How To Identify Toxic Behavior In A Relationship

By: Mary Elizabeth Dean

Updated September 06, 2019

Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn

When you are struggling with toxic behavior in a relationship, it can in some cases be difficult to spot. There are a myriad of things that you can look out for, though.

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Often, the relationship doesn't begin the way it ends. Small tweaks are made over a long period of time, but by the end, you may notice your relationship is completely unrecognizable. The most important thing you can do to protect yourself from a relationship like this is to look out for the red flags.

You may not know what a red flag looks like, but when you see one, be sure not to ignore it. You may be able to call attention to the problem so that you can stop the behavior in its tracks, or if the severity is too much, end the relationship altogether.

There's An Emotional Scorecard

One common denominator among many who struggle with toxic behavior is an emotional scorecard.

Your partner may save up all the bad or hurtful things that have occurred in your relationship and use them against you as a weapon when you argue or disagree. There will be no form of forgiveness involved in these situations and you will have them held over your head for months or even years after they occur.

It won't matter how much you apologize or try to make it right. This is because to your partner, it isn't about the problems they're speaking about, but rather the emotional ammunition it gives them against you.

The best thing you can do when you are faced with a situation like this is stand your ground. Let your partner know that these things are in the past and that you will not let them affect your future. Explain that you have apologized already and have tried to make it right, and that you won't stand for this kind of behavior in your relationship.

If they desire to stay together, they will respect your wishes and stop bringing up the past. If not, they weren't the one meant for you. You can confidently walk away with no guilt knowing that you did all you could to stop the behavior, but can now move on and live a happier and more fulfilling life, possibly with a partner that knows your worth and wants you to be happy and free.

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Emotions Are Projected

When a partner with toxic behavior is in a relationship, they will often project their actions or emotions onto his or her partner.

For example, if your partner is feeling insecure, they may belittle you and call you the same. Additionally, if they are cheating, they could put a magnifying glass on you to take the attention off of themselves.

The idea with this is to break you down so that you believe that they are superior to you. If they can get you to believe this, it will be easy to control you.

Remember, Someone that loves you and cares for you will never project themselves on you. Remember this when times get tough and draw upon it for the strength you need to do what's right for you and your partner.

Displays Of Jealousy

Displays of jealousy are a clear sign of toxic behavior in a relationship.

If you feel as if you are not able to do what you wish because your partner's jealousy is holding you back, this is surefire way to know they are toxic. You should have a relationship built on trust and security. There is no reason to act or be jealous because you should each have the confidence in one another that nothing unsavory is going on.

We are all human, so from time to time, it may pop up, but the person feeling it should voice their concerns and let it be a conversation. If you are being talked down to or made to feel less than because your partner is feeling this way don't stand for it.

You want to live a life free of these kinds of worries. Don't let another person's insecurities take control of your life.

Your Partner Doesn't Try

Any time you have a disagreement or argument, you may find yourself bending over backwards for your partner with nothing in return.

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They could use the excuse that they are not the one causing the problem, but the truth is that all relationships are a partnership. No matter what the issue, there is always a way that you can figure to get through it together. You should each be exerting equal effort in your path together.

In a relationship, you are each equal to each other. If one person is trying and the other isn't, resentment and further issues will come from it. A person that loves and cares for you won't want to put this kind of weight on your shoulders.

You Feel As If You Can't Say "No"

When you are involved in a relationship with someone that displays toxic behavior, you may feel as if you aren't able to disagree or say no to anything they say.

This is a classic trait of someone that is toxic. When they go down, they will want to take everyone with them. They may have a deep-seated belief that no one deserves to be happy if they are not, or they may not even realize they are doing it at times. Whatever the reason, it is never acceptable to display this type of behavior.

A healthy relationship should be based on the premise that you are each doing all you can to make the other happy. If you are feeling down, you should never wish the same emotions or negativity on your partner. While it is okay to vent or talk about your problems, there should be no attempting to bring one down with another.

You're Isolated From Your Friends And Family

Your friends and family may be the first to see the problems with toxicity in your relationship. For this reason, many partners with toxic behavior make it their first order of business to separate you from these people.

They may use tactics to make you believe that your family members are biased against your partner, or that they are being unreasonable simply because they don't like the person. This couldn't be further from the truth. In most situations, your family and friends only want the best for you and are not afraid to call out toxic behavior.

If they are helping you to see the abuse that you are being subjected to, that means they are a threat to your partner. An individual in a healthy relationship will want you to maintain the bonds you have with those close to you, and will want to be a part of that, as well. They will understand these people are important to you and will support you in every measure when it comes to them.

If you see your partner trying to isolate you from your close loved ones, don't ignore this behavior. Take everything they do at face value. The family and friends you have are oftentimes the only ones left to turn to when your life may seem in shambles after the toxic relationship is over. Make sure to keep them close and you can rest easy.

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Getting Help

When toxic behavior is taking over your relationship, you may have a way to fix it without leaving your partner behind. A licensed professional can offer a helping hand to you and your relationship.

There may be underlying issues that are causing your partner to act in the way they do. These issues could be processed and dealt with for a better outcome. It can be intimidating to go to therapy, but it may be the best thing you can do for your relationship.


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