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What Is a Toxic Relationship? 53 Signs to Recognize Love that Hurts You

It’s super easy to stay in a toxic relationship when you don’t realize you’re in one to begin with. Learn the signs of a toxic relationship and escape. 

What Is a Toxic Relationship Signs

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. We don’t always meet the right person and they don’t always treat us with respect and care. Sometimes a good person can simply act negatively, or perhaps we just meet a downright bad person overall. Whatever the reason, identifying a toxic relationship and working out what to do about it is key.

Whether you’re being used, manipulated, degraded, or your self-esteem is being dragged down to the floor, do not stick around.

A toxic relationship can unleash misery of untold amounts. Those are definitely dark times. It can happen to anyone too. Don’t assume that it’s just a guy that inflicts toxicity on someone, it can be women too. We’re all capable of toxic behavior.

What you need to do is learn the signs of a toxic relationship ahead of time. Then, you can have a strong head’s up before life becomes very difficult indeed.

In certain moments, it’s hard to think about what you deserve and how to get it. If anything, you assume this is the best you’re going to get. That’s really the saddest part about a toxic relatonship. You settle. [Read: 15 biggest signs of an unhealthy relationship you should never, ever tolerate]

More than just a bad relationship

Toxic relationships are not just bad relationships. They are terrorizing and lower our self-esteem. Such relationships attack our trust and hope. They control us and manipulate us. 

A toxic relationship is unhealthy, disrespectful, and can often time even be dangerous. For your safety, you should know the warning signs of a toxic relationship and understand that if you see them, it’s time to leave.

Toxic relationships are not easily fixed and sorted out with gifts, talking, or even therapy. In most cases, toxic relationships end with an explosion that affects you for the rest of your life.

To keep from being swallowed up by the masked evil in a toxic relationship, spot the signs of a toxic relationship early, so you can avoid them at all costs. [Read: Doubts about your new relationship? Understand the normal and toxic signs]

What is a toxic relationship exactly?

It’s very hard to put a definite label on what a toxic relationship is. That’s because it encompasses several different types of behavior.

What we can most definitely say is that a toxic relationship makes you extremely unhappy and makes you lack self-esteem and self-worth. [Read: 13 ways toxic love can harm you permanently and how to get away]

A toxic relationship isn’t healthy. It’s out of balance and it means that one person is always going to have power or the upper hand over the other. Manipulation, lies, cheating, power, control, jealousy, lack of trust *with reason*, being used, are all tactics that appear in a toxic relationship.

It doesn’t mean that you’re going to see every single type of behavior, but you’ll see some or just one to a strong amount. What really matters is how it makes you feel.

A healthy relationship doesn’t cause another person to question themselves or feel bad most of the time, or even all of the time. In a healthy relationship, we raise each other up and become a cheerleader for our partners. The opposite is true in a toxic relationship.

Hang on, why do people stay in toxic relationships?

You might be reading this and wondering why on earth anyone would stay in a relationship that makes them unhappy. Well, it’s far more common than you might think.

The reason? Manipulation. Without knowing the signs of a toxic relationship, you’re blind to what’s going on.

Manipulation doesn’t have to be obvious, it can be very subtle. In most cases, it flies under the radar and the person being manipulated doesn’t even realize what’s going on. That’s when it’s most dangerous. [Read: Psychological manipulation – 16 different tactics real manipulators use to hook you]

People also tend to stay in toxic relationships because they’re in love and by the time they see their partner’s true colors, their self-esteem has been dragged down so low they don’t feel able to leave.

You see, the relationship isn’t toxic, to begin with. It’s all hearts and roses. Everything is wonderful. That’s what keeps people in place. They look back on those times and think that if it was okay then, it can be okay again.

We all try to overlook negative points and hope for the best. That sometimes means we put on our blinkers, ignore the signs of a toxic relationship, and try to look past flaws.

The issue? Negative behavior isn’t a flaw. It’s a choice. That means your partner is choosing to be negative and toxic towards you. That’s not right, is it? [Read: 20 signs of a narcissistic relationship that’ll destroy you slowly]

The subtle signs of a toxic relationship that’s breaking you from within

The thing about toxic relationships that makes them so easy to overlook is that they weren’t always so bad. Toxic relationships start out pretty well, even too good to be true.

Because most toxic relationships gave you hope in the beginning, we stay in them by grasping that hope with everything we have. We make excuses for bad behavior, we let ourselves feel bad, we lose ourselves in the relationship all for that glimmer of hope.

