Do you feel like you may be in a toxic relationship but aren’t sure how to leave? This article will discuss warning signs for toxic relationships as well as signs that you may be in an abusive relationship. Remember that you are not alone, and there is hope for a healthier future.
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What is a toxic relationship?
A toxic relationship will make you feel attacked, ignored, misunderstood, lonely, or unsupported. You may notice your self-esteem has drastically gone down, or you’re not happy, but you can’t exactly pinpoint why. Unhealthy relationships like these can be exhausting and make it hard to figure out if it is salvageable or not.
That decision is entirely your own, whatever type of relationship it may be. However, if your mental health is negatively affected by your partner, remember that it’s okay to put your well-being first.
Toxic relationships do not necessarily mean they are romantic: they can be friendships, coworkers, and even family. For the sake of this specific blog post, we will be focusing on romantic relationships.
Is it worth fixing the relationship? While only you can answer that question, it’s important to recognize the signs of an abusive relationship, as it may be necessary to get help or leave right away.
Signs you are in a toxic relationship
- There’s an unequal distribution of effort in the relationship. You may be trying to mend things or put in the extra effort, and your partner is not matching it.
- Resentment can be defined in this context as feeling bitter, disappointed, or disgusted towards your partner for being treated unfairly. This could be due to a previous situation, such as cheating. When good things happen, do you find it hard to be happy for your partner?
- A healthy amount of jealousy is natural and expected in relationships. However, if you find that you or your partner are feeling this way to the point of constant worry, control, concern, fear, or anger, it may be time to have a conversation about it.
- You may find your partner judging you or you judging them constantly, comparing your relationship to other couples, an earlier part of your relationship, or comparing them as individuals.
5. Anger & hostility
- Is there anger or hostility in your relationship that leads to arguments or blow-outs? Is this anger aggressive, or even violent emotionally or physically?
- Disrespect can come in various forms, such as name-calling, being talked down to like a child, bringing up prior situations or events to hurt you, minimizing feelings, and not respecting boundaries that are clearly set.
- When faced with relationship stressors, do you find a sense of avoidance from your or your partner? That you’d prefer not to talk about it or your partner refuses to acknowledge apparent concerns?
- Do you find that you fight with your partner or vice versa just for the sake of argument? Are issues made-up or brought up out of context just because? You may feel like you are being played games with.
9. You feel trapped
- Entrapment in a relationship signals that you might want to leave, but you’re not sure how or feel like there is no way out.
10. Lack of trust
- Do you and your partner trust each other? Can each of you live your individual lives without fear of being lied to, manipulated, or wronged?
- If you and your partner have poor boundaries or are dependent on one another, you may be in a co-dependent relationship. It’s okay to naturally depend on each other for support, love, and dedication. Still, if you start to feel like you or your partner constantly need each other around, or the relationship will fail, this can become toxic.
12. Lack of communication
- When a disagreement arises, a lack of communication can cause barriers, create misunderstandings, and build a divide full of resentment and confusion in a relationship.
13. Controlling behavior
- Does your partner exhibit controlling behavior? This could constantly be needing to know where you’re at, what you’re doing, who you’re talking to, or even control over what you do on a daily basis. It may feel like your partner is acting as a parent in controlling relationships, treating you as a child.
- Do you or your partner frequently lie to each other? The lies could be big or small and made out of fear or secrecy.
15. You feel exhausted
- If you find that being in a relationship is tiring to the point of exhaustion, this can be a sign of an unhealthy relationship, mainly if the roles are not distributed equally, or you do not feel supported. In addition, drama, fighting, anxiety, or constantly being on the lookout for the next thing to go wrong can be exhausting.
16. You’re losing yourself
- Do you find yourself not doing the things you used to do? That the activities, people, or descriptors you used to attribute to your sense of self no longer apply?
17. Lowered standards
- Do the boundaries you used to set in relationships feel fuzzy or no longer matter? This could create feelings of being stepped on or over and contribute to the feeling of losing yourself.
18. You can’t do anything right
- If you find that anything you do within or for the relationship is wrong, shameful, or never good enough, this can mean you are in an unhealthy relationship.
19. There’s no growth
- Have you and your partner’s dreams and aspirations been stunted? Do you feel like your relationship has made little progress over a long period of time?
- Are you talked down to or made to feel like your thoughts, opinions, and feelings don’t matter?
21. Silence as a weapon
- Does your partner use silence to hurt you? Are you given the “silent treatment” or ignored when you ask or want to talk?
- If you catch your partner in the wrong, are lied to, or attempt to bring up your thoughts or feelings only to be belittled, discredited, or made out to be crazy, this is a serious sign of a toxic or abusive relationship.
Am I in an abusive relationship?
Toxic behaviors in a significant other can become abusive. While it is possible to heal a toxic relationship, recognizing signs of domestic abuse may mean it’s time to walk away. An abusive partner will use power and control tactics, as stated below in the types of abuse, to create a cycle of oppression that can make it feel like there isn’t a way out.
If you believe you may be in an abusive relationship or are experiencing domestic violence, sometimes called intimate partner violence (IPV), you can seek support or help from your local domestic violence center or women’s shelter. In addition, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 (1.800.799.7233) if you need to speak to someone. Know that there is help and support out there.
Types of domestic abuse:
- Physical abuse
- Physical abuse can be hitting, slapping, punching, using weapons (guns, knives, etc.), throwing objects at, kicking, shoving, choking, or other physical action that can cause bodily injury.
