Toxic relationship – what is it, signs of an unhealthy relationship and how to get out (or fix it)

There’s no sugarcoating it- a toxic relationship is literally poison to the mind, body, and soul. It’s never a good situation to be in, no matter how you might justify staying by weighing the upsides of staying in that relationship.

You may or may not be aware that you’re in a toxic relationship, but there are clear signs to tell you that you’re in one. Whether as friends, lovers, or co-workers, you should always strive to deal with the situation as quickly as you can.

What is a Toxic Relationship?

You can view toxic relationships as the opposite of healthy relationships.

In a loving environment, there’s generally a sense of peace and order in how you communicate with each other. However, you shouldn’t think that a good relationship is 100% free of arguments or conflict because that only exists in movies and fantasy. Yes, there will be disagreements, but nothing that communication won’t fix.

Then, there’s a positive kind of flow to your everyday life, and you and your partner look forward to spending time with each other.

Now, take this view and look at it upside down, and it’s exactly what a toxic relationship is.

A toxic relationship can be many things. It can have one or more clear signs, but generally speaking, you feel unhappy or drained, energy-wise, when you’re together. A few more indicators of an unhealthy relationship include resentment, disrespect, and constant stress.

Communication plays a vital role in any relationship, but in a toxic environment, it’s filled with contempt, criticism, and sarcasm. These elements aren’t helpful at all and they don’t contribute to healthy and constructive communication.

8 Signs of a Toxic Relationship

Believe it or not, there are telltale signs that you’re in a toxic relationship, and most of them are pretty much obvious. Others aren’t so damaging, but over time the problem can grow and it can be a major source of unhappiness.

Here are eight signs that the relationship you’re in is toxic.

Hateful Communication

Do you often (or always) feel that you rub each other the wrong way whenever you open up a conversation? At first, it might be harmless small talk but then it quickly goes sideways, and before you know it you’re engaged in a full-on shouting match.

This may not always happen, but toxic communication is marked by constant criticisms, sarcasm, and personal jabs that do not contribute to anything. Snide remarks, hurtful words, and regular mocking are also clear signs of hostile behavior. This sign is pretty easy to spot and a common element of a bad relationship.

There’s a History of Resentment

Talking about mistakes made in the past and bringing them up every chance the person gets is a definite no-no in a healthy relationship. Grudges and grievances are toxic in themselves- there’s no sense to hold on to them, especially if it’s already been resolved.

Frustration can turn to resentment, which over time builds a huge chasm of discontent. The truth is that you can hold a grudge for as long as you like, but the other person may not care or even realize it. Meanwhile, the unhappiness grows, and it’s only you who’s affected.

A ‘Me Only’ Relationship

Human beings are social creatures, and if they lose contact with their network of friends or family then it could be a sign that they’re in a toxic relationship.

The same applies when you’re spending too much time trying to make the relationship work, or when you worry about the person on a daily basis. You lose touch with the people you use to spend time with just to avoid confrontation and arguing with your partner.

It’s okay to feel jealous once in a while, but if it leads to palpable and constant mistrust and suspicion then it’s most likely that the relationship is devolving into a toxic one.

Scared To Do Anything

The term ‘walking on eggshells’ perfectly encapsulates this point. You might be frozen in fear or too scared to do anything that might lead to a fight. The atmosphere and tension seem so palpable that it drains your energy and vitality.

Keep in mind that these apply both ways- your partner or friend might seem too timid to move or act, or vice versa. It’s a visible sign that there needs to be a change in the relationship, or else it will fall apart or erupt over time.

Stressful Energy

There’s a thing such as negative energy, and it’s prevalent in toxic relationships. It could either be draining, such as leaving you feeling tired even when it’s still morning, or produce ill effects such as anxiety, depression, or even thoughts of suicide.

Being in a constant state of stress is unsustainable for anyone. At first, you may not feel it as much, but over time it can erode your vitality and energy. You’ll start to feel restless, or feel like you’re under enormous pressure (such as meeting a hard deadline) and can’t pinpoint the source. But then you’ll know it’s coming from your relationship if you just recently began one.

Disrespect and Dishonesty

It’s no surprise that dishonesty and disrespect are hallmarks of a toxic relationship. There’s no trust and respect involved, both of which are must-have elements in positive communication and partnership.

You won’t be able to trust a person who lies every time, and you won’t want to be around someone who always disrespects you, either verbally or through actions. There’s a fine line between chronic dishonesty or disrespect and occasional arguments, and you should be aware if a relationship becomes toxic so you can either leave or try to address the problem.

