Is Your Relationship Toxic: Signs of a toxic relationship include lack of trust, controlling behaviors, and feeling drained.
Both partners can fix a toxic relationship if they try therapy, reflective listening, and honesty.
If you are in an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.1
What is a toxic relationship?
In a happy marriage, everything just sort of clicks. Sure, you might argue occasionally or encounter other hiccups, but generally speaking, you make decisions together, honestly enjoy each other’s company, and communicate any issues that come up.
The issue of toxic relationships is another. Relationship therapist Jor-El Caraballo claims that in a toxic relationship, you could frequently feel exhausted or sad after spending time with your partner, which may be a sign that something has to change.
Despite the fact that you still adore your partner, the relationship might not feel at all joyful right now.
You two always seem to get on each other’s nerves or can’t seem to stop bickering over insignificant things. Instead of anticipating seeing them like you once did, you could even fear the notion of it.
Following our discussion of some telltale indications of toxicity in a relationship, we’ll offer advice on what to do next if you or your spouse exhibits any of these behaviors.
What are the signs of a toxic relationship?
According to Carla Marie Manly, PhD, author of “Joy from Fear,” toxicity symptoms can range from being hardly perceptible to being quite prominent, depending on the nature of the connection.
It may not always be simple for you to recognize the warning signs that a relationship is poisonous when they begin to appear.
However, some of these symptoms may be present in you, your spouse, or the relationship itself.
1. Lack of support
According to Caraballo, “healthy relationships are built on a shared desire to see the other thrive in all areas of life.
But when conditions deteriorate, every accomplishment turns into a contest. In other words, it doesn’t feel good to be with you anymore.
They don’t make you feel encouraged or supported, and you can’t rely on them to stand up for you.
Instead, you can feel as though they only care about what they want and don’t care about your wants or interests.
2. Toxic communication
Most of your talks are dominated by sarcasm or criticism and driven by contempt, which is a divorce predictor instead of warmth and respect for one another.
dependable sourceDo you ever notice yourself making rude comments to friends or family?
When they’re in another room, you might ridicule them by mockingly repeating what they said.
To avoid the ensuing conflicts and antagonism, you can simply start avoiding their calls.
3. Envy or jealousy
Even though it’s acceptable to feel a little jealousy every now and again, Caraballo warns that it can become problematic if your jealousy prevents you from appreciating your partner’s accomplishments.
The same is true of envy. It is a completely normal human emotion, yes. However, when it results in ongoing mistrust and suspicion, your relationship may start to fast deteriorate.
4. Controlling Behaviors
Does your lover frequently inquire as to where you are? Maybe when you don’t respond to their texts right away or when they keep texting you until you do, they get agitated or annoyed.
These actions may be motivated by jealously or a lack of trust, but they may also reflect a need for control, both of which can exacerbate the toxicity of a relationship. These control attempts may occasionally also point to abuse (more on this later).
Intimacy is harmed by holding onto grudges and allowing them to fester.
Caraballo observes that “over time, dissatisfaction or resentment can pile up and make a little chasm much greater.”
Also take note of whether you tend to harbor these complaints in silence since you don’t feel comfortable speaking out about what upsets you.
Your relationship can be poisonous if you can’t rely on your partner to hear your worries.
Whether it’s to avoid spending time with your spouse or because you’re concerned about how they’ll react if you disclose the truth, you find yourself making up lies about your whereabouts and who you meet up with all the time.
7. Patterns of disrespect
A warning sign is being consistently late, nonchalantly “forgetting” events, and other actions that demonstrate contempt for your time, according to Manly.
Remember that some people may actually struggle to make and adhere to commitments on time, so starting with a discussion about this behavior may be helpful. If it’s not deliberate, after you explain why it upsets you, things might become better.
8. Negative financial behaviors
A degree of agreement about how you’ll spend or save your money is typically required when you share your finances with a spouse.
However, if one partner decides to spend money on things that the other partner disapproves of, the relationship is not inherently toxic.
However, it can be toxic if you and your partner have made financial agreements and one party repeatedly disregards those agreements, whether by making expensive purchases or making excessive cash withdrawals.
9. Constant stress
Of course, regular life obstacles like a family member’s illness or a job loss can cause some friction in your relationship.
But being on edge all the time, even when no external stressors are present, is a telltale sign that something is wrong.
Your physical and mental health may suffer as a result of this persistent stress, and you may regularly feel miserable, physically and emotionally drained, or otherwise ill.
10. Ignoring your needs
According to clinical psychologist Catalina Lawsin, PhD, going along with what your partner wants to do, even if it goes against your preferences or level of comfort, is a solid symptom of poison.
Let’s say they scheduled a trip that will take you away from home on your mother’s birthday.
However, you underlined that all dates were OK as long as you didn’t miss your mother’s birthday on the 17th when they asked you what days were convenient.
Since you don’t want to start an argument, you shouldn’t bring this up. you respond, “Great! I’m overjoyed.
11. Lost relationships
To prevent arguments with your partner or to avoid having to explain the state of your relationship, you have ceased hanging out with friends and relatives.
