Toxic Relationships: Warning Signs, Tips for Fixing or Leaving It


May 20Mental health

Toxic Relationships: Warning Signs, Tips for Fixing or Leaving It

You feel everything about your relationship was perfect. But now things are changing; it is not the same as before; you constantly have thoughts of leaving the relationship as you are unhappy. You may need to evaluate your relationship and watch out for signs to understand if it has become toxic.

17 signs that suggest you may be in a toxic relationship

You may see these signs in yourself, your partner or in both of you.

1. There is a lot of confusion

You often find yourself confused about the relationship. You do not understand what is happening and the reasons behind it. You identify that something is amiss but find it difficult to communicate it with your partner.

2. It is your responsibility to manage your partner’s emotions

Your partner throws tantrums, unending rants, and expects you to be all ears that time. They also go to the extent of blaming you for their feelings and emotions even when you may not be responsible for it. Despite the insults, you end up handling their behaviours.

3. Jealousy and suspicion have invaded your relationship

You feel trapped in an innumerable set of rules that evade your personal space and freedom. Your partner may say, “You cannot talk to friends of the other sex. You have to tell me everything that happens at the office.” All of this only because your partner is insecure and constantly doubts the relationship. It could also escalate to an extent where your partner starts checking your chats, calls, emails and likewise.

4. There are lies and a lot of lies

You often notice your partner lying to you or hiding things from you.

5. Your whole world revolves around your partner

You both do every single thing together. You both spend every single minute with each other. It seems like the two of you do not care about anyone else but yourselves and the relationship. Everything revolves around this one person. Social and personal lives are absent.

6. You feel you have lost parts of yourself

You are so consumed by your relationship that you don’t have the time or the bandwidth for your friends. You no more engage in activities you love, it is always about what your partner wants. Hence, in a way, you do not feel yourself anymore.

7. Communication is no more kind

Verbal and physical abuses are not uncommon in your relationship. Most conversations end up in violence.

8. Your partner tries to suppress your growth

You never receive encouragement and support from your partner when you need it. Instead, they discourage you with words like, “You won’t be able to do it.” During your moments of success, they don’t express happiness. They don’t compliment you or celebrate with you. In front of your friends or colleagues, they constantly mock you, which leaves you feeling helpless or embarrassed.

9. They mostly care about their image

Your partner is over-concerned about their image in front of others. In simple words, they are unrecognizable in social settings or public spaces. They put out their best self forward outside. But with you, they are a different person altogether. They may not treat you well - they may be aggressive or play blame games or make you feel guilty and bad about yourself.

10. They choose manipulation over communication

You are constantly under the pressure to meet your partner’s expectations. If you don’t, they start drawing comparisons and prove you guilty. They want you to follow as they say or they would express unhappiness in different ways. For example, they put up tantrums and eventually you have to agree to them. Or they say, “You can do what you want.”, and when you do that, they react in an aggressive or upset way.

11. Over-dependence is overpowering in your relationship

Everything has to be done together. You do not engage in activities you love. Why? Because your partner does not enjoy them. For instance, the movie you have been waiting to watch finally gets released. You are excited about it, but your partner is not and refuses to watch it with you. That is okay. You can instead make plans with your friends or family. Instead of that, you entirely drop the plan because of your partner.

12. There is a display of passive-aggression

Your partner does not communicate the problems directly with you. They engage in passive-aggressive methods such as updating their status on social media platforms or complaining to their friends behind your back. When you confront them about the problems, instead of resolving them, they dismiss it by replying ‘nothing’. Being passive-aggressive worsens the relationship.

13. Your partner gaslights you

You feel the relationship has turned toxic and there needs to be a resolution for it. But your partner keeps disregarding your opinions and suggestions. They may use gaslighting as a tool to manipulate you - “It is all in your head.” “You are making this up.” “You’re just overthinking, none of this is happening.”