Dominating and Controlling Behavior

A typical toxic relationship is one where there’s a violation of boundaries and respect. The other person imposes their will and what they want, often to a life-changing degree. You lose your sense of self, and your behavior and actions become dictated more and more over time.

People will want to make their own decisions, and if there’s interference then there will usually be conflict. An obvious example will be when your partner is texting you every minute that you’re away with friends or family. They may or may not be aware of their behavior, but it still creates a toxic environment nonetheless.

Selfishness and a ‘Me First’ Attitude

Every healthy relationship has a balanced ‘give and take’ approach, but if there’s a clear landslide on which one is giving and which is taking then it’s clearly a toxic relationship. Selfishness and not accounting for the needs of the other person are unacceptable, but they should be made aware of their actions nonetheless.

Can You Fix a Toxic Relationship?

The short answer is yes, a toxic relationship can turn into a healthy relationship. If you’re currently in one, then there’s still hope that you can turn it around, albeit at the soonest possible time.

However, you should keep in mind that it takes two to tango, and it’s very much the same in fixing a toxic relationship. For any chance of redeeming or salvaging the situation, both parties should acknowledge, agree, and do their best to make it happen.

You both should also know that a significant amount of effort is needed to repair a toxic relationship. The effort should be equal, or else it’s doomed to fail. More often than not, it’s the unaddressed and longstanding issues that cause the toxicity in the first place. It may have been from past relationships, but the main concern is dealing with it together.

Change How You Communicate

As mentioned, communication is absolutely the key to repairing broken and toxic relationships. In order for this to be successful though, the conversation should be free of conflict, which means that there shouldn’t be any sarcasm, attacks, or name-calling.

A good tip to start would be to use ‘I’ instead of ‘you’ when voicing concerns. This feels less like an accusation and more like constructive feedback. The first few sessions might be difficult, but keep at it and good communication will start to flow.

Allow For Individual Healing

As long as both parties are aware that they’re in a toxic relationship and that all the issues have been laid out, then the next step would be the healing process. Give your partner the space necessary for introspection so they can grow as a person.

Be patient because they will need to sort out their feelings and what they really want in certain elements of your relationship, such as finances, decision-making, or even intimacy.

Consider Therapy

Sometimes all it takes is a professional to help resolve the relationship conflict. The first session will prove to be an eye-opener, and the therapist will provide crucial talking points so you can start building a healthier environment.

Therapy can also mean you join a support group, or invite a mentor or a trusted friend into your thoughts. You can even get to know couples that have had a toxic relationship before and learn from them.

Move Forward (Don’t Bring Up The Past)

Progress is defined as ‘moving forward while resolving all past issues’, relationship-wise. Referring to past scenarios and instances does absolutely nothing to make a relationship work- this usually leads to frustration and unwanted tension, and you’ll both be at the starting point again.

Don’t Blame – Understand

Empathy is a great trait to have, especially if you’re coming from an unhealthy relationship. It’s better to understand than to blame someone for your problems, and you can learn a lot if you try to place yourself in your partner’s shoes.

How to Leave a Toxic Relationship

Get Someone to Help

The first step to leaving a toxic relationship can be hard, especially if there’s fear and uncertainty. However, you can confide in a close friend to support you and give you the push you need to finally exit the unhealthy relationship.

Depending on your situation, you can create a safety plan and leave without feeling under threat or abuse. It’s important to think that you have other people who are willing to step in and intervene.

Open Up

Get emotional support from loved ones and those who are close enough to know what you’ve been through. Don’t be afraid to confide in them and ask for tangible requests, such as having a place to stay or when you need to move stuff out of the house.

It’s understandable to need some time alone to heal and process, but you can’t shun the people who care. Make it a point to talk to them and let them in.

Block Out Communication

If there’s no need to keep the communication lines open, then it’s recommended that you change your phone number. Furthermore, you’ll want to block out your partner’s social media so you won’t be tempted to reach out or answer their direct messages or posts.

Use the time to think about what happened and what you can learn from the relationship. After the toxic relationship ends, you will have an idea of what you want moving forward with a friend or partner. Use the experience to become a better person and you’ll ultimately come out on top.

Start the Healing Process

As part of the healing routine, it’s time to turn inwards and reconnect with yourself. Re-discover the things you want to do and what you can do. Take the time to relax, establish a self-care routine, and restful sleep so you can have the energy to work and play.

Slow down and don’t look for a ‘rebound’ relationship right away. Understand yourself and find your footing, financially and employment-wise. The perfect time will come when a potential partner will come into your life.

Summing Up Toxic Relationships

You may not be aware that you’re in a toxic relationship until you see the signs. In any toxic or abusive relationship, the sooner you can get help or get out, the better it will be for your health and well-being.