I think it is fair to say that the word ‘toxic’ has become overused in our current climate; so much so that healthy habits are now being mistaken for relationship habits. For instance, spending time apart from someone you love, which is actually essential to recharging a relationship, is labeled as being toxic in some circles.
That said, the concept of a toxic relationship does exist and this is due to several factors including parents, Hollywood, culture, and so on. Based on this, it isn’t shocking to discover that unsuitable relationship role models are the leading cause of toxic relationships. What’s more, research shows that women in toxic relationships tend to have high blood sugar levels.
Worse yet, we have all have toxic relationship habits we aren’t yet aware of. Some of these habits are not only destructive but also alienate your partner and could potentially end the relationship.
Want to know what toxic habits are undermining your relationships? That’s what we’re here to explore, as it would be a shame to come out of a relationship due to your toxic relationship habits and still struggle to figure out what led to its demise. Below are a few of the traits that we exhibit in relationships that potentially ruin it.
- 1 What Are The Signs Of A Toxic Relationship
- 1.1 1. Trying to change your partner
- 1.2 2. Making them your ‘everything’
- 1.3 3. Keeping score
- 1.4 4. Sticking it out no matter what
- 1.5 5. Complete honesty
- 1.6 6. Lying to spare the other’s feelings
- 1.7 7. Emotional blackmail
- 1.8 8. Dodging confrontation
- 1.9 9. Resolving everything!
- 1.10 10. Letting past relationships affect the new one
- 1.11 11. Making them responsible for your emotional well-being
- 1.12 12. Always pleasing
- 1.13 13. Discussing their problems with others
- 1.14 14. Papering over problems with material/physical things
- 1.15 15. Constant talking
- 2 FAQs
- 3 To Sum Things Up
What Are The Signs Of A Toxic Relationship
1. Trying to change your partner
This is a tricky one as, in theory, you know changing your partner is a bad idea; but in practice, things take a weird turn. The truth is that no one is flawless; once again, this is a theme that we all know in theory but it needs to be understood on a deeper level. Therefore, let me repeat it; ‘no one is flawless’.
As many relationship experts will tell you, ‘if you love someone, you have to put up with their harmless habits’’. This is the person you have chosen, and they are who they are. You can’t change somebody else,”. Therefore, you need to love and accept your partner how they are, and if you can’t put up with their poor habits, it is a lot better to end things, than to try and change them.
So, he’s a little bit messy, or she chews too loudly, and it drives you nuts – you should in these situations, remind yourself of all those things that you like about your other half and made you fall in love win the first place. Furthermore, changing your partner is not impossible, but it should be an organic action rather than an active one.
As John Gottman states in his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, “People can change only if they feel like they are loved and accepted the way they are.” Hence, if your partner feels attacked, they’ll feel like retreating into a shell, and this could irreparably ruin things. So, love your partner for his flaws, celebrate them, and stop trying to alter them into your idea of the perfect hubby.
2. Making them your ‘everything’
“He’s my everything,” “She’s my world,” I know how much people want to utter these phrases when in love. You hear all too often, and while it sounds sweet at first, the truth is, it’s a toxic trait and incredibly unhealthy. Simply put; being someone’s everything is a burden, and it’s one that your partner doesn’t deserve to carry (and probably doesn’t like). While love is encompassing, it isn’t smothering and shouldn’t be used as a pillow to murder your partner.
In fact, I know one couple that has this perfect understanding of love; sometimes, when the wife has a problem with something that’s difficult for the husband to handle, he often suggests that she also seeks a little support from her friends. This is the mark of a partner that understands that he cannot always be the sounding board for everything.
No doubt, people think that your partner should be able to fulfill every need. This isn’t only false, but it is also a toxic train of thought, because what happens when you discover that your special someone can’t fix everything in your life? Do you get angry? If so, you shouldn’t. Rather, you should adopt the idea of the OSO (other significant other,) as introduced by many authors like Eli Finkel; in his book, The All-or-Nothing Marriage, he goes into more detail.
