Speaking from personal experience, I know how hard it can be to see the signs that your partner is toxic. After all, most relationships don't start off toxic, and falling in love can make us blind. Even after you've realized you're in an unhealthy relationship, it can be really difficult to figure out what to do with that realization. Relationships take so much time, effort, and emotional energy that it's not uncommon to ignore or deny the signs of a toxic relationship for way too long instead of facing the fact that, no matter how much you love someone, toxic relationships will never be "fixed" just because you give them — and your partner — time to get better.
Deep down, I think anyone who has found themselves in a toxic relationship knows, in most cases, that the only solution is to get the heck out of there. Since we all know breakups are often horrible experiences that can take a long time to fully recover from, choosing to ignore or deny the signs that your relationship has become toxic, or giving your partner unlimited chances to start treating you better, can seem like a solution. Take it from someone who's been there, though: toxic people will not change for you, and you shouldn't waste your time hoping they will.
If you think you might be in a toxic relationship, read on. Here are nine signs you're with a toxic partner.
1. You Feel Like You Can't Be Totally Yourself Around Them
If you feel like you can't be yourself around your partner, either because they'll make fun of you for it or just because you feel like you need to adjust your personality to make them happy, then you're in a toxic relationship. Your partner is supposed to be someone you can be 100 percent yourself around, so if that's not the case, something is very wrong.
Trust me, I know how complicated this can seem when you're in the midst of a toxic relationship. One of my exes used to tell me he was embarrassed of my feminism, and instead of immediately realizing that was ridiculous, I started to doubt myself and I tried to avoid talking about gender inequality around him.
If the toxicity of your relationship has been slowly chipping away at your self-esteem, then it can be easy to think that if your partner doesn't like the way you act, talk, or sound when you're being yourself, it must mean there's something wrong with you. This is complete bullshit, though. You should be with someone who likes the real you, even if that means being alone for a while.
2. They Refuse To Take Responsibility For Their Actions
Does your partner blame you for their bad moods? Do they never admit to being wrong, or apologize for their role in any of your fights? Do they take responsibility for the ways they've messed up their life outside of your relationship? For example, when they fight with a friend, do they never admit to their role in it? Do they blame their lack of success on their boss, teachers, or coworkers, but never see how they could have been part of the problem? If so, they are toxic, and your relationship with them is probably toxic, too.
Believe me when I tell you this: a partner who refuses to take responsibility for their own life, and for the success of your relationship with them, will never change. I don't care how many times they promise to get their sh*t together — they're most likely not going to do it for you. Don't waste your valuable emotional energy on them.
3. They Call You Names
Name-calling is never OK in a relationship. I realize some couples joke a little more harshly with each other, but even in jest, there are certain names (like bitch or slut) that your partner should never call you. I know from experience that if your toxic relationship has been affecting your self-esteem, you might think you deserve to be called certain names— but that's all the more proof that your relationship is unhealthy, and that you need to leave it.
One time, an ex of mine saw that I was planning on wearing a black bra under a white crop top. He told me, "you look like a slut who's just looking for attention." That hurt, but a part of me must have thought I deserved to hear it. I didn't tell him that was a mean thing to say, and I changed my outfit almost immediately. It kills me to remember how poorly I allowed myself to be treated by him. I don't care what you're wearing — your partner should never call you a slut.
4. They Refuse To Talk About Tough Topics & Get Angry When You Try To
Part of being in a serious, long-term relationship is being able to talk about difficult topics with your partner. If you two are going to continue sharing a life, then you have to be able to problem-solve together.
If your partner shuts down when you try to talk about something that's bothering you in your relationship, like your sex life, future plans, or finances, that's toxic behavior. If your partner gets angry with you for trying to talk about the issues that really matter, that's a clear sign that your relationship has become toxic and that it's not going to get better. Get out of there.
5. When You Finally Get Them To Talk About Difficult Topics, It's Never Face-To-Face
If your partner is only willing to discuss the tough stuff or apologize for their toxic behavior via texting, notes, or Facebook messenger, then you're in a toxic relationship.
Alternatively, if you only feel safe talking about your relationship concerns with your partner when the two of you aren't in the same room, you should know that's not healthy, either. You shouldn't be with someone who you're literally scared to confront.
6. They Put You Down
If your partner makes fun of you, your body, your job, your opinions, how you walk, how you have sex, how you talk, or really anything else, then you have a toxic partner and relationship.
I know this sign of a toxic relationship can be a little tricky to acknowledge, because your partner probably excuses their behavior by saying things like, "I was just messing with you," or, "you're being too sensitive." But if your partner puts you down over and over again, then they aren't just messing with you, and you're totally in the right by calling them out on it. Don't stay in a relationship where you're blatantly and continuously disrespected. You don't deserve it, and it will likely only get worse.
7. They Resist Change & Try To Hold You Back
In a healthy relationship, you and your partner should be able to grow with each other, support each others goals, and not freak out super hard whenever life presents you with change. If your partner resists change, doesn't support your personal and/or professional growth, and actively tries to discourage you from becoming the person you want to be, then they're toxic.
I shudder when I think about how I almost chose a toxic relationship over pursuing my life-long dream of writing professionally and living in New York. If you feel like you have to choose between your partner and your personal growth, choose your personal growth. I'm not saying it will be easy, but staying in a toxic relationship will be much harder.
8. They've Become More Possessive
Being possessive at all isn't great. That said, I know how easy it can be to feel a little bit jealous/possessive in relationships, especially in the beginning, before you and your partner have had a chance to discuss what the two of you feel comfortable with when it comes to interactions with exes, friends, and coworkers.
That said, in a healthy relationship, these feelings of possessiveness should become less severe the longer you're together. Over time, you and your partner should begin to trust each other more, and feel more secure in your relationship in general. So if you've noticed that your partner is more possessive than ever, you should know that's a sign your relationship has become toxic.
9. They Keep Getting More Intense — And Not In A Good Way
Despite what books and movies may have lead you to believe, intensity in a relationship does not equal passion or love. I'm not saying your relationship should be boring, but if it feels like you and your partner are almost constantly fighting and then making up, that's toxic. All relationships have ups and downs, but no healthy relationship should be in a constant state of upheaval. If you feel like the intensity of your relationship is a constant stress in your life, then it's probably become toxic, and it's important for your mental and physical health to leave it.
Editor's Note: Even if you don't think your relationship is abusive, but you feel like you need help getting out or figuring out what to do next, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You're not alone.