6 Signs You’re in a Toxic Relationship

Young adult in red blouse with natural hair stands leaning on banister, lost in thought, with serious expressionJenny met Kenneth through an online dating site. She was drawn to his rugged good looks and their shared love of the outdoors. When they met, he told her that he didn’t like women who wore makeup, so she stopped wearing any in order to try to please him. As time went by, however, he started becoming more controlling and eventually began to dictate what she should wear, where she could go, and whom she could see.

Fred initially loved the fact his girlfriend, Melinda, chose to spend all her spare time with him. After they had been dating for a few months and the honeymoon stage began to wear off, he wanted to start spending more time with some of his other friends again. He liked to play soccer and was interested in joining a team. Every time he would bring up the subject, however, Melinda would become extremely jealous, fly into a rage, and accuse him of wanting to cheat on her.

Both of the examples above depict dysfunctional relationships. From an outsider’s perspective, we may be quick to notice the toxic nature of each relationship, but for an individual caught up in one, it can sometimes be more challenging to do so as the warning signs may occur gradually over time and the behaviors at issue are often overlooked or rationalized in some way.

In order to avoid getting involved in a toxic relationship in the first place, the following are some of the red flags that may be helpful to keep in mind:

  • Controlling behaviors: If your partner is overly controlling, this can be a warning sign the relationship is toxic and you may be better off getting out of the relationship before becoming too involved. Often, this type of behavior can start off gradually through one of the partners making comments that encourage the other to act or dress a certain way. This can then lead to more harmful behaviors, such as controlling whom their partner can see, when and where they can go, and even maintaining control over their finances, which can lead to them feeling like a prisoner in their own home. In some situations—for example, if the partner being controlled refuses to do what the other wants—the controlling partner may end up becoming physically and/or verbally abusive.
  • Excessive jealousy: If your partner is prone to unwarranted displays of jealousy, this can be a red flag they are overly possessive and may struggle with feelings of low self-esteem. Trust is an important component of any healthy relationship. If you have always been trustworthy, but your partner doubts you every time you are out of sight and accuses you of cheating, this is a sign of a dysfunctional relationship. Your partner could probably benefit from individual therapy to work through their self-esteem and trust issues.
  • Extreme displays of anger: If the person you are seeing is unable to adequately control their anger, this is a good indication additional problems may arise if you embark on a relationship. Anger management issues can easily escalate and become more violent when someone has difficulties calming themselves. Learning effective anger management techniques can be helpful for individuals who struggle with anger issues.
  • Emotional blackmail: If your dating partner threatens to withhold affection and/or intimacy whenever you have a disagreement about something, this could be a red flag. Any type of emotional blackmail is a symptom of dysfunction in a relationship.
  • Any type of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse: Abusive acts of any kind are serious warning signs you should not become involved with an individual. If you are in an abusive relationship already, meeting with a therapist can be beneficial in order to obtain help and healing.
  • Substance abuse: If your partner struggles with drinking or drug use, be aware this can be detrimental to any relationship. If you notice early on this is a problem for your partner, establish some healthy boundaries for yourself by avoiding getting involved and encourage them to seek help.

Relationships can be challenging enough without mixing in any of the issues listed above. When you start dating someone new, be on the lookout for red flags that may indicate you could have problems later. If you are already involved in a toxic relationship, seeking out the guidance of a compassionate therapist can be beneficial in order to learn healthier ways of setting boundaries and connecting with others.

© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Wendy Salazar, MFT, GoodTherapy.org Topic Expert

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Livvy

    September 6th, 2017 at 11:31 AM

    There are so many things that are difficult to see while you are in their midst. Sometimes it is only after you have been able to extricate yourself that you will then find that it is possible to have perfect vision. Even afterwards the tendency could be there to still blame yourself when clearly (to most people anyway) that you are the one who has suffered at the hands of this person who has emotionally manipulated and possibly even abused you.

  • Cara

    September 7th, 2017 at 10:32 AM

    You want and need to be in a relationship with someone who will bring out the very best in you, not highlight that which is the worst. If you find that you are with someone who is constantly making you second guess yourself and who you really feel that you are, then it is likely that this is not going to be a good fit for you. It is never, no matter what you might think, too late to walk away from that kind of relationship.

  • miles

    September 7th, 2017 at 2:12 PM

    if you are looking for the signs it probably means that you are

  • Cam

    September 8th, 2017 at 9:28 AM

    Literally felt sick to my stomach at the thought of my boyfriend coming home until I left him and moved out. I could not take the emotional and verbal abuse from him anymore and although a tough decision to make, it was ultimately the best one to make.

  • Wendy Salazar

    September 8th, 2017 at 9:04 PM

    Hi Cam, You definitely made the right choice, even though it may have felt difficult at the time. We all deserve to be treated with respect, not constantly put down and mistreated. Leaving an abusive relationship is definitely an act of self-love and a way to set healthier boundaries for yourself.

  • jonah

    September 13th, 2017 at 10:33 AM

    I seem to only attract toxicity

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.