Are you wondering if your relationship is toxic? Do you look around at other people in happy relationships and wonder how you can know if yours is one of the good ones?
Unfortunately, for many people it’s hard to know when we are in a toxic relationship. We are too close to it and deep in it and we can be blinded in many ways.
Fortunately, there are red flags that signal that your relationship is toxic. If you know what to look for, you can get yourself out of a relationship that is toxic and also keep you from entering one in the future.
Here are 5 flags that signal that your relationship is toxic, five flags that you should heed if you see them.
#1 – You walk on eggshells.
I have a client who is very confident out in the world. Out in the world he speaks up for what he wants, is confident in his action and feels good about himself.
In contrast, when he is home, he feels unsafe and unsure. When he is in the presence of his wife he is quiet, knowing that if he says or does something that she doesn’t like she will yell at him. He doesn’t take on projects around the house without her direction because he is worried that he might do the wrong thing. He spends more time in the garage knowing that if he is out of sight he is out of danger.
Do you find that you walk on eggshells around your partner? That you are careful not to do anything that might upset them? That you will go out of your way to make them happy?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions then that is a clear red flag that your relationship is toxic. No one should feel uncomfortable being themselves in any relationship. Perhaps it’s time you took a good look at yours and see how you fit in.
#2 – Your self-esteem is shot.
For many of us in a relationship that is toxic we no longer feel good about ourselves.
In some cases it’s because we are walking on eggshells and that makes us lose our self confidence. In other cases, we don’t feel good about ourselves because our partners belittle us, in big ways and small, over and over and over.
I have a client whose husband never has a kind word to say about her. He never compliments her on how she looks or the dinner she cooked or how successful she is in her job. Sometimes he is just silent, saying nothing, which hurts her deeply. And sometimes he is very direct, telling her that her dress is horrible or that it’s just luck that she does well at work.
These kind of direct and indirect attacks have slowly, over time, destroyed her self-esteem. She not longer believes that she is the amazing person that other people think she is.
Are you struggling with self esteem issues brought about by your relationship? If yes, it might be a sign that you are in a toxic relationship, one that you might consider leaving.
#3 – Your health is failing.
I remember back when I was unhappily married, I was always struggling with health issues. I developed allergies to foods, some of them psychosomatic. I was debilitated by a yeast overgrowth that led to fibromyalgia. I struggled with chronic pain in my body and constant depression. Basically, I was falling apart.
When we are in a relationship that is toxic, it takes an effect on our physical health. If one exists in a state of being constantly on edge, being cut down by our partners, of not being loved, it is impossible to maintain good health. Even if you are exercising regularly and eat well, the chances of you struggling with health issues if your relationship is toxic is significant.
Do you have chronic health issues? It could be a sign that your relationship is toxic. Not only should you see a doctor but perhaps it’s time to consider what the next steps are for you to get your health back.
#4 – You are noticing substance abuse.
When you are in a relationship that is toxic, there are often signs of substance abuse, signs that are big red flags that should be payed attention to.
Usually, when people are living in a deeply unhappy place, they look for ways to manage their unhappiness. In an ideal world, people would manage their unhappiness in healthy ways, like exercise and therapy. In this really tough world that we live in, however, many people turn to substances to manage their moods.
Ironically, abusing substances can actually make a toxic relationship worse. Drug and alcohol abuse weakens filters and often people say and do things that they might not necessarily do in a sober state. Problems that seem manageable suddenly become less so. Tempers flare and emotional and/or physical abuse can ensue. If both partners are abusing substances things can escalate quickly, causing damage that can not be repaired.
On the other hand, abusing substances can lead to depression. When we are depressed, dealing with another person is even harder and feeling good about yourself is impossible. Even if your partner isn’t abusing substances, you doing so is a red flag that your relationship is toxic and that things need to change.
#5 – Your friends have pulled away.
A client of mine was in a relationship that was toxic and one of the biggest side effects, one that took a long time for him to notice, was that their friends had fallen away, leaving them alone and struggling.
Think about couples you know who are in unhappy relationships. Are they fun to be with? If you choose to go out to dinner, would you invite them along? Does time spent with them make everyone uncomfortable and on edge?
Are you this couple to your friends? The one who no one likes to hang out with anymore.
Even if you are still invited places as a couple, it is possible that your individual friends will pull way from you if you are in a relationship that is toxic. If all you want to do is talk about how unhappy you are and how much your partner sucks, especially if you just want to talk about it and not take steps to fix it, you might find that your friends have less of an inclination to spend time with you. Life is hard enough without having to be constantly dragged down by an unhappy friend.
So, take a look at your friendships. Are your couple friends still inviting you to do things? Are your personal friends making excuses to not spend time with you? If the answer to either of those questions are yes, you might be in a relationship that is toxic and perhaps it’s time to take a good hard look at trying to fix it or get out.
Knowing red flags that signal that your relationship is toxic is an essential way of both escaping from one and preventing a new one.
When we are in a toxic relationship it is often hard to tell because it is the reality 24/7 and having some clear signs to look out for, instead of relying on your feelings, can help you figure out what next steps might be.
So, if you find yourself walking around on eggshells, trying not to upset your partner, if your self-esteem and your health are flagging, if one or both of you is abusing substances and if you are losing your friends you might very well be in a toxic relationship, one that needs to be addressed NOW so that you can get your life back.
I know that prospect is daunting but you can do it – you only have one life to live and living it the way you are now isn’t serving you in any way. Reach out to a therapist or a life coach and see what you can do to help heal your relationship or to help you walk away.
You can do it!
I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.