Relationships go through their ups and downs. But there are huge differences between being in toxic relationships and healthy ones. In general, healthy relationships are fairly easy to spot. You know you're in one when you feel safe, cared for, loved, and respected — and don't ever really have to question it. The signs you're in a toxic relationship, on the other hand, can be a little less obvious.
My experience of being in a toxic relationship started very gradually. In the beginning, things were amazing. He was super sweet, very supportive, caring, and he managed to make himself a fixture in my day-to-day routine through texts or in person interactions. But as time went on, we both became pretty horrible to each other. I was just as much of a toxic partner to him as he was to me. We both knew how to push each other's buttons to the point that both of us left arguments feeling extremely hurt. While we knew we were both bad for each other, we still kept coming back together, repeating the same cycle over and over again until it finally ended.
Toxic relationships can have a way of completely draining you to the point that you don't even know how you managed to get so far deep into it in the first place. Sometimes you're not even really aware of it until you really take a step back and wonder why your days have been filled with more tears and frustration than joy and laughter. When you're happy, you always know it, but for some reason, it takes time to realize that things aren't so great.
So if you've been wondering if your relationship is toxic, here's what experts say is the one sign to look out for:
1. Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist And Host Of The Web
There are many signs of a toxic relationship. But if I had to pick the "most" toxic it would be lack of trust. When there is no trust there is no foundation. You can't address communication issues, compatibility issues, and intimacy issues if there is no trust. If you fundamentally don't trust your partner on any level, the relationship is poisoned.
2. Dr. JaNaè Taylor, Virginia Beach-Based Licensed Psychotherapist
Your relationship is toxic when you no longer feel safe. When you don't feel safe to be yourself, when you don't feel safe to share your relationship with others, when you feel your physical safety is not guaranteed. These are typically signs that you've put your partner's needs above your own for the sake of the relationship.
3. Carrie Askin, LCSW, Co-Director Of Therapy Program, Menergy
A lack of boundaries. In my work with people who have hurt a partner, one of the things I always pay attention to is what happens when one of the parties says, no. Intimacy can't happen unless both parties can say no without fear of punishment. We see a lot of relationships in which things are great and romantic and exciting as long as they don't bump up against someone's boundary. Boundaries are signals of difference. Not only might we have different wishes or desires for a particular moment, but they also remind us that we are different people. We may choose to be together but I still belong to myself and you still belong to yourself.
4. Jennifer Warner, LCSW, Psychotherapist And Licensed Clinical Social Worker
I think the biggest indicator of this is lack of respect. Lack of respect can look many different ways. An obvious sign is insulting you in front of your friends, colleagues, family, in public, or privately. It can mean checking your texts or reading your emails. Ignoring your requests for communication. Putting you down, even in a “joking” manner (for example, “If you were hotter, I wouldn’t have to check out other women. What? I’m only kidding. Why are so sensitive?”). Lack of respect means telling you or suggesting that you should work out more — not for you but because you’re making your partner look bad. Or that you aren’t very good at your job. Lack of respect also means not being respectful to people YOU care about, such as family or friends. For example, ignoring your mother when she’s talking or by staring at the phone and then telling you later that your mother is “boring” or “talks too much.” Trust your gut instincts. You have them for a reason.
5. Julienne Derichs, LCPC, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
Toxic relationships poison you from the inside out and you know you are in one when you feel bad about yourself whenever you are with your partner. Toxic relationships are about power and control and these behaviors don't appear overnight, yet, to start with, your significant other keeps you in a box in where you guessing all the time. Toxic partners use power and control to throw you off your 'center' and destabilize the relationship. The aim is to keep you in a heightened state of uncertainty and anxiety about yourself and the relationship. Some of the essentials of a healthy relationship are safety, security, and stability. Toxic partners act to have power and control over all three.
6. Bonnie Winston, Professional Matchmaker And Dating Coach
One sign your relationship is toxic is that you are filled with jealousy. You stalk [their] social media accounts looking at [their] friends and contacts and wonder about each pretty face [they're] connected to. Jealousy is NOT a healthy emotion.
7. Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, NYC-Based Therapist Specializing In Relationships
Your partner is selfish when it comes to sex. Whether it's guilt tripping a partner into having sex when they don't want to or ignoring a partner's need for pleasure in the bedroom, not having your needs met sexually may be a sign to end the relationship. Just because you have had an orgasm doesn't meet your partner has been fulfilled.
8. Nicole Iannelli, Owner Of Ocean State Mental Health Counseling
I feel the one sign that everyone should pay attention to is that you do not feel good about yourself in the presence of the other person.
9. Sunny Rodgers, Clinical Sexologist And Certified Sex Coach
There’s a problem if they love someone only as an ongoing project. That not only creates a toxic relationship but can make a person feel unworthy. Sure, everyone has a few things that they would like to change about their partners, i.e., teaching them to put the toilet seat down. But when you’ve got someone changing your accent, clothing, friends, beliefs, career path, etc., all at the same time, this person isn’t really in love with anything other than a faraway dream of what they can mold you into.
10. David Bennett, Certified Counselor And Relationship Expert
The one sign your relationship is toxic is that you're always apologizing even though you know deep down your partner should be the one apologizing, but he or she won't.
11. Barbara Winter, PhD., Psychologist And Sexologist
One of the most common signs of an unhealthy toxic relationship is consistent criticism, where one partner notices nothing positive about their mate but only what they are doing wrong. Criticism can be direct or subtle, when inserted into a conversation like, “I know you don’t have a good memory," Or "You don’t pay attention to details." That is not to say feedback cant be given constructively but in this manner its with some hostility and contempt. A red flag I often see is the, “You’re doing that again,” accompanied by the eye roll. This is very denigrating and a sign of an unhealthy toxic connection.
Toxic relationships may not be as easy to spot as healthy ones. According to experts, there are a lot of basic essentials lacking in toxic relationships that healthy relationships have (i.e. respect, positivity, compassion, etc.). But if you're aware of the signs, it can give you a better idea of what you need to do with your relationship moving forward.