A toxic relationship occurs when one or two persons struggle with unhealthy attachment, coping methods, thought processes, and behaviors.
Everyone has “unhealthy” behaviors and areas they can improve on, so it is important not to label people as toxic outright. A good person in a loving relationship can exhibit toxic traits. A toxic relationship is characterized by one person out of the two being unaware or unwilling to acknowledge their flaws, which results in them refusing to change.
While a healthy relationship involves two individuals who may have flaws but are committed to personal growth and improving their behaviors. It is crucial to understand what constitutes a toxic person.
What causes toxic behavior?
Toxic traits are often developed as coping mechanisms to deal with painful experiences. For example, a person who gossips may be trying to soothe their irritation or distract themselves from other life stressors, while a person who manipulates may be driven by the fear of losing control. Healing toxic traits involves learning healthy ways to cope with pain, shame, and emotions.
A person with toxic coping mechanisms may lack awareness or refuse to grow in dysfunctional areas. In a toxic relationship, the unhealthy person or persons refuse to take the steps necessary to become healthier individuals. This can result from different things.
- Lack of Awareness: Lack of awareness of what they are doing wrong. For example, a codependent might not know what codependent means or how that contributes to them being in an abusive relationship.
- Refusal To Change: Some people know that they are doing something wrong even if they can’t pinpoint it. However, toxic relationships occur when at least one person refuses to truly accept personal responsibility for bad behavior and they won’t change. They may also “fake” change and commit to “short-term” changes to convince you that they are trying to grow.
42 Signs of a Toxic Relationship
- Something doesn’t feel right. Trust Your Gut.
I believe that God speaks with us through our instincts. If you feel something is wrong, there is probably something wrong. Talk to someone or a counselor to get insight into the issue. This will help you to pinpoint what you are feeling and identify the red flags of a toxic relationship.
- You are scared to share your thoughts and feelings.
A tell-tale sign you are in an abusive relationship is fear to vocalize your needs, thoughts, and feelings. The abuser will use different techniques to make you less vocal. They may physically harm you, manipulate you into thinking you understood the situation wrong, yell at you, accuse you of criticizing them, or speak unkindly to you, making you feel bad about yourself.
The abusive strategies may vary, but the overall goal is to intimidate you into being quiet and conforming to what the abuser wants you to do.
Related Article: Why Don’t People Change? 6 Ways To Manage Self-Hate!
- The abuser is perfect. You are flawed. You become more concerned with what they think.
Another tell-tale sign is that the person with toxic behaviors always believes they are right. Every time you vocalize a concern, they dismiss it by saying things like, “You’re crazy” or “It’s all in your imagination.” Over time, you start to adopt their perspectives and thoughts to keep the peace.
The victim wants to keep the peace, so they try to fix themselves, hoping that the situation will improve. The situation may temporarily seem fixed because the abuser got exactly what they wanted – control and the validation of being right. However, the victim ends up losing themselves in the process, becoming an obedient servant who thinks and does what the abuser wants.
- You’re the only one fixing yourself and growing.
You are constantly growing and becoming a better person, but your partner has admitted to no flaws. In a healthy relationship, the focus isn’t about being “right” or “wrong.” The focus is on understanding each other and making changes to strengthen the relationship.
For instance, let’s say John realizes that Suzie is suspicious of him cheating. Suzie often passively accuses him of things. John chooses to address the situation kindly. He talks to Suzie and lets her know he feels like he is walking on eggshells. They both work together to figure out what they can do to help Suzie feel more secure. In this example, John doesn’t yell at Suzie or make her feel horrible. Instead, he focuses on personal growth and finding solutions.
By prioritizing understanding and compromise, John aims to build a stronger foundation for their connection.
- It hurts.
If the relationship hurts emotionally and physically, something is wrong. No one should purposely hurt you with their body parts, objects, actions, or words.
Also, evaluate whether the other person takes ownership of their actions. Most abusers don’t apologize for their wrongs and find ways to blame others for their behavior. They may try to shift the blame onto you, their childhood, their day, or other factors.
