6 Signs of a Toxic Relationship – The Guide to Escape Unhealthy Love
First things first, no matter how hopeless your situation may seem, there is no such thing as being trapped in a relationship. You can break free from any relationship regardless of how deeply involved you get.
With that said, how do you recognize the signs of a toxic relationship? Of course, you can’t start looking for solutions or how to escape unhealthy love if you don’t know that you are in one.
In this article, you will learn to recognize surefire toxic signs to look for in romantic relationships, plus how to wriggle out of them as fast and safely as possible.
Now, let’s set the ball rolling.
Signs of a Toxic Relationship
It is okay to want to be in a relationship. After all, humans are social creatures. However, many people sacrifice their happiness just to be in a relationship, and doing so doesn’t improve their overall wellbeing. If anything, it sucks the life out of them.
If you are less than happy in your relationship, then it is time to take a closer look at it to see if you are in a toxic one.
There are quite a number of things that can indicate an unhealthy relationship. Let’s take a look at a few of the more common ones.
Many people are quick to assume that only men manipulate women. But here’s the truth, a nice guy is a woman’s toy! And she will manipulate him however she pleases.
Manipulation, whether by a man or woman, has to do with deliberately creating an imbalance in power in a relationship to allow one partner to take undue advantage of the other.
This is one of the most evasive signs of a toxic relationship, making it tricky to detect early. If someone you deeply love is manipulating you, you will probably be the last person to notice it.
Why is that?
The manipulator usually has a smooth and clever way of twisting your desires to suit him or her. The goal is to gain full control of the relationship.
How do you recognize manipulation in a relationship? It’s not easy. Other people outside the relationship might see it clearly, but as the saying goes, love is blind! Thankfully, there are some signs to watch for, including:
- Apologizing even when you are the one who is hurt. A manipulator can make you feel that you overreacted or were too hard on them, effectively making you the guilty party. You will blame yourself for being too sensitive and messing things up with your pettiness.
- Not having a definite answer to your questions or concerns. Manipulators are good at dodging your questions, so even after a conversation, you might find yourself wondering what your original concerns were and whether they have been addressed.
- You find yourself crossing your boundaries just to avoid conflicts or misunderstandings. You are a victim of manipulation if your partner makes you think that sticking to your boundaries means disrespecting them. For example, agreeing to unprotected sex just to make them happy even when they keep giving flimsy excuses for not getting tested for STDs. Or lending your partner money when they haven’t paid back the last one, but you don’t want to be seen as inconsiderate.
- You feel that conflicts are not properly addressed and resolved even after discussing it. You only end up suppressing your irritation as you grapple with the unresolved issues internally.
2. Verbal Abuse
Now, this is not your regular arguments or fights. Even people in the healthiest of relationships have their fair share of these.
On the other hand, verbal abuse is a deliberate use of harsh words targeted at demeaning, frightening, and ultimately controlling the other partner. In some cases, verbal abuse can pave the way for physical abuse.
Verbal abuse usually shows up in name-calling, personal attacks, harsh criticisms, threats, yelling or swearing, putting you down or making you feel insignificant, and character assassination. And the worse part? It is a regular feature in a toxic relationship.
When you are a victim of verbal abuse, you might hear critical remarks that go something like:
- “You’re not going to like what I’ll do to you the next time this happens”
- “Why can’t you ever do anything right?”
Not sure if what you are experiencing is the regular argument or verbal abuse? Here are some red flags to watch out for:
- Disagreements quickly go off into different tangents, leading to a series of accusations
- Using harsh words when they are alone with you
- Throwing things, hitting the wall, or fist pounding during arguments
- Preventing you from getting away during arguments by stepping in your way
Gaslighting ranks high among the worst signs of a toxic relationship because it makes the victim question their sanity.
When your partner constantly tells you to “stop imagining things”, pretty soon, you might start to doubt your perception of reality. And that’s why gaslighting can be such a powerful manipulative tool.
You might be a victim of gaslighting if, at any point in your relationship, you start to second-guess yourself or feel paranoid and thinking you are going bonkers. You might also start to feel your self-confidence fading away, and a nagging sense of suspicion gradually takes over your mind.
Luckily, you can identify the signs of gaslighting if you pay close attention. Some of them include:
- You are blamed for almost everything that goes wrong in the relationship
- You are almost always apologizing because you are somehow wrong, even if you can’t figure out why you are wrong
- You find it difficult to make decisions on your own
- You feel nothing you do is right, and you are more anxious than ever
- Your self-confidence begins to drop significantly
- You make excuses or defense your partner’s negative behaviors, even when you know deep down that they are wrong
- You always wonder if you are too sensitive
- You know that something is off, but you just can’t place a finger on it
One of the more subtle signs of a toxic relationship is when your partner isolates you from other people in your life – family, friends, and other close associates.
