25 Signs of a Toxic Relationship
When asked to describe what love is, a romantic will often say, “you just know it when you feel it.”
It’s ineffable, magical, words simply can’t describe it.
And we accept it because well, it’s love.
But when it comes to toxic relationships we can’t use a “you know it when you see it” attitude. Because often enough we miss the signs and fail to diagnose a caustic relationship. We need to use words to not only describe these relationships but signs to identify a toxic relationship.
Too often malignant relationships are sustained because we don’t have the emotional intelligence or distanced perspective needed to identify when our partner is loving or just plain toxic.
So What Exactly Is A Toxic Relationship?
A toxic relationship is a relationship that emotionally, mentally, and possibly physically harms the people involved.
It could affect only one partner or both and can happen in monogamous and non-monogamous relationships.
Toxicity can be characteristic of any relationship romantic, platonic, and everything in-between.
A hard pill to swallow is that sometimes, both partners are involved in a toxic relationship, meaning it takes two to contribute to the toxicity.
Sure, there could be one obvious toxic partner, but the actions and behaviors of the other partner should be examined as well. Dr. Lillian Glass, who is a body language and human behavior expert, defines a toxic relationship as:
When Does A Relationship Become Toxic?
A relationship becomes toxic when the negative behavior outweighs the positive.
It gets to a point where dysfunction becomes the standard.
Signs of a Toxic Relationship
From afar it may seem obvious as to when a friend is in a toxic relationship.
But when you’re sucked in one yourself the signs are easy to miss.
There are many signs of a toxic relationship.
There isn’t one universal behavior, but rather a number of behaviors that are considered toxic.
Do you notice any of these signs in your relationship or that of a friend’s?
1. Lack of Trust
There will always be moments when we don’t trust our partners (especially during the beginning of a relationship).
We’re unsure what they’ll do on vacation with the girls or if that best friend she’s always talking about is really just a friend or a covert lover ready to elope with your lady the first chance they get.
Bouts of distrust will always be there.
What makes this a toxic relationship is if the lack of trust is constant.
But be careful, just because you don’t trust her (because of her sketchy behavior) isn’t the only example of distrust I’m referring to.
It’s common that those with anxious attachment styles often struggle to fully trust their partners. Her mistrust may have little to do with you.
Insecure attachment styles are often developed in one’s childhood. While they can be altered, doing so takes intentional practice. Lack of trust is a hallmark behavior of someone with an anxious attachment style.
2. Hostile and Toxic Communication
Some signs of a toxic relationship are more obvious than others.
This one can go either way.
Obviously being cursed out for no reason is an obvious sign that she’s abusive. However, not all toxic forms of communication need to be so explicit.
Constant critique or passive-aggressive forms of communication also have their way of slowly sinking the knife into your self-esteem.
Toxic communication may include:
- Using hurtful phrases
- Physical terrorization
- Constant interruption
- Silent treatment
- Framing you as the bad guy
3. Financial Control or Manipulation
Money will forever be a touchy subject.
The moment we invented agriculture we also begot privatization.
Since we ditched the whole nomadic vibe, we’ve become super jealous when it comes to our belongings.
That jealously tends to diminish in romantic relationships — at least in the stable ones.
As you two date, you’ll naturally share more and more. However, does she appear to be more willing to share your money (read; use your money) than you’re comfortable with?
Does she always ask you to pay despite you having voiced your discomfort?
Has she stolen from you, asked for your card repeatedly, or made you feel guilty about not providing for her financially?
You know when your relationship is toxic when despite voicing your disapproval of her behavior she perpetuates her undesirable behavior.
This behavior brings us to the next sign of a toxic relationship.
Asking her to do one thing (as long as it’s within reason) and having her do the opposite is a sign of disrespect.
You tell her to please stop using your card info to buy things on Amazon. Despite your explicit request, she continues using your card.
I like buying random trinkets from Amazon as much as the next person, but a request to not use your money is a line that even the most fervent lovers of Buzzfeed-Amazon lists shouldn’t cross.
5. Exhausting and Drains Your Energy
There are two types of exhausting as they relate to a relationship.
There’s the exhaustion you get from rock climbing, clubbing, or doing awesome and active activities… and then there’s the other type of exhaustion.
The one you get from dealing with a complete asshole.
A toxic relationship drags one down and often ends with exhaustion and drained energy.
It is not a safe place.