14. They criticize your physical appearance

Your partner cares too much about how you look and present yourself. They are way too critical about your physical appearance than they should be. You are often mentally stressed due to their unfriendly, judgemental and negative comments about your body. They don’t make you feel good and positive about yourself.

15. Their behaviour is inconsistent

Constantly changing behaviours creates confusion in the relationship. You feel that your partner’s moods keep changing without any specific reason. One day they are happy and take you out on a romantic date and the next day they give you a cold or silent treatment. They won’t have a reason for it, they may simply say, “I’m not in the mood.”

16. There is no change, despite communication

You have to politely communicate your needs or wants with your partner - not once, not twice but multiple times. Despite that, they have neither taken efforts to change nor are they willing to do it. You feel disrespected in the relationship.

17. Love bombing

Too much of anything is harmful - even love. Either one or both of you believe that it is the most magical relationship of their lives, that you would never find someone like your partner, that you have never felt this way with anyone else.

toxic relationships

Why does a relationship turn toxic?

There are multiple reasons why a healthy relationship could either suddenly or over time turn toxic.

  • Lack of communication
  • Lack of empathy or understanding
  • Either or both of the partners being insecure
  • One partner having traits of narcissism
  • One partner being emotionally stunted due to various reasons

Usually, a toxic relationship is the result of toxic behaviours from both partners. One of the partners may instigate it. Or one partner could also evoke or compel the other one to behave that way. To explain better, suppose your partner does not want you to interact with your male colleagues. You may also demand he stops talking to his female colleagues.

How is a toxic relationship harmful to you?

Being in a toxic relationship takes a toll on your mental health. Since each relationship is unique, the effects will also vary from person to person. But, talking about difficulties on a general basis, you may experience the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Stress and worries
  • Guilt; in cases of blaming
  • Constantly questioning yourself
  • Not feel at peace (opp of peace)
  • That you are walking around eggshells
  • Loss of self-confidence
  • Lack of self-esteem
  • Self-blame
  • Depressive symptoms such as bouts of crying, sadness, disinterest
  • Distance with your friends
  • Lack of social support

What makes you want to continue a toxic relationship?

It is not easy to be the one to leave the relationship. One or both partners may be aware of the effects the relationship is having on them, yet they won’t be able to abandon it. Every individual would have their reasons but we have highlighted a few of them.

Trauma bonding: You give yourself umpteen reasons and get convinced that the relationship is good despite its few bad aspects. You may also start defending your partner’s bad behaviours. As the relationship takes a toll on your self-esteem, you start to believe that nobody else will love you or take care of you the way your partner does.

Unending narratives: Your partner may narrate innumerable stories that ultimately put you in a helpless state. You may want to leave but won’t have the courage to. One such narrative told by your partner could be - “Everybody blames me and leaves me in the end.” It automatically puts you in a difficult situation. So every time you think of leaving, you will be reminded of that story. You will become sympathetic and continue being in the relationship.

Hope: You will convince yourself that toxic relationships are not out and out bad. Because there will be moments of goodness that will make you believe that the relationship can be saved. But, soon it will turn upside down again as there has been no effort to resolve the bad parts of it. It becomes a never-ending cycle.

Selective memory: We have a very selective memory. At times, you will tend to forget all the unpleasant memories of the relationship. Remembering and holding onto the good parts convinces you that it is a good relationship.

Is it worth continuing the relationship if it has become toxic?

When you start questioning your relationship and cannot make a choice, ask yourself this question.

“Why do I want to stay in the relationship?”

If you have a reasonable answer for it, it can help you evaluate whether you want to save the relationship or not. But if your responses look like any of the following, you may have to rethink your choices.

“I have already invested 3 years in this relationship.”

“When he’s not angry, it’s nice.”

“She’s really beautiful, I will never find somebody like her again.”

“My family knows about my partner, so it’s too late to back out.”

All of the above reasons to continue the relationship are dependent on an external source. If you are staying in the relationship out of obligation, it may not last long.

