How To Know When It's Toxic Love

Updated March 09, 2020

Reviewer Karen Devlin, LPC

A relationship is supposed to make us better people. It's not supposed to complete us, as romantic movies might suggest, but it is supposed to be a welcome side dish to an already full life. It's the cherry on top of the cake that we've been constructing that is an established foundation and the clarity that comes with happiness and mental health. If your relationship seems like more trouble than it's worth, and if you are constantly at each other's throats, then you may be involved in a toxic relationship.

Signs That Your Relationship Is Toxic

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Some signs are clearer than others when it comes to being in a toxic relationship. If your partner abuses you, whether it's mentally, physically, or emotionally, then you are in a toxic relationship. However, some other signs may not be as easy to spot, and you may question whether you're in a toxic relationship, or if you may just be going through a rough patch with your partner.

What follows are some signs that your relationship truly is toxic:

  • Feeling Drained - If you're constantly feeling like you have nothing left to give at the end of the day because you've expended every ounce of energy dealing with this person, you may want to take some time to reevaluate your relationship.
  • Imbalance - If you tend to give more than you get in return, the relationship is probably toxic. For example, if you're always picking up the pieces when she's had a hard day, but she's too busy with her own life to comfort you when you've had a hard day of your own, this is an unhealthy imbalance.
  • No Trust Or Communication - These are two of the biggest relationship killers. If you can't trust each other, and you can't communicate with each other, then there is no sense in staying together. A lack of trust and communication does not a healthy relationship make.
  • Hostility Or Control Issues - If your partner is constantly angry, or if s/he has issues with control, these things can certainly ruin a relationship. And who wants to be around someone who must be in control or is angry all the time? It's just not pleasant, not to mention potentially dangerous.
  • Narcissism - If s/he is selfish and turns everything you say into something about himself or herself, then it's time to move on. Narcissism adds to the imbalance of a relationship by making everything one-sided.

These are just a few of the signs that prove a relationship to be toxic.

Making Excuses

When you're in a toxic relationship, you'll find you are constantly making excuses for everything. You're making excuses for your partner's mood and for why you're with your partner more often than you're enjoying the time you spend with this person. Why bother? You may even make excuses that turn back around on you.

For instance: "well, he was right to hit me because he had a bad day, and I cooked dinner too early, so it was cold when he got home, which only added to his bad day." First off, no. Second, true love does not require excuses. If it were true love, he'd never have hit you in the first place, nor would he have taken his bad day out on you. He should have been thankful that you thought to make him dinner at all, and he should have eaten it cold with a smile on his face. Dump the jerk, and dump the excuses!

Rehashing Old Mistakes

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When you're in a toxic relationship, your partner just cannot let stuff go. Did you say something in anger during a recent fight, realized how wrong you were and apologized, only for your partner to hang onto it like a crutch and bring it up every chance they get? This is not the sign of a healthy relationship.

Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone says things they don't mean and - usually - our partners will forgive us for it. When your partner loves to rub your face in it every chance they get, this is a sign that your partner is a miserable person, and that misery loves company. Don't let your partner continue to bring you down like a lead balloon. Shuck off that dead weight and move on.

Can You Fix A Toxic Relationship?

There are certain issues in a relationship that should be fixed. There are other issues that, for the sake of all involved, should end the relationship, and the parties should get as far away from each other as they can, as fast as they can.

If you fight with your partner so often that everyone from your friends to your coworkers has seen a blowout, this is a sign of impending doom that cannot be fixed. This is proof that things have deteriorated to the point where you are so angry and fed up with this person that you don't care who knows it. You are making a spectacle of yourself by fighting in public with this person. This is a clear red flag that things need to end.

If you find you have been avoiding each other more often, this is not a sign of a healthy reaction to a fight. It's one thing to avoid your husband the next morning at breakfast because you got into a heated argument last night, and you just don't want to face the issues again first thing in the morning. It's another thing to avoid each other all day - or worse, for days at a time - because it's easier and preferable to sitting down and hashing out your differences so that you can move on and get back to being happy.

The one thing to remember about a toxic relationship is that you will continue to suffer further harm the longer you stay in it. Sometimes the only thing left to do is to end the relationship and move on. At this point, neither of you are fighting to keep the relationship anymore; you'rejust fighting. You need to take care of yourself and preserve your mental health, and the best way to do that is to let go and say goodbye.

Leaving A Toxic Relationship

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Leaving a toxic relationship may sound like it's easier said than done. After all, you may have a lot of history with this person, and you may truly love them, and that's okay. No one ever sets out with the intention of ending up in a toxic relationship. And sometimes a relationship may start out well enough but turn toxic over time. You can't blame yourself for this or beat yourself up over it. What's important is that you recognize the relationship for what it is or has become and that you get yourself out of it sooner rather than later.

If your partner is the time to blow his or her lid over the smallest things, then it may be best to confront the situation in writing. In-person conversations are usually the best option, but some people simply can't be reasoned with when emotions run high, which is why you may want to consider expressing your feelings in an email, text message or letter. At the very least, it gives you time to compose your thoughts, and it gives your partner time to digest what you have to say without being given a chance to shut you down or cut you off.

If upon hearing that you want out of the relationship, your partner offers to go to counseling or take some other measure to try to improve his or her behavior for the sake of the relationship, then it is up to you to decide whether you want to stick around or let it go. Ultimately, it is crucial that you let it be known that you will not put up with the behavior any longer, and then you must stick to that. If your partner continues to treat you the way you have been treated, then you may want to consider cutting your losses and moving on.

No matter what you decide - staying with your partner and helping them through their issues, or leaving the relationship for good - it is imperative that you take care of yourself. You must take active steps to surround yourself with the people and activities that make you happy. Staying positive is essential to your mental health. This is especially true when you have been experiencing such negativity with your partner. You need to find an equal and opposite balance to that negativity.

If you do decide to leave the relationship, you must allow yourself some time to rest. After all, putting up with such shenanigans, and for a lengthy period, is downright exhausting. You may be tempted to pack your schedule with things to do to distract yourself from feeling down about the relationship ending, but you don't want to do too much. Give yourself room to breathe and to get used to life without so much drama in it. After all, you've earned it.

Are you in a toxic relationship, and you're not quite sure how to get out of it? Consider contacting one of our licensed counselors, who can give the advice and support necessary to know what your next steps should be, and to take them.


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