10 Ways To Tell If You’re In A Toxic Relationship

If you’re wondering right here, right now whether or not you’re in a toxic relationship, chances are you already know there’s something off between you and your partner. I write a weekly advice column and each week I receive many questions, a good 50% of which are a variation of the same question, “Do you think I’m in a toxic relationship?”

I started the advice column because so many of my friends and acquaintances come to me for advice. Why? Well, I’ve made a whole lot of mistakes in my life, in pretty much every life category, and the silver lining is that I’ve learned a thing or two.

You’re not alone. MANY of us have been in a toxic relationship at some point (I have been in more than one — like maybe two, or, you know, five.). The fact that you’re here, now, reading this, is good. Because getting to the other side of this, getting out of a toxic relationship and doing the work on yourself to break the pattern, will bring you freedom in a way you could never have imagined.

So, what are some signs that you’re in one of these toxic relationships?

Related-ish: 11 Women Confess Their Deepest Masturbation Secrets


1. Abuse — all forms of it.

This might seem obvious. But, abuse can be sneaky. Abuse can be physical, sexual, verbal, psychological, emotional, or financial. If your partner is treating you cruelly, in any way, that’s abuse. Sure, we all have our bad days, we might lose our temper, but there’s a HUGE difference between someone expressing anger and someone being cruel/abusive.

2. Lying — lots of little lies or big lies.

I have been with liars, I have been the liar. And lying, inside an intimate committed relationship is SUPER toxic. People lie because they are either afraid of being themselves/admitting their truth, or because they use those lies to manipulate situations and people. Either way, whatever the motive, no good can come of it.

3. Jealousy — is your partner making you feel controlled?

Jealously is a huge red flag. If you’re the one feeling  jealous, it’s quite possible that your partner is actively doing things to inspire jealously and then pinning it back on you. If your partner is irrationally jealous for no reason, that’s a good indication that they either have control issues or they think you’re shady/don’t trust you because they’re shady.

4. Withholding — also a control issue.

This is a popular tactic of passive-aggression- as in withholding sex/attention/affection/money/time- as punishment for whatever you did that set them off. This is so unhealthy for both parties. It smacks of immaturity and a lack of communication. A total drag of a move all the way around.

5. The subtle or not-s0-subtle put down

This one often comes backed up by, “I was just joking.” I’ve been the awkward witness to this before, when a friend’s significant other is constantly making jokes at my friend’s expense and it stops being funny real fast. Sometimes it’s not a joke at all, but a small dig disguised as constructive criticism, or a comparison that points out the ways in which you are not enough- as in checking out other women/men in front of you and remarking on what they have that you don’t.

6. Straight up control behavior

Your boyfriend or girlfriend tries to control who you see, or what you wear, or what you eat, or where you go, or all of the above. RUN. You don’t need to be in a relationship with “mean mommy.” You’re an adult and you should be making your own decisions about ALL of the above.

7. Gaslighting — making you feel like you’re wrong or crazy

This one is super f*cked up. Does your partner make you feel like your going crazy? Do you start to question your version of reality? The term gas lighting comes from a play that was turned into the 1944 film, “Gas Light,” starring Ingrid Bergman. In the film, Bergman’s character’s husband works to convince her and everyone else that she’s insane. I was in a toxic relationship when I was younger with a gaslighter. He was cheating on me and I kept catching him in lies, but his constant and vehement denial began to make me feel like it was me, that I was making it all up in my head. Spoiler alert: I wasn’t. And PS, watch “Gas Light,” it’s really good. (You’re welcome.)

8. You’re constantly apologizing

This one goes hand in hand with its buddy gaslighting. If you often find yourself apologizing and then wonder what you’re apologizing for, because it started out as someone else hurting your feelings and now suddenly you’re the one saying sorry, there’s a problem.

9. You have to change who you are when you’re with him/her

You should feel like you can be yourself with your partner. If they only like the edited version of you, GTFO. Life’s too short.

10. You’re sad more than you’re happy

This is the most basic and true litmus test for ALL relationships. Does the relationship make you feel sad more than it makes you feel happy? Then, don’t stay. One of my favorite ever “Sex and the City” moments can be seen below…. “Does your relationship make you feel like this 🙂 or this 😦 .” It really is that simple.

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