11 Signs of a Toxic Relationship
Relationships are hard. Even the ones that seem perfect have their flaws. But there's a difference between occasional arguments and an unhealthy, potentially harmful relationship. Relationships are meant to make you flourish, but when a relationship turns toxic, you're left feeling depleted, defeated, and oftentimes lost.
Debra Roberts, LCSW, an interpersonal communication and relationship expert and author, says that an extreme of an unhealthy relationship is a toxic one. We often toss the word around casually, but what truly qualifies an interpersonal relationship or dynamic as "toxic"? Bottom line: It usually involves chronic disrespect and a lack of emotional safety for one or both parties.
Is My Relationship Toxic?
It boils down to this: How do you feel around your partner? Do you feel that your partner is adding drama to your life? Are they twisting your words and being argumentative?
Lillian Glass, Ph.D., communication and body language expert, defines a toxic person as anyone who makes you feel uneasy in their presence or bad about yourself. Glass claims to have first coined the term "toxic people" in her book Toxic People: 10 Ways Of Dealing With People Who Make Your Life Miserable.
Toxicity is subjective, and it's not a one-size-fits-all situation. "We're all toxic to some degree, to somebody," Glass says. Some people find narcissists unbearable, for example, while others find them amusing. Toxicity can also exist on a spectrum and vary by degrees.
But it's important to understand what you want and need from your partner if you want a sustainable relationship. Toxic relationships are lousy and subtractive with feelings of inconsistency and instability, and they can manifest in myriad ways. Here's an overview of common, telltale toxic relationship signs—and that it might be time to either address the situation head-on or cut ties completely.
Toxic Relationship Signs
What to do if You're in a Toxic Relationship?
Most toxic situations don't start that way, and by the time they get worse, you're already connected or invested in the other person. If a lot of these toxic relationship signs remind you of yourself, your partner, or your relationship dynamic, Roberts suggests taking a step back emotionally, and asking yourself: Do you feel like you've lost yourself? Do you have low self-esteem? Do you feel trapped?
If the answer is yes, start by fully recognizing that, and then show yourself some kindness.
"If people are motivated to change, capable of change, and willing to show up to do the work, then a good therapist can help them learn healthier behaviors and ways of communicating," Roberts says. If you do decide you want to work to make your relationship healthier and less toxic, it is possible. But always remember that you can only control yourself. If your partner is unable to change or unwilling to put in the work, it's not always in your best interest to stay.