Most abusers won’t genuinely apologize for their actions. If they do apologize, it is often a manipulation tactic to regain your trust, but they are likely to repeat the abusive behavior. I strongly suggest talking to a counselor, visiting an advice cafe, or confiding in a friend to evaluate what constitutes abuse. Many abuse victims make excuses and stay in the cycle for too long, thinking they deserve it or fearing harm if they leave.
- They don’t respect your boundaries.
The abuser disregards your boundaries and forces you to engage in activities you don’t want to participate in. This includes emotional conversations and physical interactions that you have explicitly said “no” to. Remember, “no” means “no.” If you are not allowed to say no, it is a red flag. Even if your partner doesn’t like your response, a healthy partner will respect your boundaries and give you the space you need.
The abuser may also try to define who you are, even when you explain that you don’t feel or think that way.
Related Article: 95 Dating Red Flags that Should Send You Running
- You feel confused and fearful.
Confusion and fear are common emotions experienced in toxic relationships. The dynamics of the relationship may be unpredictable, leaving you unsure of how the other person will react or behave. This creates a constant state of anxiety, making it difficult to navigate the relationship with clarity and peace of mind.
- You need the other person for happiness and love.
Relying on your partner as the sole source of happiness and love is indicative of an unhealthy dependency within the relationship. In a balanced partnership, individuals find happiness and fulfillment within themselves and support each other’s growth and well-being.
- There is emotional and physical abuse present.
Emotional and physical abuse are significant signs of a toxic relationship. Emotional abuse includes behaviors such as manipulation, belittling, humiliation, controlling actions, and constant criticism. Physical abuse involves any form of physical harm, whether it be through direct violence or the use of objects to inflict pain.
- You or your partner are not growth-oriented.
A healthy relationship involves both partners actively seeking personal growth and self-improvement. However, in a toxic relationship, one or both individuals may lack the willingness or motivation to grow, change, and work on themselves, leading to stagnation and resentment within the relationship.
Related Article: 30 Signs You’re in a Codependent Relationship
- You argue about the same thing over and over.
Engaging in repetitive arguments about the same issue without resolution is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. In healthy relationships, conflicts are addressed, and efforts are made to understand each other’s perspectives and find mutually beneficial solutions.
- Family and friends pointing out red flags.
Sometimes, the people closest to you have valuable insights that you may overlook when you’re deeply involved in a relationship. If your family and friends consistently express concerns or point out red flags regarding your partner’s behavior or the dynamics of your relationship, it’s crucial to take their observations seriously. Their perspectives can provide an external and objective viewpoint, helping you see patterns or issues that you may have missed. While it’s ultimately your decision, listening to the concerns of loved ones can offer valuable perspectives and support in evaluating whether the relationship is healthy.
- Feeling embarrassed.
Feeling embarrassed or ashamed about certain aspects of your relationship is a significant indication that you may be in a toxic relationship. If you find yourself constantly hiding or downplaying the nature of your relationship when discussing it with others, it suggests that there might be something unhealthy or exploitative happening. A healthy and supportive relationship should make you feel proud and confident, rather than embarrassed or ashamed. Pay attention to your emotions and consider whether the relationship is truly bringing you joy and contentment or causing feelings of embarrassment and discomfort.
- Sacrificing job, finances, and friendships.
A clear sign of being in a toxic relationship is consistently sacrificing your job, financial stability, or friendships for the sake of your partner’s needs or desires. If you find yourself frequently prioritizing their demands over your own professional growth, financial well-being, or social connections, it indicates an unhealthy imbalance in the relationship. A healthy partnership should support and encourage personal growth in all aspects of life, including career, finances, and friendships. It’s important to maintain a healthy balance and ensure that your own needs and aspirations are not constantly overshadowed or neglected.
- Feeling depleted.
Being in a toxic relationship can leave you feeling emotionally drained and depleted. If you constantly find yourself giving more than you receive, emotionally, physically, or mentally, it can take a toll on your well-being. Your partner should be a source of support, care, and understanding, rather than someone who consistently leaves you feeling empty and exhausted. It’s crucial to pay attention to your own emotional needs and assess whether the relationship is providing the nourishment and fulfillment you deserve.
