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Identifying Toxic Relationships: 10 Warning Signs, What To Do, & How We Can Help

There comes a time in most relationships when illusions start to fade, and slowly you realize you’re two people simply trying to make it work. That fire starts to cool a bit and all of a sudden you think about how this isn’t at all what you thought it was going to be.


This is typically the story we hear from our couples and students when it comes to them explaining how they ended up in a toxic relationship. It creeps up on them.


For others, the red flags were there from the beginning, they just couldn’t see it yet. Especially if they were in love with their spouse or weren’t sure how to get out.


See, in healthy relationships, even when the fire has cooled, the spark has faded, and you’re in reality — with bills, work, kids, and exhaustion — there’s still a deep love and respect that never goes away.


That admiration and commitment stays intact even when the “happily ever after story” you’ve told yourselves gets a reality check right when it counts.


Toxic relationships don’t just apply to couples though. You could experience this with someone in your family, a friend, or a co-worker.


Relationships are hard!


We’ve all been there and we’ve seen it time and again in our couples. They take work and effort. But what happens when you’re dreading the time of the day you’ll see each other again? Or you’re finding yourself questioning your sanity after an argument that was somehow twisted to put the blame on you.


What then?


Well, the first step is to understand what a toxic relationship really is. So let’s dig in.


What Is a Toxic Relationship?

To understand a toxic relationship, you must understand what a healthy one looks like.


When you’re in a healthy and loving relationship, you won’t find yourself questioning your sanity. Arguments are, of course, still there, but they’re now full of communication. Feeling seen and heard by your spouse is the norm. They treat you with respect and care because they know you deserve it.


Toxic relationships? Completely different story.


In a toxic relationship, you feel emotionally abused and drained to the point of feeling worthless. There’s no hope — no deeper connection. Just an unhealthy dependency and it leaves you empty and wondering what in the world happened, how did you get here?!


Below you’ll find the top ten signs that you may be in a toxic relationship. Identifying this is key, so you can move forward in your life thriving and happy.

Signs of a Toxic Relationship

An outsider looking in can easily spot red flags in a toxic relationship. But it’s entirely different when you’re the one in this relationship. It can cloud your eyes and your judgment. Or maybe you’ve just begun seeing signs, and that’s why you’re reading this right now.


If you’re experiencing any of these signs, you may very well be in a toxic relationship.



One of the top signs of a toxic relationship is feeling like you can’t be yourself. You’re constantly guarding everything you say and do, just so you don’t upset or irritate them.


You find yourself stressed and anxious because if there is an issue you need to talk about, you know it won’t go well. You’re constantly avoiding conflict and it’s leaving you feeling very alone and anxious all the time.



Is this toxic individual always probing with questions when you’re not with them? If they’re your partner, maybe they’ve even accused you of being out and flirting with other people. Or maybe they feel like you’re neglecting them by spending time with other friends — when that’s the farthest thing from the truth?


Do they need to know where you are and what you’re doing all the time? These behaviors come from a lack of trust. This need to control you can lead to more abusive behaviors, which are extremely toxic.



No matter what the situation is, do you find that at the end of every conversation with this person, you’re the one that’s wrong?


Do you think to yourself when the fight is over, “How in the world did it end like this?” Or maybe you question your sanity, “Am I the one that’s messed up?”


You both should be able to admit whenever you’re wrong. No one’s perfect, and you’re both going to mess up. You’ll both need to be able to forgive and seek forgiveness.


But if you find that this person is NEVER wrong (when they so clearly are), and you’re ALWAYS wrong, that’s a red flag.



Healthy communication is key in all relationships, not just romantic ones. It’s so fundamentally important to be able to sit down and discuss real-life issues. To hear each other out, to understand, and show empathy. When you communicate, you can essentially work through almost anything that life throws at you.


In a toxic relationship, there’s no such thing as healthy communication. These relationships are usually argumentative, chaotic, loud, and degrading.



Does this individual crack jokes about you? Use a lot of sarcastic humor? Do they then pretend they’re just joking, but you know they’re taking a hit at your heart? Or maybe they “forget” about anything that’s important to you, miss events, run late, and disrespect your time.


We get it, some people really struggle with making plans and keeping track of their schedules. But if you discuss it, and it doesn’t change, this becomes disrespectful.



There should always be a middle ground when navigating a healthy relationship. But in a toxic relationship, there doesn’t seem to be any type of balance.