The OSO is the other person whom you can go to meet for some of your needs, and no, I don’t mean cheating. In fact, having a person that is willing and able to listen to your antics, whilst also spreading out your life across a varied group of friends is good for your well-being, as was posited in research from social psychologists like Elaine Cheung and Jason Anderson. Thus, don’t adopt a toxic relationship habit thinking it’s love; rather, spread out your life amongst friends.
3. Keeping score
This is a toxic trait that really needs to stop! But first, what does it mean to keep score in a relationship? To put it simply, it is the act of maintaining a tally of who did what to whom, or who annoyed the other in some way. So, for instance, you and your partner argue about who gets to feed the cat, and he says, “but I fed him yesterday and the day before,” and you retort with, “well, I washed the dishes last week!”
This is one of the most toxic relationship habits, that could potentially lead to a breakdown. Similarly, if you dredge up your partner’s past mistake to justify something you did today, it’s also an example of keeping score.
Let’s say your partner annoyed you a while back, and now he is in a foul mood regarding a mistake made on your part; if you whip out his past actions in a bid to get him to talk, and worse yet, shed attention off your bad actions… that’s selfish and only serves to damage your friendship.
Instead, it’s best to realize that every action in a relationship is independent (unless it is inextricably linked), and it should be dealt with as such. Therefore, don’t always dredge up the past; it doesn’t help anyone.
4. Sticking it out no matter what
The assumption that toxic behavior is only towards someone else, could not be farther from the truth; as you could very well be toxic to yourself. This is especially evident in relationships that are going nowhere, but the couple still chooses to stick it out. The problem here is that we have been conditioned to believe that sticking it out with someone is a virtue and ending things makes you a bad person.
For this reason, many of us opt to stay in toxic relationships allowing the poison to eat us away until we feel miserable. However, from my experience, I know very well that this will do more harm than good in time. You’ve probably seen an example in your extended family, maybe an aunt, or a grandparent who is clearly not happy but decides to stick it out anyway, whilst resorting to alcoholism instead.
And don’t get me wrong, I fully understand that there are many reasons why people choose to stay in a toxic relationship, however, breaking things off at the right time (even if you don’t want to) could also be good for your partner and could lead you to a much better deal along the way.
That said, there are times when sticking it out is the right way to go; even for instance; if the problem is something that isn’t a flawed habit that, while irritating or annoying, isn’t toxic or damaging or doesn’t make you feel like an inadequate person.
In that case, staying onboard is the better alternative. Hence, the secret is being able to sense when staying is the best option, or when leaving is the preferred alternative. That said, don’t stick it out if it hurts you, even if he says he loves you – that’s just you being toxic to yourself.
5. Complete honesty
Yes, I know, honesty is important, as it breeds trust and deepens intimacy, but just how honest is too honest? Should you tell your boyfriend that you’ve sometimes thought about someone else during sex? Should they know that you used to be pretty wild back in the day, although your current persona is totally the opposite? These are questions you sometimes need to ask yourself, and you’ll be better served not to talk about every single thing that crosses your mind.
That said, this only represents a small grey area in the honesty/diplomacy debate, and more often than not, it is better to tell your partner the truth about things. For instance, if you have dark clouds hanging over your head like a criminal record, hereditary diseases in your family, and debt are some of the things that are non-negotiable in a relationship when it comes to honesty.
Undoubtedly, everyone has private thoughts, that get into our mind from time to time, like how attractive you find someone his friend. However, I cannot stress enough that some thoughts need not be shared with your significant other.
The result of oversharing in these without thinking about the consequences could cause insecurity on the part of your partner, who could have done without the knowledge you’re dropping on them. However, it is important to ensure that private thoughts don’t lead to secret actions, as this is when things fall into the danger zone of dishonesty.
6. Lying to spare the other’s feelings
Look, we’ve all been in that situation when a partner asks an opinion and we try to sugarcoat things, so as not to hurt the feelings of that person. I know very well that even in such cases, while your intentions are noble, it isn’t healthy for the relationship in general. Rather, if the truth won’t hurt too much, make them aware of it.
