By Aunt Homey
In a healthy relationship, everything just kind of works. Sure, you might disagree from time to time or come upon other bumps in the road, but you generally make decisions together, openly discuss any problems that arise, and genuinely enjoy each other’s company.
Toxic relationships are another story. In a toxic relationship, you might consistently feel drained or unhappy after spending time with your partner, according to relationship therapist Jor-El Caraballo, which can suggest that some things need to change.
Maybe the relationship no longer feels at all enjoyable, though you still love your partner. For some reason, you always seem to rub each other the wrong way or can’t seem to stop arguing over minor issues. You might even dread the thought of seeing them, instead of looking forward to it as you did in the past.
Below, we’ll explore some hallmark signs of toxicity in a relationship, plus offer some guidance on next steps if you recognize any of these signs in yourself or your partner.
1. Lack of support
“Healthy relationships are based on a mutual desire to see the other succeed in all areas of life,” Caraballo says. But when things turn toxic, every achievement becomes a competition.
In short, the time you spend together no longer feels positive. You don’t feel supported or encouraged, and you can’t trust them to show up for you. Instead, you might get the impression that your needs and interests don’t matter, that they only care about what they want.
2. Toxic communication
Instead of kindness and mutual respect, most of your conversations are filled with sarcasm or criticism and fueled by contempt — a predictor of divorceTrusted Source.
Do you catch yourself making snide remarks to your friends or family members? Maybe you repeat what they said in a mocking tone when they’re in another room. You may even start dodging their calls, just to get a break from the inevitable arguments and hostility.
3. Envy or jealousy
While it’s perfectly fine to experience a little envy from time to time, Caraballo explains it can become an issue if your envy keeps you from thinking positively about your partner’s successes.
The same goes for jealousy. Yes, it’s a perfectly natural human emotion. But when it leads to constant suspicion and mistrust, it can quickly begin to erode your relationship.
4. Controlling behaviors
Does your partner ask where you are all the time? Maybe they become annoyed or irritated when you don’t immediately answer texts or text you again and again until you do.
These behaviors might stem from jealousy or lack of trust, but they can also suggest a need for control — both of which can contribute to relationship toxicity. In some cases, these attempts at control can also suggest abuse (more on this later).
Holding on to grudges and letting them fester chips away at intimacy.
“Over time, frustration or resentment can build up and make a smaller chasm much bigger,” Caraballo notes.
Note, too, whether you tend to nurse these grievances quietly because you don’t feel safe speaking up when something bothers you. If you can’t trust your partner to listen to your concerns, your relationship could be toxic.
You find yourself constantly making up lies about your whereabouts or who you meet up with — whether that’s because you want to avoid spending time with your partner or because you worry how they’ll react if you tell them the truth.
7. Patterns of disrespect
Being chronically late, casually “forgetting” events, and other behaviors that show disrespect for your time are a red flag, Manly says.
Keep in mind that some people may truly struggle with making and keeping plans on time, so it may help to start with a conversation about this behavior. If it’s not intentional, you might notice some improvement after you explain why it bothers you.
8. Negative financial behaviors
Sharing finances with a partner often involves some level of agreement about how you’ll spend or save your money. That said, it’s not necessarily toxic if one partner chooses to spend money on items the other partner doesn’t approve of.
It can be toxic, though, if you’ve come to an agreement about your finances and one partner consistently disrespects that agreement, whether by purchasing big-ticket items or withdrawing large sums of money.
9. Constant stress
Ordinary life challenges that come up — a family member’s illness, job loss — can create some tension in your relationship, of course. But finding yourself constantly on edge, even when you aren’t facing stress from outside sources, is a key indicator that something’s off.
This ongoing stress can take a toll on physical and mental health, and you might frequently feel miserable, mentally and physically exhausted, or generally unwell.
10. Ignoring your needs
Going along with whatever your partner wants to do, even when it goes against your wishes or comfort level, is a sure sign of toxicity, says clinical psychologist Catalina Lawsin, PhD.
Say they planned a vacation that will take you out of town on your mom’s birthday. But when they asked you what dates were convenient, you emphasized that any dates were fine — as long as you didn’t miss your mom’s birthday on the 17th.
You don’t want to point this out, since you don’t want to start a fight. So you say, “Great! I’m so excited.”
11. Lost relationships
You’ve stopped spending time with friends and family, either to avoid conflict with your partner or to get around having to explain what’s happening in your relationship.
Alternatively, you might find that dealing with your partner (or worrying about your relationship) occupies much of your free time.
12. Lack of self-care
In a toxic relationship, you might let go of your usual self-care habits, Lawsin explains.
You might withdraw from hobbies you once loved, neglect your health, and sacrifice your free time. This might happen because you don’t have the energy for these activities or because your partner disapproves when you do your own thing.
13. Hoping for change
You might stay in the relationship because you remember how much fun you had in the beginning. Maybe you think that if you just change yourself and your actions, they’ll change as well.
14. Walking on eggshells
You worry that by bringing up problems, you’ll provoke extreme tension, so you become conflict avoidant and keep any issues to yourself.