No relationship is perfect, because there’s no such thing as a perfect person. We’re human. We’re going to make mistakes, we’re going to have things we need to work on and it’s not always easy to gel two lives together without any hiccups along the way! Relationships evolve. They change and they grow. Sometimes they crash and they burn. But how do we know if they’re right? If they’re healthy? This post will run through the signs you’re in a toxic relationship. It’ll also get you looking at whether the way you behave is always right or fair (oooh, time for some hard-hitting truths!) First off however, let’s start by getting clear on things…
What Actually Is A Toxic Relationship?
Well, they’re pretty difficult to define, because it’s based on perceptions and can therefore be somewhat subjective. There are common traits and themes, which is what we’re going to explore in this post.Generally speaking however, a toxic relationship is one that is emotionally (and sometimes physically) damaging.
So while a healthy relationship contributes to our self-esteem and emotional energy, a toxic relationship damages self-esteem and drains energy. It’s not a good place to be in, particularly long-term.
The difficult thing with toxic relationships, is they’re not all bad. Just because you’re in a toxic relationship, doesn’t mean the other person’s a monster! They’ll still have good qualities and treat you right in some ways. This makes things complicated and confusing. It may also not be bad all the time, which is one of the reasons why you often stay, even when sometimes you perhaps shouldn’t.
To make an informed decision as to what to do next, you have to first be able to spot the signs you’re in a toxic relationship and then look from an outsider’s point of view – removing the ties and emotions that you have so that you can think clearly.
The Signs You’re In a Toxic Relationship
Like I said, there’s not really a ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to this. However here’s some of the common signs you’re in a toxic relationship…
1. There’s Always Conflict
It’s normal to have disagreements in a relationship, the occasional argument when things get blown up out of proportion. It’s actually pretty healthy and leads to resolution or positive change.
But when you’re in a toxic relationship, the arguments are excessive. It feels like you can’t even go a couple of days without a blow up, let alone a week. You just don’t communicate properly or handle your disagreements in the right way. Things escalate and resentment grows.
Whether there’s one person to blame or you’re both as bad as each other, constant arguing isn’t good for either of you and it’s a major warning sign that something isn’t right.
2. You Feel Like You’re Walking On Eggshells
You have to watch what you’re saying, because you’re scared of your partner’s emotional (or physical) response. They’re a little unpredictable, often very turbulent and you just don’t know how they will take things… Or if you’ll catch them on a bad day.
There is criticism about everything. Every time you do something, they always have a comment about what you did wrong or how you could have done it better. They don’t know how to appreciate you anymore. And they’re not very nice about it.
This is no way to live and means you can’t just get comfortable and relax. You’ll also find yourself suppressing how you feel, stopping yourself from doing everything you want to do or avoiding speaking up – just to try to keep the peace. This will make you a shell of the person you once was and it will well and truly suck the life out of you if you let it. Similarly…
3. You Can’t Say What You Feel
Communication is such an important part of all relationships. You have to feel valued, listened to, cared about. This all ties in to our basic human needs of connection, validation, appreciation, love and affection. If you feel like you try to talk to your partner and just get brushed off all the time, it’s going to leave you feeling a little empty.
What’s worse is when every time you try to talk to them about something important, it ends in an argument, another empty promise or accusations of neediness, insecurity, jealousy or madness. It’s not right or fair, and makes you feel like YOU’RE the one who’s in the wrong, even just for expressing how you feel. They brush it off, as if it’s nothing, and turn things back around. This leads me onto my next point…
4. Your Partner is Manipulative
This is a nasty one now, but manipulation is one of the biggest signs of a toxic relationship. To give you a few ideas for signs of manipulation…
- There’s the guilt tripping. Manipulation always has an element of guilt and it’s usually the starting point. If they can convince you to feel guilty for your actions (even when you’ve done nothing wrong), then they know you’ll be more willing to do what they say.
- The twisting of situations. “Why were you flirting with the barman? I watched you. You couldn’t stop smiling at him… Do you want me to flirt with everyone I speak to?” (Added threat there.)
- Blaming you or making you responsible for how they feel. If they’re sad or angry, it’s always your fault, something that you’ve done. Sometimes it’s even something out of your control… So let’s say your partner has had a rubbish day and you already had plans to see your friends, so you can’t be there with them the whole of that night. That then somehow turns out to be your fault too. There’s no winning. The blame game is unfortunately very common and a big sign you’re in a toxic relationship.
