A toxic relationship is when you don’t feel seen, heard or respected by someone you are in a relationship with. It can be any type of relationship, a romantic relationship, a family member, a friend, a lover etc.
You’ll know you’re in a toxic relationship simply by monitoring how you feel on a daily basis. If you’re a highly forgiving and empathetic person, you may not recognise or believe you’re in a toxic relationship because you’re actually experiencing a quantum entanglement with the other. Quantum entanglements are when you see yourself as an extension of the other (the person you’re in relationship with) and find it difficult to express your own needs and desires. This is the most toxic relationship of all and is not to be confused with a codependent relationship.
If you’re reading this article, to help you figure it out, whether or not you’re in a toxic relationship, you have a high chance of being correct but before you jump to any conclusions or break up with the person, let’s dive into some common signs that may indicate you’re in a toxic or narcissistic relationship. After learning the signs, the best question to pose may be, “How can I avoid any future toxic or narcissistic relationships before they even begin?”.
Here are 99 signs to help you know if you’re in a toxic or narcissistic relationship that is causing you to question your self-worth or self-respect in any way:
1. You’re being physically hurt.
I remember watching a Dr. Phil show and a young girl they were interviewing, about being in an abusive relationship, said, “He hits me because he loves me.” It was heartbreaking to watch. She truly believed her boyfriend, at the time, was hitting her because he loved her. This is a case of deep trauma, abuse and a misguided or warped idea of love. A healthy relationship, between two consenting adults, NEVER includes physical abuse. Not once, not ever. If this is happening to you and you need immediate help or support, you can google a hotline or support centre, in your city, that can give you the correct and professional guidance. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, reach out to a friend or family member you trust and let them know what’s going on.
2. You feel as if the other is superior or better than you in some way.
This may be a reflection of your own self-esteem or self-worth but if someone makes you feel as if they are superior to you, this is a red flag and should be examined. If someone feels inferior or superior to someone they are in a relationship with, this is a sign there is an imbalance in the way you relate to each other and can cause deeper issues down the track. It’s best to avoid any type of relationships, they make you feel inferior or superior and work on your own self-esteem before engaging in romantic relationships. The ways a person might act superior or make you feel inferior might be in the form of regular jokes or cunning comments that are designed to catch you off guard and get brushed off as ‘just a joke’.
3. You believe you’re being lied to.
A little white lie, to protect you is not a sign of a toxic relationship. Human beings will regularly tell a white lie to protect themselves or the other from feeling unnecessary guilt, shame or grief. For example, when a parent tells their child, Mummy or Daddy is going to be home soon when they’ve gone away for work for a long period of time, to stop the child from crying or being sad, you could consider this a white lie. A lie that isn’t damaging to the relationship but a means to and end. But if you feel you’re being lied to on a regular basis, by someone you confide in or trust, this can be damaging to the relationship and cause issues in your relationship. A lie that is designed to manipulate you into believing that the person in question is someone who they are not, is a big red flag and is a sign of a toxic relationship. An example might be that your romantic partner is cheating on you and keeps it a secret from you.
4. Your opinions, ideas or beliefs are regularly dismissed.
If you feel your opinions or ideas are regularly being dismissed as unimportant or inferior, this is a sign you’re in a toxic or abusive relationship. Everyone should feel heard, seen and respected in a relationship, where love, trust and respect is at the core.
The person may not necessarily dismiss your ideas or opinions intentionally, they may be a critical person who needs a lot of evidence to validate an idea, regardless, this is a red flag. If you feel your opinions, beliefs or ideas are dismissed all the time, it may cause you to suppress your self-expression and diminish your self-belief. While it’s important for you to validate your own opinions, ideas or beliefs, if someone you are in an intimate relationship with is constantly dismissing your ideas or opinions, this can be damaging to one’s self-esteem. Monitor it.
5. You feel like you’re in a game of ‘who cares least’ wins.
You’ve probably heard the saying, ‘whoever cares least wins’ used in negotiation situations or in movies before. This is a brilliant tactic, used by narcissists and toxic people, who want to ‘win’ in the game of love. Their only goal is to ‘win’ the argument, the battle, the game, the relationship. It’s important for you to remember that love is never a game. Love is a dance.
6. You feel neglected.
Neglect comes in many forms. You may feel ignored or avoided. These are the most subtle ways neglect manifests in a toxic or narcissistic relationship. If you’ve had an argument or disagreement with the person you’re in a relationship, it may take someone up to 24 hours to recover or for them to be willing to talk it out but it’s important that this is communicated, either from your end or theirs, if you go 24 hours or longer without any communication this can be extremely damaging to the relationship. Depending on whether it is an intimate one or not and whether you live with the person or not. Stonewalling is another term used when someone ignores or avoids the other party.
