Although your relationship with yourself matters the most, your relationships with others need to be healthy as well, for the sake of your mental health. Be cognizant of the signs of a toxic relationship, because a toxic relationship will negatively impact your relationship with yourself if you don’t get out in time. Our relationships with others influence our self-esteem, how we feel about ourselves, how we relate to others, and how we navigate our lives. Support and encouragement from others can help uplift us. However, not all relationships are as nurturing as they should be.
A positive and healthy relationship is one that empowers you to live your best life. Your partner should bring out the best in you, not the stress in you.
If you’re with the right person, you’ll feel supported and accepted, and you’ll enjoy spending time with the other person. A good relationship is enriching. Research shows a good relationship can even make us healthier, reducing feelings of anxiety and stress, and bolstering the immune system.
Alternatively, a toxic relationship drains us, both emotionally, and physically. It makes us feel isolated, lonely, and unappreciated, and forces us to compromise on our boundaries. Some studies even suggest negative relationships slow wound healing, and may increase our chances of falling ill.
But every relationship is different. Romantic relationships, in particular, often come with their fair share of challenges. Just because you argue with your partner at times doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in a bad relationship.
The key to protecting yourself is understanding the signs of a toxic relationship, and trying to catch them early, before you’re too emotionally invested.
Signs of a Toxic Relationship
You might think the signs of a toxic relationship are easy to spot. However, it’s not easy for everyone. Some people in toxic relationships are blinded by what they think is ‘love’, and they have a hard time seeing the unhealthy relationship for what it is.
If your relationship is toxic, you’ll likely find yourself feeling anxious, emotionally drained, overwhelmed, and often unhappy. While the exact signs of a toxic relationship can vary, the result is usually the same: you’ll feel unhappy, and your friends and family will start to notice.
Below are 10 common signs of a toxic relationship:
1. Your Partner is Constantly Pushing your Boundaries
All relationships require a level of compromise. When sharing your life with another person, you’ll need to be willing to make sacrifices from time to time, which may make you feel uncomfortable. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to maintain your boundaries.
Healthy boundaries make us feel safe, and help us navigate our lives as comfortably as possible, pursuing personal goals and happiness. If your partner is constantly pushing your boundaries, regardless of how many times you explain them, this is a clear indicator your partner doesn’t respect you or your needs.
In a healthy relationship, your partner will respect your boundaries, and won’t test them or push them.
If you’re unable to preserve your boundaries, you may feel as though you begin to lose your sense of self, or you’re constantly being placed in situations where you feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable.
2. You Crave More Alone Time
There’s nothing wrong with dedicating plenty of time to looking after yourself and your needs. People in relationships often have different priorities and hobbies, so it’s natural to spend some time apart. However, if being around your partner feels like hard work or feels draining, and you need lots of breaks from them, it’s a sign something is wrong.
In a healthy relationship, you should enjoy spending time with your significant other. You should feel comfortable around them, and they shouldn’t drain your energy. If you treasure your alone time, or make excuses to spend time away from your partner, this is one of the signs of a toxic relationship. You may find conversations often feel exhausting, or that you need to take time to recover after spending time with your partner.
You may even feel as though you don’t have any opportunity to invest in self-care, because your partner constantly demands all of your attention.
3. You’re Constantly Monitoring Yourself
A healthy relationship should give you the freedom to be your own true self, without judgement or repercussions. A good partner will accept you for who you are, and won’t try to get you to significantly alter your behaviours. If you feel as though you’re watching every move you make to avoid upsetting your other half, this could be a sign something is wrong.
Watch for signs that you’re restricting yourself from being honest and authentic. For instance, do you ever:
· Avoid talking about certain subjects for fear of your partner’s response?
· Constantly make decisions based on your partner’s preferences?
· Always do things your partner likes to do, instead of pursuing your own interests?
· Feel as though there will be repercussions for doing something “wrong”?
· Worry about the decisions you make in your own life because of how your partner will respond?
4. You Struggle to Communicate Constructively
Constant struggles to communicate, or lots of arguments, could be another one of the signs of a toxic relationship. Countless professionals believe that good communication is the heart of a healthy relationship. You need to be able to connect with your partner so you can feel heard when you share your needs, desires, fears, and expectations. If you can’t communicate, then you can’t form a basis of understanding for your relationship.
It’s never a good sign if your partner doesn’t know how to have a difficult or serious conversation without getting angry. Tough talks can be calm and constructive with a good communicator.
If you’re too afraid to express yourself completely to your partner, then you’re holding yourself back from the relationship you deserve. You may even begin to resent your other half, because they’re unable to predict what you want or need without explicit communication.
Toxic communication issues can sometimes be resolved by a commitment to more honesty and transparency from both partners. However, you’ll first need to recognize the signs of unhealthy communication, such as blame, lack of accountability, not listening, dishonesty, gaslighting, sarcasm, and manipulation.
5. Your Partner Tries to Control You
In a healthy relationship, each person should be free to be themselves, pursue their own desires, and explore their own interests. While you may avoid certain actions if you know it will upset your partner or push their boundaries, you shouldn’t feel that they’re trying to control you.
One of the top signs of a toxic relationship is when your partner tries to monitor or control what you do.
In a toxic relationship, you’ll feel as though your actions are constantly under scrutiny. This could be the result of constant questions and ‘checking in’ from your partner, as though they’re keeping tabs on you. For instance, they may constantly want to know where you’re going and what you’re going to do when you’re away from them. They might watch how you spend your money, have opinions on who you hang out with, or constantly request access to your phone. All of this is toxic.
