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How to Spot The Signs of A Toxic Relationship

The line between healthy and unhealthy relationships can be quickly crossed and it may be difficult to identify, even with signs that might seem obvious to others.  

What is a Toxic Relationship? 

Lillian Glass, a California-based communication and psychology expert defines a toxic relationship as … 

“any relationship [between people who] don’t support each other, where there’s conflict and one seeks to undermine the other, where there’s competition, where there’s disrespect and a lack of cohesiveness.” 

While every relationship goes through its ups and downs, a toxic relationship is consistently unpleasant and extremely draining for the people in it.  

A healthy relationship involves mutual care, respect, and compassion; an interest in our partner’s welfare and growth; and an ability to share control and decision-making. So in short, a healthy relationship involves a shared desire for each other’s happiness.  

If you don’t believe that your relationship shares those characteristics of a healthy relationship, you may be experiencing a toxic one.  Here’s how to recognise the signs of a toxic or abusive relationship: 

What Are The Signs of A Toxic Relationship? 

1. Lack of Support 

Healthy relationships are based on a mutual desire of wanting to see the other succeeding in all areas of life. So one of the most significant benefits of being in a relationship is enjoying the support of your partner.  

Your partner should cheer you up when you are down, listen to your problems and provide physical as well as emotional comfort. 

But when things turn toxic, every achievement becomes a competition.  

Healthy relationships allow for growth and support. If your partner is constantly putting you down and not wanting the best for you, then your relationship has turned toxic.  

If this has gone long enough and no change has happened, this situation may make you think you are not worthy of such support and care. 

Do you feel supported?


Read now: How to Heal After an Unexpected Breakup 

2. Hostile Communication 

Hostile communication can cause tension and create further distrust between partners. Instead of kindness and mutual respect, most of your conversations are filled with sarcasm or criticism and fuelled by contempt. 

According to Kamil Lewis, a sex and relationship therapist, forms of hostile communication include

  • Yelling 
  • Name-calling or other hurtful phrases  
  • Throwing and breaking things 
  • Using your body for physical intimidation or force 

And more subtle signs of hostile communication include

  • The silent treatment 
  • Using ‘you-statements’ or blaming statements 
  • Constantly interrupting 
  • Listening to respond instead of listening to hear and understand your partner  

3. They Strip Away Your Self Esteem 

Toxic partners like picking at you, so if you hear criticising statements regularly, that’s a problem. 

Criticising statements you may hear are: 

  • Why are you wearing so much makeup? 
  • I don’t like that dress 
  • I don’t like it like that 
  • I don’t like you wearing anything revealing 
  • I think you should lose weight 

These kinds of comments strip away your self-esteem and can make you feel worthless. After a while, you start to feel bad about yourself and begin to doubt your judgement. 

Do you feel constantly drained? 

4. There’s A Clear Power Imbalance 

Ideally, relationships should be a union between equals. This doesn’t mean that every aspect of a relationship should have the perfect balance of power dynamics but overall, it should balance out.  

A power imbalance in your relationship can cause serious damage. Try asking yourself who has more power in your relationship and if there is too clear-cut of an answer then this suggests a problem.  

5. Controlling Behaviour 

Signs of controlling behaviour include: 

  • Asking to know your location all the time 
  • Becoming annoyed or irritated when you don’t immediately answer texts or text you again and again until you do 
  • Choosing who you hang out with. 

These behaviours might stem from a lack of trust, but they can also suggest a need for control – both of which can contribute to a relationship’s toxicity. 

Read now: How to Spot Signs of Being Gaslit 

6. Dishonesty 

Every lie between partners undercuts a little bit of the relationship. 

Dishonest relationship signs to look out for: 

  • You turn off all message notifications on your phone 
  • You hide receipts 
  • You lie about plans with friends 
  • You’re always a little paranoid 

7. You’re Making Excuses for Their Behaviour 

If you’re always trying to rationalise your partner’s actions – it could be their emotional unavailability, lack of empathy, habit of being obnoxious to your friends, or lack of support – then there’s a problem. 

There’s never an excuse for abusive behaviour. And although change is possible, you can’t make your partner change. They have to choose that route. 

Signs you’re making excuses for their behaviour: 

  • You forgive them without ever receiving an apology 
  • You downplay to others what happened 
  • You avoid certain topics or activities from past experience that can often trigger destructive behaviours.  
Love shouldn’t be your sole reason for staying.


8. You’re Not Practicing Self-Care 

Self-care is vital for every relationship to keep toxicity out. Always remember to remind yourself that you are worthy of love and that you deserve a healthy relationship. 

Help yourself by choosing to practice self-care every day. Here’s how: 

  • Get plenty of rest 
  • Eat nutritious food 
  • Take a hot bath 
  • Practice self-compassion  

If you don’t love yourself, how can you love someone else? 

Read now: How to Become More Comfortable in Your Own Skin 

9. Your Friends and Family Are Concerned 

Your friends and family are the closest people to you, they often see things about yourself that you haven’t noticed yet. 

Look out for them saying stuff like: 

What is he talking to you like this? 

Why is he doing that? 

What they’re saying can end up coming across as negative or controlling but remember they’re coming from a protective place and only want the best for you.  

Try asking them a simple question: Why do you feel that way? Maybe their answer will help you see things through a new lens. 

The longer you stay in a toxic relationship, the harder it can be to remove yourself from it. So try and spot the signs as quickly as you can. Everyone is deserving of a loving partner who treats them well, including you!  

For further advice from our professional lifestyle coaches, contact us at Ceed today!    

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