It’s almost as if the word is thrown around to describe anyone you don’t like.
But does that mean they’re actually toxic?
Toxic relationships are ones that can destroy how you feel about yourself and your life. But since there’s a scale of severity, it can be hard to determine whether you’re one.
Here, we’ll describe the signs you may be in a toxic relationship.
We should mention that having one of these signs doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in a toxic relationship. Nobody is perfect and everyone has things they could work on that would improve the quality of their relationships. However, if you can highly relate to several of these signs—or one or a few quite severely—you should consider whether you’re in a toxic relationship.
If you discover that you think you’re in one, they are difficult to fix in most cases. Many times, it’s best to leave the situation to heal yourself and to give your partner a chance to heal themselves without causing anyone more pain. If you’re in an abusive relationship, make a safety plan before leaving.
Arguments are normal in every relationship. However, if you’re disagreeing to the point of arguing all the time, that isn’t normal. It may be that you or your partner are getting upset at small and unnecessary things. But it can be a sign of a toxic relationship when you are arguing and raising your voice frequently instead of talking. In many cases, a disagreement can be solved or reduced with a conversation; there’s no need to get into a fight about it.
In toxic relationships, you may notice that you’re better than most at deescalating situations. But still, you partner seems to blow up small issues and they’re hard to contain.
If your partner is always seems to flip moods, it can be a sign of a toxic relationship. It’s normal for people’s emotions to fluctuation throughout the day. However, if their mood is affecting the relationship, that’s not normal. For example, one moment your partner is happy. The next they’re upset about something in their life, and they’re distancing from you. In short, they’re taking it out on you. Or, their emotion could be changed by simple things you do. For example, bringing up a chore they forgot to do could have them threatening the relationship, when in reality, it should be a simple conversation.
If your partner keeps accusing you of things you’re not doing, it can be a sign they’re trying to control you. Toxic relationships often involve one partner constantly accusing the other of cheating. Even though you may not be doing anything abnormal, your partner is upset and you don’t understand why.
A normal level of jealousy can be ok in a relationship. For example, the man at the drive through makes a comment about your partner. However, if your partner is constantly jealous or punishing you for their jealousy, that’s not normal. For example, if your partner gets mad every time a man talks to you. Or, if someone flirts with you, and they blame you for it as if you asked for it.
If every tough conversation you get into ends with your partner threatening the relationship, it’s likely you’re in a toxic relationship. For example, if there’s a simple issue or disagreement and your partner would rather end it then have an adult conversation, that’s not normal. You should be able to have calm conversation, even about tough things, with the person you’re with. Although things can get heated, it’s best to take a moment of silence or take a walk. If your partner repeatedly get up and storms out, take it as a sign they’re not prepared for a healthy relationship.
Changing yourself or amending your behaviors is difficult. But, in most relationships, it’s necessary. For most of us, we improve ourselves through the relationships we’re in. Maybe we learn to be more calm in the face of confrontation. Maybe we learn to hold back mean words when we’re angry. Maybe we learn to say things in a softer way. The bottom line is that even though we don’t want to change, we often change small communication habits to better align with our partner. And that’s usually a good thing. It makes us better human beings.
However, in some cases, our partners refuse to make small changes for us. For example, perhaps you want to be greeted when they come home. Or maybe you want more hugs. Or maybe you want your partner to talk instead of yell during conversations. Whatever the case, they insist they are fine as they are and they don’t need to change anything. Increasingly, you need to change your need for the basics, but they don’t need to improve their ability to provide them.
At the beginning of the relationship, your partner may have been generous. But now, they almost provide no effort. It seems that although you’re still trying to do things to impress them or make them happy, they don’t care how you feel about them. They feel it’s enough to show up. When their energy doesn’t match yours, you may feel that they’re taking you for granted.
If you can relate to your relationship being one-sided, it can be a sign you’re in a toxic relationship. In healthy relationships, both people should make compromises and put in effort. If you feel like you’re doing all the work and the other person is just sort of dictating, that’s not normal.
For me, the #1 sign of a toxic relationship is the feeling of being on a roller coaster. The highs are so nice and happy. But the downs can be so deep and dark. But then you go up again and you almost forget about the lows. Eventually though, you have to step off the rollercoaster because it pushes you off or sucks you in for good.
After riding on a roller coaster so long, you start to feel drained. And with all the ups and downs you’ve been through, that’s completely normal. In healthy relationships, your energy levels are generally consistent because the relationship is stable. In unhealthy ones though, you may feel tired all the time and like you have no energy for a life outside of that person.
Some small lies can be normal—for example, they told their mother they loved a centrepiece when really they thought it was completely hideous. However, in most cases, lying is not ok. Whether your partner lies about where they are, random stories, people in their lives, etc., that’s a major red flag.
