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TAR – the acronym for Toxic Abusive Relationships – was coined by Dr. Jamie, a trauma-certified therapist with more than 30 years of clinical experience working with individuals, families, and celebrities. TAR can be seen in intimate relationships, families, co-workers and worksites, governments, caregiving situations, and many other areas.

I, like many others, have experienced TAR in intimate relationships and in worksites, which inspired me to join the TAR Network charity and co-create TAR Tales where everyone and anyone can share their stories and be heard, receive support, and begin their healing journey.

Let’s start with the basics … what is TAR?

Your relationship can be considered toxic if it makes you feel unhappy and disrespected, and if it is characterized by dishonesty, controlling behaviors, and a lack of support.

In a healthy relationship, everything just kind of works. Sure, you might disagree from time to time or confront some bumps in the road, but you generally make decisions together, openly and honestly discuss problems, and genuinely enjoy each other’s company.

Toxic relationships are another story. Spending time with your partner may make you feel – more often than not – drained, unhappy, and devoid of joy or satisfaction. Frequent arguments should convince you that things need to change.

You still love your partner, but you seem to rub each other the wrong way and can’t stop arguing over little things. You might dread the thought of seeing them, instead of looking forward to it as in the past.

What are the signs of a toxic relationship?

When you’re involved in a toxic relationship, signs of toxicity can be subtle or obvious. You might not find it easy to notice the red flags. You may notice – either through your own assessment or that of your toxic partner – some of these signs in yourself or in the relationship.

  • Lack of support – healthy relationships are based on a mutual desire to see their partner succeed in all areas of life. When things turn toxic, every achievement becomes a competition. The time you spend together no longer feels positive. You don’t feel supported or encouraged, and you can’t trust them to show up for you. You develop the impression that your needs and interests don’t matter; that they only care about what they want.
  • You communication becomes toxic – instead of kindness and mutual respect, most of your conversations are filled with sarcasm, criticism, and fueled by contempt and inspire you to follow your toxic partner’s lead. Do you catch yourself making snide remarks about your partner to friends or family members? Maybe you repeat what they said in a mocking tone when they’re in another room. You may even start dodging their calls, just to get a break from the inevitable arguments and hostility.
  • Financial irresponsibility and arguments over money become the norm – sharing finances with a partner often involves some level of agreement about how you’ll spend or save your money. In a healthy relationship, each partner respects the other’s wish or need to spend with needing authorization. That said, major purchases should always be discussed and negotiated. 
  • If you’ve agreed about your finances and one partner frequently disrespects that agreement, whether by purchasing big-ticket items or withdrawing large sums of money.
  • There is constant stress – when ordinary life challenges arise (such as a family member’s illness or job loss) some tension in your relationship is expected. But finding yourself constantly on edge, even when you aren’t facing stress from outside sources, is a key indicator that something’s off. This ongoing stress takes a toll on your health – leaving you feeling miserable, mentally and physically exhausted, and generally unwell.
  • You ignore your own self-care – your usual habits suffer in a toxic relationship. You might withdraw from hobbies you once loved, neglect your health, and sacrifice your free time. This might happen because you don’t have the energy for these activities or because your partner disapproves when you do your own thing.
  • You hope for change – you might stay in the relationship because you remember how much fun you had in the beginning. Maybe you think that if you just change yourself and your actions, they’ll change as well.
  • You walk on eggshells – you worry that by bringing up problems, you’ll provoke extreme tension, so you become conflict-avoidant and keep any issues to yourself.

Why choose TAR Network?

TAR Network is a 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to bringing worldwide awareness and Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) treatment to those whose entire reality has been warped and distorted — and who have been relegated as collateral damage — after being raised by a toxic parent, being in a relationship with a toxic partner, being a citizen of a country run by a toxic autocratic leader, or by being the victim of a hostile and/or toxic work environment.

The vision of TAR Network is to educate, empower, and energize people going through or emerging from TAR and/or parental alienation through the support of the TAR Network and its affiliates.

TAR Network is committed to building a foundation through our projects that will ultimately change hearts, minds, and approaches in treating adverse childhood experiences, CPTSD, and the effects of collateral damage.

Uniting our programs with other foundations around the world will ultimately drive meaningful educational and policy changes, bringing proven programs geared toward proper parenting that will help to avoid the development of attachment disorders for future generations.


How can we help if you find yourself in TAR?

  • Start therapy – an openness to therapy is a good sign that mending the relationship is possible. In order to help the relationship move forward, though, you’ll actually need to reach out to schedule that first appointment. Individual and /or couples therapy offers a safe space to explore attachment issues and other factors that might contribute to relationship concerns. It also helps you get more insight into toxic behaviors versus abusive ones.
  • Find support – regardless of whether you decide to try therapy, look for other support opportunities. Support might involve talking to a close friend or trusted mentor, for example. Other options could include joining a local support group for couples or partners dealing with specific issues in their relationships.

How can I leave a toxic relationship?

If you’ve decided it’s time to move on from the relationship, these strategies can help you do so safely:

  1. Get support from a therapist or domestic violence advocate. They can help you make a safety plan and access resources for additional support.
  2. Open up to loved ones. You don’t have to do this alone. Family and friends can offer emotional support, but they may also be in a position to offer more tangible support, like a place to stay or help you to move while your partner is out of the house. You can also safely share your story via TAR Tales.
  3. Bring a friend. Don’t feel safe having a breakup conversation with your partner alone? Ask a trusted loved one to come with you. Knowing you have their support may help you stick to your decision to leave, even if your partner tries to convince you otherwise.
  4. Change your phone number. If this isn’t possible, block your partner’s number and social media accounts so you won’t feel tempted to respond if they reach out.
  5. Take care of yourself. Leaving any relationship can feel painful and distressing. Honor your needs by taking time for relaxation, sleep, and self-care, along with time to heal before starting a new relationship.

Remember this – you are not alone in this situation. There are hundreds of millions of people who’ve gone through or are in the throes of TAR. Let’s unite together to make life better, free of toxicity and despair for all of our children and future generations. Let’s act now!


About the Author


My purpose is to write and provide useful information about TAR and help you recover. Join the fight!

TAR Network™ is a 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to bringing worldwide awareness and treatment to those whose emotional reality has been distorted by narcissistic abuse. The mission of TAR Network is to support men, women, the LGBTQ+ community, tweens & teens, families, parents who are alienated from their children, workers, and caregivers going through or emerging from TAR. With subject matter experts, affiliates, organizations with supportive resources, and our individual donor community our programs will help you out of the fog and into the light. TAR Network is currently developing several innovative projects: TAR Tales – a safe place to share your truth TAR Centers – a safe place to get vital CPTSD treatment TAR Anon – a safe and nonjudgmental worldwide support network. There is strength in numbers. We’ve all suffered from trauma and abuse at the hands of someone close. Please join us in this worldwide effort toward recovery.

1 Comment

  1. Rita_Sexton Reply

    Thank you for all this information. What I’ve read so far has been very interesting and helpful. I’m so glad I was told about this. Thank you again!

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