Toxic Relationships: 27 Signs You Might Be In a Bad Relationship
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Being in a toxic relationship is like smoking cigarettes.
Sure, it might give you a quick head rush and make you feel good while you’re smoking, but all the while, it’s killing you on the inside.
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It can be hard to see that you’re in a toxic relationship, but if you’re reading this article, I’d say there’s a good chance you are in one.
I want to help you identify whether you are in a toxic relationship and help you get out of it in this article and video, but as a special bonus to Sexy Confidence members, I also want to address how to fix a toxic relationship, if it’s even possible.
P.S. Only members of my exclusive Sexy Confidence coaching program get access to part 2 of this article, so get on board. Subscribe now.
First, Signs of a Healthy Relationship
Let’s start by defining what a healthy relationship is because maybe you’ve never actually been in one to know.
A healthy relationship involves a mix of communication, respect, equity, care, effort, self- improvement, and fun. There are boundaries in a healthy, loving relationship, and certainly no abuse, verbal, physical, or sexual.
You know you’re in a healthy relationship because you feel good. You aren’t afraid of rocking the boat or causing an argument. You can rely on your partner as an equal. You trust him.
What a Toxic Relationship Looks Like
On the other hand, an unhealthy or toxic relationship, according to scientific studies, includes inequality between the partners, disrespect, lack of care, lack of fulfillment, and no boundaries. One partner may have mental health issues, and there may be abuse of one kind or another.
Does any of this sound eerily like what’s happening in the relationship you’re in? Read on to learn signs that you’re in a toxic relationship.
27 Signs You’re in a Toxic Relationship
You may not agree with all of the following warning signs that your relationship is in trouble, but if several of them speak to you, it’s time to figure out what you’re going to do about it.
1. You Feel Drained
The relationship takes all your energy, rather than gives you purpose and something to look forward to. Think about it: when you think about your partner, does it fill you with joy…or just make you want to crawl into bed?
A healthy relationship should energize you rather than sap your energy.
2. You Don’t Trust Your Partner
Whether you’re checking his phone for signs he’s cheating or just can’t believe a word he says, you know in your gut that you can’t trust this guy.
Know that, in a healthy relationship, trust is essential. Pepper Schwartz, professor of sociology and certified sexologist, says that in a healthy relationship:
“Both partners have a deep trust and belief in the other person’s loyalty and veracity and are not jealous or suspicious. Healthy couples feel loved and they are not paranoid. They know their partner is trying to protect the relationship.”
3. You Are Under Constant Judgment
Is he calling you stupid for something you did? Does he constantly criticize what you say or what you wear?
This is simply unacceptable. In a healthy relationship, partners support one another.
4. There’s a Hostile Atmosphere When You’re With Your Partner
You can’t put your finger on it, but whenever you’re with this guy, the air seems to crackle with anger. You feel like you’re walking on eggshells around him. This might be even worse when he drinks.
This is absolutely a sign that you’re in a toxic relationship. You should never have to tiptoe around your partner out of fear that you’ll upset him. This isn’t Mr. Right. This is Mr. Run From!
5. You Cannot Rely On Your Partner
You can think of a dozen times when your boyfriend disappointed you.
That one time, he was supposed to pick you up from work, and he never showed up, forcing you to take an Uber home.
When you ask him to pick up your dry cleaning, he says he will…but always forgets.
Sure, some guys are forgetful, but more likely, he just doesn’t put a priority on your needs over his own, and he never will. You deserve better.
6. He Emits Negative Energy
Have you noticed how some people just give off a negative vibe? Usually, it makes you not want to be around them, but if you’re in a relationship with a negative person, you may be overlooking the obvious.
See how your friends react to him. If your positive friends don’t like him, then he’s probably not right for you. Friends try to see the best in our partners, but if they can’t, it should tell you something.
7. He Gives Off High Levels Of Narcissism
When you hear the word “narcissist,” you may think of someone who’s obsessed with his looks, but it’s actually a lot different. If you’re in a toxic relationship, there’s a good chance your guy is a narcissist. Darlene Lancer, a licensed marriage and family therapist, describes narcissists this way:
“Command of their feelings and of other people is all-important, because without control, they feel weak and humiliated. They’re drawn to someone who’s emotionally expressive and nurturing — qualities they lack.”
So consider: does your partner control you or the relationship? Does he lash out when he feels humiliated? Are you the more expressive of the two, and do you often feel the relationship is lopsided as a result?