Everyone has needs in a relationship and those are different for everyone. Perhaps you’re someone who needs to emotionally connect with your partner more often. Maybe you need to spend quality times on walks. Maybe you need to be physically close to them. You don’t need to have the same needs as your partner, but we should make efforts to honor them.
In a toxic relationship though, you notice that your needs slowly become less important. Although all their needs are met, yours aren’t. And when you bring up that you want something to change, they insist nothing needs changing and your needs are too grand. Even though you think your needs are normal relationship basics, you’re made to believe they aren’t.
In toxic relationships, a common tactic is to make the other person feel as though they’re more wrong, so any wrongdoings are cancelled out at best. For example, you may point out where your partner did wrong in an effort to correct their action. Instead of apologizing, your partner points out where you did wrong. What you did may have been a lot less severe, but your partner blows it up in an effort to make it look worse than their wrong deed. After they’re done exposing your wrong, they hope that you will sheepishly ignore their wrongdoing and maybe even apologizes yourself. In this way, they never have to be held accountable for their actions.
Look, nobody is perfect. There are times in every relationship where we need to hold ourselves accountable, even if we don’t want to be. However, if you’re with someone who never takes responsibility, it’s usually a red flag.
For example, perhaps your partner made a comment that hurt you. Instead of saying sorry and noting that so it won’t happen again, they either deny it or insist it’s never a big deal. Even in situations where most people would agree they did wrong, they are unable to hold themselves accountable and may even blame others.
To tack off the last point, when your needs are continually not met, you start to complain about the same thing. Even though it may be simple to fix, your partner is unwilling to meet that basic need. After a while though, you stop complaining. You stop trying to fix the problem. You start to ignore it and try your best to accept it. You know that if you bring it up again, you’ll end up arguing, and there will be no real resolution anyway. It’s pointless.
You can control their bad behavior when you’re alone and there’s no one around. But when others are watching, you feel embarrassed to be around someone who acts that rude or mean. Because you don’t want to passively sit by, you may make excuses for their behavior.
Abuse is a sure-fire sign you’re in a toxic relationship. If you’re in an abusive relationship or situation, make a safety plan to leave. Physical, emotional, verbal and sexual abuse are never ok.
If you’d classify yourself as in a borderline-abusive relationship, it’s also time to leave.
Normally when you have a disagreement, you come to some sort of resolution with your partner. Even if you don’t agree, you can see where the compromises are and both people feel a little less resentful coming out of it. However, if it seems like you never reach this place and every disagreement just dangles there without solutions, you could be in a toxic relationship.
Some toxic relationships can make you feel worse about yourself. Your partner may pick apart even the littlest things about you and make you feel unworthy. Whether it’s the way you look, your hair, what you’re dressing like, your friends, your cooking, etc.
When it comes to talking about issues, your partner has come to the point where they have just started to refuse. They won’t listen to you anymore and they refuse to comment anything about it. Because they don’t think there’s an issues, or think that you’re the issue, they genuinely see no point in talking to you.
If you’re in a toxic relationship, you can probably relate to the feeling of waiting for them to change. You’re just waiting for the day that they will magically turn off the parts of them that are bad. There’s so many good things about them if it weren’t for just that one or few things. But they never end up changing. And you just keep waiting. And waiting.
When you think about the future with your partner, you should be happy and excited. If getting married is your goal, you should be confident they’d make a loving husband or wife. If your goal is having kids, you should be confident they’d be a caring father. If your goals have shifted, changed or you feel differently about them because you’re not sure your partner can take on the responsibility, you may be in a toxic relationship.
In toxic relationships, things are often going wrong. Even if things are going right, you’ve trained yourself to expect a period of upheaval between the good times. When things are going well, you’re almost already shielding yourself from what’s going to drop next. In your stomach, you always feel like the other shoe is going to drop. And it usually does.
Gaslighting is when someone manipulates you by making you feel as if you’re the crazy one. For example, maybe your partner lied about something and you caught them red-handed. Instead of admitting the lie, they’ll insist that you made it up and that there’s something wrong with your head. Or that what you need out of a relationship is was too much, you’re asking for the world. Over time, you begin to believe that and think that you are, in fact, the crazy one.
Being in a toxic relationship can make you feel as if you’re on a roller coaster. Although you know it’s not normal or healthy, it can be very difficult to let go of the person because there’s an emotional bond. It’s important to realize you’re allowed to miss someone yet know that leaving them is the right thing. Sometime the right thing to do really pulls at our heart strings. And often, we can still feel as though we love someone, even when they treat us badly.
Despite this, we know that we can’t change their actions. All we can do is change our ability to see them. If you’re in a toxic relationship, consider that although you may be sad, you’ll eventually be more emotionally stable without them.
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