You’ve heard the term “to-xic relationship” thrown around enough to know you do NOT want to be in one. But what actually falls into territory? Relationships can sometimes be hard to identify. There are some behaviours that clearly cross a line—like any kind of, be it physical, emotional, verbal, or financial. Other signs are subtler—but can be just as problematic.
“Every single relationship has a level of tox-icity. Nothing is perfect—there’s always some work to be done,” says Ginnie Love Thompson, a psychotherapist. But it’s when spirals out of control that problems arise. “If you feel uneasy, you need to stop yourself and ask what the cause is,” says Thompson. Be on the lookout for these under-the-radar signs that your relationship is bad for you.
1. You feel like you do all the work in your relationship
In every relationship, there’s a natural division of labour. Maybe you always make the restaurant reservations because you’re always spotting new date night spots on Instagram. Meanwhile, bae is awesome at making sure you’re prioritising together time in your busy schedules. “A healthy relationship is a partnership, with both of you co-creating your fulfilment,” Hendrix explains. If you feel like you’re suddenly doing all the heavy lifting—especially if your partner doesn’t seem to notice—the balance has become, she says. Make sure you’re not the only one contributing to the day-to-day activities or long-term vision of the relationship.
2. Your S.O. Never takes responsibility
If a gentle reminder to your partner to please pick up the wet towels ends in a brawl literally every time (because you knew they were going through a stressful week at work and why would you even bring that up right now, geez!)—yeah, that’s a red flag.
“Healthy people can take feedback and course correct,” says Rebecca Hendrix, a psychotherapist in New York. “A partner might blame you for the fact that they hurt your feelings.” This goes both ways, adds Thompson. “We look at how the other person affects us but we also need to look at how we’re affecting our partner,” she says. If you’re constantly turning things around on your partner, you’re turning things bad.
3. You’re not practicing self-care
On that note, signs of unsafe relationships aren’t all about your S.O.’s behaviour—your own behaviour patterns can be red flags too. “A relationship is when you’re not engaging in self-care,” she says. “Self-care is vital for every relationship to keep out.” If you’re neglecting me time for any reason (say, your partner is off-the-charts needy or you’re voluntarily dropping all your activities in favour of their schedule) it’s a sign the relationship is turning unsafe.
4. Your partner is constantly stonewalling you
Having a brawl doesn’t mean your relationship is unsafe—but if your S.O. is always shutting down when you try to bring up what’s bothering you, that’s what therapists call stonewalling. “Healthy couples are open to each other’s feedback,” says Hendrix. “You should be invested in each other’s happiness and seeing what you can both do to communicate more effectively.” If, instead of listening, your partner is always saying they don’t want to talk about it, looking away, and being unresponsive, or even straight up walking away, that’s a red flag.
5. You feel drained
If your relationship feels like it’s sucking the energy out of you, that’s a sign of unsafe, says Thompson. It might even manifest physically, like if you’re tired all the time, she says. “unsafe relationships can literally make our bodies unhealthy—it’s vital to pay attention to these signs and to how our bodies are reacting,” says Thompson.
6. Your partner is always offering ‘constructive criti-cism’ …even when you don’t ask
Ideally, you want to find a partner who makes you a better version of yourself, right? Someone who supports encourages, and challenges you can sometimes be confused for someone who’s really criticisi-ng you. “If your partner consistently asks if you really need that extra piece of pizza—and when you push back they get defensive saying they are only trying to help—this is not about helping you, this is about controlling you,” says Hendrix. “Controlling behaviour is usually present in a relationship.” Don’t confuse manipulation or control-freak tendencies with being “nice” or “helpful.”
7. Your partner never remembers your schedule
No one expects bae to keep track of your whereabouts at all times (in fact, that’s a totally different type of behaviour) but they should remember the important things going on in your life—and be supportive.
“If your partner asks you to help them move on the same day you are preparing for your dissertation, they may have a blind spot for how their actions are affecting other people,” says Hendrix. If this happens once or twice, it’s not necessarily unhealthy, says Thompson. “We all go through ebbs and flows in life. It’s give and take, it’s not a constant, so we need to be open to that,” she says. If your partner is routinely forgetting about your big presentations at work or is consistently asking you to do favours for them when you’ve mentioned you’re swamped with planning your BFF’s bachelorette party, that’s a sign of something.
8. They’re always blaming other people for their problems
If your partner is always blaming someone else for why things aren’t going well—whether that person is you, their boss, their mom, their Pilates instructor—that can be a big sign of behaviour, says Hendrix. Part of being in a healthy relationship of any kind means owning your feelings and working through them—not pointing fingers.
9. Your S.O. Is super competitive
A little competition in a relationship is a good thing (especially if it pushes you towards a PR in that running challenge you take on as a couple). “Healthy couples support each other’s goals and are happy when each has a win,” Hendrix says. Competitiveness crosses into territory when your partner makes you feel bad for your achievements. If you find yourself hiding your wins from your partner for fear they’ll get jealous or try to tear you down, that’s a situation.
10. You’re always making excuses for bae’s bad behaviour
If you’re always making excuses for your partner’s behaviour—whether it’s their emotional unavailability, lack of empathy, habit of being obnoxious to your friends, or lack of support—that’s a problem, says Hendrix. We all have stressful weeks and things we need to work on, but if your partner isn’t listening to your concerns or trying to improve, time to consider a seprate.
Jordon – It’s hard when your relationship is like a rollercoaster, sometimes you feel or know that you are in a unhealthy relationship but moments after you start to create courage and think about ending things over, your relationship starts to have a really good time and you can only wish that it would never end… It’s good till bad things happen again, like a never ending circle.
Alex– Everyone should keep in mind that your partner probably doesn’t even realize they are doing these things. So it’s a better idea to point them out to him/her first and try to see if they work on them before just throwing away the relationship. Just a thought.
Lisa – I loved so much that i had to let my boyfriend go. The relationship felt too codependent that without me he can’t live. Literally. I had to step away so he can see clearly of the mental a-buse he put me through. Making me feel guilty about not being with him. I couldn’t take it anymore.
Cassie – I was in an unhealthy relationship before, it felt very one sided but I’m with a genuinely loving and caring person now.
Jason – There’s every single one of these besides one in my relationship, i’m not even sure what to do because i love her more than anything and i’m just not strong enough to seperation.