Today in Detangle
I was in a toxic relationship a few years ago. I remember that I wasn’t really aware of how bad it was for me in that relationship. Not until I realized that I was completely unhappy. I stopped doing things that I once loved doing; I gave up on my dog just because my partner hated the poor animal, and I even distanced myself from my friends. Here are several more signs that you’re in a toxic relationship!
Are you in a toxic relationship?
People—especially those closest to you—have a great impact on your well-being. Loving and living with other people has its ups and downs, and there is no other way. However, our romantic relationships should be a source of joy, not resentment.
We all deserve rewarding, safe relationships. And every one of us has the responsibility to co-create those relationships. This article will discuss the warning signs of a toxic relationship so that you can start building healthy ones instead.
While we all have our moments of selfishness, a truly toxic person will keep taking while giving you nothing in return. As a result, you end up serving someone at the expense of your needs, feelings, and joy.
While sacrifice and service are part of a healthy relationship, they should come from both partners, not just one. And here comes the question: How do you distinguish between normal challenges in a romantic relationship and a toxic relationship? Here are 10 signs to watch out for!
1. You Don’t Feel Safe
We’re not talking here about feeling safe physically (although that may apply too), but about a sense of emotional safety. Does your voice matter in your relationship? Can you openly share your feelings and thoughts with your loved one? Or do you feel like you’re always afraid of what your partner would say or do if you were radically honest?
A healthy relationship should give space for both parties to be accountable and imperfect at the same time. You can openly tell each other both the good stuff and the shameful stuff. You can be seen as you truly are and still be fully loved.
But when your partner doesn’t make you feel valuable, valued, understood, seen, and heard, that’s a red flag that indicates that you’re in a toxic relationship.
2. You Have Bad (or Non-Existent) Communication
Good communication is the heartbeat of every kind of relationship, more so in a romantic one. Yes, it’s easy to go off the rails, but it’s important to realize when something’s off and start working things out with your partner (if both of you are willing to save your relationship).
It’s also essential to figure out why there’s a lack of communication between you and your partner. But in order to do that, both of you have to be honest with each other. This obviously won’t magically solve the issues. In fact, one of the reasons couples seek therapy services is dysfunctional communication.
If both you and your partner start to realize you’re in a toxic relationship, you should know that both of you need to open up and say what’s bothering you. The process can be painful or uncomfortable, but burying your needs and feelings deep inside you only leads to more frustration and resentment.
Bad communication also includes manipulating words, gaslighting, and being dishonest. If that sounds like your interactions with your partners, you’re definitely in a toxic relationship.
3. You Feel Exploited and Neglected
Think of a romantic relationship as a garden. If you neglect your plants, never weeding, fertilizing, or watering them, your garden will resemble a godforsaken place. In other words, people need nurturing, just like a garden. In a healthy relationship, tending to your partner’s needs goes both ways.
If your loved one doesn’t honor and take care of you—not because you’re unable to do it but because you matter to them—then you’re in a toxic relationship. Chances are, you’re not only being neglected but also exploited. Unfortunately, there are several types of exploitation that can leave partners with serious long-term effects. If your relationship starts going down the wrong path, make sure you nip it in the bud.
4. You Feel Like You’ve Lost Yourself
Toxic people tend to mold, absorb, and manipulate people to fit their own agendas. In a romantic relationship, their interests and plans dominate, putting the other partner’s needs and interests on the back burner.
If this sounds like your relationship, you may find yourself doing things that you don’t even want to do but still do to please your loved one. This includes everything from going to places that make you uncomfortable, violating your core values, and spending time with people who trigger your anxiety alarms.
When this happens, remember that YOU hold the power. You can end this toxic relationship, but in order to do that, you have to first recognize these unhealthy patterns. In most cases, partners who achieve this realize that they no longer have a place in the relationship.
Truth be told, it’s often hard to see on your own that you’re in a toxic relationship. Talk to your trusted loved ones and ask for help. Those closest to us can usually see things that we cannot.
