• Jackie Schwartz, LMFT

Signs of a Toxic Relationship

Being in a romantic relationship comes with many joys and personal benefits. All relationships have good days and bad days, ups and downs, pros and cons and we need to accept our partners for who they are, right?


Well, yes that is true, but what if accepting the “bad” comes at a personal cost to one’s well-being? Should we accept or tolerate someone’s unhealthy behaviors or malignant treatment towards us?

As much as I discuss with couples the value of accepting our partners for who they are, quirks and all, I strongly advise reconsidering the relationship or partner choice if any of the following behaviors exist in your current relationship. There are many toxic behaviors that can exist in relationships and some of these behaviors can be improved upon if addressed.


A toxic relationship can have signs of toxicity that are obvious and some that are more subtle. If you have ever been in a toxic relationship, you may connect to these behaviors. The following behaviors come to mind as more prevalent evidence of toxicity and can come at the cost of someone’s emotional or physical health.


Walking on Eggshells:


Walking on eggshells or avoiding communication due to fear of retaliation is a common sign of a toxic relationship. It makes sense to pick our battles and to let some things fall by the wayside. However, if you find yourself consistently storing things up, because of the fear of heightened negativity or anger in your partner, then you might be in a toxic relationship.


Considering your partner’s feelings before speaking is a sign of respect and affection, but if you communicate your needs or feelings and your partner lashes out in anger/aggression, then this sets the stage for fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and lack of trust.


While we want to build a culture of respect and consideration for one another, it is vital to regularly communicate things that are negatively impactful without one’s partner reacting with aggression. Communicating consistently about what works and what doesn’t is how couples grow and evolve.


Control:


Control is another sign of trouble. Now, I’m not talking about control with the little things like how to dry the sink or remembering to put the toilet seat down. The kind of control I’m referring to is about feeling like multiple areas of life are being stifled or hovered over by one’s partner. These life areas could be financial, social, familial, or interpersonal.


If your partner will not let you look at household bills or if you aren’t easily able to see healthy friends and family, this could be a demonstration of how your partner is exhibiting unhealthy control. If your partner monitors what you eat, wear, or the places you go, this is definitely a sign that you are in a spider’s web and you need to break free!


In a healthy relationship, we want to navigate life as a couple, but also as an individual with a sense of agency and autonomy. If you’re feeling restricted in the aforementioned areas, and those rights feel lost to you, you may be in a toxic relationship.


Contempt:


Overt disrespect might seem obvious as a sign of toxicity, but disrespect can be subtle and expressed in a variety of ways. Disrespect can look like contemptuous comments, humor at your expense, devaluing your thoughts/feelings, talking down about things that matter to you like your relationships, goals/values/belief systems, and outright criticism. Disrespect over a period of time and not understanding the behavior can have a lasting and damaging impact on our self–esteem and can lead to anxiety and depression.


Any of these behaviors can be a sign of a toxic relationship. We may not always like what our partner says or does, however at the very least respect needs to be consistently demonstrated. When we feel like our partner values our feelings and needs, it’s a marker that our partner is putting in the effort to demonstrate respect.


Abuse:


Last but certainly not least, a huge hallmark of a toxic relationship is violence or abuse of any kind. When our partner becomes violent, they are violating our basic human right to live life without bodily harm. Violence, even emotional violence is about exerting power and control over someone else and instilling fear in the victim.


Living with any amount of fear towards your partner, and anticipating pain or injury to one’s body or mind is an abuse of the worst kind. It is never the fault of the victim and there is no reasoning with someone who resorts to violence to express negative emotions.


If your partner is abusive or has characterological violence, meaning they are violent or physical by nature, there is nothing for the receiving partner to do except run and get away as fast as you can (safely). This is a clear sign that you are not only in a toxic relationship but a dangerous one.


It is important to note that not all toxic behaviors are created equal and as previously mentioned, some can be improved upon once brought into awareness. There are resources that are here to help. If you feel that you are caught up in a toxic relationship and do not know how to move forward, consider contacting a local professional to assist with your relationship, or individual needs to break free of toxic relationships for good!


If you’re ready to work on improving your relationship with yourself, learning how to have a healthy relationship, or how to get out of an unhealthy relationship, contact me for your complimentary consultation at 954-391-5305.


I would be happy to speak with you about how I can help you move forward in a positive direction. I provide counseling online across the state of Florida via telehealth and in person at our Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs offices. Click here to learn more about myself and my services.


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