A relationship with a special partner makes you feel loved, appreciated, and wanted. And while we’d love nothing more than for relationships to be smooth sailing, it’s natural for couples to experience bumps along the way. Ultimately you know that you have each other’s backs.
Unfortunately, not all relationships are created equal. Feeling unhappy, tired, anxious, or stressed out around your partner? If so, then you might be in what experts would call a toxic relationship. Most people are unaware of what toxic relationships are and cannot determine whether they’re in one.
Let’s take a deeper look at how to spot the red flags in a toxic relationship and what to do if you find yourself in one.
Identifying or recognizing relationship red flags is the first step to helping yourself and your partner. Not sure what to look for? Consider our suggestions as a starting point that will guide you.
In a healthy relationship, couples encourage and inspire one another to be the best versions of themselves. But in a toxic relationship, one or both partners bring out the worst in each other. This means that one’s behavior towards the other incites feelings of anger, hostility, and negativity.
Your partner could be isolating you from family or friends by turning you against them. This sort of codependency is anything but healthy. It may feel like your partner wants to create a close bond, but in fact, they are placing you in an isolated bubble where no one exists but them. This unhealthy union is a classic toxic trait of anti-social individuals who want you all to themselves.
When you argue with your partner, you will find it hard to get your views across without instant backlash. If a person isn’t willing to practice reflective listening, which involves understanding another’s perspective, then no issue is likely to be resolved. While one or both partners will eventually compromise out of love and empathy, toxic individuals still maintain a position of hostility and indifference.
Your partner constantly expresses resentment, hate, or undermines your views or opinions privately or in public. Essentially, you don’t feel respected or valued for who you are and what you have to contribute to any situation. If you’ve kept silent and never stood up for yourself out of fear or uncertainty, your partner will tend to feed off your vulnerability and exact power over you.
This is a classic behavioral trait of narcissists who tend to dominate their partners emotionally and/or physically. You often feel small and insignificant as a result of your partner’s taunts, snide comments, or manhandling. Individuals trapped with such partners don’t feel good or confident about who they are.
When you feel unsafe, disturbed, or harmed, it’s clear that you’re the target of an abusive partner. Abuse in any form is a major red flag in a toxic relationship. Acts of physical or verbal violence, such as hitting, shoving, grabbing, screaming, threatening, blackmailing, or using profane language, are clear markers of toxicity in a relationship.
Has a family member or a loved one may have shared their opinions about your partner? How did you react? While some comments could have come from an overly judgemental or critical place, others may hold truths. It’s important to pay attention to what others say about your partner. It’s natural to feel caught up in another person or in the idea of having a relationship, but warnings that were or are still being shared will start to make sense.
If you find yourself skipping meals or falling sick often, these could be signs of stress, anxiety, or low self-esteem. These changes to your body can contribute to inflammation, lack of sleep, hormonal changes, unexplained weight loss, depression, and chronic heart conditions. A toxic relationship will slowly eat its way into your body and mind, which is dangerous if left unaddressed.
If your partner is a heavy drinker or drug addict, it will be challenging and painful to deal with erratic, unpredictable behavior. Without the right help, substance abuse is a tricky area to handle on your own.
If you and your partner are willing to work towards common goals, there is a chance to make the relationship work. Here’s what you can do to determine whether your partner is as open to putting in the effort and time.
When you approach your partner about these red flags, how do they react? Their response will reveal if they’re on board with mending the relationship. Here’s how to tell if they’re ready for change:
When hurt, people tend to lash out with their words or actions, knowing that the things they do or say will inflict pain on others. It’s also not easy to admit to having a problem. Once your partner understands where you’re coming from and is aware of their actions, only then will they be willing to work things out genuinely.
Instead of pinning the blame on each other, both partners have to be willing to learn about the other’s concerns and listen from a place of love.
If your partner is willing to have open conversations about the relationship and is genuinely invested, chances are they want to make amends.
Communication and comprehension are key ingredients in any relationship. While your partner may be open and willing to take charge, much of what is shared can get lost or be misunderstood. Toxic behavior is best resolved with outside intervention—seeking couples therapy can be therapeutic in more ways than one for both partners.
Counseling places both of you in a safe, non-judgmental environment with a professional who sees you from a fresh perspective. Through moments of self-reflection, revealing discussions, and healthy exercises, a therapist can help you get back on track with your partner.
Some forms of toxic relationships cannot be fixed, like physical or extreme mental abuse, since the individual most likely suffers from a psychological or identity crisis. These people need help beyond traditional forms of therapy and confrontation to work on core issues that make them act out.
It’s not easy to pry yourself out of a toxic relationship with someone you may love and feel close to but think of how this affects you and your life. Once you identify the relationship red flags and confront your partner, the way things play out after will help you decide if the union is worth fighting for or not.
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When Keren is not actually tapping away at her keyboard, you’ll find her staring into space or drinking copious amounts of coffee. But make no mistake, she's hard at work even then. Come close enough and you’ll hear the whooshing noise of countless words as they go whizzing by - in her head of course.