It is important to note that honesty is essential in a relationship, especially when you’re intimate with someone you love. Furthermore, dishonesty tends to hurt even more when it is discovered, as it leads to a breakdown in trust – which has caused the demise of many relationships. So, if your significant other has added a few pounds and asks you about it, you owe them a duty, to be honest.
Sure, they might get angry and maybe even say a few mean things; but in the long run, it is for the best and will undoubtedly strengthen your love. Though you should also note that diplomacy is necessary since talking about your partner’s weight or looks could hurt them, you can cushion the blow if you use the right words.
Admittedly, it is easy to get confused about honesty when the last point stated that you don’t need to tell your partner everything. But, there is a difference between lying to the person you love when asked a question and withholding information about a thought that crossed your mind, or a past that has no bearing in your relationship. So, be honest and learn to affirm your points.
7. Emotional blackmail
What? No! I would never get that way? I can just hear you thinking these words. But are you sure you’ve never been guilty of emotional blackmail in the past? Did your partner annoy you in the past and your response was ‘I can’t stay in this relationship if you keep annoying me.’
You might not mean anything by it, but what you have essentially done is hinge the entire relationship on a single misdeed. Consequently, whenever your partner forgets to do something, they the threat of your departure from the relationship hanging over their head, and if that isn’t toxic behavior, I don’t know what is.
In contrast, a better way to express unhappiness about your partner’s behavior is, “When you annoy me like that, it hurts me.” These words essentially cause more understanding between the two of you. However, you also need to realize that sometimes, you aren’t going to like everything your significant other does and that you will, in turn, do something that they also don’t like.
Therefore, the best way to handle any negative situation is through constructive dialogue and open communication. This is another way to try to see eye to eye and talk to each other about things you don’t like that he does, as well as how you feel, without the threat of anyone leaving the other.
Finally, as the great Maya Angelou mentioned, “Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold; that’s ego’’. On the other hand, love doesn’t bind. Therefore, don’t hold your relationship to ransom, it’s a toxic relationship trait that needs to die.
8. Dodging confrontation
“We never fight.” That’s a problematic statement as it presents the illusion that there are never disagreements between yourself and your romantic partner. No matter how compatible a couple is, there will always be conflict, and dealing with conflict requires confrontation – especially if you want a long term healthy relationship.
Therefore, dodging this and instead, trying to lock it up and forget about it is not healthy. As mentioned repeatedly in this article, no one is perfect, and this is why disagreements occur, but they don’t have to get this way. In fact, confrontations could be an opportunity to fix problems without them escalating further in the relationship. Worse yet; not taking advantage of it could be a problem for the two of you.
Therefore, it is necessary to learn how to disagree civilly and find a way through it. Conversely, trying to avoid conflict only builds up tension, and no matter what we tell ourselves, there’s only so much a human being can take. Hence, exploding violently on your partner is a possible result of running away from conflict instead of taking responsibility. So, learn how to deal with the issue at hand in a healthy and wholesome way.
9. Resolving everything!
On the flip side, trying to always resolve every single issue in your relationship isn’t doing your union any good. This is because constant disagreement includes numerous unnecessary fights that could devolve into something ugly that ultimately ends the relationship.
As was posited by John Gottman in his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, 69% of problems in a union are impossible to solve, and it is, therefore, more productive to manage these conflicts, rather than trying to resolve them. What this means is that your other half might have spending habits that don’t sit well with you, but you can’t change them, and constantly arguing could damage the relationship.
Gottman, in his research, found many successful couples with unresolved issues or traits that they didn’t like about one another. Meanwhile, he also found that many unsuccessful couples tried to resolve every issue, thereby inciting disagreements that turned out to be counterproductive and a waste of time.
What you can opt for instead, is healthy communication about the issues that you have and either learn to live with them, or at least understand them enough to avoid developing contempt for your partner.