- Feeding off your insecurities. They know what to say to get to you and make you doubt yourself and your value. “No-one will put up with you.” “Are you going to do your makeup today? It would be nice if you made an effort.”
- Pushing their insecurities onto you in an effort to control how you react towards them. “You know my ex used to speak to guys behind my back. So you can get why I want to see your phone… Why can’t you prove to me you’re not hiding anything?” The fact of the matter is, you shouldn’t have to ‘prove’ anything. You understand, but it’s controlling. Everyone has a right to their own privacy and a healthy relationship has the trust there, not the unjustified accusations or paranoia. Lack of privacy is also a sign you’re in a toxic relationship.
- Making excuses to make you feel bad, and turn the situation back around. “I don’t want to be this way. I need help. Will you help me?” Or “I’m sorry, I just love you. I don’t want to lose you…” This ties in with the loving jealousy we see in toxic relationships… where jealousy turns excessive and behaviour therefore turns manipulative and controlling.
- Making you think you want what they want, with no real consideration for you or how you feel. You’re always having to set aside what you want and need in an effort to appease your partner. Yet nothing is ever good enough, and you’re finding your needs are consequently no longer being met. It’s disheartening to say the least, and if you reach this point, you have to reassess.
This list could go on and on. In fact, I could write a whole separate blog post about manipulative behaviour. But if it’s happening in your relationship, it’s a big sign that things have become toxic.
5. Lies, Lies and More Lies
We’re half way through now, so I thought I’d sock you with a big one! Introducing… the compulsive liar. They’re not a rare species unfortunately, but they turn even the best of relationships toxic, because without trust, it’s impossible for a relationship to remain healthy.
Liars turn partners into people they’re not – insecure, suspicious, jealous even. The toxicity of this lies in the slow erosion of confidence. Sometimes all the fight in the world can’t repair trust when it’s badly broken.
And yes, we like to think the best in them. Perhaps they manipulate us into thinking it’s OUR FAULT they’re lying (the amount of times I’ve heard that, oh boy!) But the truth is – the lies are on them. Noones making them lie, and even if they have their ‘reasons’, it’s no justification to lie.
Find someone who lives with the same honesty and integrity as you. And if the lying escalates into cheating… well get out fast! The trust in your relationship may be broken, but you decide if you let it break you.
6. The Relationship is One Sided
It’s always you making the effort. You feel like you’re the only person holding this relationship together. Yet when you bring it up, you’re brushed off as though it’s nothing. I love this analogy,
“Standing on a dance floor doesn’t make you a dancer. Just like being physically present in a relationship doesn’t mean there is an investment being made in that relationship.”
It’s not enough to just be with someone. Relationships take effort and work from both sides. If someone’s just taking but giving nothing anymore, it makes the relationship toxic and is not a healthy place to be.
Similarly, if you find yourself giving all the love, putting in all the effort, putting your partner first, making constant sacrifices and compromises… yet these things aren’t reciprocated or appreciated, it’s a big sign that you’re in a relationship that’s gone bad. Remember your worth, know that there’s someone out there who will give as much as you do and stop draining yourself for the wrong man or woman.
If you stick around, you’ll just enter the final stage of a toxic relationship, which is where BOTH people stop making an effort and there’s just this mutual avoidance. It’s just a waste of life, truly it is…
7. It’s Smothering
On the flip side, a sign of a toxic relationship is actually when things are too much. You have to do everything together, and feel like you can’t have a life away on your own. This is common if you or your partner has an anxious attachment style in relationships. But it’s far from healthy – even if the love is there beneath it all.
You feel like you don’t have any independence anymore and because everything is “we”, you’ve lost the sense of identity that comes from “I.” It can also have a negative impact on your relationship with friends and family and ultimately will end up tearing you and your partner apart.
8. Your Partner Holds You Back
This might be because of the ‘guilt tripping’, because of your dependence on the relationship, or an element of fear. But for whatever reason, a healthy relationship should never hold you back. Your partner should be encouraging, supportive and genuinely happy for you when you do well. You should blossom in the right relationship, not wilt away.
If your partner is showing signs of jealousy, competition or resentment when you’re happy or succeeding, then it’s a huge sign of a toxic relationship and one that cannot be ignored. They’re showing their true colours, and no matter how in love with them you are, you cannot accept it because it will only get worse.
9. There’s a Lot of Game Playing
So to give you a couple of examples, this might be ‘point scoring.’ This is basically a battle to see who’s screwed up the most over the months or years, and therefore who is most indebted to the other. This is so toxic, because not only are you focusing on the things that are wrong but you’re also building up all this hate, bitterness and resentment… which is not what you’d have in a happy, healthy relationship.
