings, she does not acknowledge me. She changes the subject. It’s as if the conversation never happened.”

“When I share how I am hurt by something my colleague said or did, I walk away from the conversation feeling confused, as if I have done something wrong.”

“When I share my feelings with my friend, he gets defensive, and I end up questioning myself and doubting my own feelings after a conversation with him.”

“When sharing my feelings with my father, it never feels like a two-way dialogue. My feelings are dismissed, criticized, or ignored.”

“When I tell my sister what I feel, she tells me I shouldn’t feel that way. Are my feelings wrong?”

“When I share how I feel with my boyfriend, he seems to have a way of always switching the focus back to himself.”

“When I share how I feel with my wife, she responds, ‘After all I’ve done for you, you still don’t appreciate me.’ I was simply trying to say that my feelings were hurt. And now I seem to have hurt her.”

Toxic communication intends that the person seeks to convince you that you are the dysfunctional and unhealthy one. They desire more and more of your time, energy, and attention. The longer you engage in toxic communication patterns within the relationship, feeding their ever-hungry, never-satisfied ego, the larger and larger their feelings become, and theirs consume your feelings.

You are filling a void in their life that you were never meant to fill. Meanwhile, your needs, dreams, desires, and purpose do not come to fruition.

In the next post I will dig deeper into toxic relationships by helping you to identify when the relationship is abusive.

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Andrea Anderson Polk is a licensed professional counselor, nationally certified, registered clinical supervisor, and certified professional coach. She has a private practice in Northern Virginia with nearly 20 years of clinical experience helping hundreds of clients on their healing journey.

She is driven by a deep calling to help ambitious women of faith experience healing and breakthrough so they can live each day with peace and purpose. 

Andrea believes healing happens through relationship. The wounds that occur in a relationship must be healed in a relationship. Andrea invites you into a life-altering relationship.

Work with Andrea one-one- by contacting her here.


Andrea has spent her career studying the human experience and has developed a fascinating analogy that compares cuckoo birds, nature’s master manipulator and imposter, to situations and relationships that leave us feeling drained, confused, lost, and empty. Her new book, The Cuckoo Syndrome, helps us fend off the cuckoos, the unhealthy relationships, toxic thinking, and self-sabotaging behaviors in our life that never truly satisfy the deep longings of our souls and the desires of our hearts. 

Andrea’s clinically proven, innovative method helps us recover the lost pieces of ourselves, discover meaning in suffering, and transform our pain into purpose by teaching us to uncover the truth of who we are and who God is so we can be healed and live free. 

Purchase the book Andrea’s clients call “a life-changing breakthrough” for yourself and the people you care about today.

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If you….

Feel internal pressure to do all things well. 

Tend to neglect your needs to please others and search for validation.

Continually attract toxic or one-sided relationships leaving you drained. 

Want to build a life that is unashamedly true to who you are and what you want.


Then…this is the time to reclaim your JOY, ENERGY, AND TIME so you can live each day with peace and purpose!


Curious to know how?

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