On the other hand, you may discover that spending time with your spouse (or worrying about your relationship) takes up much of your free time.
12. Lack of self-care
According to Lawsin, you might abandon your customary self-care routines in a bad relationship.
You might stop engaging in activities you formerly loved, put your health last, and give up your free time.
This could be the result of a lack of energy on your part to engage in these activities or your partner disliking it when you follow your own interests.
13. Hoping for change
If you remember how much fun you had in the beginning of the relationship, you could decide to continue in it.
Perhaps you believe that if you only alter yourself and your behavior, others will do the same.
14. Walking on eggshells
You become conflict-averse and avoid bringing up difficulties because you fear that doing so will cause a great deal of friction.
You’re on the right road if you and your partner both recognize that your relationship needs work and desire to make it better.
It’s crucial for both parties to acknowledge previous actions that have affected the relationship, Manly continues. It exhibits a desire for self-awareness and accountability.
In other words, both parties should own their role in the toxic relationship, including any animosity, jealousy, or silence over worries and disappointments.
Willingness to invest
Are you and your partner both willing to put in the effort necessary to improve the union? That’s encouraging.
Manly states that this “could express via an interest in deepening talks” or by setting aside regular blocks of time for quality time with the other person.
Shift from blaming to understanding
There might be a way forward if you can both move the conversation away from finger-pointing and more toward understanding and education.
You may try stating something like, “I think we misunderstood each other, so let’s try again,” or “I understand why you’re feeling anxious and frustrated — how can we work on that together,” as opposed to, “It’s your fault” or “You always do XYZ.”
These methods of communication can be useful.
Openness to outside help
You can occasionally require assistance to get things back on track, either through individual or marriage counseling.
It’s acceptable to seek professional assistance when dealing with persistent relationship problems. Relationship counselors are qualified to provide a balanced viewpoint and unbiased support because there are instances when you can’t see everything that is causing the poisonous environment within the relationship.
They can also impart new conflict-resolution techniques, making it simpler to establish wholesome patterns that endure.
Searching for online counseling? Look at our manual.
How can we move forward?
According to Manly, it will take time, perseverance, and devotion to mend a poisonous relationship.
Manly continues, “This is particularly true considering that most toxic relationships arise as a result of ongoing problems in the current relationship or unresolved problems from earlier relationships.”
You can change the situation by taking these actions.
Don’t dwell on the past
Yes, confronting the past will probably play a role in rebuilding the connection. But going forward, this shouldn’t be the only priority in your relationship.
Avoid continually thinking about the worst-case possibilities since this will just make things worse for both of you and bring you back to square one.
View your partner with compassion
When you feel the want to hold your partner accountable for all the issues in your relationship, Caraballo advises taking a step back and considering the possible drivers of their conduct.
Have they recently experienced a difficult time at work? Did they have a lot of family drama on their mind?
These difficulties don’t justify bad behavior, but they can aid in your understanding of its causes.
Take into account your own contributions as well. When disturbed, do you have a tendency to withdraw rather than talking about your worries?
If your partner doesn’t complete chores the way you’d like, do you criticize them? These routines might possibly be involved.
Being open to treatment can be an indication that the relationship can be repaired. But you’ll need to make contact to arrange that initial appointment if you want the relationship to advance.
Couples counseling is an excellent place to start, but solo treatment can also be beneficial, according to Manly.
The safe environment of individual therapy makes it possible to explore interpersonal challenges, attachment disorders, and other aspects. Additionally, it gives you deeper understanding of toxic versus abusive actions.
Do you worry about the price?Our economical therapy guide can be of assistance. You can also get started by experimenting on your own with couple’s therapy methods.
Look for other support options whether or not you want to try therapy.
Support could take the form of speaking with a close friend or reliable mentor, for instance.
Joining a neighborhood support group for couples or partners suffering with particular problems in their relationship, such adultery or substance abuse, could be another choice.
Practice healthy communication
As you fix things, pay special attention to how you talk to each other. Try to be kind to one another and refrain from using sarcasm or even light jabs.
Use “I” phrases frequently, especially when discussing interpersonal concerns.
You may say, for instance, “I feel upset when you take out your phone while I’m talking because it gives me the idea that what I have to say doesn’t matter” instead of “You don’t listen to what I’m saying.”
Lawsin adds that “both couples must recognise their role in fostering the poison.”
This entails recognizing and accepting accountability for your individual relationship-related behaviors.
It also entails making a commitment to remain attentive and involved throughout tough talks as opposed to avoiding them or mentally disengaging.
According to Lawsin, it’s critical for each of you to consciously consider your needs and boundaries in the relationship.
Even if you believe that you already understand your needs and boundaries, it is still important to review them and then communicate them to your spouse.
A decent starting point is discussing boundaries. Though boundaries are changeable, it’s crucial to continue talking about them as they alter over time.
Rebuilding a broken relationship gives you a chance to reconsider your feelings about many aspects of the union, from physical intimacy to communication requirements.
Hold space for the other’s change
Remember, things won’t change overnight. Over the coming months, work together on being flexible and patient with each other as you grow.
