5 Signs of Toxic Relationships: Knowing When to Walk Away

What do you do when you wake up one day feeling like you are misunderstood, unsupported, demeaned, or attacked?

Having someone to lean on when you are down or share your joys with will help you become the best version of yourself however, some relationships do the opposite.

Sure, we may see relationships that we deem as #couplegoals, but behind the scenes, relationships are hard work that must have mutual benefits in order to be healthy. Certainly, conflicts and misunderstandings are typical and it may even deepen or strengthen the relationship.

But some conflicts go beyond healthy exchange and start to gear towards the realm of toxicity.

In a typical healthy relationship, everything just goes together effortlessly. Sure, bumpy roads and disagreements happen, but couples somehow resolve these obstacles that usually make their relationship better. However, a toxic relationship is an entirely different story.

Dr. Lilian Glass, a California-based communication and psychology expert, was the one who coined the term “toxic relationship” in her 1995 book Toxic People. According to the book, “any relationship doesn’t support each other, where there’s conflict, and one seeks to undermine the other, competition, disrespect, and lack of cohesiveness.”

So, when do you say it is enough? What are the “red flags” of being in a toxic relationship?

Signs of a Toxic Relationship

1. Lack of support or reciprocity

    Typically, couples are each other’s “number one fan.” But toxic partners may instead express jealousy or indifference. If you start to feel that your accomplishments are ignored or minimized, that your victories are minimized, that your goals are belittled, and that celebrations are spoiled or thwarted then you are experiencing a lack of support and possibly a jealous partner. If you are constantly on the giving end of the relationship and rarely receive support or encouragement from your partner, then you are experiencing a lack of reciprocity. In some cases, these situations can be fixed with communication, but in other situations, you have to recognize that your partner is expressing toxic behaviors.

    2. Controlling behaviors

      Does your partner regularly ask where you are or “proof” of where you have been? Do they check your phone or make wild accusations? Do they attempt to tell you how to act and what to wear? Brace yourself, your partner may have control issues and this is a red flag warning you of an unhealthy relationship. While some jealousy in relationships may be normal, it should never result in constant control in another person’s behavior or constant checking of their experiences or whereabouts. Not only can it be suffocating and cause undue stress, but it can also foretell the potential for verbal and physical abuse.

      3. Constant stress and decreased self-care

        While light to moderate stress is necessary to achieve balance in life and a healthy function of the nervous system, prolonged stress can damage your mental and your physical health. If your relationship causes you to feel constant tiredness, or experience chest pains, trouble sleeping, high blood pressure, and digestive problems, you might be significantly stressed. When in a toxic relationship, you might also lack an appropriate self-care routine. This can be either because you have no time to focus on yourself, or you become depressed due to your experiences with your partner. In either case, this is a symptom of a greater issue and it should not be ignored. 


        4. Hostile communication and fear of expressing your feelings

          Does talking about something, no matter how simple it may be, always result in a huge fight? Are you afraid to express your feelings due to how hostile the conversation becomes or how your partner may react? While some people do express themselves in powerful ways, it should never be so intimidating that you are afraid to communicate. In toxic relationships, you may feel invalidated or attacked when trying to convey your thoughts causing you to refrain from communication or hold in your feelings.

          5. Cheating and lying

            Cheating is one of the most complicated and difficult problems that any couple could ever encounter. In some cases, you may choose to forgive the cheating or alter your relationship dynamics, but in either case, it should always be addressed and relationship boundaries should be drawn. Decide and communicate early on if cheating is a deal-breaker for you and do not compromise your values for the sake of loneliness. Should you decide to forgive a cheater, ensure that you can move past the issue and have open communication and established methods of trust. Similarly, lying is a means of deception that will provoke hiding information and long-term distrust. Both partners have to commit to open communication and establishing clear boundaries and trust parameters in order for the relationship to thrive.

            You’ve identified the red flags. What do you do?

            Leaving a toxic relationship is easier said than done. While toxic relationships can be mended and resolved, an abusive relationship is an entirely different story. Some toxic traits in a relationship can be fixed with the right amount of communication and commitment, but when you are already faced with any of the following, you have to seek help immediately.

            • Gaslighting

            To manipulate your partner by psychological means into questioning his/her own sanity

            • Coercion

            The practice of persuading someone to do something using threat or force

            • Physical, emotional, and sexual violence

            Behavior intending to hurt another person physically, emotionally, or sexually

            • Isolation

            The behavior of keeping someone apart from others, either physically or emotionally

            • Intimidation

            Behavior that causes one to fear leaving the relationship.

            Although these five behaviors can be a red flag for a breakup, others can be repaired if both parties are committed through these successful relationship tips.

            1. Talking it over

              Remember that both of you should be on the same page. Sit down and have the intention to fix things. Seek relationship advice from professionals if you have to.

              2. Acceptance

                They say, “it takes two to tango.” Both of you should accept your faults and shortcomings in your relationship. It is crucial to keep an open mind and humility to admit that you might be a toxic person, too.

                3. Willingness to invest

                  You’ve invested a great deal of emotion and energy in your relationship. It is time to invest in your relationship with your finances and time. Engage in couple’s therapy or marriage counseling with a therapist near you.

                  Actual relationship goals are two people who are willing to work things out. But while making everything work, make sure you never lose yourself in the process. If all else fails and you choose to leave, do so as peacefully as possible without attempting to inflict pain on the other person. Most of all ensure that you focus on putting back the pieces of your life and moving forward.

                  Relationships might be challenging, but through the Managing Relationships course we can help you not only understand romantic relationships but professional ones as well.

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                  Categories: Managing Relationships