An example of how this could work is by listening and understanding things from your other half’s point of view. Subsequently, you could ensure that you don’t operate a joint account so that your finances aren’t depleted.
10. Letting past relationships affect the new one
Every new relationship is different and should be treated with this mindset if you are going to make it last. What this means is that, while we all have baggage, you need to make sure that the baggage from your past relationship doesn’t taint the new one.
So, just because your last boyfriend cheated on you doesn’t give you the right or license to snoop on your new man. This breeds mistrust and is a toxic trait that could ruin what you have with someone you really love. On the other hand, holding your new partner to the standards of your previous love is also one of those toxic habits that pose a threat to your happiness.
Therefore, if you liked the way your ex bought you flowers every time he came home, it would be incredibly unfair to hold your current partner to those same ideals and punish him if he falls short.
Instead, a more productive solution is to explore new things with your current beau and create different traditions and relationship norms. Likewise, you should also make sure that you are completely over the hurt you’ve suffered in a previous union before going into a new one, as this saves the two of you potential trouble.
If you feel like this is not possible, and you find yourself still hurting even a year after the split, it’s best to let things cool off from your last relationship and refrain from being in a relationship until you know you are emotionally ready. You see; healing takes time.
11. Making them responsible for your emotional well-being
Yes, being emotionally supportive shows that your other half has some love for you, but making them responsible could be really upsetting – it is not only unfair but terribly toxic. Imagine for a second that your other half decides he wants to watch a football game while you stew over something bothering you, and then you refuse to speak to him for the rest of the day and blame him for why you feel so crappy.
Honey, that’s toxicity, as it takes the responsibility of your well-being away from you and dumps it on your partner instead. Furthermore, you have to accept that the two of you are responsible for your emotional well-being, and the only thing the other party can do is try to make you feel better.
Failure to do so speaks to poor maintenance of personal boundaries and an unfair expectation that your partner should cater to your every need even at their own expense. Thus, his half-hearted hug after you had a bad day, or his perfunctory nods to your complaints while he tries to attend to a work email, aren’t the reason you feel so bad, that’s on you.
You need to take responsibility for your feelings and deal with them internally the same way you’d expect him to deal with his own issues. However, this is not to say that you shouldn’t listen to your partner, or shouldn’t be worried if your beau never bothers himself with your low points. But please understand that it is not his responsibility, it’s yours.
12. Always pleasing
This is similar to the last point, as it assumes that you need to take responsibility for your partner’s happiness. Trust me, having a partner who only lives to make you happy gets tiring very quickly and it won’t be long before one person is taking the other for granted. There is no universe where this kind of behavior is good for the mental state of either party.
No doubt, it’s great for couples to make each other happy and not to take one another for granted, however, it is no longer fun if one party is basing their emotional state on the happiness of the other. So, you have a crappy day, come home and just want to sleep it off or play video games to ease the tension – in comes your partner, asking what’s wrong and you brush them off, which then leads to your partner wearing a mopey look around the house for the rest of the day.
If you really like someone, that’s not romantic, it’s unhealthy and could lead to a breakdown in the relationship later on. Therefore, learn to be happy despite your partner’s emotional state, which is, of course, not to say that you don’t try to help out or offer solace. However, don’t fall into the trap of making yourself feel bad just because your partner feels some type of way.
13. Discussing their problems with others
This next point addresses the concept of confrontation and how to do it right. Many people tend to avoid conflict by indirectly bringing up issues and telling stories in the third party without ever talking directly to the person in question. Worse yet; some couples tend to seek the advice of others, discussing intimate problems without their partner’s consent – just to see what they have to say, instead of addressing their partner.
An example of this is the concept of unresolved problems that we talked about earlier. We stated that a lot of relationship problems have no resolution. However, this doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be talked about, as this is the only way to bring about understanding and closeness.
Based on this, it is poor form to complain about the things that upset you about your partner with outsiders while never tabling the matter with your partner. Instead, what you could do is healthily communicate what the problem is and try to reach some sort of conclusion.
