10 Signs of a Toxic Relationship in Couples

10 signs of a toxic relationship in couples
What is a Toxic Relationship?

Toxic relationships can affect your emotional, mental and physical well-being. Understanding what a toxic relationship is the first step in recognizing if you’re in one so that you can start to regain your emotional, mental and physical health.

In the plainest of terms, a toxic relationship is a relationship that is detrimental to your well-being and health. It often involves patterns of behavior from your partner that are mentally, emotionally, and sometimes even physically damaging. Toxic relationships can occur in any context, including romantic partnerships, friendships, and within family. Recognizing these unhealthy behaviors is crucial for protecting your holistic health from toxicity.

What is a Toxic Person?

A toxic person is someone whose behavior negatively impacts others. They may exhibit manipulative, controlling, or abusive behaviors – this can include verbal, mental or physical abuse – that undermine the other person’s sense of self-worth and happiness. They are constantly creating drama and you often feel like you’re walking on eggshells trying not to set them off. Recognizing these behaviors can help you identify if someone in your life is toxic. These people fail to take responsibility for their actions, often manipulate and lie while consistently placing their needs and wants above everyone else’s.

What are the 10 Signs of a Toxic Relationship?

1. Constant Criticism:

– Toxic partners often engage in constant criticism, belittling your efforts, appearance, weight, personality and opinions. This negative loop can lower your self-esteem and make you feel like you’re not good enough.
Examples: Whenever you cook a meal, your partner always finds something wrong with it, saying something like, “You can never cook this right,” or “Why do you always mess up simple dishes?” They always berate you for your opinion: “That is the dumbest thing you’ve ever said. I can’t believe that you’re this naive and stupid.” They attack your looks: “If you started working out, you’d be more attractive to me.”

2. Lack of Support:

In a toxic relationship, your goals, interests, and achievements are often disparaged or belittled. Your partner may show little interest in your passions or they might downplay your successes, making you feel unsupported and unworthy.
Examples: You tell your partner about getting promoted at work, and they say, “But you didn’t get a salary increase so the promotion is worthless” or even, “You got it? Was everyone else busy?” People who do this are often unhappy with their own lives, so they lash out at others; especially their partners.

3. Jealousy and Possessiveness:

Someone who displays alarming forms of jealousy and possessiveness can limit your freedom and isolate you from your support systems. This might include constant questioning of where you are at all times, always needing to accompany you anywhere you go, checking your emails, texts and other forms of communication, or purposefully keeping you from seeing your friends and family.
Examples: Your partner is always checking your phone, always has to know who you’re talking to, gets angry and guilt trips you if you spend time with your loved ones without them present. This can lead you to isolate and distance yourself from others and drop activities you used to enjoy due to your partner’s unreasonable demands.

4. Manipulation:

Emotional manipulation involves controlling your emotions through lies, guilt, or other manipulative tactics. Oftentimes this will make you walk on eggshells and reduce your sense of independence because your toxic partner is making you doubt your decisions.
Examples: Your partner makes you feel guilty for wanting to visit your loved ones, saying things like, “If you really loved me, you wouldn’t leave me alone.” or, “You hung out with your friends a couple of days ago, why do you need to see them today? You’re always prioritizing others over me.” Actions like this can make you feel trapped in the relationship.

5. Controlling Behavior:

Along with manipulation above, a toxic partner can show controlling behavior by dictating what you wear, how you talk and who you talk to, and how you spend your time. Their need for control can make you feel small and create a power imbalance in the relationship.
Examples: Controlling behavior can take on many forms. Your partner insists on approving your outfits before you leave the house and often disparages them – they’re either too skimpy or too frumpy; you can never get it right. Or they insist that you do all the cooking and chores in a specific way. They also get angry if you make plans without their approval, saying things like, “You need to ask me first before deciding on anything.”

6. Blame-Shifting:

Refusing to take responsibility for their actions and blaming you for everything is another common sign of a toxic relationship. This behavior over time, can make you feel guilty and responsible for their behavior, even when it’s not your fault.
Examples: After they lose their temper and yell at you, your partner says it’s your fault for “getting them riled up” and that you should have known better than to give them attitude.

7. Gaslighting:

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation where the toxic partner makes you question your own sanity and reality. Your toxic partner might deny things you’ve witnessed, twist your words, purposely deny things that they’ve said to you, or make you feel overly sensitive or irrational when they hurt your feelings.
Examples: Your partner insists that a conversation you know took place never happened, or they claim that you’re “imagining things” when you bring up concerns. This can also manifest in them telling you that “you can’t take a joke” and then getting mad at you when they intentionally hurt your feelings.

