A toxic behavior doesn’t necessarily come from a toxic person.
However, when it starts it usually becomes a pattern within a relationship causing harm to one or both partners involved.
It can be noted through body language, like rolling eyes, not holding hands (or lack of physical touch in general), facial expressions that indicate resentment and/or contempt, etc.
Sometimes it’s done subconsciously and sometimes it’s done purposefully to cause harm and have control over the other partner.
What is a toxic relationship?
A toxic relationship is a relationship that is unhealthy, manipulative, controlling, damaging (emotionally, financially, physically, etc), hurtful, and emotionally exhausting.
The consistency of unhealthy traits and behaviors being practiced/experienced in the relationship make it toxic, and at times, more difficult to leave.
One or both partners feel trapped and the relationship becomes a source of insecurities, negative emotions, and self-criticism or even self-sabotage.
Advice given in this article is based on people’s personal experiences, expert advice, and pure genuine intentions to help people in need of it.
20 warning signs the relationship is toxic:
1. Frequent fighting became the new normal
Things don’t flow easily in a toxic relationship. There is a lot of anger, resentment, and fights. When fighting, the focus tends to be more on winning the argument rather than solving the issue that’s causing the fight.
- You’re tiptoeing around your partner’s irritability, afraid that their moodiness will get back at any moment;
- The slightest things are considered/taken as attacks, or the slightest attempt to discuss and address something hurtful turns into a big argument, a messy fight out of which is difficult to get out of;
- Your partner is hypersensitive to your attempt to address problems, taking it as a personal attack, and turning it into a fight;
- You’re being monitored, and tested by your partner so that they can find a flaw or a mistake for the argument to break in.
It feels as if they’re looking for a mistake or a wrong to disrupt the peace and cause another argument. Making you be very vigilant of what you say, or do around/about your partner.
2. Manipulative and controlling behavior
Manipulative and controlling behavior manifests through the use of guilt, shame, intimidation, and other tactics to attain a dominant spot in the relationship making the power dynamic very unbalanced.
- Unhealthy levels of jealousy;
- Attempts to have control over your life such as your outings, daily activities, who you hang out with, or even your financial decisions;
- Your nos become yeses very frequently;
- There’s passive-aggressiveness;
Such actions are done so passively, that they’re rarely noticed, hence they leave the affected person feeling bad and powerless without them knowing why.
Dominance, manipulation, and control of the other are not signs of a healthy relationship. In fact, they are very damaging in lots of aspects for the one affected.
3. Nothing in and about the relationship feels healing
There is constant instability, fear, insecurity, negative feelings, and damage. You’re left feeling emotionally overwhelmed, sometimes, to the point where you experience relationship burnout.
- The past wounds keep being inflamed and new wounds keep on creating;
- The relationship brings more troubles in the lives of partners than joy and positive feelings;
- There’s a fear and hesitance to communicate problems, to communicate the need for healing. Fear of being vulnerable around the other;
A healthy relationship brings two people together that heal and cherish one another, that aims to bring joy into one another’s lives.
On the other hand, in a toxic relationship nothing feels healing, the pain and discomfort tend to be a chronic part of the relationship.
4. It’s financially controlling
If you’re paying for everything or your financial decisions are being controlled by your partner then the relationship is toxic. You feel like you’re left with no other option but to obey the desires of your partner.
- If both partners have a mutual bank account, one is making all the decisions and withdrawing money without the consent of the other.
- One has complete control of a ‘mutual’ bank account and does not allow the other to have any access unless they ask or beg about it.
- One is paying for everything, and it is draining them financially, and/or affecting their life in a very negative way (financially wise).
Each of the cases is very unhealthy and can be damaging in a lot of aspects for the affected partner. It is unhealthy, it is toxic as long as such behavior continues in the relationship.
5. There are signs of codependency
This correlates to dominance and control. It’s about one (or both) of the partners wanting the other to depend on them. Whether it is about their joy, happiness, or emotional well-being.
- Your partner can’t stand the fact that you’re enjoying something without them;
- You’re left feeling guilty if you go out without your partner, or if you’re having a good time while they’re not with you;
- Your partner finds a way to punish you or make you feel bad and guilty when you do something independently;
- A toxic partner finds direct, or indirect ways to say “You need me, you can’t do this or that without me. You’re incapable of it.”
This is another form of possessive behavior, through which, again, one of the partners gains dominance through the codependency and the weakness of the other partner.
