Warning Signs of a Toxic Relationship – Red Flags that You Shouldn’t Ignore
Are you looking for warning signs of a toxic relationship because you are wondering if you are in one yourself?
Sometimes we are too close to a relationship to recognize the signs that it has turned into something damaging. Our friends and family tell us but it’s hard for us to recognize because we are in it every day.
It is important that you know the signs of a toxic relationship so that you can recognize whether yours is one and whether it’s time to get out.
#1 – Contempt
One of the hardest to recognize, but one of the biggest, red flags is the presence of contempt in a relationship.
Contempt is defined as ‘the feeling that a person is beneath consideration, worthless or deserving scorn.’ Signs of contempt include eye rolling, unkind words, sarcasm and dismissal.
Contempt can be hard to recognize because it’s easily explained away. Oh, I deserved that or He is just crabby or He was just showing off for his friends are excuses that are often used to justified contempt.
Think about your interactions with your person. Is there contempt? Do one or the other, or both, of you speak to each other sarcastically? Do you talk behind each other’s backs? Do you roll your eyes when your partner tries to make a point?
The number one killer of relationships is contempt. When people treat each other contemptuously the respect in the relationship is gone. And without respect, nothing else matters.
So, take a good hard look at how you and your partner treat each other. If there is contempt, contempt that causes pain, then your relationship is most likely a toxic one.
#2 – Obsession
Many of my clients who are in toxic relationships (and there are many) struggle with obsession over their partners.
They want their partners to be in constant contact. They stress out when texting habits change in any way. They give up everything in their life to be with their person. They twist themselves into pretzels to please the other.
Healthy relationships are based on the mutual ability to respect and trust each other. If one party is obsessed with the other partner, if they rearrange their life so that they can always be available for their partner, then the relationship isn’t balanced or healthy. And obsession is toxic – an unhealthy attachment to someone can cause nothing but pain.
So, if either partner in your relationship is obsessed with the other, then your relationship might very well be toxic and it might be time to make change.
#3 – Unkind words
Do you or your partner lash out at each other verbally? Do words spoken, either calmly or in anger, inflict pain? Is the language laced with profanity, words that belittle and make you feel very much less than?
Words aren’t meant to inflict pain. Words can express anger and disappointment but those words shouldn’t inflict pain, make you feel bad about yourself or display disrespect.
Pay attention. If either you or your partner are repeatedly raising your voices and inflicting pain, instead of expressing feelings, then you might be in a toxic relationship.
#4 – Physical Pain
In movies and on TV we often see people who are being physically abused by a partner. Nicole Kidman’s character in Big Little Lies is repeatedly abused, physically, by her partner but she is quick to justify the behavior and, often times, blames herself.
Any physical pain that is inflicted on a partner is a sign of a toxic relationship. Healthy relationships involve no physical pain of any kind. Words might be said in anger but not derisively and certainly not involving any physical pain.
If you partner is hurting you, or you are hurting your partner, causing each other physical pain, then you are definitely in a toxic relationship.
#5 – Possessiveness
One big indicator of a toxic relationship is when one partner controls the other.
One of my clients had a partner who had complete control of her actions. He dictated whether or not she could attend school, who her friends were, how she dressed, when they would have sex and what she ate for every meal. He also told her that only he was allowed to end the relationship. She took it all for granted and assumed that’s just how relationships were. Yeah, no.
People in healthy relationships do not try to control the other person. People in healthy relationships give each other the freedom to live their lives and be their own person. People who control everything that their partner does are people who create toxicity and discord in a relationship.
Are you given the freedom to be who you want to be in your relationship? If not, your relationship might be toxic and it’s important that you recognize it.
#6 – Mixed Messages
Another hard-to-spot indicator of a toxic relationship is mixed messages.
Mixed messages are messages that go one way and then another. Perhaps your person says that they are done with you and then reach back out to be with you again. Over and over. Or perhaps your person says they love you in that red dress but then make fun of you to their friends. Perhaps they tell you they love you and then treat you horribly.
Mixed messages are incredibly difficult and confusing. Many women hold on tight to the positive things said and let go of the negative, thereby justifying why they want to stay in the relationship.
But, in fact, someone who gives you mixed messages is someone who truly isn’t that into you, someone who, if you stay involved with, will only cause you sadness and pain.
In a healthy relationship two people love each other without exception. Sure things can get topsy turvy sometimes, but still the mutual respect and admiration is present. No one makes the other feel bad with flip-flopping feelings and yo-yoing behaviors.
Is your relationship affected by mixed messages? If it is then you very definitely might be in a toxic relationship!
Knowing the warning signs of a toxic relationship is a very important part of a happy life.
Often, when we are in the midst of strife, it can be hard to see the truth. Others might tell us that they see warning signs but it might be hard for us to see them too.
Hopefully, now that I have spelled them out here – the contempt, the obsession, the unkind words, the physical pain, the possessiveness and the mixed messages – you will be more clearly able to see whether your relationship is a healthy one or not!
If it’s not, get out NOW before it’s too late. You have one and only one life. Live it!
Do you want to know more about how to recognized toxic relationships?
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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.