signs of a toxic relationship

It can be challenging to spot the signs of a toxic relationship. For most of us, our perception of an unhealthy relationship is an overtly abusive one. However, toxic behavior can be much more subtle. How can you determine whether what’s bothering you is just a rough patch or something more sinister is going on with your significant other?

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Signs of a toxic relationship that you shouldn’t ignore

1. You feel unhappy

It creeps up on you in the night—you feel like your heart is breaking, but you can’t quite put your finger on why it’s happening. You’ve let your heart rule, and now your head is all over the place.

People have started to notice that your light-hearted demeanor has become serious. You don’t want to be around others because you feel unhappy, and never more so than when you’re with your partner.

Your unhappiness impacts how you see your world. It casts a dark shadow where you would normally find the light because unhappiness hurts you deep inside.

2. Your sense of humor has disappeared

What you found humorous around your partner or others is waning. You don’t get the funny references because you feel as if you’re on the outside looking in.

You’ve lost perspective because what’s said to you feels raw, and you cannot put the humorous slant on it that you had previously.

The lack of humor is starting to make your feel stressed as humor breaks down the barriers between you and your partner and others in situations that can otherwise feel awkward.

3. You interpret text messages differently

What once seemed like playful banter has now taken a darker tone. You’ve started reading between the lines of your partner’s texts, thinking there’s a hidden meaning.

You analyze what his messages might mean. Are they a sign that you’re not the only person in your significant other’s life? Is he keeping you under the closh until he finds the right time to reveal that he no longer wants to be with you?

Either way, texting feels alien. You can’t quite grasp the meaning of his text messages, and the more you try, the less you understand what’s going on.

4. You don’t know how to act anymore

You feel unable to say what you feel. It’s like treading on eggshells every time you are around your partner, and you don’t know how to act naturally anymore.

It’s become easier to act in a way that gets you through the day without conflict as you’ve become so unsure of your actions that you don’t trust yourself anymore.

You’ve become such an expert at acting in a certain way that you’ve convinced yourself that nothing is wrong. Still, you know better, and at some point, your acting abilities will slip, and you won’t be able to hold back what you feel.

It's like treading on eggshells every time you are around your partner, and you don't know how to act naturally anymore. Click To Tweet

5. Arguments have replaced conversation

You used to talk for hours. Now you seem to argue about the smallest of things. It’s making you feel drained, so you keep quiet to avoid conflict and keep the peace.

Your conversation is monosyllabic and isn’t expanding. It doesn’t feel worth trying to expand on what you can’t explain to your partner, especially as you’re trying to make sense of it yourself.

You used to think that arguments were an excellent way to clear the air, but now they are unpleasant, and you find them hard to cope with.

6. You convince yourself it’s just a rough patch

You won’t admit that you are in a toxic relationship. You’ve convinced yourself that this rough patch will end.

You watch for your partner’s controlling traits because it is easier to put a label on what’s happening in your relationship. Still, the control has started to feel like a usual way of life.

7. Everything becomes a blame game

Couple in a toxic relationship blaming each other

You try hard not to get into blaming your partner for what’s seemingly going on, but there doesn’t seem to be any compromise, so blame seems the obvious answer. However, this is not a feature of healthy relationships.

However, blaming each other for what’s going on in the relationship serves no purpose—you stay stuck because neither side takes responsibility for their behavior. Fixing a toxic relationship is possible, but needs both of you to put in the work.

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8. You feel the need to tell little white lies

You feel backed into a corner most of the time, where it’s easier to lie than to waste time explaining yourself. Sometimes you think that if you didn’t, you would go insane.

Even the simplest of things have become major things to lie about. It would help if you had time to yourself because time spent with your partner has become stressful. You’d like to spend quality time with your partner, but that just isn’t happening, so you try to escape from the reality that the situation has now become.

A small escape or buying something nice for yourself feels good because you’re treating yourself, but you feel guilty for it and prefer sharing your joy with someone rather than hiding it.

9. Compliments have become scarce

The niceties that existed between you have disappeared, and it doesn’t just feel like a blip. It has gone past the point of even trying to make an effort with small talk.

Compliments have to be genuine. You’ve both stopped trying to pretend that you’re attracted to the person you’re with and vice-versa. This is one of the hallmarks of an unhealthy relationship.

10. You don’t listen to each other anymore

When you feel that you’re not listening to what each of you is saying to each other, it can come across as insensitive. It creates resentment within your relationship.