Instead, what they want or feel always supersedes yours: from small things like where they want to go out to dinner to the bigger issues such as building a family, a job opportunity, or where you want to buy a house. Their opinion is always #1.



A loving friend or partner should want you to grow, learn and evolve with time. They should be your encourager, motivator, and confidant on that journey.


See, toxic individuals can’t stand others doing things better than them. They have to be on top! No exceptions. So they tell you now is not the right time to take any classes, or you’re not very good at playing that instrument. They will do what they can to halt any growth on your end.



Lies and secrets are unveiling themselves now. In the beginning of the relationship, they seemed different and honest. As time went on and their true colors began to show, you started realizing the lies they’re living. This is the moment you most likely realize the relationship is toxic.


Their lies can revolve around other men or women, infidelities, financial decisions, and so much more. It’s essential to keep in mind that catching them in their lies is much different than them confessing and asking for forgiveness.



You’re your own person with your own unique gifts from God. You should be out in the world exploring those, making friendships, and curating your individuality. But if you find that your partner is always making you feel guilty for going out or exploring new things, and all they want is for you to stay isolated in the world they’ve created — this is extremely toxic.


They may also try to isolate you from family. They probably make you feel like you have to choose which can turn you against those you love so dearly. They want you to need only them — it’s manipulation.



At the end of the day, if you’re feeling like nothing you say, want, feel, or care about matters, this is a serious issue. You should never feel invisible. You should never feel worthless.


You may feel like your words aren’t being heard or that your spouse isn’t seeing you for you. Whenever you have a concern, they may shrug it off or tell you that you’re overreacting. This is incredibly toxic and a tactic they use to manipulate you into thinking you’re worth less than you are.


You deserve to be in a loving relationship that encourages you to rise up and take on anything that life throws at you. To embrace new opportunities, and to know you have someone by your side that has your back no matter the outcome.


If you believe there is genuine love in your relationship then there is hope. There’s a chance you could repair the damage and move forward into a thriving relationship.


Consider looking into professional help from a third party to determine whether your relationship is salvageable and what you need to do to save it.


It takes time, a whole lot of patience, strong communication, and sometimes professional help if you aren’t making progress on your own.


But if this person isn’t willing to listen and work on these issues, you need to remove them from your life. It’s not worth the emotional, and eventually, the physical toll that it’ll take on you and your entire life.


What to Do if You’re in a Toxic Relationship 

You’re probably thinking, “So now what?” You’ve realized you’re in a toxic relationship, but you aren’t sure what next steps to take. 


Try these tips:


  • Communicate — sit down, and openly discuss these issues. Give them a chance to receive what you need to share. Observe how they handle this. If they’re not listening, this may be the sign you need to move on or seek professional help.


  • Give grace — if they have listened to your concerns in a loving and respectful manner, it’s time to give a little grace. No one is perfect. In order to really try and see if you can move beyond this, you need to give them a chance.


  • Seek Counseling — getting professional help is always a good idea if you’re ever having any serious issues in your relationships. Professionals can give an experienced and unique perspective, making both of you feel heard, and can offer some great advice and strategies to heal and move forward together.


If these issues just continue to repeat, it’s apparent that these behaviors probably will always continue and you should consider moving on.


It’ll be challenging to move on — especially if you’re beginning to see the signs. But if you’re not being seen, heard, respected, and loved properly, it’s essential to know you don’t deserve that.


There are options to save your relationship, but if those don’t work, it may be time to move on. 


Assessing Whether Your Relationship Is Toxic

There’ll be some relationships in your life where you may not see eye-to-eye on different subjects. This may hinder your connection to that person. Sometimes, you just have to walk away. And that’s okay. 


Some people can change, and some will never change. We hope you can use these points above to explore if this relationship is toxic or not for your life.


You do have to make some sacrifices in life and relationships, but respect and personal growth should never be on that list — ever!


How We Can Help if You’re in a Toxic Situation

Here at MREC, we believe in healthy and lasting relationships!


Our resources include:

  • Blogs focused on students, couples, marriages, family, and faith.
  • Couples coaching in person, online, or over the phone.
  • Classes for students and couples on healthy relationship skills. Check the schedule of our classes on our website for upcoming classes, like Adventures in Marriage, where we cover key problem-solving skills.


We also host events dedicated to educating, equipping, and inspiring marriages and families.

Learn more about our purpose and mission in this video here.