Narcissists are easy to fall for. They put on a mask that makes them irresistible, but over time, that mask falls away and you’re left wondering where that guy you first fell for went.
8. He’s Disrespectful of You
Maybe he cuts you down in front of your friends. Maybe he rolls his eyes whenever you make a joke. Whatever he’s doing to disrespect you, it is not okay.
In a healthy relationship, partners respect one another at all times. This is a minimum standard you should have for yourself. If he’s not meeting it, move on. This is a toxic relationship.
9. Communication Isn’t Great
He takes days to respond to your texts, if he even bothers. He doesn’t keep you filled in with what’s going on in his life. Sometimes you don’t even feel like you’re in a relationship.
Everyone’s different, but for me, communication is so, so important in a happy relationship. If you aren’t getting it, you aren’t in the right relationship.
10. There’s Persistent Drama
Your friends sadly joke that your love life is like a soap opera. There’s always something dramatic happening, whether it’s your latest hot and heavy argument, something horrible he said to you, or even physical abuse.
And by the way, if your boyfriend is abusing you in any way, please seek help and develop a plan for getting out of the relationship. You are too precious to suffer from someone else’s emotional and mental issues.
A good relationship should be drama-free. Trust me.
11. Both of You Avoid Each Other
You’re at a party.
Cynthia: “Oh, did you not bring Tim to the party?”
You: “I did. He’s over there talking to Fred.”
You spend the entire party ignoring each other. People don’t even realize you’re together.
Red flag, anyone?
Certainly, there will be times in your relationship when you want some space, but if it’s becoming a regular thing, ask yourself why you’re even with this guy.
12. You Feel Trapped in the Relationship
You acknowledge that you’re in a toxic relationship, but you don’t feel like you can leave.
He’s threatening to spread lies about you or even come after you and harm you if you leave. So what can you do?
First of all, realize he’s probably bluffing. Leave him, and you’ll find out who your true friends are. If you feel unsafe, stay with a friend until things die down.
13. His Control Issues Have Become Routine
At first, you thought it was cute how he needed to be in control of certain situations, but things have gotten so out of hand that you can’t even choose the restaurant you two go to because he wants to do it.
This is a big warning sign of a toxic relationship. Couples should take turns having control of a situation, and it should never be one-sided.
14. There’s Lack of Support on Both Sides
You don’t want to support his lifestyle, because he’s living an unhealthy one. Maybe it involves substance abuse or reckless behavior.
He doesn’t want to support your lifestyle, because he’s selfish and uncaring.
Again…why are you still with this man? You want a guy who supports you in everything you do.
15. The Relationship Feels Stagnant
Once you reach a more established stage in your relationship, things will be a bit calmer than they were in the whirlwind beginning. But if things have felt stuck for some time, you need to question why.
Are you both making an effort to continue to nurture the relationship, or are you the only one trying? If that’s the case, realize you will never be able to change him or make him work harder in the relationship if he doesn’t want to.
16. Your Partner Brings out The Worst in You
You’ve never been a fighter, and guess what? You find yourself constantly fighting with him. You’re screaming obscenities in the middle of the street because he makes. you. so. damn. crazy.
This isn’t normal, especially if you don’t have a history of arguing like this. Don’t you want a partner who makes you better, not worse?
17. This Relationship is Lowering Your Standards
If the You from two years ago were to look at the relationship you’re in right now, what would she say? Would she be shocked?
Maybe you had higher standards then. You would never take someone putting you down or ignoring you. And here you are, meekly taking it.
Toxic relationships wear you down over time. Things seem great in the beginning, then slowly things get worse and worse, and you don’t even realize how you’ve let your standards slide. It’s time to remind yourself of everything you wanted in a partner and take action since you are clearly not getting it with this man.
18. You Feel Like You are Walking on Eggshells
I touched on the whole eggshells thing in #4, but let’s go deeper. Do you find yourself modifying your behavior to avoid nasty situations? Maybe you don’t hang out with your male (gay) friend anymore because you know your boyfriend will get unnecessarily jealous. Or maybe you avoid certain subjects because you know they’ll cause an argument.
Lady, you shouldn’t have to tiptoe around in your relationship. The benefit, in my mind, of a relationship is that you can be 1000% you, not some patched up version of what someone else wants.
19. Fights Become Routine
You can’t even think back to the last time you were together that you didn’t fight. Again, not normal.
20. You and Your Partner Keep Score of Everything
Him: “I paid for dinner last time. It’s your turn. You never pay!”
