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  • Writer's pictureJulie N

Recognising the Signs of a Toxic Relationship

We experience many different types of relationships throughout our lives. However, there are significant differences between a healthy relationship and what is known as a toxic relationship.

A toxic relationship’s meaning is that one person in the relationship is emotionally or physically damaging to the other person. Whereas in a healthy relationship the people involved provide each other with respect, support, care and love, a toxic relationship is defined by dominance, control and insecurity.

Toxic relationships happen for different reasons - but how do you know whether you’re in one? Read on to learn more about the common traits of toxic relationships, how to leave a toxic relationship and how to help someone who may be in one.

Warning Signs Of A Toxic Relationship

Depending on each individual relationship, signs of a toxic relationship can be obvious, or they can be subtle and hard to detect - especially by the person actually in the relationship. Below is a list of some of the most toxic relationship signs.

Toxic and/or hostile communication

Even in a healthy relationship we sometimes upset or offend our partners, but an apology is usually all that’s needed to return to normal. However, toxic relationships are categorised by consistent toxic communication, including sarcasm, criticism, mockery and contempt.

Controlling behaviour

Another key trait of a toxic relationship is controlling behaviour, such as controlling what the person wears, what they spend their money on, restricting their contact with friends and family or even refusing to let them leave the house; effectively holding them hostage. Such behaviours will make the person feel restricted and isolated.

Ignoring Needs

In a healthy relationship, both parties should do their best to meet the other’s needs. In a toxic relationship, these needs are frequently ignored or denied.

Jealousy and Envy

It’s part of being human to experience jealousy occasionally, but this becomes an issue if your partner is constantly jealous or envious of you. Remember that your partner is supposed to celebrate your wins, not tear you down.

Lying and dishonesty

If you find that you are lying to your partner, it’s time to think about the nature of your relationship. A healthy relationship should be built on trust and honesty, not lies and suspicion.

Lack of respect and support

In a healthy relationship, both parties should give each other respect, love and support. In a toxic relationship, this is not the case. The sufferer may start to feel that their needs and interests don’t matter and that their partner only cares about what they want.


If you’ve noticed that your partner seems to resent you, this is another sign that your relationship has turned toxic. If your partner is holding onto grudges and becoming frustrated, this can build up over time and make the situation worse.

Stress and fatigue

Another indicator of a stressful relationship is consistently feeling stressed, drained, or on edge. You should look forward to spending time with your partner and enjoy their company, so if the thought of seeing them fills you with dread, something is wrong.

Lack of self-care

Another characteristic of toxic relationships is a lack of self care; where the person might neglect their physical appearance, health or withdraw from their favourite hobbies and activities.

Making excuses for their behaviour

If you find yourself defending your partner and their behaviour to family and friends, this may be another sign that you are in a toxic relationship.

The Difference Between Toxicity And Other Issues

Although toxicity is a serious issue in a relationship, it is different to other issues like abuse. Although a relationship does not have to involve abuse for it to be toxic, all abusive relationships are toxic. Abuse can include emotional, physical, sexual, verbal and economic abuse.

Signs You Can Fix The Relationship

Toxic relationships aren’t always doomed; if both parties, especially the person exhibiting toxic traits, want to change, then you may be able to fix the relationship.

If the person demonstrates acceptance of responsibility, a willingness to invest more time and energy in the relationship, a shift from blaming to understanding and a desire to seek professional help such as counselling, the relationship might be saved.

How To Get Help

People in toxic relationships often find it hard to break free, especially if they are financially dependent on the other person, or they share children. Lots of toxic relationship victims make several attempts to leave before they finally succeed. Keep reading for tips on how to get help in a toxic relationship.

  • Make a plan. Find somewhere to stay, plan what you’ll need to take with you and who will help you.

  • Tell someone. Confide your plan to leave in a family member or friend, or even the police, so that they can help you.

  • Find your independence. Try to plan how you will support yourself, whether it’s going back to university or getting a part-time job.

How To Leave A Toxic Relationship

Leaving a toxic relationship can be really difficult, but the first step is recognising that you are in one. You can then use the following tips.

Seek professional help

Talk to a therapist about how you are feeling and what the relationship is like. Professional therapy or counselling services can really be supportive and help you navigate through the difficulties of a toxic relationship.

Cut off contact

Toxic people have many manipulative methods of getting you to talk to them, so once you have ended the relationship, it’s important to completely sever all ties with that person.

Stay strong

It’s normal to have wobbly moments after ending a relationship and you may even feel that you regret your decision. Stay strong - you ended the relationship for a reason and you will be happier and healthier without that person in your life.

Use your support system

Talk to your network - friends and family are there to provide an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. Talking about your experiences can help you to heal and move on.

Don’t rush into a new relationship

Take some time to be on your own and rediscover spending time with yourself. Rushing straight into a new relationship might seem like a good short-term solution, but won’t help in the long run.

Recognise that you deserve better

Positive affirmations can help you in this difficult time. Tell yourself that you are glad to be out of the relationship and that you will find someone much better in the future.

Keep a journal

If you find it hard to talk out loud, journaling can really help you to organise your thoughts and feelings and make sense of everything.

Be kind to yourself

At the end of toxic relationships, lots of people blame themselves for what happened, but it’s important to be kind to yourself. No one deserves to be in a toxic relationship and what happened wasn’t your fault.

Surround yourself with positivity

In the days and weeks following the end of a toxic relationship, make time for the things you enjoy. Try not to shut yourself away from the world - enjoy spending time with family and friends and treat yourself when you feel like it.

Hopefully this article has given you all the information you need to know about toxic relationships, as well as advice on how to leave one, or help someone you know.


The content on this page is provided for general information only. It is not intended to, and does not mount to advice which you should rely on. If you think you are experiencing any medical condition you should seek immediate medical attention from a doctor or other professional healthcare provider.

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