7. You feel belittled in front of others.
It’s very common for the toxic person or narcissist to make you feel small or belittled in social situations. Behind closed doors this can be a lot worse but the abuser normally likes to do this in social settings too, just to remind you of their power and control over you. It’s usually done in subtle ways to avoid being seen as the ‘bad guy’ and tossed about as ‘it was just a joke’. Check in with yourself and how you feel. If it’s something you feel you can’t express or share with them, how it made you feel, in fear of being ridiculed or dismissed this is a major red flag.
8. The person sees you as an extension of themselves.
This is common in narcissistic relationships and can cause you to enter into a quantum entanglement. A person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is unable to see the person they’re in an intimate relationship with as a separate being with their own needs and desires. They’re main goal is always to control, have power over or have superiority in the relationship. Therefore, when you’re in a relationship with someone who has NPD, it can feel like your needs aren’t being met and that’s because they usually aren’t. You may be abandoning your own needs in order to fulfill the narcissists and this is dangerous waters.
9. You feel controlled.
Control is a degree. To what degree you’re being controlled depends on your threshold and your own personal boundaries. Although to put it in perspective, any degree of control isn’t healthy for a relationship. The desire to control someone stems from insecurity and a lack of self-esteem. If someone feels the need to control a situation or person, it means they do not trust things will go in their favour so they control what they can. The thing is, a relationship won’t always go your way. The most important thing is to feel that you can express your needs, desires and concerns in a way that is comfortable and respected.
10. You feel your trust is always being questioned.
In relationships, it’s easy to make mistakes, especially at the beginning of a relationship. Before a solid commitment has been established, we tend to do things to act as if we have no commitments to the other. This can make the trust, at the beginning of a relationship be questioned and can sometimes be carried throughout the entire relationship. If you feel like you’re always being questioned for something you didn’t do or being held hostage for something you did 6 months ago or at the very beginning of your relationship, before there was even a solid commitment, this can be a sign of a toxic relationship. There is only so much we can say or do to prove our trustworthiness. Don’t let someone make you feel like you constantly have to prove your trustworthiness. This can be exhausting and take away from your happiness in the relationship.
11. You’re being influenced negatively.
Bad influences include things like, drugs, alcohol, doing activities under duress or stress. If someone is trying to influence you to do anything you don’t want to do or introduces you to foreign things like drugs and alcohol, that you may not have had exposure to before, this can be signs of a toxic relationship. Any activity that doesn’t provide a positive environment for growth, nurture or love within a human being can be toxic.
12. You don’t feel comfortable expressing your joy or accomplishments.
Achievements and accomplishments in life like graduating from high school, university, getting hired for a job, having a baby, getting married etc are all special moments in your life that deserve to be celebrated. If you feel you can’t celebrate or share your happiest moments in life with someone, because they may feel jealous or competitive in nature, may be a sign you’re in a toxic relationship.
13. The person expects more from you, than they do from themselves.
There’s a reason there’s a Chinese proverb called ‘Expectations are the root of all evil.’ It’s because expectations rarely serve a person or a relationship. It’s important to recognise we all have expectations but if they aren’t managed in a healthy way or expressed to the person you’re in a relationship with, they can cause more harm than good. Expectations separate, standards elevate.
14. You don’t have access to the money.
Money can be a whole topic on it’s own, in terms of how to manage it in a relationship. Money is a touchy subject for many. If you’re in a relationship where one person earns more than the other, it can cause conflict or be used against you. Typically, money is used by the man in a dominating relationship to control the woman. If a woman isn’t earning her own money or is a stay at home, completely dependent on the male to provide, this can make it extremely difficult for the woman to express her needs, concerns and desires, if the man is using money as a form of control. It’s important to use common sense here. If you’re someone who likes to spend money while you haven’t earned it, the person keeping it from you may have a valid reason and be trying to mitigate risk. On the other hand, if you feel like you don’t have basic access to necessities and feel scared to ask, this may be a red flag and a sign you’re in a toxic relationship.
15. There’s a lack of affection and/or touch.
If you’re in an intimate relationship with someone, sex is seen as a primal need. It’s also a beautiful way to make love, bond and connect with your significant other. If love, affection or touch is being withheld purposefully this may be a sign to monitor or raise as a red flag. It may at least be something worth opening up for discussion to see if there are deeper reasons as to why they are withholding affection or touch. If this goes on for too long, it can be a form of neglect as one of the five love languages is touch. We are human beings and we need human touch, love and affection to survive or atleast to live a happy life.