Feeling constantly confused about where you stand in the relationship is another sign of being in a toxic relationship. If your partner’s actions and words consistently leave you uncertain and unsure of their true intentions, it is vital to communicate openly and seek clarity. A healthy relationship thrives on open and honest communication. However, if you find that your attempts to communicate and seek clarity only result in persistent confusion, it is a strong indication that you may be trapped in an unhealthy, one-sided relationship.
- Constant pleasing.
If you often find yourself striving to please your partner and accommodate their every wish, disregarding your own needs and desires, it is a sign that you are being used in the relationship. A healthy relationship should involve a balance of compromise and consideration for each other’s happiness.
- Imbalanced effort.
If you find yourself constantly giving and making efforts to please your partner while receiving little in return, it is likely that you are being taken advantage of. A healthy relationship should be built on mutual support, respect, and the genuine desire to meet each other’s needs. If you feel consistently undervalued and unappreciated, it is essential to reevaluate the dynamics of the relationship and consider whether it is a healthy and fulfilling partnership for you.
Related Article: 10 Emotional Needs That Destroy Relationships!
- Emotional disconnect.
When a relationship solely revolves around physical intimacy without emotional commitment, it is a red flag that you may be used for the gratification of your partner’s desires while your emotional well-being is neglected. True connection encompasses both physical and emotional intimacy, and if one aspect is missing, it is essential to reassess the nature of the relationship.
- You’re searching for reassurance.
In a toxic relationship, you may find yourself turning to online platforms, such as social media or forums, to seek reassurance and validation. This behavior often arises from a lack of support and understanding within the relationship. You may search for confirmation or seek solace by comparing your experiences with others, hoping to find reassurance that your concerns and struggles are valid.
However, relying solely on online sources for reassurance may not provide a sustainable solution and can exacerbate feelings of insecurity and dependence. Healthy relationships are built on open communication and support from your partner, where you can openly express your needs and concerns without having to seek external validation. If you find yourself constantly searching for reassurance online, it may be indicative of underlying issues within the relationship that need to be addressed in a healthier and more direct manner.
22 Additional Signs:
- I always end up taking the blame or responsibility for issues that arise.
- Our communication often leads to me crying and feeling pain.
- They get mad when I have a different opinion than them.
- They regularly ask me the same questions that I already said no to.
- I am usually taking care of their emotions and listening. Communication seems one-sided.
- When I share my experiences or frustrations, they are very harsh or belittle me.
- I don’t have these issues with anyone else.
- I feel smothered and like I can’t have my own space.
- They are always the victim, and someone else is always doing them wrong.
- They need me to make them “feel good”.
Related Article: 25 Signs of a Victim Mentality
- They bring up unrelated information and events in disagreements.
- They are often jealous of anyone who is close to me.
- They are suspicious of me and constantly ask probing questions.
- They say things to deliberately hurt me and make me shut up.
- They call me names: dumb, bitch, stupid, trash, immature, etc.
- They misunderstand what I say and see my words as negativity.
- I am unhappy, and they add nothing positive to my life.
- I am so focused on the issues we have that I can’t have fun or pursue my dreams.
- They meet their needs by threatening to leave me or cheat on me.
- They feel a lot of guilt and shame about events in their life.
- I don’t know what is special or unique about myself.
- They point out things that are wrong with me and hardly encourage me.
- They are soft and vulnerable to get what they want, and get cold when they don’t.
Related Article: Emotional Abuser QUIZ: 31 Signs of Abuse!
Toxic Relationship Quiz
Most people in emotional abusive relationships are not aware because the signs can be so subtle. Or, people with emotional abusive tendencies often don’t realize they’e causing their own problems because their behaviors are so subtle. The truth is, everything we say, do, think, and act on has an affect on ourselves and the people around us.
This toxic relationship quiz will help you identify if your partner has any of the 31 signs of an emotional abuser: