5 Signs That You're in a Toxic Relationship

March 22nd 2016

Look up the meaning of the word ‘toxic’ on Google and you’ll find one of two definitions:

1. Poisonous.

2. Denoting or relating to a debt that has a high risk of default.

Many of us will experience toxic relationships in our lives.

Some signs of toxic relationships are obvious: physical violence, substance abuse, chronic infidelity and dishonesty. However, others creep up over time, and aren't noticeable until a way out of the relationship is unclear.

All toxic relationship can be detrimental to both your physical and mental heath. Here's how clinical psychologist, Dr. Tom Cory, describes Toxic Relationships in an article for HealthScope:

A healthy relationship involves mutual caring, respect, and compassion, an interest in our partner’s welfare and growth, an ability to share control and decision-making, in short, a shared desire for each other’s happiness. A healthy relationship is a safe relationship, a relationship where we can be ourselves without fear, a place where we feel comfortable and secure. A toxic relationship, on the other hand, is not a safe place. A toxic relationship is characterized by insecurity, self-centeredness, dominance, control. We risk our very being by staying in such a relationship. To say a toxic relationship is dysfunctional is, at best, an understatement.

So why do so many people find themselves embroiled in them at one time or another?

“The tendency to unconsciously seek out toxic relationships frequently starts with past negative experiences when we are children and might carry on throughout our lives,” says counselor and time perspective therapist Rosemary K.M. Sword in Psychology Today.

Here are five warning signs that you may be embroiled in a toxic relationship.

1. Everything is about them, and nothing is about you.

You find that your feelings, thoughts and opinions aren’t being heard, considered and/or respected. Instead your partner will do everything in their power to not acknowledge your point of view, “win” the argument and/or get in the last word. "Often in a toxic relationship, one partner eventually gives up because they just don't feel heard," says Dr. Andrea Bonior, professor of psychology at Georgetown University in an article for

2. Temper, Temper.

It’s natural that tempers may flare in the face of a heated argument, but being in a constant state of vigilance over what will or won't set your partner off is a sure sign that your relationship has veered into a toxic territory. It's called “controlling by intimidation," according to Cory's article for Your partner may become irrationally angry and then blame you for their tantrum. Your partner may also withhold meaningful contact for days in order to make you “pay” for their volatile outburst, resulting in the feeling that you're “walking on eggshells around the toxic partner, never quite knowing what will send him or her into a rage," Cory adds.

3. You never, ever, ever get your own way.

My Way or The Highway

Power struggles are a given in any relationships, but toxic relationships involve one individual insisting on complete control in every situation. From choosing where to have dinner, to demanding complete control of every dime that comes into your household — even those dimes that are coming from your paycheck — having an over-controlling partner is a sign that you're relationship may be toxic. "When you and your partner disagree, they insist you do things their way or leave," says social psychologist Dr. Alice Boyes of toxic partners in Psychology Today. "It’s their way or the highway, and you don’t have a sense that when you disagree you’ll find a way of coming together."

4. It seems you’re never good enough.

A toxic partner might barrage you with putdowns, mock any goals and dreams you have, and will eventually shame you into a tiny shell of the person you truly are, leaving you with the feeling that you can't do anything right. As spiritual living coach Yvette Bowlin notes on Tiny Budha, people in toxic relationships often find:

The other person constantly puts you down as not good enough. They mock your personality, and you feel ashamed most of the time. You only feel pardoned when you take on the traits of the person doing the condemning or judging.

5. Toxic behaviors are… well, toxic… to growth and change.

Toxic partners fear change above all else. If you attempt any self-improvement or make any changes, you'll likely be met with disbelief and mockery. Your toxic partner is likely to instill the idea that you are incapable of changing. "There is no encouragement or support for your efforts," says Bowlin.

But of course that's untrue. You're perfectly capable, and the first step is reaching out to a professional, a trusted friend or family member, or even a book on co-dependency and toxic relationships to start to see the forest from the toxic tree of a relationship in front of you.

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