Warning Signs of a Toxic Relationship – Red Flags that You Shouldn’t Ignore

Signs of a toxic relationship 

Sometimes we are too close to a relationship to recognize the signs that it has turned into something damaging.

Our friends and family tell us but it’s hard for us to recognize because we are in it every day.

It is important that you know the signs of a toxic relationship so that you can recognize whether yours is one and whether it’s time to get out.

 

1 – Contempt

One of the hardest to recognize, but one of the biggest, red flags is the presence of contempt in a relationship.

Contempt is defined as ‘the feeling that a person is beneath consideration, worthless or deserving scorn.’ Signs of contempt include eye rolling, unkind words, sarcasm and dismissal.

Contempt can be hard to recognize because it’s easily explained away. Oh, I deserved that or he is just crabby or he was just showing off for his friends are excuses that are often used to justified contempt.

Think about your interactions with your person. Is there contempt? Do one or the other, or both, of you speak to each other sarcastically? Do you talk behind each other’s backs? Do you roll your eyes when your partner tries to make a point?

The number one killer of relationships is contempt. When people treat each other contemptuously the respect in the relationship is gone. And without respect, nothing else matters.

So, take a good hard look at how you and your partner treat each other. If there is contempt, contempt that causes pain, then your relationship is most likely a toxic one.

 

2 – Obsession

Many of my clients who are in toxic relationships (and there are many) struggle with obsession over their partners.

They want their partners to be in constant contact. They stress out when texting habits change in any way. They give up everything in their life to be with their person. They twist themselves into pretzels to please the other.

Healthy relationships are based on the mutual ability to respect and trust each other. If one party is obsessed with the other partner, if they rearrange their life so that they can always be available for their partner, then the relationship isn’t balanced or healthy. And obsession is toxic – an unhealthy attachment to someone can cause nothing but pain.

So, if either partner in your relationship is obsessed with the other, then your relationship might very well be toxic and it might be time to make change.

 

3 – Unkind words

Do you or your partner lash out at each other verbally? Do words spoken, either calmly or in anger, inflict pain?

Is the language laced with profanity, words that belittle and make you feel very much less than?

Words aren’t meant to inflict pain. Words can express anger and disappointment but those words shouldn’t inflict pain, make you feel bad about yourself or display disrespect.

Pay attention. If either you or your partner are repeatedly raising your voices and inflicting pain, instead of expressing feelings, then you might be in a toxic relationship.

 

4 – Physical Pain

In movies and on TV we often see people who are being physically abused by a partner.

Nicole Kidman’s character in Big Little Lies is repeatedly abused, physically, by her partner but she is quick to justify the behavior and, often times, blames herself.

Any physical pain that is inflicted on a partner is a sign of a toxic relationship. Healthy relationships involve no physical pain of any kind. Words might be said in anger but not derisively and certainly not involving any physical pain.

If you partner is hurting you, or you are hurting your partner, causing each other physical pain, then you are definitely in a toxic relationship.

Why It’s Okay To Cut Toxic Family Members Out of Your Life

Why It's Okay To Cut Toxic Family Members Out of Your Life

How to cut toxic family members?

We get it, your connection with your family is supposed to be this mythical bond that nobody and nothing can break—however, sometimes it’s okay to distance yourself from certain family members, even if that means cutting them off indefinitely.

 

You should never compromise your mental, emotional or physical health for the sake of tolerating a toxic family member.

Before you start blocking Aunt Susan and your second cousin, it’s important to recognize the signs of a toxic person:

 

5 Signs of A Toxic Person

1. They’re judgmental.

Constructive criticism is healthy, but persistent, unwarranted criticism can deteriorate anyone’s self-esteem.

 

2. They feed off drama.

Have you ever turned to a family member for some personal advice? Yet, somehow after you’ve shared your most vulnerable moments with them—someone you thought was a trusted ally—somehow everyone in your family knows everything about your personal life (including your distant cousin in Hungary, who you’ve never met).

 

3. They gaslight you.

If your family member continually claims they never said something, when you and everyone else knows they did, it might not seem that serious. However, this is a form of gaslighting, which is highly emotionally abusive behavior.

 

4. They only talk to you when they need something from you.

Often, they’ll go to you for advice or emotional comfort. But once you turn to them for support, they dismiss your needs or hold your personal information against you.