There is so much manipulation and negative energy that builds up in a toxic relationship simply because we can’t admit it to ourselves. But, if we can spot the signs without allowing our love to cloud us, we can escape with our dignity intact. [Read: The 13 traits of toxic people can hurt and emotionally damage you forever]

You see, there are always signs. The only difference is whether you’re paying attention to them or not. And this just gets worse if you’re not sure what is a toxic relationship in the first place.

No matter how much you love your partner, keep your eyes open for the signs. If not, you run the risk of losing yourself. And once you get there, returning to your normal self isn’t easy.

If you’re not sure what is a toxic relationship or what it looks like, well, here are the signs to help you figure it out.

Remember, not all relationships are healthy ones however much we wish they were. [Read: Am I manipulative? 20 ways you manipulate everyone in your life]

1. Passive aggressive behavior

We’re all guilty of being passive-aggressive at times. It’s not easy talking openly about your feelings and emotions. But if passive-aggression is their middle name, it’s time to take a second look at your relationship.

Not talking about your feelings is a sign of immaturity, and can lead down a dangerous road. [Read: How to deal with passive-aggressive behavior calmly and with class]

2. Regular bouts of jealousy

A little bit of jealousy isn’t necessarily bad. Unfortunately, the line is very thin, and social media tells us excessive jealousy is a positive trait.

If you can’t leave the house without them becoming jealous, or if they’re searching your phone for an incriminating text or picture, that’s clearly toxic, not cute!

3. They’re all about the blame game

You might be all too familiar with the blame game. If your partner never takes responsibility for their actions and blames everything on you, that’s toxicity at its best.

Nobody is perfect, so don’t ever believe that everything is your fault and they’re free of all blame, all the time. [Read: 20 clues to know if someone has emotional maturity]

4. They’re great at avoidance

You basically tolerate each other’s presence, which is pretty messed up considering you’re in a relationship. What will happen if you get married? You won’t spend time with your spouse?

Avoidance is the first sign that the relationship has run its course and it’s firmly in the toxic category.

5. You just don’t feel like yourself

You can’t make the jokes you’d normally make or watch TV without feeling like you’re doing something wrong. And you’re not doing anything wrong; you’re yourself.

But if your partner doesn’t appreciate who you are, they’ll try to change you. And that is what’s happening if you regularly feel this way. [Read: How to be yourself – The steps to unfake your life and love being you]

6. Arguments are a constant thing

It’s normal for couples to have disagreements. Don’t think because you argue you’re in a toxic relationship.

But there’s a difference between arguing and communicating, and straight-up yelling without any resolution. If they’re just yelling at you, it’s not going to get anywhere. [Read: 23 dos and don’ts you need to remember in a relationship argument]

7. There are negative vibes floating in the air

People underestimate the power of energy. Every animal on this earth is made up of energy. If you’re constantly feeling uncomfortable or anxious around your partner, there’s a reason why.

You’re reacting to the energy they’re giving out. Negative energy emotionally drains you and breaks you down.

8. You only make them happy, it’s never about your happiness

When you’re with your partner, they don’t care about your happiness. Instead, you spend most of your time trying to please them.

You eat what they want, do what they want; you’re basically their personal slave. They don’t ask you how your day was or what you’d like to do. [Read: 16 signs and reasons why you’re always taken for granted by others]

9. You can’t grow as a person

When someone grows in a relationship, that’s a positive thing. You want your partner to grow and develop, and you want to do the same.

If you want more, but your partner likes things the way they are, well, that’s not good. They’re holding you back from achieving your life goals because they don’t want to develop.

It’s normal to be a little apprehensive about change occasionally, but if they dig their heels in and refuse to evolve, that’s a problem.

10. You don’t feel like fighting for the relationship

When two people love each other, they’ll go above and beyond to make things work. They will fight as hard as they can for the relationship.

But with you, you stopped caring a long time ago and so did your partner. You feel like there’s no point – the relationship isn’t going anywhere. [Read: 20 signs your relationship is already over and come to an end]

11. Be honest, you’re just not happy

When was the last time you laughed with your partner? When was the last time you felt really happy by their side? You’ll know when you’re in a toxic relationship because you won’t be happy anymore. Something inside of you is telling you to move on for a reason.

12. The drama never ends

But really, it never ends. Every day there’s something wrong in their life, and it’s usually around something you did wrong, even if you did nothing! They live for the drama because it distracts them from their own failures. [Read: Why some people go looking for drama all the time]

13. You can never do anything right

At least in their eyes. Everything you do comes with criticism and loads of it.

At the end of the day, you feel like a complete failure and unworthy of their love. But that’s not true. They’re not worthy of your love and affection since they don’t appreciate it.

14. You feel like the worst version of you

When you’re with someone you love, they usually bring out the best in you. And that’s when you know you’re with the right person.

