What Are The Early Signs of Toxicity in a Relationship?

Man and women arguing.

What Are The Early Signs of Toxicity in a Relationship?

When you’re in a healthy relationship, you can feel it. You’re able to speak freely and behave in a way that is true to your beliefs and goals. Your partner is supportive and loving but is aware of your boundaries and honors them. You look forward to spending time with this person and the joy they bring you.

Of course, relationships are not always fun and games. Work, family problems, and personal growth can make life messy. All relationships have their peaks and valleys, but when valleys become the norm, you may be in a toxic relationship. Toxic relationships are marked by particular characteristics, and learning what they are can help you avoid or end them. 

What Is a Toxic Relationship?

In a toxic relationship, you might feel constantly stressed or fearful that something is going to go wrong. Getting into nasty fights about silly matters and saying things that cause great pain may be a normal occurrence in your relationship. Perhaps you also feel like you put in more work than you feel should be necessary to make the relationship “work.” 

These types of companionships are not uplifting, nor do they add any value or meaning to your life. On the contrary, toxic relationships are detrimental to your mental and physical wellbeing and can wreak havoc on your progress in addiction recovery. 

Look Out for These Red Flags 

Toxicity in romantic partnerships can be difficult to spot if you’re looking in as an outsider, but this is especially true if you are in the relationship yourself. Love has a way of making you see what you want to see, leading you to justify acts of emotional abuse. Once you recognize the signs, take prompt action to remove yourself from the situation. 

The following are warning signs that something isn’t right in your relationship: 

  • They don’t support you: Maybe you are pursuing an entrepreneurial endeavor or attempting a new hobby. A toxic partner may be unsupportive but for no reasonable explanation. They view your successes as a threat and everything becomes a competition. 
  • Unhealthy communication and disrespect dominate: Does your partner always have a tone of sarcasm or resentment when they speak to you? Do they call you names or humiliate you in public? A toxic partner communicates and behaves disrespectfully toward you. You might respond by walking on eggshells or avoiding topics that could spark a confrontation. They may disrespect you in other ways by transgressing your boundaries, ignoring your needs, or lying to you. 
  • They are jealous of your good fortune: A lack of support could be the result of jealousy. A partner that downplays your accomplishments or other good things that happen to you may be a toxic one. A little jealousy is normal, especially if you have common goals; however, if this is pervasive, it can erode your relationship.
  • You feel like you are being controlled: Partners that seek control over you might call you repeatedly to check where you are or what you’re doing. They may go to great lengths to prevent you from doing things that distract you from them or give you a sense of independence. This individual might attempt to isolate you from family and cause you to lose friendships. Controlling behavior is particularly troublesome and may indicate abuse.  
  • They violate agreements made about finances: Perhaps you share an account with your partner, or you’ve agreed to split the bills a certain way. They may disregard these agreements by failing to pay bills or spending too much money on clothes they don’t need. This can be frustrating and put your financial security at risk. 
  • You aren’t taking care of yourself anymore: Toxic relationships are not only draining, but they can be disempowering and heartbreaking. You can become depressed and forgo self-care practices and hobbies you once enjoyed. You become so focused on trying to please the other person that you forget about your own needs. A toxic partner won’t care much, and that’s how you’ll know what you’re up against. 

What to Do If Your Relationship Is Toxic

If you believe your partner is exhibiting these toxic behaviors, it may be time to have a serious conversation with yourself and determine what comes next. Sure, these individuals may have pains from childhood or character flaws that need serious work. However, your partner needs to prove their willingness and efforts to change their behavior. Couples therapy may be a promising option to save your relationship. If you don’t think that will work, breaking up may be the next best choice. How to cut ties peacefully will depend on your situation, and you know your partner best. 

Here are some ideas to get you started:  

  • Write a letter explaining why you want to break up, so you don’t forget your points
  • Break up in a public space like a restaurant if you are worried about them becoming violent
  • Engage family and friends to be present or in the area to support you if things go sideways
  • Think through how the person might convince you to stay and imagine counterpoints
  • Be calm and honest, but avoid inflaming them or giving them a reason to make the break-up more challenging

Your Heart Will Go On

Like the Celine Dion song goes, your heart will go on. Break-ups are painful, but ending a toxic one may come as a great relief. An emotionally volatile relationship is probably the last thing you need as an individual recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction. Be sure to connect with your support group if you feel like breaking up could cause you harm in any way or if you think you’ll need some reassurance.