How can you fix a toxic relationship?

A toxic relationship can be saved provided both the partners decide to take efforts for it. A one-sided effort is not going to prove beneficial at all.

  1. Communicate the need to fix it

    Generally, a lack of communication creates a rift between the partners. Hence, to bring back the closeness and charm of the relationship, there needs to be ample communication. It is worth taking the effort only if both of them agree that the relationship has turned toxic and needs to be fixed. However, when one of the partners is stubborn about not having done anything wrong, it is extremely difficult to take any further steps. Perhaps, in such a situation, you may have no choice but to leave the relationship and move on.

  2. Identify what needs to be fixed

    You and your partner need to identify the parts of the relationship that have turned toxic. You both must acknowledge what behaviours and patterns need to be worked upon. Because only if you can understand your relationship and identify the faults in it, you can take the next steps to fix it.

  3. Take conscious effort

    Once you have collectively decided on the changes, then it is all about making a conscious effort. Your relationship won’t become alright in a jiffy. Breaking past patterns, behaviours and habits will need time and effort from both. Staying consistent and patient should be your goals.

  4. Talk to a therapist

    One or both partners should visit a therapist if they feel there is a need for it. The therapist being a third person will be able to look at the nuances of the relationship and help both of you resolve it better.

How to leave a toxic relationship?

Leaving a toxic relationship is extremely difficult. As mentioned previously, there can be many reasons why you may not be able to leave it.

Your support system may repeatedly advise you to just dump your partner. Sometimes, they may get saturated with telling you the same thing again and again and threaten you. “If you don’t leave him, I will leave you.” But unfortunately, such threats can backfire, and you may start hiding things from that friend too.

If you want to leave, the best advice would be to break contact entirely. There may be no point in communicating and trying to mend the relationship as you would have already tried that many times. You can also slowly build it up by starting with setting boundaries. But when you have low esteem and mentally exhausted, even that may be difficult.

Hence, just leave.

How to heal yourself post-separation?

Self-care is crucial

Self-care includes setting up boundaries, listening to yourself, spending time with yourself. You must also do things that you haven't been able to do because of being in a relationship. Many times, it may take away your ability to trust your own decisions. So, start with making smaller decisions.

 Doing yoga, dance, or art forms will help release all the pain and hurt that has occurred and help you heal. You can meet other people with similar experience to assure yourself that you are not alone. Having support helps in dealing with it better.

Avoid another relationship

Avoid getting into another relationship immediately post-breakup or separation. There are high chances that you will repeat patterns and behaviours if you still haven’t recovered from the previous relationship.

See a therapist

The toxic relationship is already too exhausting. On top of that, taking the effort to heal yourself post the breakup can seem like another task. However, neglecting that process can worsen your situation. Therefore, it is helpful to visit a therapist and have them guide you through that process.

Get back in touch with friends 

You may have not spoken to your friends for a long time due to your toxic relationship. But if they are genuine friends, they will be there for you. Reach out to them and explain yourself; they will understand your situation and support you.

Maintain a journal 

As mentioned earlier, we become very selective with our memory. Hence, having a record of the events that have happened can be a good reminder for you. There may be instances when you may feel like getting back with your ex-partner. That is when this journal can come in handy as it will remind you why you left the relationship. If you want, write down the answer for - Why you are not in the relationship anymore? and stick it in a place where you spend the most amount of time. Missing the person does not mean you want to be back with them.

Bottom line

After reading about the signs, if you find yourself in a toxic relationship, it is time to take some action. Before it becomes too ugly, communicate it with your partner if you want to save the relationship. If you feel it has got too out of hand, decide if you still want to stay in it.

Disclaimer: This information is educational and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before making any dietary changes or adding supplements.

ProactiveForHer is a digital clinic for women, offering accessible, personalised, and confidential healthcare solutions. We offer out-patient care, diagnostic services and programs for various health concerns of Indian women, across their lifetime - from puberty to pregnancy to menopause.