In the book, Strategic Conflict, Daniel Canary and Sadra Lakey explained that some people look for indirect ways to express their anger or displeasure. Instead, it is better to be direct as this encourages healthy communication and gives the other party the chance to respond appropriately.
14. Papering over problems with material/physical things
You’ve probably heard the saying’ money can’t buy you, love,’ and this rings true and has been proven again and again. Research shows that materialistic couples are more likely to be unhappy than others. Apart from that, the mindset that money solves all relationship problems is a dangerous one and is among the most terrifying toxic relationship habits out there.
For instance, if, after every fight, the man’s go-to reaction is to purchase a gift without dealing with the problem at that time, it damages the relationship severely. Likewise, if the woman’s go-to cure-all for a fight is to always take the gift from the man out of kindness, even if she is still hurting, or worse yet, have sex with him; it is also an unsatisfactory situation.
Such behavior usually results in a woman who is incentified to get into fights with her significant other and a guy who is encouraged to do the same to get some sex. Instead, another way to deal with a problem is to actually face it and get to the bottom of it – then move on.
This prevents the matter from being swept away – where it could come back worse than ever. Of course, this does not stop a guy from buying you a gift after a fight but it does ensure that the heart of the matter has been resolved.
15. Constant talking
Just as we talked about too much honesty is something that can turn into a problem, sometimes, constant talking can have the same effect. Think about it; you are having a fun time with your friends when your partner calls you and then proceeds to talk about nothing for the next hour. Also, imagine if this scenario played out multiple times over the course of a day. It could be seen as fun initially, but trust me, it gets old fast.
And, even if it doesn’t get old for you, it leads to a level of co-dependence that isn’t healthy for the two of you. What you could do instead is text each other on a fairly regular basis while still continuing with your life and schedule. Notice I avoided the use of the word ‘communication’ as this doesn’t always have to be verbal.
As many therapists say, one of the biggest mistakes is assuming that communication creates connection. In other words, find different ways to connect with or communicate with your partner; for example, figure out what their love languages are and try to communicate using this instead of constantly talking and assuming that it automatically makes the relationship stronger.
While there are quite a number of signs that a relationship is toxic, some of the most common is if you have a partner that only takes but never gives. Also, if you feel drained due to the actions of your partner, you’re probably in a toxic relationship. Most importantly, if you suffer emotionally or physically from your partner, you’re definitely the victim of a toxic relationship.
In the simplest terms, a toxic relationship is one in which one party physically or emotionally causes the other person to suffer or feel bad. Consequently, it is important to look out for the signs of such relationships and flee before it is too late.
There are different causes of toxic relationships, but two of the most common are a lack of empathy from one party to the other, and poor relationship role models. So, for instance, if your parents were toxic, you might exhibit some of their behaviors
Broadly speaking, there are four types of relationships: the one between family members, between friends, between acquaintances, and between romantic partners.
There is no universal answer to this, as we don’t all see things through the same window; the truth is, it is almost impossible to tell the exact time a relationship is over. This is because, as humans, feelings, resurface, and relationships could rise from the dead. However, as a general rule, a relationship is probably not worth pursuing if it comes at the expense of your well-being.
To Sum Things Up
It takes two to tango and if you want to make something good out of your relationship, you both need to see things eye to eye, as well as have some mutual understanding, love, and good communication whilst listening to one another. Remember, relationships are give and take; what’s more, you are important and do not deserve to be in a toxic relationship that drains you.
I do hope you enjoyed this list, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below and if you like this article, and find the information very useful, it’s always a good idea to make sure you share it with someone else. You never know what a close friend might be going through.
As hopeless romantic I struggled tremendously in my love life. After many years of searching, trial & error, and countless failed relationships, I finally found my Mr. Right. It wasn't an easy road, but one that has taught me an incredible amount about the workings of relationships between men and women, and this is what I hope to share through my writing on this blog.