Or another common habit in a toxic relationship is passive aggression – when someone is upset about something but instead of just saying it and getting it out in the open, they make snidey remarks until their partner can figure out what’s wrong with them. When they don’t, they find other ways to take their frustration out, snapping at things or picking up on things that are unrelated. It’s frustrating on both parts and far from healthy.
Ultimately there just seems to be a lot of drama in the relationship. No matter how plain and simple your life could be – and the relationship actually should be – there always seems to be a new problem to overcome.
10. Arguments Escalate Into Abuse
I wish I didn’t have to write this one, but it happens and we can’t pretend it doesn’t. You know all those arguments that we spoke about? Well they’re bad enough. But when they get heated and things get verbally abusive or physically violent, that’s when you should really draw a line.
I know it’s hard and things aren’t just black and white. But abuse isn’t right. And the more you accept it, the more it happens. Whether it’s one-sided, unprovoked, an attack, or a fight, you cannot tolerate it.
This is moving on from a toxic relationship now, and into the areas of Abusive Relationships, but that’s often how they start, which is why I think it’s important to mention.
Spot The Signs Early
So those are some of the signs you’re in a toxic relationship. Like I said, they’re not very nice to hear. Toxic relationships will usually also carry on until one person can’t stand it anymore and finally decides to leave. By the time you reach this point however, it will have taken a lot out of you. This is why it’s important to recognise the signs early on. If you do this, sometimes you can actually even save the relationship – stopping the first signs of toxic behaviours from escalating into a full blown toxic relationship where you’re then forced to leave… so it’s not all doom and gloom. We’ll run through that shortly.
Does Some Of This Sound Familiar?
Now I’m going to ask you something that may surprise you. As I was running through the signs you’re in a toxic relationship, I want you to be super honest with yourself and ask… Do I do any of these things? It may not be intentional. In fact, it may be your attachment style that’s driving you to act irrationally. (Click here to find out.) But you HAVE to be honest with yourself if some of your behaviours are toxic. You have to accept responsibility where you’re wrong, because it’s the only way you will be able to learn and grow.
I know it’s not what you want to hear. You may feel ashamed or embarrassed, upset about it even. (Which is a good sign by the way – it means you have a good heart and this is not really you.) These things are not very nice and it’s going to be pretty confronting for you to realise you’re doing this to the person you love. But recognising it is the first step to being able to change it, and in turn be a better person and partner… which is what this is all about.
Just because you’re treating someone the wrong way, doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or your intentions are necessarily malicious. This doesn’t define you. It’s not acceptable, but it’s more common than you think, and in most cases there’s underlying issues that are driving this behaviour. But these can be worked through… So long as you want to change and are willing to do the things you need to do.
Are You In Denial?
On the flipside, you might have read the signs you’re in a toxic relationship, but found yourself trying to justify your partner’s behaviour, or put blame on yourself.
“Well he does do that, but that’s only because of this, or that…
If I was a certain way, he wouldn’t be like it.
If this wouldn’t have happened, it wouldn’t be the case…”
But you can’t keep making excuses for someone else. Whether it’s because you love them and don’t want to lose them, or have been made to believe that this is your fault. Either way, holding onto something that is damaging, you will only eventually wear you down. You have to get out before you hit rock bottom.
Just like how you accept responsibility for your own actions, your partner needs to do the same too. If you feel like your partner is always blaming you, and you actually sit down and have a proper conversation about this and he / she still continues to do this – then the chances are the relationship won’t work. Because that’s not how things should be.
Know your mind. Know your worth. Stand your ground. And stop tolerating the things you shouldn’t. Here, have a read of this for why we accept the love we think we deserve. Trust me, once you realise your worth and see how wrong all of this is, your life will change pretty quickly, and for the better.
What To Do If You Find Yourself In a Toxic Relationship?
Well my friends, I’m currently answering that for you as part of the series I mentioned. I’ll be covering this in more depth in the next few days – including what to do in different kinds of scenarios, based on who you are and who you’re with. You don’t have to figure all of this out on your own, okay?
If you’d therefore like to be notified when this post is live, use the subscribe form at the bottom of this post and I’ll drop you an email once it’s published. You can also join our Support Group here. It’s for females only at the moment to allow that open communication. But if you’re a guy and you’re in a bad place, unsure what to do, please don’t hesitate to reach out either.
Look after yourself, and we’ll explore all of this further very soon.