These issues are usually the result of jealousy, envy, insecurities and low self-esteem, but sometimes it’s due to a sheer desire to have power over you. These controlling actions can often leave you feeling restricted and tied down in your relationship.
6. Your Self-Confidence is Dwindling
Another one of the top signs of a toxic relationship is when you notice that your self-confidence isn’t what it used to be. Healthy relationships often improve our feelings of self-confidence and self-love. A good partner notices and reminds us of our good qualities on a regular basis, and helps us accept ourselves for who we are. Alternatively, in a toxic relationship, your partner might frequently criticize you or hone in on your flaws, in an attempt to knock your confidence down to ensure you don’t leave them.
A manipulative partner in an unhealthy relationship could take advantage of your insecurities to control your behavior, or attempt to make you feel as though you can’t find love elsewhere. They may even try to prevent you from bettering yourself. For instance, a toxic partner may stop you from seeking out additional education by telling you it’s a waste of time.
Toxic partners might be threatened by your success and try to undercut it, cultivating your sense of “imposter syndrome”. If your partner makes you feel bad about yourself, or damages your sense of self-worth, they’re not the kind of person you want to be around.
7. Arguments are a Frequent Occurrence
All relationships come with their occasional disagreements, and some arguing is normal. However, in a good relationship, you should be able to understand the other person’s perspective, and overcome common squabbles.
Conflict should be resolved, instead of escalating. If conflict escalates and arguments get blown out of proportion, that could be one of the signs of a toxic relationship to be wary of. Generally, if you choose a partner you’re well attuned to and communicate well with, you should find you don’t have many big arguments, as your values are likely to be similar.
In an unhealthy, tumultuous or toxic relationship, you’re more likely to spend significant time arguing over everything. You won’t be able to discuss issues constructively. The arguments could escalate towards yelling, insults, storming out, or stonewalling.
You may even find you’re constantly taking the blame in arguments, because you start to believe you’re always in the wrong. Some partners in toxic relationships also experience gaslighting when their partner makes them feel crazy or absurd for their beliefs.
8. The Relationship is Taking a Toll on Your Mental Health
Stress and anxiety are common in life. Ordinary challenges we encounter in life, from the illness of a loved one, to an unexpected financial hit, can create tensions which also influence your relationship. However, your relationship shouldn’t be a constant source of mental and emotional duress.
If you begin to notice a constant feeling of stress whenever you’re around your partner, or you’re anxious about spending time with them, this is a sign your relationship is harming your mental health. You may begin to feel constantly fatigued or exhausted. Or you might struggle to get a good night’s sleep, because you’re constantly worrying about your relationship.
Toxic relationships can also create feelings of sadness or depression. You may begin to lose interest in the things you would normally enjoy, or struggle to find a sense of motivation.
Generally speaking, if you notice that your mental health is worse now than it was before you were with this partner, this is one of the signs of a toxic relationship.
9. Your Needs Never Come First
A good relationship requires a balance of give and take. There are compromises for both sides, and each partner should genuinely care about the other person’s needs. In a toxic relationship, however, it may feel as though the needs of your significant other always come before your own. It may even feel like your partner doesn’t actually care about your needs, or listen when you attempt to communicate them.
You might find you always go along with what your partner wants to do, even if it means abandoning your own wishes. When you suggest doing something that might benefit you, your partner might belittle you, or make you feel guilty for disregarding their wants.
If your partner never seems to consider your needs, or makes you feel bad for pursuing your own interests, there’s something wrong. Patterns of disrespect, such as forgetting events important to you or continuing to do something they know bothers you, can be a sign your partner doesn’t care about your needs.
10. You Feel Isolated
A toxic relationship can have a direct impact on the other connections and relationships in your life. If your partner is constantly controlling your actions, or making you feel bad for spending time with friends, you might start to lose track of the people you care about.
Toxic relationships can make you become alienated or isolated for many reasons. For example, toxic relationships can make you feel anxious or depressed, which makes you start to want to be less social, as poor mental health makes you want to withdraw from others.
In some cases, you might find yourself constantly standing up for your significant other and making excuses for their bad behavior around other people. This could begin to change other people’s perception of you, and make it harder for you to spend time with the people you care about.
Your friends and family could start to lose respect for you, because they clearly see the toxicity of the relationship you’re in, and they lose their minds when you won’t listen to their advice about walking away. So, sometimes, the signs of a toxic relationship involve your friends and family withdrawing from you.
If your partner starts to feel like the only important person you have in your life, you could end up being in a highly dependent relationship, where it feels impossible to leave and seek out better alternatives.
This is one of the reasons why becoming isolated from others while you’re in a toxic relationship is so dangerous. It simply perpetuates the cycle of depending on your partner.
The more you alienate yourself from others while you’re in a toxic relationship, the less likely you are to leave your toxic relationship.
Don’t Accept a Toxic Relationship
Being aware of the signs of a toxic relationship can help you drag yourself or someone you care about out of one.
Even good relationships are naturally complex and messy at times. However, knowing how to define a toxic relationship, and separate yourself from connections which might be draining or damaging you, is a crucial part of self-care.
It’s important to remember you are worthy of love, respect, thoughtfulness, and acceptance. You deserve a relationship which makes you feel happy and supported. If your relationship is toxic even though neither of you is a toxic person, there may be a chance you can address the root cause via couples therapy or something of the like. But it’s also important to know when you should walk away.
It requires a certain level of emotional intelligence to recognize a toxic relationship when it’s happening to you. You can read about your genetic personality traits and tendencies to have higher or lower emotional intelligence with a DNA test.
Don’t accept a toxic relationship. Don’t stay out of fear that you’ll be alone. Allow yourself to find the love that you deserve, even if for a while, it’s just you being single and loving yourself.