Don’t allow your relationship to become a scorecard of who’s winning because everyone loses. You and your boyfriend should do nice things for one another because you want to, not because you’re trying to one-up the other.
21. You Feel like You Can’t Do Anything Right
He criticizes how you cut your steak. How you pronounce certain words. How you dress.
You’re second-guessing everything you do, and it’s making you crazy. You’re losing your self-confidence, and that’s not okay.
22. You Feel that You Can’t Be Yourself Anymore
Friends have commented that you don’t seem yourself these days, and that makes you sad. You used to have a dazzling personality, and now you feel like it’s become dull. You’re reluctant to admit it, but it’s due to your toxic relationship with this man.
23. He’s Constantly Passive Aggressive
Maybe you’re not sure you’re in a toxic relationship because he doesn’t outright verbally abuse you. But he does things passive-aggressively is just as bad because, while he fears direct conflict, he still wants to control or insult you in some way.
Maybe he gives you the silent treatment when he’s mad or “accidentally” forgets he’s supposed to go with you to your parents’ house for dinner. These are not accidents, dear.
24. He’s Off-the-Chart Jealous
You can’t even make eye contact with a male waiter without your boyfriend thinking you want him. His jealousy is making your relationship terrible, and you’re constantly working to reassure him that you only have eyes for him.
Just a note: people who cheat on their partners sometimes act jealous, so consider whether that might be the case.
25. You Constant Criticize Each Other
Sometimes toxic relationships go both ways; you’re giving as much of the negativity as you’re getting. Some people, like oil and water, just don’t go together, and while you may never have criticized a past partner, you find yourself falling into the habit with this guy.
Again, in a healthy relationship, there is no criticism. There is gentle guidance and plenty of open communication.
26. You or Your Partner Have Very Few Friends Outside of The Relationship
One sign of being in a toxic relationship is that your entire world centers around the relationship. You don’t really have friends outside of it. So naturally, you’re hesitant to end the relationship because then you’ll feel utterly alone.
Realize that when a partner is controlling, he doesn’t want you to have relationships outside of this one. He deliberately sets things up so that you rely on him and no one else. This is not healthy!
27. One or Both Partners has Low Self-Esteem
While you might assume that a man who criticizes you and controls you has high self-esteem, the opposite is usually true.
A man who feels the need to control you is so insecure that you’d want to be with him of your own accord that he takes measures to ensure you’ll stay. And if you have low self-esteem, you might be a target for an abusive partner.
By now, you should have a pretty clear sense on whether or not you are in a toxic relationship. The question now is: what will you do about it?
I encourage you to not settle. You deserve everything you ever wanted in a relationship, and if you’re in one that isn’t meeting your needs, it’s time to get out.
That being said…is it possible to fix a toxic relationship? I’m a firm believer that if two people want to improve a relationship, they can.
In part 2 of this article, How to Fix a Toxic Relationship (If It’s Possible), Sexy Confidence members get exclusive tips to work through a bad patch. But to get access, you’ve got to be a member. Join Sexy Confidence today to get it.
So, while often you just need to end a toxic relationship, there are times where you may be able to save one. But you both have to want things to get better, not just one of you. If you’re both willing to make changes, here are a few of the steps you can take to repair a broken relationship.
Commit to Change
Clearly things cannot continue on the same path; something needs to give. Likely one or both of you will need to modify destructive behaviors to mend the relationship. You may even need to break up or at least have some space apart to reflect on where things went wrong and how to fix them. Be willing to do whatever it takes.
It’s important that you both take turns expressing the #1 thing that each of you see must change in the relationship and really hear one another. If he tells you that you make him feel small, don’t get defensive. Listen to what he’s saying. His feelings are valid, as are yours.
Set a Timeline
Without a timeline for repairing your relationship, you will go on and on without things actually improving. That’s why I have found in coaching clients in toxic relationships that it helps to set a deadline. If X isn’t better in a month, you agree that you’ll try something else, like therapy. Set a hard deadline so that if a clearly defined list of problems haven’t noticeably improved, you agree that being apart is probably best.
Please don’t think that your relationship is doomed just because there are problems. If you’re both willing to fix it, there’s hope.
Coaching Action Item:
Now for homework, I want you and your partner to write one another a letter. In it, address the points of concern you have without being accusatory. For example:
“Sometimes you criticize how I dress, and that hurts me a lot.”
Your goal here is to communicate with your partner in a way that doesn’t require an instant response. You will both have the opportunity to reflect on what the other said and decide how to proceed.
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