It’s riddled with insecurity, the need for control, dominance, and dysfunction.
So… which kind of exhausted are you?
6. Signs of a Toxic Relationship: Decreases Self Confidence
Let’s juxtapose a healthy and toxic relationship as they related to self-confidence.
A healthy relationship is a two-way street where both partners respect, trust, and care for one another.
This kind of relationship builds people up, increasing one’s self-confidence and emotional affectivity.
A healthy relationship is one where both partners feel safe and comfortable being themselves and being with each other. Control and decision-making are shared and both want each other to be happy.
Now the unhealthy relationship.
A toxic dynamic is one that zaps your confidence. It makes you feel lesser than, unsafe, needy, insecure and will have you second-guessing your worth all the time.
Run away my friend.
Jealousy can be kinda cute at the beginning of a relationship.
It’s nice to know that someone desires you and wants you all to themself. But after a certain point, what was once cute and innocent becomes controlling and toxic.
What might a jealous girlfriend look like?
Memes aside, a jealous girlfriend will find all kinds of ridiculous reasons to question your loyalty to her.
Her jealous rage might be elicited if you don’t text her back quickly enough for her liking, let her use your phone, if she doesn’t know every single woman at your work, etc.
If you’re not sure if a behavior is a jealous one or not ask a male and a female friend.
8. Being Used
Being used is one of the worst feelings, especially when it’s done by someone with who you are in a relationship with.
These people will be the sweetest until something happens and they aren’t getting what they want from you. When that happens they may threaten to leave, accuse you of not caring about them, or tell you that you’re not worthy of them.
These are all physiological games toxic people love to play.
9. Putting You Down; Constantly
I personally love talking a bit of junk.
But when I do so, it’s in a loving way (and I never talk about anyone’s mama).
But when a toxic partner puts you down it isn’t because she’s flirting with you or is just joking.
She does it to gain control.
Not taking you seriously, belittling you, brushing away what you believe in or want by saying it’s stupid are all examples of this.
They may continue this even in public regardless of whether you ask them to stop.
You might hear them say “I’m kidding!” “Learn to take a joke!” “You are so lucky to have me.” or “No one else would want you so you should be glad I’m here.”
Instead of putting her down as well, take the high road and floor it until you’re far enough away from her that you can no longer smell the BS coming out of her ass.
Sly manipulation isn’t the only tool she has in her kit.
Intimidation is a more direct way for her to get what she wants.
Intimidation often manifests as rage and anger which leads the other partner to be in a state of constant anxiety as they never know when their partner might experience sudden rage.
Partners of someone like this are constantly walking on eggshells.
This behavior is a form of emotional abuse.
When confronted, a toxic partner will justify their anger by placing the blame on you. Manipulative partners will refuse to accept blame or change and instead spin the narrative so you feel as though you’re at fault.
11. Manipulation: Signs of a Toxic Relationship
The most common instance of manipulation takes place when you broach your partner’s behavior.
It doesn’t matter how much tact you use, they’ll flip the script and pin the blame on you.
When a partner distances you from friends and family, they may do so overtly or with practiced subtlety.
Over time you may notice that you don’t have much of a relationship with friends or family members you used to be in contact with a lot more.
This is one of the most insidious ways a toxic partner will wrap her tentacles around your life.
Does your partner purposely keep you away from friends and family? If she does, is your relationship with her really worth losing that of your dearest friends and family?
I’m not sure if there’s a more classic sign of a toxic relationship than lying.
And no, I’m not talking about a little white lie about how you really do look amazing in that bowtie. I’m talking about the lies about where your phone is (she stole it when you went to the bathroom), about the weird charge on your credit card (she went to the casino), or that time she told you she only used your car to drive to the store (how do you think she got to the casino?).
14. Not Actively Listening To You
Even if you’re not in a toxic relationship, if your partner rarely actively listens to you, you might consider pressing abort.
Active listening involves putting down the phone, looking into your eyes, and devoting her entire focus to your story.
15. Ignoring Your Needs
There’s a difference between a lazy partner and a toxic one.
A lazy partner only needs a kick in the ass to get themselves in gear. They care about you but are slacking. A talk to discuss your qualms with them will lead to real change.
A partner that shoots venom out of their ass won’t change despite expressing your concern about your needs not being met.
16. Walking on Eggshells
Are you literally tip-toeing around your partner?
Do you choose your words too carefully and try way too hard not to offend her?
