Think you might be in a toxic relationship, but want to be completely sure? Use this guide to decide if you need to take action, for the sake of your own wellbeing.
What does a toxic relationship look like?
Toxic relationships go beyond just lacking good qualities; they also add negativity to your life. Like a frog in boiling water, you may not notice the signs of toxicity until your mental health suffers the consequences.
Signs of a toxic relationship
You fell in love with someone amazing and the relationship is going great, until it isn’t anymore. You want to believe the person you have chosen to be with can do no wrong, would never hurt you, and only wants the best for you. Sadly, this is not always true.
You’re starting to feel your relationship might not be healthy anymore, and that’s a tough thing to question.
Review these signs to help consider whether your relationship has become toxic:
Lack of respect
You definitely knew this one! But in thinking about toxic relationships, we often bend our actual definition of respect. Respect means your opinions, ideas and thoughts are clearly valued.
In a toxic relationship, there is very little or no regard for your feelings and emotions. You are made to feel that you are not important in making decisions in the relationship — or worse, that your thoughts shouldn’t be voiced at all.
Lack of effort
There’s no longer any effort towards the relationship from your partner. Your feel helpless when it comes to working on your relationship. Your partner may insist they’re trying, but if you don’t feel it, consider whether it’s all talk. Trite but true: actions speak louder than words.
Lies, lies, lies
Dishonesty gradually increases in a toxic relationship. Your partner gives you false information when you ask a question, in turn, you start allowing the truth to slide when you are asked a question, and then your relationship loses touch with reality.
When it gets really bad, your partner may even gaslight you.
Lack of trust
You are questioned about everything – “Where are you?” “Who are you with?” “When will you be home?”
These are normal, except when the questions are constant or when they become followed by conditions. Conditions such as who you can see, and who you should not anymore, places you can no longer visit; almost like you have become isolated.
Lack of communication
You stop telling them important things, or your partner avoids situations which require talking. You doubt yourself when you speak to them and eventually you are to scared to communicate anything to them.
All kinds of abuse: verbal, physical, emotional
The toxic relationship usually evolves from low-key to full-on abuse.
First comes the coercion and name calling.
Next, your partner may belittle you and call you overly sensitive for being hurt (again, a form of gaslighting). There may also be gaslighting statements like “You are crazy, you are insane, you’ve lost it!” No question: throwing out such allegations speaks more to their mental state than yours.
After or along with verbal abuse comes intimidation, which can turn into overt force. There’s a little shoving and getting pushed around, maybe a smack that you excuse under the circumstances.
Throwing out such allegations speaks more to their mental state than yours.
Finally, there’s full blown physical abuse, where your body bears your partner’s violence. You may find yourself bruised, in the hospital, or fearing for your life. Many of us have ended up here without realizing it – please remember it’s not your fault. There is no shame in being the victim of abuse, only empowerment in rescuing yourself.
If you are able to stop the toxic relationship before it comes to physical abuse, you owe yourself that.
Passive Aggression, On Either Side
The relationship becomes a passive-aggressive one, you both keep a mental record of arguments and fights. You then start blaming and doubting each other for everything that’s wrong with the relationship.
What if I still love my partner?
“Can it still be a toxic relationship if we love each other?”
“Toxic people are not always bad people trying to break our heart and soul. They can be people who love us dearly.” – Unknown
You may still love your partner, but feel something’s not quite right. That makes it immeasurably harder to call the relationship toxic – and to take the relieving action of moving on.
Sometimes your partner is the problem despite their best intentions; sometimes it turns out we’re the toxic ones!
And often, relationships become toxic when neither partner is bad on their own – like mixing baking soda and vinegar, it’s just a volatile combination.
Choosing to move on doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t love your partner anymore. It means you value reality and the opportunity for you both to be happier, even if it means parting.
Staying in a toxic relationship can break our spirits, but realizing you deserve better? That’s freeing. We all deserve to be in a healthy relationship in which we are respected and treated with love.
You should never have to compromise yourself for someone who doesn’t treat you right. The reality is that there is someone else out there who will be able to treat you better. And more importantly, prolonged toxic relationships can have long lasting, negative effects on our mental health, forcing us to feel worthless or insignificant.
Damaging effects of a toxic relationship
If you still love your partner, or just need more motivation to remove yourself from a harmful situation, consider how your toxic relationship may effect you even in the future.
By identifying and ending a relationship that has become toxic, you conclusively save yourself from these effects.
Effects on your mental health:
After leaving a toxic relationship, your confidence and self-worth may be damaged. You will feel like your mind, thoughts and emotions have been to war. You may experience depression and you will be mentally exhausted. Talk to someone or find a support group with others who have had similar experiences.
Effects on your view of the world:
Your view of the world will often change after a toxic relationship. For some time after your toxic relationship has ended, you might look at the world from a place of anxiety, expecting everyone to act like your toxic partner.
You might feel that nothing can make you happy again, that you cant do anything right. And you start to hate things you previously did.
The best way to reverse this is to build evidence that the world is a good and safe place.
Stay aware that you are no longer in a toxic situation, find activities with people who share your values, or go out more with friends and family. Over time, you will start to feel a more positive outlook.
Effects on your future relationships:
You may not want to start a new relationship for a while. You might judge and compare potential partners with intense scrutiny, and it may be really difficult to trust.
Building up walls and pushing people away will be easier for you than letting them get close to you. It will be hard to fight that feeling, so try working with it.
Use this single time to discover yourself again. Rebuilding your confidence and ability to trust will give you the tools you need to love again and form new healthy relationships.
A quality relationship can give us the love, companionship, security and caring we crave; but not all relationships are good for us. Realizing you are in a toxic relationship feels like your world is falling down.
But remember that this is your life, and that you are surrounded by good people — even if you have been stuck in a harmful relationship for a long time.
Take charge, and know that you have a whole community of people right here, waiting to hear your story, to help you puzzle through it.