Your partner will usually not outrightly cut you off from others. Instead, it is likely to start with seemingly genuine and harmless complaints. For example, they may object to spending so much time with others instead of them. With time you will be faced with threats of choosing between them and the other people in your life.
The goal is to gradually strip you of any emotional, financial, moral, and physical support from external sources. In the end, you are at their mercy.
In many cases, when isolation rare its ugly head in a relationship, it is usually followed by physical assault or domestic abuse.
Here’s how to recognize isolation:
- Your partner pitches you against every other important person in your life. They sell you the “we against the world” ideology by making you believe that they are the only person who genuinely cares about you. Be wary of a romantic partner who always suggests that you elope with them. Take that suggestion with a pinch of salt, especially if they are making it sound as if your family hates them.
- Closely monitoring your activities at work, on social media, who you hang out with, or where you hang out. They practically make it difficult for you to enjoy your time when you are not with them. They might text or call you a dozen times when you are with friends or work colleagues. They may even get jealous, pick fights, give you the silent treatment, or guilt-trip you if you are online but not chatting with them.
- Showing disapproval or talking down your friends or family when you go for a visit. They may deliberately withdraw themselves when they ought to be around or hover around when other people are hanging with you (when they shouldn’t be around). These are signs that your partner doesn’t want others to spend time with you.
- Ignoring your interests but making you give up on your dreams to be fully involved in theirs. Essentially, you are living their script.
5. Physical Abuse
There are lots of exciting things you can do as a man before you die, but being physically abusive to your partner is certainly not one of them. It is not attractive and doesn’t make you manly in any way.
But here’s the thing, men also suffer domestic abuse in the hands of women. However, because it is not as common as men abusing women, the men who endure it are usually silent.
First of all, no man wants other dudes to discover that his woman is abusing him physically. I mean, it’s even more embarrassing for people to find out than it is for the man to be abused by his woman, right? But that’s exactly the type of thinking that makes guys sit tight in an unhealthy relationship – they want to safe face.
Physical abuse is one of the most glaring signs of a toxic relationship, and it is still wrong even if:
- It only happens once in a long while
- It stopped because you forfeited your right to speak up
- The physical abuse is minor
6. Financial Abuse
Financial abuse happens when your partner is in charge of how you access or earn money or controls how you maintain financial resources.
Don’t confuse this for the usual bickering over cash or bills. This is a deliberate act to gain dominance over a partner.
No man needs to engage this act just to be in charge. It is totally unnecessary! In fact, there are awesome and cools ways to be a better man, and none of them involve any form of abuse.
Here are some of the ways your partner can abuse you financially:
- Using unnecessary excuses to pressure you into quitting your job
- Taking your cash or accessing your credit card without permission
- Being critical of your job or belittling your career
- Belittling your financial decisions
- Single-handedly making major financial decisions
- Dropping in unannounced at your workplace or constantly texting and calling you while you are at work
- Insisting that joint purchases should be in their name only
- Denying you access to financial resources because you had an argument
- Interfering with your work responsibilities
- Not willing to pool financial resources
- Telling you what jobs you should or shouldn’t do
- Saving money in a private account without letting you know
Escaping Unhealthy Love
Walking out on a relationship is not the easiest thing in the world, and it is particularly more difficult if it is a romantic relationship. While most people in an unhealthy relationship know on some level that they are in a bad place, they still find it difficult to walk away.
And pretty soon, they will try to change the other person in a bid to convince themselves that they can make things work. But it is a futile effort to think that you can change someone because you love them.
Newsflash: you can’t!
But the good news is that you can change yourself, and that is the most important and only thing you need to do when you need to get out of a toxic relationship.
However, you will need a good support system. And by “support system,” I mean your family and dependable friends.
Thing is, it doesn’t matter whether you are a man or woman; it is a tough job trying to control your emotions and human nature. So, you’re going to need external help. Let your close friends and family know that you are planning to exit the relationship so that they can be there for you when you leave.
Your support system will help you pull through and deal with your emotions logically because, trust me, you’ll experience painful emotions that might be too much to bear alone.
Get all the support you can from your trusted allies, and with time, you will pull through and become a better version of yourself.
Here are some suggested steps you can take to get out of an unhealthy relationship.
- Acknowledge that you are in a terrible place and need to get out. Ignoring the red flags is merely living in denial and won’t make them go away. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve endured the situation, if you are constantly walking on eggshells when your partner is around, then you are experiencing one of the clearest signs of a toxic relationship, and you need to acknowledge that fact. Heck, you can’t get out if you don’t accept that fact.