This isn’t your problem man it’s hers.
17. Not Respecting Your Time By Chronically Showing Up Late or Always Standing You Up
When a partner constantly flakes, arrives late, and doesn’t keep their commitments, that is a toxic trait.
This can lead to feelings of not being cared for and unsure about the relationship.
It should make you think… “If my partner doesn’t listen to the way I feel or if my partner always comes late to the monthly family brunch, am I actually a priority in their life?”
The toxic person gains control in this instance by making you ask for reassurance. This can lead to a lot of anxiety and feelings that you need to earn their love and care.
18. Controlling Your Life
- Demand to know what you’re doing?
- Who you’re with?
- Why you’re wearing that?
- Demand a ride when it’s out of your way?
- Choose who you spend time with?
- Always (but seriously ALWAYS) choose what you watch?
If she does it may be time to move on — or at the very least watch your shows in a separate room.
19. Gaining Access To Your Phone and Texts
No my friend, having your girlfriend check your WhatsApp on the reg is not normal. It may be routine for you but not for people in healthy relationships.
20. Showing Up At Your Home Or Workplace Unannounced
It may be cute once or twice.
But does she do it all the time?
Or have you asked her to stop yet she doesn’t comply with your wishes?
21. Slamming Doors, Throwing things, Breaking things
Having your girlfriend turn into the Hulk is a tell-tale sign that you need to call the Avengers to come pick up your girl.
22. Physical Violence
If she has hands and enough rage to swing them, women too can carry out physical violence against their partners.
If you or a loved one needs assistance please get in touch with the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
There are resources out there to help men in abusive relationships, you need only look.
There are not only loved ones but organizations that are more than willing to help you get out of an unhealthy relationship.
Early on in the relationship, ignoring one’s text or phone calls was just part of the game.
Respond too soon and you came off as desperate and could jeopardize the entire relationship.
We’ve all played this game.
But when you two are going strong this romantic gamesmanship should end.
Refusing to address problems and avoiding them instead isn’t always a sign of toxicity.
It could be that your partner is new to having a partner and doesn’t have the emotional skills or tact to address issues. In any case the fact that you can’t have civil conversations about disagreements should be addressed.
25. Using Drugs or Alcohol to Distance Oneself From the Issue
Avoiding a difficult conversation by changing the subject or getting quiet is one thing.
Doing so by getting drugged up is another.
If a loved one is struggling with addiction it might be best to call in the help of a professional.
If you fear for your safety or the quality of your life has been degraded as a consequence of their addiction don’t feel the need to sacrifice in order to help them. You can help you and them by getting out of the house and into a safe environment.
Why Is She Toxic?
As the psychoanalyst Freud believed, people often have a reason behind their actions — conscious or otherwise.
In the same way, those who exhibit toxic behaviors in a relationship might have a reason too.
It could be that they experienced toxic relationships themselves, maybe in childhood or a previous relationship and this is how they learned to cope with it.
Their childhood might have been filled with negative memories, bullying, unsupportive guardians, neglect, etc.
There could also be underlying mental health disorders in play, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, or trauma. The majority of the people who behave toxically in a relationship ultimately want all the control and power in the relationship.
While this explains why they act this way, just because there’s reason to be sympathetic doesn’t mean you’re required to stay with them.
How to Get Out of a Toxic Relationship
A toxic relationship can be emotionally, mentally, and physically damaging.
It can lead to a lot of anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression, among various negative effects.
If you find yourself identifying the signs of a toxic relationship or the signs of a toxic girlfriend, the number one thing to keep in mind is to believe that you deserve better (because you do!).
You deserve to be treated with respect and kindness and you deserve to feel good and safe in your relationship.
A toxic relationship or toxic girlfriend can be improved, but only once you have accepted that you can leave if necessary.
The most effective way to alter your partner’s toxic behavior is by explaining to them what they are doing and why that is harmful and unacceptable.
When toxic partners are first approached, it is possible that their toxicity would get worse before it gets better.
You should be prepared for this and not compromise on your demands despite their reaction.
Another fix would be taking a break from the relationship if your partner makes no effort to work on themselves and then letting them know you will be leaving permanently if nothing changes.
Mental health professionals and therapy will help break the cycle if you often find yourself constantly ending up in toxic relationships.
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You may be feeling the need to stay in the relationship for fear that you won’t find anyone else. You may feel that your relationship is toxic, but a relationship is better than no relationship.
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