Members in the Media
From: The New York Times

Your Most Ambivalent Relationships Are the Most Toxic

It’s been two decades, but I still feel jittery when I think of an old boss of mine. One day she nominated me for an award for service to the organization. Then she threatened to fire me for raising a concern about a colleague being mistreated. “If you ever speak up out of turn again,” she said, “I’ll have you fired.” I walked on eggshells until the day she quit.

We often think about relationships on a spectrum from positive to negative. We gravitate toward loving family members, caring classmates and supportive mentors. We do our best to avoid the cruel uncle, the playground bully and the jerk boss.

But the most toxic relationships aren’t the purely negative ones. They’re the ones that are a mix of positive and negative.

We often call them frenemies, supposed friends who sometimes help you and sometimes hurt you. But it’s not just friends. It’s the in-laws who volunteer to watch your kids but belittle your parenting. The roommate who gets you through a breakup and then starts dating your ex. The manager who praises your work but denies you a promotion.

Everyone knows how relationships like that can tie your stomach into a knot. But groundbreaking research spearheaded by the psychologists Bert Uchino and Julianne Holt-Lunstad shows that ambivalent relationships can be damaging to your health — even more than purely negative relationships. One study found that adults had higher blood pressure after interacting with people who evoked mixed feelings than after similar interactions with those who evoked negative feelings.

Read the whole story (subscription may be required): The New York Times

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