• Katy Bishop

how to identify a toxic relationship.

Romantic relationships are a big part of growing up and having a partner should be fun and exciting. Maintaining a relationship has its ups and downs and, like any other relationship, requires effort from both parties. But when the relationship has more downs then ups, the effort is becoming one-sided and it’s no longer as fun and exciting as it used to be, it may be time to reflect.

couple with their backs turned

Most of us have heard of “toxic” relationships, identifying one, however, can be a little tricky, particularly if you think you might be in one.

Psychology expert Dr. Lillian Glass defines a toxic relationship as any relationship between people “who don’t support each other”, when “one seeks to undermine the other”, and “where there’s disrespect and lack of cohesiveness.” On paper, this concept seems pretty straight forward, but it can be difficult to know which toxic signs to lookout out for.

Here are some red flags to be aware of:

lack of support.

Your partner doesn’t support your goals, tells you to aim lower or just doesn’t show up of you when you need them. You find yourself keeping personal aspirations from them in order to protect your goals from their criticism and belittlement. You find yourself avoiding discussing your interests and hobbies with your partner, as they are known to mock and show disinterest in your passions. A partner should have your back and be your biggest cheerleader, helping you achieve your fullest potential.

frequent criticism.

Your partner constantly gives you, what they call, ‘constructive criticism’ which leaves you changing things about yourself or feeling insecure. You experience things like being teased about your insecurities, called mean names or have your body and/or personality picked apart by your partner. This behaviour should not be normalised; the person who loves you won’t want to completely change you. A partner should make you feel one in a million not cause you to doubt yourself.

In this instance it’s important to keep your support system in place, this way if you start getting put down you can talk to the people around you who will remind you how amazing you really are.

bad communication.

Talking to them is difficult or non-existent. Instead of treating each other with compassion and understanding, your conversations are full of arguments, insults and don’t result in progress.

Look out for stonewalling which occurs when you try to bring up an issue or something that is on your mind. Stonewalling means your partner will stop listening to you and say they don’t want to talk about the said issue, they can become unresponsive and shut off.

Your partner constantly plays the victim card. When discussing how you feel about something, no matter the topic, they will always find a way to make the discussion about themselves and how it affects them. You can’t create balance with someone only concerned about themselves. A healthy couple would be open to feedback and would want to work through problems calmly and maturely to achieve an agreed outcome.

hiding things from friends and family.

You consciously leave out negative story details about your partner when discussing them with your family or friends. You find yourself completely avoiding discussions about your relationship because deep down you know they will call your partner out on their bad behaviour.

It’s important that you confide in your friends and family as they have your best intentions at heart. Their opinions may come off as controlling and negative, but their response will be targeted at your partner, not you. Listen to what they have to say, and you may get a different perspective on your relationship.


Your partner constantly want to know your whereabouts. They ask about the people you are spending time with, requesting excessive detail. They get jealous of your success and achievements and are overly competitive with you. Your wins should be celebrated by the person who loves you, it shouldn’t make them jealous or insecure. Don’t let yourself be controlled and belittled in order to appeal to your partners ego and insecurities.

you feel stressed and drained.

You find yourself constantly on edge and stressed because of your relationship. Physically, you find yourself tired all the time and needing rest. You don’t have a lot of energy for things outside of your relationship as your attention and emotions are always being put into that one aspect of your life. A relationship shouldn’t suck energy from you, try reflecting on the time and energy you had prior to the relationship.

hoping for change.

You find yourself constantly hoping that your partner will change their ways and that things will get better. It’s easy to rely on hope but it’s hard for people to change. Don’t let yourself fall in love with someone’s potential as a partner. Instead see them for the partner they are in the present and decide, for yourself, whether this person should be in your life in the future.

Sometimes a toxic relationship can be worked through, especially if you’re young and new to romantic relationships. However, this is something that only you can decide. Seeing a therapist either individually or as a couple may benefit both of you.

If your relationship is negatively affecting you and your mental, emotional or physical wellbeing, you can call The Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline (women only) on 0808 2000 247 or the Men’s Advice Line on 0808 801 0327. You can also email them or chat online with an advisor.

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