5. Judgment—Not Curiosity—Is the Usual
We all have our own peculiar things that make life both challenging and fun. The lifeblood of a romantic relationship is curiosity, not judgment. For instance, if you like waking up early and your partner likes sleeping in, that’s OK. Instead of saying something like, “You should get up earlier!” try asking, “Why do you like sleeping in so late?”
We’re humans, so we all mess up sometimes. We do or say things that may hurt other people or accidentally invade their personal spaces. But we all need a partner who cares enough to call it out. Being held accountable is an essential part of any healthy relationship.
However, a toxic person will use your past mistakes as a weapon and approach you with criticism, not compassion. If that sounds like your partner, you’re probably in a toxic relationship.
6. You Feel Ashamed and Belittled
Does your partner belittle you? Do they make you feel less special? Do they make you feel ashamed or stupid? These are all indicators of emotional immaturity, which inevitably makes for a toxic relationship.
What makes belittling behavior so dangerous is that people often tend to dismiss it initially. Remarks like, “You would be more attractive if…” or “You’re so dumb” may be mistaken for constructive criticism or harmless joking, but, in fact, they make you wonder if there’s any truth in them, second-guessing yourself. This always leads to a toxic relationship.
Only someone who’s emotionally immature can do that, as they need to shore themselves up on a pile of your shortcomings, failures, and wrongs. When they can’t find something negative to point out, they tend to come up with something or remind you of something you did in the past.
7. You Don’t Receive Empathy
Empathy is when you choose to step into someone else’s shoes to understand their point of view and feelings. It’s choosing to share others’ joy and understand others’ grief. It’s choosing not to deliver a speech to those who are weeping or remind happy people of all the suffering in the world.
If your partner is highly focused on their own wants and needs, ignoring your reality, then you’re in a toxic relationship. When you open up and share your feelings with a partner like this, you’re met with redirection instead of celebration and apathy instead of empathy.
They may dismiss you when you tell them about how you feel, one-up you when you share stories with them, and turn the conversation back on themselves.
8. You’re Playing a Dysfunctional Role
The past affects all of us more than we think. For instance, we tend to repeat the relational patterns of our childhoods in our romantic relationships. For better or worse, these relational stories are like life roadmaps.
In other words, a woman may marry a man who does nothing but sit on the couch and watch TV so she can do her job as a mother. Or a kid may take on the care of an addicted parent, believing it’s their responsibility to fix their parent.
Being stuck in a dysfunctional role is a clear sign of a toxic relationship, as a relationship like that cannot be mutually supportive and life-giving. Is your partner willing to grow? More importantly, are you willing to grow? It’s only when we start questioning our automated roles that we truly begin to change our generational legacies.
9. You Feel Manipulated or Controlled
If you’re in a toxic relationship, your partner may be tipping the power balance in their favor. They may constantly check in on you or bug you about what you’re doing and where you’re going. A toxic partner will use the romantic relationship as a weapon, manipulating you into doing things. They may withdraw when you upset them and come back when you do something “right.”
If you can’t figure out if that’s your partner’s case, a good litmus test is to think of something that makes you happy. If you instantly think, “Yeah, but my partner will get mad,” then you’re probably in a toxic relationship where you’re being manipulated or controlled.
10. Your Partner Has a “Bad Temper”
Toxic partners are often mocking, chronically sarcastic, and critical. Does your partner explode in episodes of rage? Are you always stepping on eggshells around them? A person who gets angry very easily isn’t emotionally well, and thus they cannot be a supportive partner.
In fact, this is a classic case of a toxic relationship. The other partner will always feel the need to stay vigilant, as you never know what will trigger them and send them into a rage. It’s noteworthy that a partner like this rarely shows this side to other people. What’s even worse is that they will always blame their bad temper on the other partner.
In most cases, calling it quits is the only way you can “solve the issue.”
You may also want to read Here’s How People Cheat Even if They Still Love Their Partner.