You are so consumed by the fact that your partner is not listening to you that you’ve stopped listening to them, except, of course, for the put-downs.

You hone in on the devaluing of you so much that you barely hear what might be said anymore because it all feels negative.

11. You feel your partner is dishonest

Trust in your partner is an essential part of a healthy relationship. However, you’re struggling to decide whether or not to believe what he says half of the time as you feel that your partner is dishonest about everything.

Suspicion can kill any relationship, but you feel you have a good reason. Things just don’t sit well with you, and the more suspicious you become, the further you get from the truth.

Suspicion can kill any relationship, but you feel you have a good reason. Click To Tweet

12. Your relationship has become less intimate

Sex has become a mechanical act rather than a deeper level of fun and affection that it was before and intimacy feels forced. You or your partner may avoid it or agree to it purely out of a sense of obligation.

Intimacy has to come naturally, but you feel that there is no trust between you anymore. This behavior creates an even bigger space between you because sometimes touch brings down barriers that conversation didn’t achieve. Now that touch is gone.

13. You became needy

The lack of affection makes you crave that feeling of love you had before, but you are ashamed for wanting it from a person who makes you feel undervalued.

Your insecurities are on high alert. You try hard not to come across as clingy, but your need to know what’s going on in your relationship. This uncertainty makes you lose confidence in yourself.

To put it into perspective, you try and remember what you were like in other relationships. It is a fruitless exercise because whether you are making the same mistakes or not, it’s all about whether others perceive you as needy.

14. Your jealousy is tearing you apart

Defeated woman

You look around at other people’s lives and feel jealous about what they have in their relationship. Their relationships look healthier than yours, and you can’t let go of the feeling that you wish you had something better.

You’re an intelligent woman who knows that what goes on behind closed doors isn’t always what others show outside. Still, you can’t help feeling that your relationship is not good enough and not what you wished for.

15. The relationship is not going anywhere

Your partner has stopped talking about the relationship as going anywhere. There are no conversations about marriage, and life seems daunting because you feel that no one else will want you.

You’re wondering whether you want to take this relationship any further. Part of you wants to leave, but you’ve invested so much into it that you’re pained to let it go without a fight.

If it did end tomorrow, you’re wondering how you would feel about it and how you would want to be in a future relationship.

16. You feel isolated

You’ve stopped having quality time with others as all your time seems to be absorbed in your partner’s needs or thinking about the relationship in general.

You’re not connecting with others regularly, and it is starting to affect your mental health.

People have started to notice that you’re becoming withdrawn. The more you retreat to avoid the questions from others, the more affected you become.

17. You make excuses for your partner

When people ask you questions about your partner’s lack of presence or connection in your life, you make excuses for his behavior to avoid their judgment.

Your priority has become making your partner look good, even though you want to admit that he is not treating you properly.

It has started to become more comfortable to be around people who don’t know your partner because they can only judge you, which is easier for you.

Your priority has become making your partner look good, even though you want to admit that he is not treating you properly. Click To Tweet

18. Your partner’s perfectionism is draining you

His high expectations of you have become exhausting. You always feel on the back foot, like you’re not quite good enough, and you are unsure about why he sticks around.

Whether it’s age, not looking a certain way, the clothes you wear – all these things weren’t important when you met, but now they bug him as everything you do isn’t right.

19. It doesn’t feel dramatic enough to end

There isn’t a particular incident that makes you want to pack your bags and leave. Subtle manipulation keeps you from deciding on making the break.

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It’s the subtle signs that keep you stuck. You think it would surely be worse if you were screaming and throwing plates at each other, but somehow, the subtleness makes it worse as it’s full of unspoken truths.

20. The disagreements trigger anger

When the conflict escalates, you feel fear. You ask yourself, “Is my relationship toxic, or is this just normal behavior for someone who is expressing themselves?”

Your partner may not be throwing plates, but you can see the anger in his face when you disagree with him. It isn’t like having a usual argument, and it all feels too one-sided.

21. Your appearance is diminishing

Woman with crossed arms

The pressure to look good has taken a turn for the worse as you feel you can’t reach their exacting standards, so your appearance is beginning to slide.

However hard you try, the fact is that when you’re unhappy, you don’t have that natural glow. You end up trying to do what you can with your appearance, and as the compliments are scarce, it doesn’t give you any enthusiasm to make an effort.