But if you’re becoming someone you don’t recognize, you need to think hard about your relationship. Is this really someone you want to be with? [Read: 34 tips to fall in love with yourself and be a better you]

15. Your friends and family don’t like them

We know you don’t want people to dislike someone you chose to be with, but sometimes, your friends and family are right.

If they tell you that you’ve changed and your partner is toxic, listen to them. Your friends and family love you and want the best for you. [Read: 24 sad signs you’re in an unhealthy relationship that will ruin love forever]

16. They’re stuck in the past

Instead of thinking about their future with you, they constantly remind you about the past.

“The good times you had,” runs out of their mouth often, and it makes you wonder if they’re enjoying the relationship now. But they’re not; they’re stuck in the past. [Read: How to get out of a toxic relationship with your dignity intact]

17. You avoid saying how you feel

You have an opinion, but you’re scared to speak your mind. Maybe your partner becomes aggressive when you don’t share the same opinion as them or ignores what you have to say.

You simply stop saying what’s on your mind to avoid conflict. [Read: Double standards in a relationship and why they’re toxic AF]

18. You can’t remember the last time you felt content

When you’re around your partner, you should feel content. But with this person, you feel bad. You wake up feeling empty; you go to bed feeling unloved. There’s nothing positive this person is giving you. And this is toxic for yourself.

19. There’s a lack of investment in the relationship

We’re not talking about financial investment. People can be in healthy relationships without spending a lot of money on each other, for example. What we’re talking about is an emotional investment.

Your partner doesn’t emotionally invest in the relationship. They don’t try to spend time with you, they don’t confide in you; they show very little effort towards the relationship. [Read: 15 types of toxic relationships to watch out for]

20. You feel like everything is a trap

When you’re talking to your partner, you feel you must watch everything you say. If every question they ask you is like you’re being tested, and you need to say the right answer, this is one of the clearest signs you’re in a toxic relationship.

If you’re unable to relax around your partner and be honest with them, this is a huge problem.

21. Problems are never resolved

If there’s a fight, you are unable to sit down and talk about each other’s feelings. Instead of actually solving it, your partner covers the situation up with a drastic change of mood and tries to buy you something nice or take you somewhere. That’s not them being kind, it’s a toxic relationship sign.

22. The relationship sits on your shoulders

In healthy relationships, the couple works together and gives equally into the relationship. But for your relationship, it all rests on your shoulders.

You need to give everything into it, while your partner sits back and chills. More importantly, it feels like whatever you do is not enough – and that’s because it will never be enough. [Read: The hidden signs of a one-sided relationship we all choose to ignore]

23. You catch them in many lies

When will this all end? Are you tired of being in a relationship like this? On top of all of this, your partner is lying.

You’ve caught them in many lies, and it’s not ending. Your trust has been broken. Once the trust is broken, it takes a very long time and a lot of effort from your partner to restore it. And that’s just not happening. Basically, it’s nothing short of a toxic relationship.

24. You’ve forgotten how to say “no”

You can never say no. And in healthy relationships, ‘no’ is an important word. Compromise is always needed in a relationship; you can’t always do what your partner wants.

But in this relationship, ‘no’ is seen as a negative word and an attack against your partner. [Read: Emotional dependency – Are you showing the signs of being overly dependent on one person?]

25. There’s no emotional responsibility

The reason why you never resolve any conflict is that there’s no emotional responsibility. They’re unable to accept responsibility for their actions and are looking for ways to point the finger at you. This is highly toxic as everything is and will always be your fault.

26. There’s a scorecard

Oh god, the relationship scorecard. In a relationship, a partner keeping score can be exhausting. When you get into an argument, they continuously bring up things from the past and pile everything against you.

Your partner should not do this. Bringing up the past constantly will only build resentment. [Read: How to fight fair in a relationship and feel closer]

27. You have no privacy

Everyone needs some amount of privacy. Your partner doesn’t need to know every conversation you have with your friends and what you talked about. They also don’t need to know every time you step out of the house.

But your toxic partner checks all your receipts, goes through your phone, and makes sure they know exactly where you are. 

28. You’re left out of big decisions

This is one of the major signs of a toxic relatonship. When making a big decision, couples usually sit down and talk about it together.

But your partner doesn’t consult you. They make decisions without your knowledge and never ask for your opinion or thoughts. They don’t see you as someone equal or someone they respect. [Read: Indecisiveness – When your inability to decide is a decision too]

29. Controlling behavior

If you look at someone of the opposite sex or talk to someone you know on the street, your partner lashes out in anger and tries to control your behavior.