Abuse vs. toxicity
Relationship toxicity can take many different forms, such as verbal or emotional abuse. Even yet, it’s not always able to distinguish clearly between abuse and toxicity.
Although unpleasant, toxic relationships are not always abusive. Toxic conduct can occasionally be unintentional, but it doesn’t make it any less harmful.
Also keep in mind that toxic conduct often occurs in unstable partnerships even when neither spouse exhibits abusive behavior.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, abuse, on the other hand, results from a desire to exert control over another person and manage their conduct.
You might not always be able to see abuse because it frequently occurs gradually and subtly, especially if the relationship has been poisonous for some time.
Abuse is never justified under any circumstance. Although everyone can change, you cannot force your partner to do so. They are required to select that path on their own.
To make a plan to leave the relationship safely, talk with a therapist or domestic violence advocate if you see any of the following indicators of physical or emotional abuse. (Some useful resources are listed below.)
Your partner makes you feel incapable of doing anything right by blaming you for everything that goes wrong.
They might accomplish this by condescending, ignoring, or making fun of you in front of others.
The continuing outcome?You end up feeling insignificant, bewildered, ashamed, and frequently fatigued, Manly claims.
Chronic stress, anxiety, or doubt
It’s common to experience times of frustration with your partner or uncertainty about your future as a couple. But you shouldn’t waste a lot of time thinking about the connection or your security.
You may begin to doubt the stability of the relationship or even your own self-worth as a result of an abusive partner’s comments like these:
- “You’re lucky I’m with you. I could have anyone.”
- “If you don’t want to have sex with me, I’ll find someone else who will.”
Separation from friends and family
Dealing with a toxic relationship can occasionally cause you to isolate yourself from your friends and family.
However, a controlling relationship could forcibly cut you off from your network of allies.
They might take your phone while you’re chatting, answer it for you and say you’re busy, or make such a scene when you say you have plans that you wind up changing them.
They might also persuade you that your loved ones aren’t really interested in hearing from you.
Interference with work or school
In an effort to isolate and control you, an abusive partner may stop you from looking for work or enrolling in school.
By making a scene, talking to your boss or teachers, or lying to your coworkers and classmates, they could also try to make you feel inferior at work or school.
Fear and intimidation
An abusive partner may erupt in wrath or employ intimidation techniques, such as slamming fists against walls or forbidding you from leaving the house while a fight is going on.
Name-calling and put-downs
Verbal abuse includes insults that are intended to make fun of and minimize your accomplishments, attractiveness, or interests.
Someone who engages in verbal abuse might say:
- “You’re worthless.”
- “You can’t do anything right.”
- “No one else could ever love you.”
Financial abuse tactics involve:
- controlling the money that comes in
- preventing you from having your own bank account
- restricting your access to credit cards
- giving you a daily allowance and making you ask for more
The deception tactic known as gaslighting causes you to doubt your own emotions, intuition, and sanity.
Someone trying to gaslight you may:
- insist something you remember never happened
- tell you they never said something when you clearly remember it
- accuse you of being the one with anger and control issues
Threats of self-harm
An effective manipulation technique is for someone to threaten to harm themselves in order to get you to do something.
Take them seriously if they bring up suicide and urge them to contact a crisis hotline or other sources of support if they do.
Just remember that helping them doesn’t mean approving of their desires.
Violence might result from threats and verbal abuse. It’s obvious that the connection is unsafe if your partner is hitting, shoving, or pushing you.
How to leave a toxic relationship
If you’ve decided it’s time to move on from the relationship, these strategies can help you do so safely:
- Get support from a therapist or domestic violence advocate. They can help you make a safety plan and access resources for additional support.
- Open up to loved ones. You don’t have to do this alone. Family and friends can offer emotional support, but they may also be in a position to offer more tangible support, like a place to stay or help moving while your partner’s out.
- Bring a friend. Don’t feel safe having a breakup conversation with your partner alone? Ask a trusted loved one to come with you. Knowing you have their support may help you stick to your decision to leave, even if your partner tries to convince you otherwise.
Change your phone number: If this isn’t possible, block your partner’s phone number and social media accounts so you won’t be tempted to respond if they contact you.
Make sure you’re okay. Any relationship you end can be challenging and distressing:
Respect your needs by giving yourself time to unwind, sleep, practice self-care, and heal before starting a new relationship. Learn more tips on how to end a relationship in any situation.
Get help now
Trust your instincts and think about contacting these resources if you believe there has been abuse in your relationship so that you can proceed safely:
- Free services are available via the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which also provides phone and chat help around-the-clock.
- A nonprofit organization called Day One works with young people to stop dating abuse and domestic violence by educating the community, providing supportive services, advocating for change in the legal system, and fostering leadership.
- You may find domestic abuse services and shelters in the US and Canada easily using DomesticShelters.org, a mobile-friendly, searchable directory.
The bottom line
However, you don’t have to watch helplessly as your relationship with your spouse deteriorates due to toxic communication and behavior patterns.
A relationship therapist can assist you in starting to recognize the underlying causes of relationship toxicity and in exploring healthy, compassionate methods of communication and problem-solving when both you and your partner desire to make changes.