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40 Alarming Signs Of A Toxic Relationship (What You Need To Know)

Adolescents are often abused, which damages their viewpoint of what a healthy relationship looks like. Since children are our future, it’s important we understand the statistics involved in abusive or toxic relationships.

One study found that 1 in 3 adolescents in the United States is in some kind of abusive or toxic relationship. Over 1.5 million students nationwide have been in physically abusive unions. 

It’s important to watch for signs of a toxic relationship because that type of union is unhealthy. You should end it as soon as possible. Of course, if you're married, that complicates things, but it does not change what you should do about the problem. 

In this post, I will discuss the various kinds of behaviors associated with the different types of abuse. This is because toxic relationships usually have one form or another of abuse - frequently unnoticeable. Sometimes, there's more than one type of abuse going on, and with abuse, you should seek immediate help.

For example, if you feel like you are in an abusive relationship, seek help. Counseling and/or therapy of some kind may help. If you are seeking a long-term relationship, toxic behavior is not what you want.

Emotional Abuse

An emotionally abusive relationship has behavior intended to control, punish, manipulate, or otherwise put down an individual. It may include withholding love, support, communication, or money. Here we will look at a few of the signs of a negative relationship that has emotional abuse involved.

1. Controlling

This abuser typically dictates what you can and cannot do, as though they were your parent or caretaker. An example would be if your man said you were not allowed to wear that dress.

2. Humiliating

This behavior is toxic because it embarrasses you or decreases your self-worth or self-esteem; rather than building you up, this individual puts you down. This partner may make fun of you in front of other people.

3. Blackmailing

Relationships like this are especially hard because the individual holds something over your head for as long as they want to, making you a slave to their threat. It would be similar to someone saying that they would expose a dirty picture of you if you did something they didn’t like.

4. Shaming

When someone does this to you, you typically find yourself feeling inadequate or ashamed of who you are or what you’ve done when really, you haven’t done anything wrong. If you were to think that you looked ugly today by something your partner said, that might be an example of shaming.

5. Patronizing

Individuals who illustrate this toxic behavior are condescending or portray a kind of presence of superiority as compared to the victim. Usually, this partner gives you a feeling of inferiority.

6. Creating Ultimatums

Ultimatums or quid pro quos are usually associated with sayings like, “If you don’t do this, I will do this,” or, “If you want this, you have to do that.” It’s a type of controlling behavior, which makes the abuser feel superior to the victim.

7. Manipulating

This behavior is when one person tries to trick, handle, or control the victim in a tricky, unfair, sneaky, often clever way. If someone gets you to do something you don’t want to without you realizing their influence, they may be manipulating you.

8. Withholding 

This partner does not have your back; rather, they exercise control by withdrawing their love, support, money, or belongings, ignoring your needs. An example would be if your boyfriend took your phone away and held it hostage.

9. Spying

Have you found your boyfriend going through your phone, or scouting your location unnecessarily in an effort to know what you are doing at all times? This would be an example of spying behavior.

10. Belittling

This type of individual minimizes your thoughts and/or feelings; an example would be if your day was really bad, but your partner makes you feel like you are wrong or exaggerating.

11. Blaming

If you feel like everything is your fault because of things your mate has said or done, it’s possible they are making you think you are to blame for things that were not your fault. 

12. Criticizing

This type of blaming expression involves making you feel bad about something that you shouldn’t feel bad about, like telling you something you worked hard on looks like crap.

13. Undermining

With this type of abusive behavior, the abuser does things like making you feel like your thoughts or experiences aren’t as valid as you think or they just speak for you, acting like what you have to say is unimportant.

14. Being Passive Aggressive

This happens when one partner says or acts like one thing is okay when really they are not okay with it; it’s like a “guessing game” - “How do I really feel? You should just know!”

15. Negating

A negative partner like this will turn anything you say into a negative; “I had a pretty decent day because [this event] happened.” The response in a toxic relationship with a negative individual might be, “That sounds [negative words].”

16. Stalking

This toxic behavior may include harassment or the invasion of your privacy. You may have the need to get away from the abuser, but they continue to cross boundaries that are typically present in healthy relationships.