16. You regularly go to bed without speaking to each other.
Conflict in a relationship isn’t bad. It’s actually necessary to maintain a healthy, loving relationship. The question isn’t so much, ‘do you fight?’, because every couple argues or disagrees sometimes, the helpful question you should be asking yourself is, ‘how do we fight?’. If arguments or disagreements regularly end up in stonewalling, criticism and harsh words exchanged, this may be a sign of a toxic relationship. There are ways to improve the way you argue or disagree in relationships, but this requires both parties to be open and willing to go to therapy or to work on their own childhood traumas, expectations and self-esteem. If you find you’re regularly going to sleep without speaking with your partner, this may be a sign of a toxic relationship. Intimacy is always a tough topic and this isn’t a reason to completely end a relationship, there may be room and space to save the relationship in this type of context but it will take openness and willingness from both parties to communicate and reach common ground.
17. Your arguments or disagreements, are more destructive, rather than constructive.
Similar to the above red flag, if arguments or disagreements in the relationship generally turn out to be more destructive instead of constructive, and it doesn’t help the overall relationship progress forward and grow into more love, affection and respect for one another, you may be a toxic relationship that isn’t serving you.
18. You feel your significant other is always reactive instead of responsive.
Reacting to a situation isn’t always the healthiest way to approach a relationship. As human beings we all have triggers and feel like we want to react immediately when we feel threatened in some way. Thankfully it’s 2020 and we aren’t running from sabretooth tigers anymore so our ability to respond is far more valuable in today’s world. If your partner or significant other isn’t working on how they respond to a certain situation, you may find you are always cleaning up the pieces of their reactive way of being. This may be a sign to either enter into a conversation around dealing with triggers and wounds or it may be a sign to get out while you still can.
19. Remorse isn’t shown when you feel hurt or attacked.
When you feel hurt or attacked, if the person who caused the hurt doesn’t show any signs of remorse or responsibility, this may be a sign of a toxic relationship. If the other always feels justified in their actions this can cause a wedge between you as it removes any responsibility from the other party and leaves you feeling alone and solely responsible. Relationships are ALWAYS a two way street.
20. You feel betrayed.
Betrayal can be a point of no return in many relationships. Forgiving someone for betraying you may lead to betrayal of self and that is far more devastating than the betrayal that initially took place. Protect your heart, have boundaries and don’t betray yourself.
21. You feel your actions are being manipulated by lies.
To simplify, you feel you’re being coerced into doing things you may not necessarily want to do. These can be really subtle cues like, ‘Remember that time I did that thing for you, yeah well then the least you could do is this for me.’ Subtle manipulation like this, can cause you to lose respect or feel oblige
22. Your ‘No’ isn’t respected.
If you’ve said ‘no’ in response to a question or demand by the other and this is met with resistance everytime or you enter into some kind of argument or stressful situation then it’s likely the person may not respect your boundaries. If you feel someone is repeatedly crossing your boundaries or trying to manipulate you to change your response, this may be a sign you’re in a toxic relationship.
23.You feel like you’re being distanced or separated from your friends or family, unwillingly.
This is usually a gradual thing. The abuser or toxic person understands that friends and family are a strong support network so in order to control or manipulate you, they try to distance you or remove you from your support network. This is a red flag. Make sure you keep communication strong and open with your friends and family at all times.
24. You feel like tabs are being kept on your emotional deposits and withdraws.
Keeping tabs in a relationship is petty and is a sign it may be toxic. Love is free and is given without expectations. If there are a lot of expectations that aren’t being met, the person may try to meet them by keeping tabs and reminding you what they do for you. This isn’t healthy, as two people in a mutually loving relationship will give love and respect without keeping tabs.
25. Sexual abuse or rape.
Anything outside of your consent is harassment or abuse. Take action to support yourself immediately.
26. You cry more than you laugh.
If you find yourself crying or upset more often that you’re happy and laughing, this is a sign you may be in a toxic relationship.
27. You aren’t included in family events or gatherings with your significant other.
Depending on your level of commitment in a relationship, this may mean that you’re being outcast or excluded from a relationship and this is a red flag to monitor.
28. Lovebombing then withdrawal.
Commonly used by the narcissist. In order to reel you into their trap, a narcissist will lovebomb you at the beginning of a relationship. This is common with men. They will shower you with gifts, roses and grand gestures of love, like expensive dinners etc.. This bonds you energetically and keeps you wanting more, like an addict. Once the narcissist knows they have you completely wrapped around their fingers, they’ll withdraw and make you start questioning their commitment and love in the relationship. This can typically last anywhere between 6 to 12 months or longer. Even up to 2 years. Making sure you have strong personal boundaries and you’re aware of your own self-worth and self-respect, you can quickly tell if this person is love bombing you in order to ‘win’ you or if they are genuinely in the relationship for love and commitment. Love can be blind, that’s why it’s your responsibility to stay aware and listen to your gut when it’s trying to tell you something. Go with your gut and if you’re unsure, pump the breaks and only do what YOU feel comfortable doing. Take things slowly.
