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12 Tell-Tale Signs of a Toxic Relationship

by | Mar 4, 2021 | RELATIONSHIPS, TRAUMA

This couple is living through the signs of a toxic relationship.

Toxic relationships can be tricky to navigate, and it can be difficult to know when to leave a long-term relationship.  It can also be a challenge to recognize the signs of a toxic relationship, if you’ve invested a lot of time into it – especially because not all relationships start out overtly toxic.

It is, however, important to remember that just because you spent a lot of time with someone does not mean you have to stay in a relationship that leaves you feeling drained, unappreciated, and undervalued.  Ultimately, it is up to you to decide if you want to stay or go.

Learning about what a toxic relationship is and being able to recognize the red flags can help you better understand and decide what you want to do about the relationship.

12 Tell-Tale Signs of a Toxic Relationship

Every toxic relationship looks different, but there are some common signs of toxic behavior that you might be able to recognize in your own relationship.

  1. Toxic communication

Not being able to effectively communicate with your partner can be a major red flag of a toxic relationship. If you feel that most or all of your conversations have passive aggressive language this may be a sign that the relationship is not healthy.

Does your partner become defensive in situations, criticize you, or even jump to conclusions when you try to speak with them about something that upset you? Toxic communication can also look like a lack of communication. This is where your partner completely ignores you or gives you the “silent treatment” when they are upset with you.


  1. Jealousy

A little jealousy can be natural in some relationships, but if you find that you or your partner are consistently jealous, this may be an indication of a toxic relationship.

The presence of jealousy does not always look like being jealous of other people outside of the relationship. Rather, your partner may be jealous of your accomplishments and achievements instead of celebrating them with you. This can be incredibly damaging to your confidence, sense of self, and overall mental health and wellbeing.


  1. Dishonesty

Dishonesty can look like a “little white lie” that your partner believes is no big deal, or it can be withholding significant, harmful secrets such as infidelity. No matter the situation, dishonesty can create a hostile environment filled with insecurity, jealousy, and feelings of worthlessness.

Sometimes the dishonesty may get to a point where you feel it cannot be recovered. Relationships often need a strong foundation of trust between partners. If you feel you cannot regain trust with your partner, it will likely be extremely challenging to maintain a healthy relationship dynamic.


  1. You have lost relationships with family and friends

While in a toxic relationship, you may notice that you have stopped spending time with your family and friends. This might be because spending time with other people may lead to conflict with your partner. However, you may also try to avoid your friends and family if they continuously raise concerns about your relationship.


  1. Lack of self-care

Maybe you have noticed that you have not been taking care of yourself like you used to. Not putting effort into yourself and your needs can be a huge indicator of a toxic relationship. Lack of self-care often occurs when someone is in a toxic relationship because the relationship and partner take up so much physical, mental, and emotional energy. At the end of the day, you’re likely exhausted and there is no energy to attend to your own needs.


  1. You’re putting in all the work, or you’re the only one making sacrifices and compromises

In any healthy relationship, there is a level of compromise between you and your partner, but you shouldn’t be the only one that makes these compromises. You should never feel like you are putting in all of the effort or that your partner isn’t meeting you halfway.


  1. You can’t say no to your partner

Being able to communicate openly and honestly about your wants and needs is critical in any healthy relationship.  This means using the word no!!  In a healthy relationship, your partner should respect your boundaries and listen to your concerns.  If you never use the word no with your partner, you may be susceptible to their controlling behaviors


  1. Lack of support

Lack of support may look like your partner not showing interest in your personal activities, your relationships with friends and family, goals, passions, and hobbies. They do not seem to care about things that you care about or show up to support you if this is something you do individually.

This could also be your partner always trying to “one up” you.  For example, if you tell your partner that you had a bad day, they may try to interject why their day was worse. Whatever you may be upset about, they always seem to have it “so much worse.”


  1. Lack of privacy

Do you feel as if your partner frequently monitors your every move? It’s not uncommon for someone with toxic traits to go through their partner’s phone, emails, diary, demands to know where their partner is located at all times, and more actions that show a complete lack of trust within the relationship. In a healthy relationship, each partner should have their own life and be allowed to do their own thing without their partner constantly watching over them.


  1. You keep hoping that your partner will change

Many people in toxic relationships find themselves thinking the fights and mistreatment are just a rough patch in the relationship. They often keep hoping that one day their partner will return to the same person that they were at the beginning of the relationship. If you feel like you’re constantly hoping for better, but not seeing any changes, you may be in a toxic relationship.


  1. You’re always taking responsibility/your partner takes responsibility

In a toxic relationship, you may feel upset that your partner never owns up to their mistakes.  You may even feel like you are the one constantly taking responsibility for your partner’s actions, especially around other people.

Inability to take accountability can also present as gaslighting, meaning one partner blames the other for something they are not responsible for. This tactic is a type of emotional abuse which can leave a person feeling incredibly drained, confused, and unsure of their reality.


  1. You’re always making excuses for your partner

If you find yourself constantly defending your partner’s problematic behavior to your family and friends, it could be a sign of a toxic relationship. For example, perhaps your partner does something that upset you and you vent to your friends about the situation. A couple days later, your friend asks you how things are going, and you respond “oh, everything’s fine now.  They didn’t mean to upset me. I just misunderstood what they said.”

The Signs of A Toxic Relationship Are Clear

Realizing that you are in a toxic relationship can be a lot to process at once. Once you spot the signs of a toxic relationship, you might be wondering if you should leave. If you decide to leave the relationship, you might also be questioning how to safely and effectively do so. Some people may decide to stay and work through the problems with their partner.

If that is the case, couples therapy may provide a safe environment for you to discuss your feelings and establish new boundaries. Others may decide that ending the relationship is the next best step which is also an option. If you are ready to begin healing from a toxic relationship, there are programs that can help you begin that brave process.


Modern Intimacy is a group therapy practice, founded by renowned Psychologist and Sex Therapist, Dr. Kate Balestrieri. This inclusive blog is designed to provide a wealth of information and resources for mental health, relationships, and sexuality. Subscribe today to get the latest information from our expert contributors from all around the world.


Author Bio

Jessie Ripes

Jessie is the Digital Media Coordinator at Modern Intimacy. A recent graduate of the University of Miami (FL), with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health and Psychology, she hopes to become a clinical psychologist and a certified sex therapist. She is passionate about empowering women to speak up in a professional and a personal setting.



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