One of the partners prefers to ‘hold tight’ the power in the relationship, they prefer the other when they’re weak, and not in much control of anything.
manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity
Gaslighting is one of the most dangerous and harming practices in a toxic relationship, which can be considered emotional abuse.
- One partner is highly affecting the other’s mental state in a negative consistent manner by making them question their reality;
- Your partner denies saying or doing something even though you’ve heard them say it or saw them doing it leaving you to question your abilities, memory, and perception of reality;
- Some of the things toxic partners say (with intention of gaslighting) are: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”, “You’re just imagining things.”, “It just happened in your imagination, what are you talking about?!”
If you’re finding yourself feeling the need to record or keep track of the things you’re saying or your partner is saying, then you might be gaslighted by them.
That urge often comes due to the mercurial moods of your partner and their way of convincing you that your truth isn’t valid.
7. There’s unhealthy communication: Dishonesty and lies
Unhealthy communication is defined through dishonesty, lying, passive-aggressiveness, denying, manipulating, name-calling, etc.
- One of the absolutely unhealthy ways of communication is the passive-aggressive way of communicating the issues;
- The things said/done really hurt the other, but those things are said in such a way that they leave no room for you to address it;
- It’s starting to seem absurd for you to say something about a ‘normal’ and ‘not intended to be hurtful at all’ thing;
- There are dishonest ways of expressing feelings, emotions, and thoughts;
- There’s a lot of denying and blaming. Aggressive tone, and raise of voice when trying to communicate issues;
- You find your partner lying or cheating but you can’t seem to have the courage to address it;
In such cases, there’s always someone being affected, and in a way controlled through such a way of communicating. It is unhealthy communication when it is ungenuine and dishonest communication.
8. You feel alone
It feels strange because if there’s one thing that we understand about relationships is that they’re not meant/supposed to feel lonely.
- Even though in a relationship, you’re feeling lonely and uncomforted, unheard, and unsupported;
- Seeing other couples happy and supporting each other feels saddening, and arouses envy;
- You’re feeling the need to reach out to other people for support, care, and comfort;
A healthy relationship is about two people getting together and facing problems together, being supportive of one another, sharing joy, and feeling a sense of partnership.
9. You don’t find yourself valuable around your partner
It is normal to feel insecure every now and then. With the rise of social media, people are exposed more and more to unrealistic pictures of how other people live their lives or how they look.
However, in a toxic relationship, the levels of insecurity rise to concerning levels, and the source of those insecurities is your partner.
- The insecurity comes from constant name-calling, insults, indirect and sarcastic insults, or other passive or direct forms of berating;
- The thought of not being important causes the loss of sense of self-respect, self-care, self-worth, and intimidation;
- The feeling of insecurity around the partner is so strong that it’s even difficult to address it;
- You don’t seem to ever feel like you’re enough for your partner;
The probability of someone being born is about one in 400 trillion! We’re all miracles on our own, and we shouldn’t dare, for one second, question our values and importance.
But a toxic relationship manages to make that reality shaky and to make you believe that you’re not important.
10. You don’t feel safe
Humans need connections, we are hardwired for creating social relationships. Building connections is crucial for our well-being.
I talked to Michael Platt (biological anthropologist, Ph.D.), and he confirmed for HeTexted it saying
“Social support reduces stress, and people with more friends live longer, healthier, more productive lives,” he adds.
We need security when in another company. A toxic relationship makes you feel insecure and fearful; It causes constant doubt.
- Your partner makes you feel insecure, unsafe, and uncomfortable through actions and words, in a passive or an active way;
- There is fear of opening a discussion on something;
- You feel a sense of relief and freedom when you’re not around your partner;
- The relationship lacks emotional safety;
Feeling threatened emotionally or physically is unhealthy, especially when such feelings are present in a consistent manner.
Love is pure, clean, uncomplicated, and easy-flowing, and most importantly, love doesn’t induce fear.
The relationship is toxic when it continuously induces fear, a sense of instability, and hostility.
11. Your partner is inconsiderate of your needs
According to Platt “[…] people vary in their desire and ability to connect (e.g. autism, social anxiety, schizophrenia, narcissism) and some of that variation might be tuned to the local context, for example, whether social conditions are stable or volatile,”
He also adds, “Toxic relationships threaten that entire equation.”
In a toxic relationship limits, needs, and boundaries are not respected or considered.
- There is less and less interest, appreciation, and respect toward one another;
- There’s a lack of empathy toward your needs;
- There’s no listening, no hearing, and no understanding;
We all have our needs, wants, limits, and our right to ask for them to be respected.