The control can come in many forms like going through your phone, prohibiting you from seeing that person, etc. While this control is happening, they use the excuse of being jealous and loving you. It’s simply controlling and means you’re in a toxic relationship. [Read: The worrying signs of control in a relationship that many people miss]

30. There’s abuse

If there’s ever any abuse happening in any way, it’s a toxic relationship. There’s no way around it. It wasn’t just “a bad day” or something “you deserved.” There’s no excuse for abusive behavior.

We know you love this person, and it’s hard to accept that you’re being abused by someone who loves you. But if this is happening, it’s abuse, and you’re in a highly toxic relationship. [Read: Are you overlooking these signs of emotional abuse in your relationship?]

31. You feel tired all the time

Having a new puppy or a newborn should leave you feeling exhausted, but being in a relationship shouldn’t. A happy and healthy relationship should not leave you feeling drained emotionally or physically.

If being with your partner leaves you feeling tired rather than energized, it is a sign of a toxic relationship. [Read: 20 ways to spot selfish people and stop them from hurting you]

32. You feel ashamed

Toxic relationships control your actions. You will find yourself doing things you never thought you would do in a million years. Those things can really make you feel bad about yourself.

You may become so ashamed of your actions that your self-esteem takes a major hit. You’ll no longer view yourself as strong because you let this relationship take over your actions.

33. If you’re honest with yourself, you don’t trust them

If you do not trust your partner, it is nearly impossible to come back from that and vice versa. Sure, some people are just jealous or have trust issues but that can be worked on in the right circumstances.

But, in the wrong circumstance, trust issues and jealousy can turn toxic extremely fast. If your partner feels they can decide what you wear, who you see, where you go, or who you talk to that is not sweet, protective, or caring, it is toxic and controlling. [Read: 23 early signs of a possessive man and the best ways to fix it ASAP]

34. You’re not honest with your friends

This is a major sign of a toxic relationship. You might go from raving to your friends about your relationship to complaining and then staying quiet or even lying.

You know what they will say to you and you don’t want to hear it. So, instead, you stay quiet and pretend everything is fine. Don’t be fooled however, as your friends know you better than you think.

35. There is manipulation

This is a hard sign to spot because it is in and of itself controlling you without you knowing. When manipulated, you rarely spot it because the person manipulating you is so good at it.

If you look back at your actions and wonder why you did that or how you did it, you are being manipulated.

Look at some of the things that have happened in your relationship. What would you say if a friend told you that happened in their relationship? That’s a good question to ponder. [Read: 15 signs of manipulation in a relationship you should never ignore]

36. You feel you need to cancel other plans for them

Sure, if your partner needs a ride to the hospital, cancel girl’s night, but apart from that, you should not feel like you need to put your partner first. You should never feel guilty for making plans with friends, family, or alone.

When your relationship is destroying or altering your other friendships, something is wrong.

37. You’re always waiting

A healthy relationship has mutual respect and balance. You should both be giving and receiving. You should make time for each other. Does your partner only make time for you when it is convenient for them?

If you feel like you are always waiting for them to call, text, or see you, things are unbalanced. This is made worse when they expect you to drop everything at their command. This is not a relationship, it is romantic slavery. [Read: The consequences of making someone a priority when you’re only an option to them]

38. You feel scared

In relationships, we all fear it ending. And that is normal. But if you are scared of your partner’s reactions to you being late, burning dinner, telling a friend about your relationship, or to anything, it is entirely toxic.

You should never feel afraid of your partner for any reason. Sure, we all get nervous, but fear and nerves are not the same. You should feel safe in a healthy relationship. If you do not feel safe with your partner mentally, emotionally, or physically: get out now.

39. There is no respect

A relationship will never work without respect. Respect is our regard for each other’s feelings, thoughts, and humanity. Without respect, we become inhumane and toxic to each other.

If your relationship goes beyond the average argument and into territory even remotely disrespectful, it is not a relationship you want to be in.

There is no excuse for your partner disrespecting you. Even during the worst of fights, respect should always have a place. [Read: 16 ways to find your respect in your relationship]

40. You are both angry

A major sign of a toxic relationship is constant fighting. Occasional anger is normal for relationships, but constant anger leads to rage, unhappiness, and regret.

Anger should not be the main contributor to your relationship. If it is, it is toxic for your health, both mentally and physically.

41. You avoid them when you need them the most

Relationships are there for love and support. But if you cannot go to your partner in your time of need, then why be in a relationship?

If you know that you’re not going to get the support you should get, that’s one of the major signs of a toxic relationship from the get-go. [Read: How to help someone up when they’re feeling down]

42. You enjoy your time away from them

Being single can be the best time of your life. You learn so much about yourself and enjoy freedom like nothing else. If you often enjoy the time you spend alone and think about when you were single, that’s a pretty big red flag.