- Next, let your partner know that you are leaving the relationship (whether in person or through any means of communication). If you live together, set a firm move-out date, but don’t be in a hurry about it. The exception to this is if you are physically abused. In that case, you need to get out fast! And it is best not to confront them face to face when you are leaving to avoid another round of physical abuse.
- When you tell your partner you are leaving, make sure to keep the discussion brief. There’s probably going to be a lot of drama, so get ready, but don’t fall for their trick. They are only trying to get back at you by painting you bad or criticizing you publicly. Don’t play their game or give them the satisfaction of a response, as that will easily drag you back down to their level. It is also important not to hate or spite them.
- Sever all contacts with your partner once you exit the relationship with a toxic partner. Don’t check on them. Don’t contact them. Delete and block their phone numbers, and block them from reaching you on your social media accounts. Staying in touch will increase the chances of getting back with them again, and the circle of disrespect will continue.
Tips for Staying Out of Unhealthy Relationship
It is one thing to escape unhealthy love, but making sure you don’t fall into another toxic relationship is a different ball game entirely, especially when it has to do with intimate relationships.
Matters of the heart are somewhat difficult to handle logically, so many people end up repeating the same mistakes they did in their previous toxic relationship.
The following are quick tips that can help you stay out of an unhealthy relationship.
Reinvigorate Your Perceptions
Toxic relationships can gradually demolish self-respect, confidence, self-esteem, and general perceptions about yourself, particularly if you have endured one for too long.
You need to piece back together yourself with consistent and continuous positivity. A good way to rebuild your self-confidence, respect, and self-esteem is to do something your ex led you into believing that you can’t do.
Do it not to spite your ex, but because you enjoy it.
Develop Your Assertive Muscle
There’s a huge difference between being rude and being assertive. Firmly saying what you want or stating your views is not rudeness. Instead, it is your best defense against being pushed around. Look for situations to practice asserting yourself daily. It will eventually grow stronger like a muscle that is exercised constantly.
Looking for inspiration on how to assert yourself? Here are three good examples:
- If someone commends you for something you did, use the positive inquiry method to assert yourself. For example, if someone says, “I enjoy your cooking. You are a good cook,” don’t just say, “Thank you,” or downplay the compliment. Instead, respond with something along the lines of, “Thank you, I enjoy my cooking too. Tell me, though, what do you like most about my cooking?”
- If someone says something negative about you, instead of cowering into submission, use the negative inquiry method to learn more about the unpleasant feedback. For example, if someone says, “This food tastes awful!” resist the temptation to fire back because that would only be a show of low self-esteem. Instead, say something like, “This probably isn’t my best cooking. What about the food, didn’t you like?”
- If you feel hurt, express yourself without sounding aggressive using the “I Feel” method. Here’s the format for the method: I feel (state your feeling) when you (state the other person’s action). Could you please (state your request)? For example, “I feel ignored when you don’t look at me when we talk. Could you please pay a little more attention when we discuss?”
Halt Negative Inner Narratives
It is okay and normal for you to get worried and even anxious sometimes. But the trick to not dampening your spirit is to create a separation each time you catch yourself in the act of telling yourself something negative.
For example, when you feel worried, don’t say, “I am feeling worried.” Deliberately change that negative inner narrative by saying something like, “Jack is feeling worried.” It might seem like a small difference, but over time, it can create a huge positive impact on your overall wellbeing.
Why is that?
Because creating a separation mentally shifts you from a victim mode where you perceive the situation as a threat and puts you in an observer position where you can think of your situation as a challenge that you can overcome.
People are going to try to dull your shine; don’t allow them.
Your best bet? Avoid them!
Stay far away from people who belittle your dreams and aspirations because they can trample on your self-confidence and self-esteem so that you have to look up to them. Don’t let such people into your life.
Treat Yourself with Respect
No one will respect you if you don’t first treat yourself with the respect you deserve. You must learn to hold yourself in high regard. Don’t talk harshly to yourself, even if you make a mistake.
Create a “me time” where you spend quality time just by yourself. You must learn to thoroughly enjoy your own company! Because the truth is that you don’t need someone else to feel fulfilled or complete. (One of the quickest ways to detect the problem of codependency is feeling incomplete outside of a relationship.)
Take 5 to10 minutes daily to be with yourself. That’s how to improve the relationship you have with yourself.
Others will only reflect to you what you feel about yourself. If you are scared to be by yourself, you will inadvertently let just about anyone into your life.