17. Enabling

An enabler does not help you become a healthy individual; instead, he or she encourages unhealthy, possibly destructive behaviors or addictions you may have by making excuses for any consequences of that behavior.

18. Avoiding

This happens when people don’t fix problems in toxic relationships; instead, they throw them on the back burner, avoiding conflict, not taking responsibility for their actions/problems, or just ignoring everything, including you.

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19. Being Jealous

This behavior that occurs in toxic relationships is pretty well understood. It usually involves being possessive about everything.

Psychological Abuse

This is the least understood type of abuse. Basically, the person may not realize it, but psychologically they are trying to confuse your brain by making you think you are crazy or that your feelings or experience is unimportant when, of course, you can feel how you need to at any time.

20. Gaslighting

This behavior is complex; over time, the abuser will make the victim think they are crazy or are not remembering things that really did happen; they make you doubt your memory or perception of events that took place. It’s a crazy-making toxic behavior that you should run from.

21. Topping

A “topper” always has to do one better than you; for example, you might say, “I broke my arm last year,” and the abuser would say, “That’s nothing. I broke both my arms last year.” While on occasion, this may be true, continuous “topping” can get old - really fast and does not lead to a normal relationship dynamic.

22. Being Debbie Downer

This is similar to negating; this individual will always act depressed, down, negative, and will bring you down with them. For a long-term relationship, this is a very negative way to live; instead, aim for the positive in life and know that you can do better!

Physical Abuse

This type of abuse is the most understood one; it involves some kind of physical action usually aimed to release extreme anger or frustration, and it’s taken out on the victim rather than dealing with the problems in a healthy way.

23. Cornering

If your partner walks and talks you into the wall or corner, you are being cornered. This type of relationship is hostile and physically threatening; and, it goes without saying, but it is toxic behavior that should not be the end of the union, in my opinion.

24. Destroying

In toxic relationships, there’s always room for anger, and sometimes that anger leads the abuser to throw or break things; if your belongings are being trashed because your lover has a hot temper and breaks everything, watch out, because he may lose his cool and break you at some time in the future; steer clear of this behavior.

25. Shoving

When shoving happens, the behavior has gone from the destruction of your property to the destruction of you. Once the physical violence occurs in the relationship, it’s time to get out of there before things get worse. Seek professional help if you have been in a violent relationship.

26. Laying Hands On You

How many guys say they will never lay their hands on you or that there will never be a time when they will lift a hair off your head? Once the slapping, punching, and hitting begins, it’s time to move forward without this partner, because once it starts, it doesn’t usually get better, unless there is professional help involved.

Verbal Abuse

The same article in Psychology Today states that verbal abuse involves speech designed to hurt the recipient of the communication. The article states that it is often unnoticed because the abuser communicated the abusive speech in a quiet, loving, or joking tone of voice.

27. Name-Calling

Every relationship may have some name-calling in it However, when it’s a negative name such as b*tch or slut, it’s considered to be a toxic behavior.

28. Confronting

If you have the feeling that someone is verbally attacking you, it may be time to face the fact that you are with a confrontational partner. You can probably stand to handle some confrontations in your life, but if you are constantly bombarded with false accusations, you may have a toxic relationship.

29. Discounting

A relationship that has this toxic behavior makes you think your feelings or experiences don’t matter. Someone may say, “You weren’t really inspired by that,” as if they know your feelings. 

30. Teasing

Okay, so there is, of course, a time and a place for fun and jokes, it doesn’t have to be all of the time. If it seems as though your partner is kidding with you all of the time, you may be around a teaser, and it may not stop.

31. Opposing

If there is never a time when you win arguments or are right about anything, you may be dealing with argumentative behavior. When every single thing you say is wrong or incorrect all of the time, that is a sign of a toxic relationship.

32. Threatening

If your relationship has this type of behavior, you should explain that you will not tolerate threats. Otherwise, your partner will hold something over your head for a long period of time.

An example would be, “If you don’t go to this party, I’m going to leave you.” If you fall for these threats, you will never get the support you need from the relationship.