A toxic relationship is never worth it for any reason. No guilt, lack of confidence, or fear of loneliness is worth staying with someone that hurts you. [Read: Signs of emotional abuse you shouldn’t overlook]

43. You feel you need to change

This may seem minor compared to the other signs of a toxic relationship, but it can eat away at you until you’ve entirely lost yourself. A relationship should allow you to be comfortable with who you are.

If you are afraid your partner won’t like you for you or will judge you for being you that is not healthy. That is entirely toxic and can lead to a lot of issues that can seep into the rest of your life. [Read: Why you should run if you see these early relationship red flags]

44. You’re irritated around them

If you walk into a room and are pretty much immediately annoyed simply because they’re there, it’s a bad sign. Your energy becomes toxic and harmful just by being around them. That’s a huge sign you need to get out of this toxic relationship. [Read: 16 signs it’s time to move on and end the relationship]

45. They insult you

Obviously, insults are bad. They make you upset and bring down your self-esteem significantly. They’re even worse coming from someone who claims to care about you. If they put you down all the time, it’s one of the signs of a toxic relationship and it’s time to leave.

46. They make you feel stupid

This is a really, really bad sign that you’re in a toxic relationship. Condescending comments and remarks should never be tolerated.

Learning how to know if your relationship is toxic is being able to take a step back and ask how you’d react if they made that comment to your friend. If it’s bad, then you know it’s time to call it quits. [Read: 18 emotions you shouldn’t feel in a healthy relationship]

47. They poke fun at your hobbies and interests

These things mean a lot to you. They’re everything to you, really. If your partner doesn’t think they’re important and actually makes fun of you for them, it’s time to bounce. They’re not good for you.

48. They don’t support your goals

What’s the point of being with someone who never wants to see you succeed? If they’re not cheering you on and supporting your goals, it’s a toxic relationship.

They may not try to actively stop you from achieving them, but not supporting you can be just as harmful. [Read: 10 signs your partner is truly supportive of your goals]

49. You don’t spend intimate time together

Meaning, you never go on dates or enjoy each other’s company. Most likely, you sit on opposite ends of the couch while you scroll on your phone or watch a movie.

That’s not quality time. The reason for this is probably because you know you’ll end up fighting if you spend too much time together. [Read: Spend quality time together and 14 other tips to fix a broken relationship]

50. You always accuse each other of things

Another way to learn how to know if your relationship is toxic is if you play the blame game. Pointing fingers at each other for every little issue in your relationship won’t help anyone. You need to sit down and talk it out. If you can’t effectively communicate, your relationship won’t get far.

51. You feel the need to avoid them at times

This should never happen. You should never, ever feel like you want to avoid your partner. They should make your life better. You should want to be around them all the time. If you don’t, then it’s probably because they make you feel mad and negative.

52. You don’t do nice things for each other

You both always need to be showing each other how much you care.

When you stop doing this, resentment starts to build. This toxic emotion can turn even the healthiest of relationships into something horrible and unhealthy. [Read: 25 ways to make your lover feel appreciated and cared for]

53. You don’t know why you’re together

If you question why you’re even with someone, then you probably shouldn’t be. Having a relationship so toxic that you can’t even see why you like the other person isn’t healthy for either of you.

Get out now before things get so bad you can’t fix them for yourself. [Read: 21 secret signs that reveal a bad relationship]

If you’re in a toxic relationship, what should you do?

So, now you know what is a toxic relationship and you know the signs, what should you do if you think you’re in one? Should you try and talk about things and hope you see a change? Do you think you should just stick around and see what happens? Or, should you leave?

At the end of the day, you know your relationship better than we do. But, you should never stick around and settle in a relationship that is obviously toxic, or even un-obviously. Really think about how you feel and what you want.

Do you believe you deserve to feel this way? Why don’t you deserve to be as happy as those around you, or as happy as those you see on TV? *although remember, a lot of that isn’t real!*. [Read: Happily ever after – How to find yours and keep it]

You could try sitting down with your partner and explaining how you feel. It may simply be that they’ve slipped into a pattern and you’ve stopped communicating. Then, see how things go.

If nothing changes, you really have to consider the fact that the relationship is simply toxic and rotten. In that case, you must wave your hand to say goodbye and walk away. There’s a much better future waiting for you.

[Read: How to get over a bad breakup and start feeling really good again]

After reading the signs, what do you think? Can you answer what is a toxic relationship? If you feel that you are in one, it’s time for you to make a change.

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