22. Self-care is a struggle

The smallest things you used to do feel like hard work because you no longer have the motivation to feel good about yourself.

You feel you need a boost, like someone doing something to start a change that would motivate you to do things.

You’ve lost the ability to care for yourself a little more than you’d like, which affects your self-esteem.

23. Fatigue has become a daily thing

Your energy is drained, and fatigue has become a way of life. It seems like your health will never be the same again.

Tiredness is your daily companion at the moment, it’s a struggle to get out of bed, and you fall into bed at the end of the day because you’ve lost your sparkle.

24. You feel stressed without reason

You can’t quite understand why you feel stressed; it’s not a particular event but a feeling of living in a daze most of the time.

You’ve lost your zest for life, and when you try and work on ways to relieve the stress, it makes you feel more frustrated because you can’t quite put your finger on why you are stressed in the first place.

25. There’s a lack of empathy towards you

If you’re not feeling yourself, it gets frowned upon. Rather than expecting some sympathy from your partner, you have to hide the fact that you’re not feeling well.

When you mention that you’re not OK, his facial expression shows you that he has no interest in your wellbeing. In fact, there’s no expression at all except one of indifference towards you.

Rather than expecting some sympathy from your partner, you have to hide the fact that you're not feeling well. Click To Tweet

26. You feel overwhelmed by boredom

You feel bored by what’s going on in the relationship but don’t want the drama, so you stay within your comfort zone as it’s easier to manage.

You’ve become bored with life; it’s as though nothing holds your interest because you don’t feel close to the person that once made you laugh and feel good about yourself.

27. You make pros and cons lists

You write down all the good things about your partner and weigh them against the cons, but it rarely helps. You know they have some good traits, but the bad ones are overwhelming you.

Other people wouldn’t believe what you are doing if you told them you are making lists. It’s as though you are trying to convince yourself that things aren’t as bad as they seem, but you’re not convincing yourself.

28. Your opinion doesn’t count

Unhappy couple in a toxic relationship

You try to assert yourself by giving your opinion on things, but it doesn’t feel like it is respected, so you stop sharing it. Your partner is opinionated, but your views count for nothing, and it’s starting to grate on you.

He may ask you for opinions on things and then completely ignore your feedback.

29. Anxiety is making you feel sick

You worry and feel anxious when you’re around him, and even when you’re not, you’re feeling nauseous because you’re not sure how you will manage their moods.

You spend most days worrying about seeing them later in the day, so the feeling of sickness stays with you, and you have to be careful about what you eat.

30. You feel lonely most of the time

You’re feeling isolated because being in the relationship is lonelier than being on your own. Not to mention, having to hide your feelings around others isolates you because you avoid being in company.

It feels good to be alone at times, but then the loneliness feels wrong too.

31. You have financial problems

Many couples have financial problems, and having difficulties with money does not necessarily mean your relationship is terrible.

However, if your partner is pressuring you into lending money, or not respecting what you do with your money, this can be exploitative. Financial exploitation is one of the hallmarks of a toxic relationship.

Financial exploitation is one of the hallmarks of a toxic relationship. Click To Tweet

32. Ignored red flags are becoming clear

The red flags that you ignored at the beginning of your relationship are getting more prominent, and it makes you feel that you can’t trust your instincts anymore.

You start to feel stupid because you realize that all the signs were there right from the start, and you ignored them. You let things slip that didn’t seem quite right because you are essentially a kind person and you wanted to see good in your partner.

33. You’re being criticized daily

Your partner criticizes everything from how you do things to what you look. It seems like you just can’t do anything right.

He brings up things that didn’t bother him at the beginning of the relationship over and over again, and it feels like you have the blood sucked out of you by a vampire.

34. You feel no optimism for the future

Being in a toxic relationship can affect the way you see the whole world. Your joy for life has become tainted, and colors and music don’t have the same effect on you as they once did.

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You’ve always optimistically looked at life, but this has taken a back seat as you struggle to see anything positive anymore.

35. You don’t say you love each other anymore

broken heart cookie

There was a time between you when it felt so natural to say ‘I love you,’ but now the excuse is that it’s used too often, so let’s not bother saying it at all! When it feels like the topic of love is toxic, this is a bad sign.

You’re tired of hearing ‘no-one is in love anymore’ or ‘love is an overused word,’ so you’ve convinced yourself he’s right, but you know different as love means something to you.

