How You Can Tell if You're in a Toxic Relationship

Dr. Purushothaman
January 22, 2014


How can you tell if you are in a toxic relationship? Its actually truly frightening the number of people out there who don't know or don't realise. But in the interests of getting things out in the clear, here are a few clues:
- Your partner gives you verbal put downs privately or in front of others,
- Your partner says they love you but their actions say something else entirely,
- Your partner is a control freak  in other words, they read your mail or turn up at odd places like your job just to check up on you,
- Your partner does everything they can to make you dependant on them and tells you things like you had never make it without them,
- You have changed things about yourself, given up family and friends, just to please them.
The funny thing is (not funny ha ha, funny strange), that toxic people make you feel off, or even sick just by being around them. Thats why so many people are so often surprised when people they know, people they know to be smart, end up in a toxic relationship. I know I have. Why do they do it though? Why would someone want to be with someone who damages them, harms them, emotionally and/or physically?
And we always hear talk about how toxic relationships have a cycle, but no one really talks about what that cycle is. To put it simplistically, in a nutshell, here it is: first there's the honeymoon period where everything has that new car smell. Then that's followed by a blow up (either verbal or verbal/physical), followed by recrimination, followed by reconciliation  at which point the whole cycle starts all over again. Sound familiar?
When you first meet someone and get romantically involved with them, its obviously the honeymoon period. Its not until a little time has passed, when they have put in some effort to charm you and you have been sucked in a little further that you might even start to realise that you are in a toxic relationship. This is actually exactly the point where it starts getting difficult to get the hell out of Dodge.
There are a number of reasons why people end up in toxic relationships. One is that they grow up in toxic homes. They think this is normal and in all probability don't know any better so what happens when they grow up is they go out and replicate the same types of relationships, the same patterns of behaviour that were modeled to them when they were children without even realising they were doing it. Still other people don't believe that they deserve happiness and see it as their lot in life to be a servant to somebody else and take care of them.
But if you have another cycle in your life, one where you lurch from one toxic relationship to another, or if you think you are in danger of heading down that path, the first thing you need to do to get out and stay out is to realise and remember that you have choices and that the only person who can really take those choices away from you is you. It is almost entirely certain that people who stay in these types of relationships have little or no self-esteem, little or no self-confidence and/or experience depression.
Once you realise that you have choices, that you have options, assess your situation very, very carefully to see if what comes next is appropriate for you. It may now be time to start standing up for yourself. In most relationships that are toxic, the toxic partner has chipped away at you until you have learned that its all your fault (untrue, by the way). Once you have bought in to this lie, it can seem next to impossible to walk away or even have the courage and the strength to set new limits where you could possibly heal the relationship. If its too dangerous to stand up for yourself, get help from someone you trust to get out. You need to come up with an escape plan and you need to do it now.
For some, professional help, which may include some form of group therapy, may help them to redefine these unhealthy relationships or even get out of them entirely. Either way, its good news. And the news just keeps getting better. In some cases, some people are able to break the cycles of these toxic relationships. They might leave and go on to form new and healthy relationships. Still others are able to repair their toxic relationships and live a life of love and happiness.
The point here is that nothing is impossible if judgement is kept out of the equation because the simple truth is that most relationships are salvageable given the right set of ingredients are brought into play. I know this statement is a direct affront to many, but it is true. For some the right ingredients are a little space, or professional counselling, or even some sort of alternative therapy. It doesn't matter what it is because its different for everyone. But if both of you make a real effort, and I do mean both, it is possible to heal the relationship and bring it into a healthy realm.
The first thing that you have to do is make a decision. You need to decide that the relationship must improve or, you are willing to walk away from it without any hesitation whatsoever. Here's the Catch 22: if you aren't willing to have your bluff called and walk away, you will never be able to heal the toxicity that's dividing the two of you.
You can start to assert your needs and wants in the relationship once you have liberated yourself and ditched your addiction to the toxic core of that relationship. You can then freely say, I need you truthful opinion, (without judgement), I need your love,(without judgement), I need your support, (without judgement). If you don't get what you need from the situation, your partner should be fully aware by now that you are prepared and ready to call their bluff and walk away from the table forever.
Its a two way street to get to a healthy relationship between two people. In a toxic relationship, the street only goes one way, and that destination is usually a dead end. You need to understand that in order to change that the power is in your hands and that you have to claim that power for yourself.
About the Author
I'm a researcher, writer and marketer specializing in relationships and personal development among many other fields. To find out more visit

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