Seven Ways To Identify A Toxic Relationship And How To Get Help

Updated June 14, 2024by Regain Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include abuse which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact theDomestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

All relationships face challenges from time to time. However, there’s a difference between a rough patch in a relationship and one that’s toxic. If you believe that you’re in a toxic relationship, it can be very helpful to get an outside perspective and help from a therapist and/or loved ones. 

There may be many reasons why it might be hard to recognize toxic love in your relationship. Still, these seven signs of a toxic relationship can help you learn to identify any unhealthy behaviors or patterns in your own relationship. This could be the first step to getting the help that you need.

You aren’t encouraged to grow as a person

Is your relationship bad for you?

Perhaps your significant other feels threatened when you are growing as a person. They might rather you stay exactly as you are. They may even express this in a way that sounds like a good thing, but their intentions may not be benevolent.

It could be that they’re fearful that you are growing ahead of them, which can make them jealous. Or, perhaps they’re worried you’re going to realize that the relationship isn’t healthy and put an end to it. If you want to further your education, climb the corporate ladder, or start volunteering your time with a nonprofit organization, for example, they might not be supportive of these goals. 

You’re starting to wonder if you’re “crazy”

You may have heard the term “gaslighting” before. When your partner gaslights you, they manipulate the situation to the point that you are confused about your recollection of events.  Deep down, you may know they’re at fault, but they could cause you to doubt yourself so much that you end up thinking that you must be going crazy.

For example, a partner who is gaslighting you may deny saying or doing things that you witnessed yourself. Or, they may accuse you of doing things you never did. However, they can be so convincing and determined to prove that they are right that they wear away at your confidence in the truth. No matter what you do, they don’t back down, and you end up wondering if you were in the wrong.

They have encouraged you to withdraw from family and friends

Toxic partners might not want you to spend time with others, even your family and close friends. They may go to great lengths to keep you from these important people in your life, especially those who might recognize that you’re not in a healthy relationship. This essentially removes you from your support system. If you don’t realize that this is what they’re doing, then you might be tempted to think that they simply enjoy your company. 

Perhaps, you don’t know who to call for advice when you start to wonder if there’s a problem in your relationship. You might not feel close with your family or friends anymore, making it uncomfortable to talk with them. If you find yourself in the situation, consider that they are most likely still there, ready to lend a listening ear.

You’re not yourself anymore

When you’re in a toxic relationship, it can change your personality. You may have been outgoing and bold before, and you have slowly become more and more withdrawn, for example. Or, maybe you used to enjoy volunteering and helping others, but your partner doesn’t support that, so you stopped. The longer you’re together, the more you may have realized these changes in your personality, and you may no longer recognize yourself.

Consider that a healthy relationship will support your personal growth. As the relationship gets better, you may find yourself improving as well. In a toxic relationship, the opposite might be true. Some people in these types of relationships reach a point when they realize they don’t like the person they’ve become.

You feel like you’re always walking on eggshells

Feeling like you’re always walking on eggshells could be a sign that you’re in a toxic relationship. If your partner is overly sensitive, easily angered, or takes offense to every little thing you say or do, it can be hard to maintain a healthy relationship. 

All relationships may go through difficulties from time to time. Still, if you feel like you’re constantly on edge or like you’re always struggling to keep the other person happy, your relationship might not be a healthy one.

You get the silent treatment

There is a time and a place for taking a break from an argument or conversation with your partner to get your head straight or calm down. But the silent treatment is different. When you can’t resolve issues because your partner refuses to speak to you for extended periods of time, it could  signal a bigger problem. If your partner chooses to ignore you any time you disagree about something, consider that you may be in a toxic relationship. This could be a technique they’re using to gain more control over you.

Your partner did a 180

When you first started dating, everything may have been sunshine and roses. It could have felt like you hit the relationship jackpot. At this stage, they may have seemed to respect you, care about you, and put you first. They may have made you feel special. But somewhere along the way, they might have started to do a 180. This transition might have happened so slowly that you didn’t even notice that it was taking place. One day, you may have realized that the relationship isn’t what it used to be. They might not treat you the way that they used to, and you may feel like you’ve had the rug pulled out from underneath you.

How to get help when you’re in a toxic relationship

Toxic relationships may be more common than most people realize. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, “Nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.” Toxic relationships can come in all different shapes and sizes. They could involve physical, emotional, and/or mental abuse. Whatever the circumstances, a toxic relationship is not one that you want to stay in.

Recognize the situation for what it is

Leaving a toxic relationship can be difficult. It’s been reported that women in abusive relationships will try to leave seven times before they do. Getting help for a toxic relationship may first require recognizing that you’re in one. It could be time to analyze your relationship with open eyes. You may need to stop making excuses for your partner’s harmful behaviors.  

Build your support system

Is your relationship bad for you?

Once you realize your relationship may be a toxic one, it could be time to start re-contacting those friends and family members that you’ve been isolated from. Having a strong support system can be helpful when trying to leave a toxic relationship. Even if you know that leaving is the best choice for you, you may question your decision from time to time. The people within your support system can remind you of why you made the decision you made and why it may be important to follow through.

Get professional help

Getting out of a toxic relationship might not be as simple as just ending the relationship. There’s a good chance that your self-esteem has been damaged from being with an abusive partner. This can take time to heal and move past. Talking to a therapist can be a good way to improve your self-esteem and regain your confidence. 

If you’re afraid to reach out to a therapist because of what your partner might think or do, then that’s a good sign that your relationship isn’t in a healthy place. There are online counseling services that can provide a bit extra secrecy and anonymity, because you don’t have to go to an in-person office. Many people report feeling more comfortable talking about sensitive subjects like intimate partner violence (IPV) in a web-based environment. Platforms like Regain offer internet-based psychotherapy from licensed therapists, which can be done as individual therapy or couple’s therapy if you are still with your partner and they are willing to participate.

Online therapy has also been proven effective by scholarly research in the field of mental health. A recent study reviewed the results of nearly 2,500 individual cases of mental health interventions that involved intimate partner violence. Researchers found that individuals experienced similar results, whether they sought professional services online or in person.


Toxic relationships can make you feel devalued, disrespected, demeaned, and misunderstood. They can negatively affect your self-esteem. You might feel guilty as well as exhausted and emotionally depleted from trying to please a partner or from avoiding being the target of their negativity. Toxic relationships can affect your physical and mental health, leading to cardiovascular problems as well as anxiety and depression. Help is available from certified mental health professionals, though, whenever you’re ready to ask for it. 

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