If those needs and boundaries are constantly violated by your partner, the relationship turns into something toxic that starts consuming and draining you emotionally.
12. Never a sincere apology
Your partner never takes accountability for their actions. Tears, problems, dreadful troubles, but never a sincere apology received (or given).
- Another form of manipulation is the partner turning the situation around and making the other feel blamed and guilty for addressing the issue, instead of apologizing for what they’ve done;
- When an apology is received it seems to come along with ingenuine tendencies behind it;
- Your partner never seems to be wrong or incorrect;
- You’re left feeling everything is your fault or that you don’t deserve better treatment;
A lack of sincere apology is a sign of a lack of acknowledgment of one’s mistakes.
If a person isn’t capable of acknowledging the problems and harm they’re causing around them, they could be the ones causing toxicity and practicing unhealthy activities that highly affect the others around them, especially those they’re involved romantically with.
13. The relationship is one-sided: It’s way out of balance
The compromise isn’t equal, and one is constantly giving/taking more than the other. The compromise eventually turns into sacrifice and there’s a sense that you owe it to your partner.
The relationship feels and can be noticed that it’s out of balance when:
- One is doing the work for both in the relationship;
- One is investing more, emotionally and financially in the relationship, to the point that they get exhausted;
- One feels imposed to constantly give to satisfy their partner so they don’t leave;
Again, if there’s one thing that we understand correctly about relationships is that they don’t feel lonely.
We know that they’re supposed to feel as if we are part of this team in which we work things out together.
It’s about a balance of giving and taking which is attained naturally as the relationship develops through time.
A toxic relationship is the opposite of that, there’s no balance when it comes to giving. One is taking more and wanting more.
14. The relationship is very unstable
Things are very liquidy, and wavy, with a lot of ups and downs going on within the relationship. You find yourself feeling confused, worried, and not having a clear idea about where things are headed.
- Today it’s all about love, and tomorrow it’s about arguing that might or might not lead to a breakup;
- In one moment there’s an exchange of “I love you” but in the next, there’s screaming, shaming, or blaming;
- There’s a display of hot and cold behavior;
- There are recurring breakups that end up being solved creating a cycle that repeats itself;
It’s a manipulation tactic of one partner to have control over the other.
They pull away so much that when they see their partner weaken or ready to quit, they come back with the showering of love, and affectionate words, just to do it again once the other partner shows love and affection back.
15. The achievements are never celebrated
The relationship fundamentally lacks support. Achievements are never celebrated, in fact, they’re put down by the partner who later on will try to show you “I’m better than you” through something else.
- Your partner doesn’t cherish, or celebrate your presence or your achievements;
- Your success doesn’t seem to bring joy to your partner, instead, it becomes a reason for them to do something ‘greater’ to show that there’s not much to celebrate;
- Your success is often undervalued by your partner through words or actions;
You’re in a toxic relationship if your partner is continuously finding ways to underestimate and undervalue your achievements and successes.
16. The criticism is consuming you
No matter how strong your beliefs, or your confidence, when you’re told a certain thing many many times, in one way or another it’ll start affecting you.
Criticism is one of the dangerous weapons used in toxic relationships, and it’s used in different forms:
- Passive-aggressive behavior & language. The criticism is done through sarcasm or a joke, to make the other feel unsure whether it is appropriate to address the fact that they got insulted or not.
- Showing contempt: mocking, insulting, name-calling, rolling eyes, etc. This could be shown in more of a direct way with the one intended to make the other partner feel worthless, or unimportant.
- Criticizing you when you do something about your partner. “The pasta you cooked for me was not bad, but I told you a lot of times that I like them undercooked,” or “Oh, I like the gift you got me, but I can’t wear it anywhere, it’s just not my style.”
There’s a fundamental lack of appreciation and an attempt to make the other feel that whatever they do isn’t enough just to make them try harder.
In a toxic relationship, you’re left feeling like you’re not doing enough and that you’re not capable of everything. You keep receiving criticism and negative comments, and none of it is constructive.
17. Your partner brings out the worst in you
Your partner brings out the worst in you by causing constant instability within the relationship. You don’t feel like yourself anymore, you’ve gone out of your way, but things don’t seem right.
- There’s an undeniable presence of neediness you didn’t have before. We do need each other, but there are times when the healthy boundaries of this needy side of each of us are crossed, and it becomes something with a lot of potential to turn into codependency.
- It becomes difficult to show/get signs of vulnerability. We are all sensitive, vulnerable, and fragile. Once the freedom of showing that side to the partner is absent or is turned into fear, then the relationship is not being built on healthy bases.