8. Purposefully Picking Fights:

You and your partner’s frequent arguments that are nothing but drama are another red flag sign of toxic relationships in couples. These arguments often leave you feeling emotionally drained and stressed, without any positive outcomes because they keep happening – often about the same things. It also feels like your partner is picking fights with you on purpose for no other reason than to get a rise out of you.
Examples: Whenever you start working on an important task, your partner suddenly brings up a past grievance out of nowhere, “I still haven’t forgiven you for what you did to me six months ago,” causing you to lose focus. Or, you can be getting ready for an important job interview when out of nowhere your partner gets angry about you leaving an empty cup in the sink and starts an argument making you feel anxious and distracted.

9. Lack of Respect:

– Disregarding your feelings, boundaries, and opinions is yet another one of the ten signs of a toxic relationship. Your partner ignores your needs and treat you with contempt, making you feel undervalued and disrespected.
Examples: You express discomfort about a certain behavior or a comment, and your partner dismisses it, saying you’re “overreacting” or “too sensitive” and that you need to quiet down before they get angrier.

10. Emotional and/or Physical Abuse:

Any form of abuse, whether emotional, verbal, or physical, is the clearest sign of a toxic relationship. The emotional and verbal abuse can include threats, gaslighting, disparaging comments, blatant disrespect, intimidation and other actions we’ve outlined above. Physical abuse usually escalates from emotional and verbal abuse that can start from uncontrollable anger where your partner goes from breaking objects or punching walls before escalating and starting to hit, slap and kick you instead.
Example: Your partner yells at you, calls you names, or physically harms you during arguments, making you feel scared and unsafe.

Letting Go of a Toxic Relationship:

Recognizing a toxic relationship is challenging, but letting go is even harder because the person who has harmed you is often someone you’ve developed deep feelings for. People can often become addicted to toxic relationships because the relationship often swings from low lows to very high highs. However, what matters more is your own physical health and emotional peace over the toxic partner you’re in a relationship with.
Here are some steps to help you move forward and leave a toxic relationship:

Acknowledge the Problem

Accept that the relationship is toxic and is harming your health and overall well-being. Denial only stalls the healing process, so it’s important to face the reality of the situation head on.

Seek Support

Talk to trusted friends, family, or a therapist or a counselor about your situation. External perspectives can provide insight that you can’t see at the moment. Talking it out can help you feel less isolated.

Set Boundaries

Establish clear boundaries to protect yourself from further harm. This might include breaking up and cutting off all contact, clearly communicating your needs, and standing firm on your decisions not to get back together with your toxic partner.

Focus on Self-Care

– Prioritize your well-being and engage in activities that promote healing and growth. This might include exercise, hobbies, socializing with supportive friends, and seeking professional counseling.

Plan Your Exit

If necessary, plan a safe way to leave the relationship. This might involve finding a new place to live, securing financial resources, or seeking legal advice if there are safety concerns. If the toxic relationship has turned physically abusive, confide in loved ones about a getaway plan, contact a shelter and police if need be about your next steps. Do whatever you can to safely get away.

How do I Know if I’m a Toxic Person in a Relationship?

Self-awareness and introspection are two of the building blocks of a mature and responsible adult. Take a hard look inside yourself and ask yourself if your behavior is negatively affecting your partner and others around you. Take a look at the points above – do you relate to any of the examples as the instigator? Do you often criticize, belittle, manipulate, control your partner’s actions or are physically abusive towards them? Do you take responsibility for your actions, or do you often shift the blame onto your partner or your past? Being aware of these behaviors by working on them can lead to a happier mindset and healthier relationships with others. Seeking professional help, such as therapy, meditation retreats, or breathwork when you get irrationally angry can provide tools and strategies to change your toxic behaviors.

Healing From Toxic Relationships:

Remember, prioritizing your wellness and happiness is imperative, and often means letting go of toxic relationships that are harming you. Understanding the ten signs of a toxic relationship is crucial for your well-being so that you can start the healing process. By recognizing the above signs and taking steps to address them, you start creating healthier, more fulfilling relationships moving forward.

Maintaining healthy relationships involves mutual respect, support, and understanding. By fostering a higher self-esteem and setting healthy boundaries, you thrive on your own and in romantic relationships. Your well-being should always be a top priority, and investing in healthy relationships is a key component to a fulfilling, happier life.


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