Being in a toxic relationship can be emotionally suffocating. Even a mildly toxic relationship can lead to anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. However, often times, people are unaware they are in one.

This type of relationship usually evolves over time. It begins with what seems like normal bickering, or “constructive” criticism but, if left unaddressed, it can lead to verbal, emotional, and even physical abuse.

woman looking down sad

Here are three of the most telling signs of a toxic relationship, and what to do about them:

1. Excessive criticism

Does your partner constantly point out your flaws and failures? Does he/she tell you on a daily basis how you could have done things better?

If you answered “Yes” this is perhaps the clearest indication of a toxic relationship. Firstly, let me remind you that no one can ever be perfect in the eyes of another person. What someone may perceive as wrong could be right to you, and vice versa. Secondly, having someone you care about regularly emphasize your weaknesses is a huge blow to your confidence.

A person who feels the need to criticise excessively is someone with deep rooted insecurities who is projecting them onto you.

Do: Use “I” statements to voice your displeasure with your partner’s criticism. Let him/her know how it makes you feel and come up with a plan to communicate frustrations in a healthier way. 

Don’t: Allow your partner’s negative words to dictate who you are. Measure your self-worth based on your interactions with your partner.

2. Controlling behavior

A controlling partner wants to know where you are, what you do, who you are with, and what you say to other people at all times. He/She can also try to distance you from friends and family in order to feel more in control of you. If you recognize this behavior in your partner, or yourself, it is imperative to address it immediately. 

Having someone exert control over you on a regular basis leaves you emotionally drained. It also leaves you feeling irritable, angry and anxious. In addition, having to constantly answer questions about your daily activities to a likely paranoid person can take a toll on your mental health over time. 

Do: Respectfully tell your partner that you do not condone controlling behavior. Point it out when it happens in a calm voice. Try to help your partner figure out where his need for control stems from.

Don’t: Allow your partner to carry on this behavior, nor interfere in your relationships with friends and family. 

3. Walking on eggshells 

In a toxic relationship you often find yourself feeling like you are walking on eggshells so you don’t trigger or disappoint your partner. Having to constantly think and plan what to say, and how to say things to your partner in order to prevent an outburst can cause extreme stress. This type of interaction with another person on a daily basis leads to feelings of despair, mental health issues, and even physical illness. Do not take this warning sign lightly.

Do: Be who you actually are. Acknowledge that pleasing your partner at all times is not sustainable and should not be expected. Tell your partner that healthy relationships allow room for error. 

Don’t: Try to please your partner at all times hoping to prevent an outburst. You’ll create a never ending cycle of disappointment for both, and lose yourself in the process.

In some cases, a toxic relationships can be mended as long as both parties are made aware of its nature. However, you both have to be willing to put in the work required over a period of time. Sometimes, the help of a counselor is needed. In other cases, a toxic relationship can reach a point of no return, and it is best to let go of it. 

No matter how you decide to address your toxic relationship, please remember that you deserve respect, peace and happiness just as much as everyone else.

Have you ever experienced or witnessed a toxic relationship? Please comment below.

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