29. The person finds it difficult to feel or to cry.
In order to have a healthy and loving relationship, two people need to be in touch with their heart and feelings. It’s common that narcissistic and toxic people find it difficult to cry, show empathy or remorse when faced with certain moving situations. An emotionally healthy person will display emotion when appropriate. This is subjective and open to interpretation to a degree. It may take more for one emotionally healthy person to cry than another, either way, it’s important to recognise if your significant other finds it difficult to express or feel emotions. It may be a red flag to monitor.
30. You feel the person is selfish.
If a person doesn’t consider you in important decision making processes, this is a sign that the person is self-centred and it can be extremely difficult to be in a healthy and loving relationship when someone only considers their own feelings.
31. Whatever you’re going through I’m going through worse.
If you feel you’re always in a competition in a race to the bottom, in terms of who has it worse or who’s problems are more significant. This is a sign you’re in a toxic relationship. A healthy, loving relationship will be balanced and each party will care about the other’s well-being and won’t try to compete in a race to the bottom.
32. Passive aggressive comments are regularly made.
Passive aggressiveness is a lesser version of an attack. It’s passive forms of aggression, disguised in back-hand comments, unsolicited criticism and chronic sarcasm that can be used to subtly weaken you so that you’re confidence is broken. This can be used to manipulate, control or hurt. Again, this is all on a degree. Your relationship may be able to be saved if the person isn’t aware what they are doing and are simply repeating learned behaviours from poor parenting or childhood trauma.If you express how this makes you feel and the significant other vows to work on this and become aware of how this affects you so that it can be healed or approached in a different way, the relationship can be saved. The problem arises when the significant other isn’t willing to admit they are passive aggressive and sees nothing wrong with their backhanded comments and shifts the blame to you, saying you need to toughen up or get over it. This is a warning sign and should be raised as a red flag.
These are just some signs to help you recognise whether you are in a toxic relationship or not. There are no benefits from staying in a toxic relationship. If you believe in your heart and gut, that any of the above, warning signs, can be turned around and healed so that you can both move forward into a happy and healthy relationship, then therapy will be required and commitment from both parties will need to happen.
You don’t need 1 sign, let alone 31 to know if you’re in a toxic relationship. Relationships are 2 way streets and while you may be a victim, you are responsible for your own happiness in a relationship. Make sure you are doing your own inner work, building your self-confidence and self-esteem so that you can show up as an empowered and happy partner and more importantly so you can end the cycle of attracting or willingly participating in toxic relationships, to begin with.
I think I’m in a toxic relationship, what now?
Firstly, don’t panic. Unless you’re in grave danger, in which you need to call the local support line in your country for guidance and support, there are several ways to handle being in a toxic relationship.
Step 1 is to acknowledge you’re in one. You’ve done that so congratulations. That’s a huge step and the beginning of your healing journey.
Step 2 is to assess whether the relationship is worthy of saving. If you’re committed and believe your significant other is worth fighting for and you believe there is a possibility that you both can communicate and work out, a way forward that feels good for both of you. If not, refer to Step 3.
Step 3 is to assess whether both of you are willing to change. Unfortunately, if only one party is open to working on the relationship and changing their behaviour or approach, it’s highly unlikely, anything will change. If both parties are willing then there is a chance that the relationship will survive and maybe even thrive. If not, refer to Step 4.
Step 4 is to end the relationship. Be aware, that if you’re in a relationship with a narcissistic partner, this won’t be easy. So, before you attempt to confront a toxic partner, make sure your self-esteem and self-confidence are good enough, for you to know that you’ll be alright if they end the relationship with you (or you end up having to end it with them). If you’re not there yet and don’t feel emotionally strong enough, I strongly urge you to get therapeutic help and/or to join a support group. More often than not, narcissists try to make life more difficult for you after you’ve ended the relationship. It’s important to have a Plan B if you’re met with resistance, abuse or threats. When ending a toxic relationship, typically cutting all contact is the best way forward. Until you have rebuilt your self-esteem and inner strength, having any communication with the toxic or narcissistic person can cause you to fall right back into their deceitful arms. Be strong and practice no contact for at least 90 days.
How to move forward without carrying resentment or bitterness in your heart?
Toxic relationships rarely leave anything worth remembering behind. You may feel hurt, anger, sadness, rage and despair after leaving a toxic relationship. It’s important to remember that you’re going through a grieving stage and these feelings will pass. Your job is not to forgive the other, you can do so if you wish but it’s not necessary to move on and have a happy life. It is your job to take responsibility for your part and heal the parts of you that need love, care and attention. In doing so, you’ll be able to forgive yourself and hopefully move forward with less bitterness and resentment. This is your best chance of attracting higher quality relationships and friendships and living a better quality of life.
A note from the author
I write content around healing yourself, spiritually and professionaly, so you can live a life that feels blissful and authentic everyday.
I believe every woman deserves to live her life with joy, freedom and adventure but she must know she deserves it first. I suffered and healed myself. I am proof you can too. My goal is to make your healing journey easier.
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