- You’re feeling more negative emotions than positive ones and this isn’t like you. There’s a constant presence of anger, envy, jealousy, sadness, contempt, bad-mouthing, confusion, and lack of respect for one another and the selves.
A connection or a bond built and carried upon healthy foundations helps in overcoming the difficulties one experiences when facing the ‘bad side’ of themselves.
A toxic relationship brings out the worst in you, it harms you, and it damages you.
18. There’s an imbalance in other relationships in your life
Your partner demands complete attention so much that they try to disconnect you from other people. There’s this sense of neediness and reluctance when it comes to you hanging out with other people.
- Your partner is trying to control your life outside of your relationship;
- Your relationship is affecting your productivity at work, other activities, and the relationships with other people outside the relationship;
- People that are close to you started showing concern about your relationship;
- You don’t feel very proud or free to share the “embarrassing”, or “humiliating” things that your partner does to you with your friends because you sense they’d talk you out of the relationship if you did so;
A toxic relationship affects most of your relationships outside of it in a negative way regarding communication and the consistency of meetings.
If you’re scared, afraid, or just not proud to share certain stories with your friends and/or family because you know they’ll advise you out of the relationship, then take it as a warning sign.
19. Your boundaries are continuously disrespected
The problems have been repeated and discussed so many times to the point where you try to excuse the harmful behavior.
Your partner makes you believe that this time it’ll be different, however, your boundaries keep being disrespected and crossed.
- “It’s going to get better after some time.” becomes a recurring thought;
- You find yourself finding excuses to stay in the relationship because somehow your partner convinces you to;
- There is a huge difference between “where I want things to be” and where they actually are. Their words won’t match their actions, so a fantasy is created along with the expectation that it’ll, someday, finally be fulfilled;
By the time the behavior is recognized to be harmful, there’s the point at which the affected partner starts to hope and idealize or even fantasize that the relationship or their partner’s behavior will change after some time.
20. Abusive behavior
This causes a hostile environment to be created within the relationship. It’s dangerous, and, unfortunately, at times, even life-threatening. You’re in an abusive relationship if:
- There’s a constant presence of aggressiveness, and hostility within the relationship;
- You don’t feel safe around your partner because they’ve shown violence towards you before;
- Your partner has convinced you to believe that love comes with pain, and that’s just how things go with love;
- You’re talked to with a threatening tone of communication, or your partner directly threatens you;
- Your partner makes you feel responsible for being victimized – you’re convinced that you’re deserving of everything abusive that they do to you;
- You feel fear and threat when around your partner. It can be fear to talk about something, fear that you trigger their aggressiveness, fear of them physically abusing you, or a fear of them shouting and screaming at you at any time.
If one or more of the above mentioned resonate with you, please take your time to read more in detail about what makes a relationship abusive, to be aware that you’re in one
You are not alone, you are heard, and you are understood. If you’re in need of help, please reach out to: https://www.thehotline.org/
How to leave a toxic relationship?
It is very difficult, at times even dangerous, and it sure takes a lot of effort and courage to walk away when it comes to ending a toxic relationship.
Once you make that decision, you’re making a decision to heal, grow, and trust in yourself again. Here’s how to get out of a toxic relationship:
- Take your time to process the situation, the relationship, and what you’re feeling because of it.
- Understand that you can be heard, supported, and understood for whatever difficulty you’re experiencing at the moment. There’s always going to be someone willing to listen and help.
- Try to catch yourself when you fall back into unhealthy patterns of thinking such as self-blame, self-berating, or insecurities, and reflect on where they’re coming from.
- Communicate the breakup to your partner as calmly as possible. Let them know you’re determined.
- Ask help from a friend, a family member, or even authorities (if/when needed).
- Start the journey of healing.
Important questions to ask yourself about the relationship
Think of your partner, the time you spend with them, the good/the bad moments you shared/share; acknowledge the feelings and emotions that arise when doing so.
When you’re ready, ask yourself
- What do I feel when I think of my partner?
- Is there a balance of give-take in my relationship?
- Is this relationship genuine, understanding, and healing?
- Is there empathy for each other’s needs?
- What is my cost for being in this relationship?
Is it your well-being? Your joy? Or small healthy compromises that are appreciated and valued during the journey? Is it worth the price?
Don’t question your power to heal, to understand, to appreciate yourself again. Everything will be okay, you will heal and you will learn to cherish yourself again.
Sending light and joy,