- Sexual abuse
- A partner may force you to perform sexual acts or threaten you with breaking up or physical injury if you say no. Sexual abuse can also mean that a partner could not give consent, for example, if they were intoxicated or asleep.
- Does your partner name call, belittle, make threats of physical harm, criticize, or make you feel crazy? Does the environment feel chaotic or invalidating?
Emotional abuse will wrongly focus on you being the source of the problem and create confusion, insecurity, slowly eating away at self-esteem and self-image.
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse.
- Control & isolation
- If your partner controls or keeps you isolated from others, this is a form of abuse. It can be your partner taking your keys phone or hiding necessary things.
For immigrants, domestic abuse may occur through tactics such as your partner threatening to call ICE, sabotaging your immigration status, restricting your ability to learn English, or destroying important documents.
- Verbal abuse
- Verbal and emotional abuse often overlap, but verbal abuse may involve yelling, public outbursts or scrutiny, terrorizing you, or even threatening to kill or physically harm you and those you love. Your partner may threaten to kick you out, rendering you and your children homeless.
- Financial abuse/Economic abuse
- If your partner is in control of your money or demands to be the person in charge of all of the bills.
- A partner may make it seem like you are incapable of managing money.
- Your partner won’t let you work or make attempts to sabotage your job.
- Your paychecks go straight to your partner.
- You have no access to money and have to ask your partner for it.
- Your partner spends all your money on drugs, alcohol, or unsafe hobbies
- Partner manipulates your transportation to work or school and refuses to help.
- Your partner monitors your whereabouts, or shows up at your job, school, or social events unannounced or secretly. As a result, you may be followed, watched, receive random gifts, receive obsessive text messages, harassing phone calls/voicemails, or be monitored on social media.
- Technological Abuse
- Stalking is commonly thought of as physical activity. However, social media stalking has become a new tactic in the age of technology.
Your partner could monitor your location on your phone through social media, phone tracking, or even Google. Private photos might have been used against you. In addition, your partner may demand to have all of your passwords to important accounts like your bank account, credit cards, or emails.
How to leave a toxic relationship
- Admit that you’re in a toxic relationship
- This may seem like an obvious one, but taking the step to definitively say that your partner is toxic or abusive is a huge accomplishment. Switching from denial to acceptance allows you to figure out what to do next.
- Talk to your partner.
- If it’s safe, it might be good to attempt to talk to your partner about your concerns. Should they have an adverse reaction to you sharing your feelings, it may be a confirmation that it’s time to leave.
- Build confidence
- Be confident in your decision that you deserve to be happy and have a healthy partner.
- Think about the pros and cons
- Make a list of pros and cons to leaving the relationship. Even if it is toxic, there may still be aspects you appreciate or like in your partner. This is okay. Writing them down will help you understand if staying is worth it.
- For example, “*Insert name* helps me out with bills” can be positive, but is it worth it if your partner is controlling, gaslighting you, or belittling you?
- Make a plan
- Do you currently live with your partner? Do you have a job? What do you need to do to ensure a healthy transition? Do you need to save up money?
- Try writing the answers to these and similar questions down on your phone or in a journal.
- Consider cutting off contact.
- After the breakup, it may be necessary to limit or completely cut off contact so you can give yourself time to heal and get back to feeling good about yourself.
- Breakups, whether they are toxic or not, are complicated. You likely love your partner, and this decision is never an easy one. It’s crucial to take care of yourself during this time—practice self-care to maintain your emotional and physical health.
- Build a support system
- Reach out to family, friends, a support person, or a mental health professional such as a therapist or psychologist (should you want to). Building a community of people you trust and can lean on when necessary is important to healing after a toxic relationship.
- Make a list of the things you used to do before the relationship
- Maybe you used to hang out with more friends, have a specific hobby, or even dress a certain way. Make a list of the things you used to do or would like to do, so you can get one step closer to feeling yourself again.
Things to remember
- It’s okay to have mixed emotions.
- It’s okay to be sad or have intense emotions following any breakup. Even if your partner was toxic, it doesn’t mean that you didn’t have good times together or that you should feel guilty should you miss them.
- A relationship is a large part of someone’s life, and such drastic change will likely cause some distress. However, healing from the wounds that a toxic relationship may have left open means there will be a recovery time. So take care of yourself; you are worth it.
- You are not alone
- Know that there is support out there, including local domestic violence shelters that may offer free counseling if you need to talk to someone. Consider reaching out to your therapist or booking an appointment with one if you don’t. There are support groups available if you’re looking for a community of people who have been through similar situations.
- Prioritize your safety
- If leaving your partner might be dangerous, safety planning is a necessary aspect of leaving. Consider potential reactions, as you know them best.
- You will heal
- The length of time it will take to feel better depends on a lot of different factors, including any trauma from the relationship, getting back on your feet, or finding yourself again. Whether it takes one week, one month, or one year to begin to feel yourself again, know that it is okay.
- Allow yourself to rest.
- As we talked about earlier, toxic relationships are exhausting. So take the necessary time you need to rest.
If you are looking for a therapist in Bethlehem, PA, or another one of our 14 convenient locations across Eastern PA, Dr. John G. Kuna and Associates is a team of highly qualified and licensed professionals who are here to help you work through difficult times. Schedule an appointment today, and take charge of your mental well-being.