36. You do not own your mistakes

Life has become stagnant because you’re not taking ownership of the mistakes you feel you’ve made or are making, so you’re repeating the same patterns.

It feels like you’re on a hamster wheel and you can’t get off as try as you might; you can’t change the behavioral patterns you have.

37. You abandoned your goals

You’re not even bothering to set any goals at present because you feel it’s a waste of time trying. You have no time or motivation.

Without the feeling that there might be someone there to share in your joy when you achieve your goals, it seems pointless to even set them.

38. You feel increasingly abandoned

You’re not sure if you want him around, but worry that you will feel abandoned if he leaves, and this feeling is pressing down on you.

A part of you would like to be on your own because it would take the pressure off, but coming out of the relationship and being on your own would seem like a failure on your part.

You're not sure if you want him around, but worry that you will feel abandoned if he leaves, and this feeling is pressing down on you. Click To Tweet

39. Your emotions are overwhelming

Your emotions are all over the place, and you can’t keep them in check. You’re choosing to lead with your heart with every decision in life instead of taking a step back and viewing it logically. You may find yourself crying at the slightest thing and then get confused about why you got so upset.

Toxic relationships have adverse effects on your health and wellbeing. Any relationship can be an emotional rollercoaster, but the ride of a toxic relationship is not one you want to be on.

40. You look for evidence of any infidelity

Toxic relationships may well involve cheating and infidelity. Your instincts are telling you that something is going on as your partner is distant. However, you feel the need to get evidence together, or he will accuse you of being insane.

You worry that knowing that someone else is involved might increase feelings of shame, and you feel like you’re losing your mind.

What you can do if your relationship is toxic

Woman trying to escape toxic relationship

You may see one or two of these signs occasionally, yet have a generally healthy relationship. Nobody is perfect, and everyone will make mistakes at some point. However, if you see multiple and repeated signs from this list, and your partner seems not to care or address them, you may be in a toxic relationship.

If any of these signs have made it clear to you that you are in a toxic relationship, you need to decide if it is worth fixing it. Try to see the signs of a toxic relationship by focusing on clear indicators of healthy relationships and what unhealthy relationships look like.

Speak up and seek advice

Try to be level-headed when communicating with your partner. Be transparent and honest, and try to avoid getting sucked into any mind games. Keep text messages short and to the point. Don’t get too in-depth, especially if you communicate better on a face-to-face basis. Sometimes it’s easier to read them through their body language than through text, as some toxic traits are hard to read over the phone.

Talk to someone outside of your close confidants about what is going on. It will help you get a clearer perspective and decide if you want to stay in the relationship or make the break. Taking advice from trusted people can be a great idea.

Ask yourself, “Is this normal?”

It may be the case that the relationship looks more toxic than it is because the initial honeymoon period is over. While it is inevitable that almost every relationship loses some of the initial hormone-fuelled excitement, there should still be love, care, and respect after many years!

If your relationship has not developed into something deeper as you feel it should, taking responsibility for the part you’ve played in this is important. Unhealthy behaviors in relationships are often not just due to the conduct of one person.

Whether the problems in your relationship are due to one disrespectful or abusive partner or a combination of bad behavior on both sides, it may be best for you to end it. Although ending a toxic relationship is hard, if your partner truly loves and wants the best for you, they will respect your decision.

Work out if your relationship can be fixed

When you are trying to work out if you are in an unhealthy relationship with your partner, taking note of these signs and how they affect you can help you decide if it’s time to let go of the person making you feel this way.

If your partner promises to change and try to solve these problems, you should consider their past actions—is he an honest person? In some instances, you can fix toxic relationships, but only if both partners are respectful and genuinely committed to improving them. Typical behavior in an abusive relationship is making false promises.

Does your partner refuse to take responsibility for the situation your relationship is in? He probably does not have your best interests at heart. If he attempts to guilt or emotionally blackmail you into staying, it’s time for you to leave.

If you decide to end your relationship, for whatever reason, you shouldn’t feel like a failure. Keep hold of any lessons you have learned. They will empower you to live your best life in the future—whether you are single or in a different relationship!

Lynn is a qualified movie therapist and life coach. She offers movie prescriptions that help people increase their confidence to secure better relationships. Movie therapy allows reflecting on personality and behaviors and self-solve problems through the character's experiences.

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