33. Yelling

This is the main thing people think of when they hear about verbal abuse. Signs of this toxic relationship would be a partner raising his voice at the other, shouting, screaming, or belting out what he wants to say rather than saying in a normal tone of voice.

34. Blocking

This behavior involves aborting conversations, switching topics, shutting you out, or saying that you should, “Shut up!” It’s an avoidance technique used by people who never want to deal with problems.

35. Judging

Relationships with judging usually result in low self-esteem. When the judger criticizes the victim, it results in a loss of the validity of someone’s self-worth. Judging relationships are not long-lasting, so it’s important to find someone who is not overly judgmental.

36. Lying

This may not be a typical form of abuse, but how can I not mention dishonesty as we discuss toxicity? You need to find someone who is forthright with you - honest to a fault; there’s just no room for dishonesty, deceit, or lies here.

37. Dismissing

This is very similar to relationships that have the behavior of discounting in them. Your mate doesn’t respect your thoughts, feelings, experiences, or recollections of events that happened. Relationships such as this lead to crazy-making behavior from the abuser to the victim, but the victim leaves thinking he or she is crazy when he or she isn’t.

38. Being Sarcastic

So, we all have some sarcasm in our lives, but to always have sarcasm would be exhausting. It doesn’t sound as though a healthy relationship should sound.

39. Denying

Psychology Today again educates us on this topic by saying that denying occurs when an individual pretends that something did not take place; for example, he may pretend an event or conversation never took place, which makes the victim doubts his or her sanity, experiences, memory, feelings, and perceptions of events in the past.

An example would be if a husband told his wife that he had never laid a hand on her in the past when he actually had; he is denying something that took place when it really did. This denial can make them think they are crazy, which is no foundation for a healthy relationship.

40. Interrupting

An interrupter doesn’t care about your thoughts and feelings, he’ll just interrupt them and complete your sentences for you any time that he feels like what he has to say is better than what you’re saying. There is no need for continuous interrupting in your communication with your partner; this doesn’t lead to success in the end.

What To Do If You Think You Are In A Toxic Relationship

It is of my opinion that you should take action right away. For example, you should immediately exit the relationship, especially if there's physical abuse. And, if you feel unsafe or like your partner is going to continue to hurt you with no resolve in sight. Counseling is always a possible solution.

Basically, follow these three steps: 

  1. Separate yourself from the situation.
  2. Seek counseling for couples or therapy.
  3. Decide if the toxic partner can change or if it’s best to part ways and move on with your life. 

Make sure you are safe; and, if physical abuse is going on, you may need to seek the help of the authorities. 

If you are looking for support, Time wrote a great article on what to do if you are in a toxic relationship. It mentions a Facebook support group for people in toxic relationships that I would recommend checking out. This group has over 7,000 members. You can survive without help such as this, but if you need it, know it’s always there for you to check out.


What Causes A Toxic Relationship?

Someone who is insecure or unhealthy may be the cause of a toxic relationship. Often to validate themselves, they make sure the other person feels worse than they do, and they do this by putting that person down or making them feel small.

Can A Toxic Relationship Change?

Sometimes, with a relationship like that, you should take immediate action to get help by way of a therapist or by moving past the relationship. In fact, if you feel you are in a negative partnership, you should remove yourself first, and then, seek restoration if possible.

How Do You Know Your Boyfriend Is Toxic?

Usually, you will see or feel like the person does not have your best interests in mind by the actions the person takes, such as the way they treat you or act around you. If you get the gut feeling that the person may be toxic, proceed with caution.

When Should You Give Up On A Relationship?

Abusive relationships are unacceptable. Also, if the person makes you feel like a bad person, that individual does not have your best interests in mind. They will probably continue making you feel small until you introduce therapy or help. Watch for the signs in this post.

How Negativity Can Kill A Relationship?

If you feel like your partner turns everything into a negative situation, that is not a healthy relationship. That person is just a negative individual; ask yourself if you really want to live in a “Debbie Downer” world; or, can you find someone who has a more positive outlook?


Do you suspect you are in a toxic relationship? Check the toxic relationship signs listed in this article to decide if your relationship is toxic. If so, seek immediate help.

We’d love to hear from you. What is your opinion of a toxic relationship? Please share in the comments.

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