 

5. They flip-flop between positive and negative reinforcement.

They can lash out at you, yell and insult you. However, once you ignore them after this senseless attack, they’ll likely coax you back into their trap by offering you pseudo-praise and support. Typically these positive interactions are short-lived before this individual goes back to their typical manipulative behavior.

If anyone in your family displays any of these symptoms of toxic (i.e., abusive) behavior, they’re putting your mental health in jeopardy.

Alithia Asturrizaga, a licensed clinical social worker at Alithia Psychotherapy Associates, P.C., explains, “I have worked with countless people who have lived their lives dealing with toxic family members and significant others. In fact, this is one of the chief reasons that many people seek therapy.”

 

Toxic relationships, even with family members, can drain you emotionally, which can impact your overall mental well-being.

Nevertheless, you shouldn’t accept this as the status quo.

“There are certain techniques that people can use to make these relationships more tolerable—these methods generally involve distancing yourself to a certain degree from the toxic person. However, in many cases, the best solution is to remove the toxic individual from your life completely. This is rarely easy and is often complicated and emotionally conflicting in the case of close family relationships, such as with a parent—but when situations deteriorate to the point of making it impossible to live a happy and liberated life, this course of action is usually the best,” Asturrizaga says.

This abusive behavior isn’t confined to romantic relationships because anyone can have a toxic influence on your life.

Shannon Battle, LPC LCAS for the last eight years at Families Services of America, tells Her Campus that the best way to approach a toxic person is first to establish boundaries.

To help stick to these boundaries, Battle suggests, “Anytime you deal with toxicity, understand there is a learning curve. There will be periods of uncertainty, guilt, and possible loss in relationships.

You have to determine the level of sacrifice you are willing to make to protect your emotions and those that trust you to protect them as well. Sometimes, you have to hurt one to help another. The hurt is never intended to be malicious, but always done in love and respect. Behavior is choice-driven.”

Although you might feel an innate impulse to keep your toxic family member in your life, especially if that family member is your parent, it’s important to understand that keeping a toxic person in your life will have damaging effects on your mental health.

While you might try to convince your family member that what they’re doing is emotionally harmful to you, it’s possible that your family member won’t change—and that’s okay.

Personally, I spent most of my teenage years and a couple of years of my adulthood trying to get my parents to comprehend their emotionally abusive and toxic behavior.

After finally convincing my mother to go to therapy with me, so my therapist could help her comprehend her abusive behavior (so she could make a positive change), my mother vehemently denounced my therapist’s suggestions and proclaimed that I was the one “who needed help, because [I was] the one who [was] crazy.”

Not only did her statement perpetuate offensive ableist language, but it also contributes to the ignorant stigma that only the “emotional fragile” need therapy. In reality, everyone can benefit from therapy and counseling.

Before this instance, I’d heard similar phrases from my mother countless times. I told myself that her abhorrent behavior wasn’t worth sacrificing my mental health and emotional well-being because she was obviously never going to change—so I needed to change the situation to protect myself from this abuse.

Initially, I felt worthless because the very person who birthed me refused to change to keep me in her life, but I realized that I couldn’t force her to change.

Nevertheless, it’s okay if the toxic family member in your life never changes. Though you might become obsessed with getting them to change, this obsession can also negatively impact your mental health. Imagining a life where you disassociate from a family member might seem unfathomable, but it’s possible—because you don’t need them.

7 Reasons Why You Are Attracting Toxic People In Your Life (And How to Fix Them)

7 Reasons Why You Are Attracting Toxic People In Your Life (And How to Fix Them)

Wrong things happen when you trust, and give too much attention to, the wrong people.

Do you have toxic people in your life?  Do they influence you in detrimental ways?  Do they leave you feeling manipulated or bad about yourself after every encounter?  If so, you’re probably wondering how things got to be this way.  Despite your positive attitude and approach to life, you find yourself unexpectedly surrounded by negativity.

It might not occur to you that some of your strongest positive attributes may actually be attracting toxic people.

 These people may subconsciously feel threatened by your strengths, or they may just see you as an easy target.  Either way, they will attempt to undermine or control you by limiting your peace of mind, happiness or success.

It’s important to understand that every character strength has what is commonly called a “shadow side.”  When used too liberally, our strengths can become weaknesses and also make us more susceptible to toxic people.

I’ve experienced this in my own life.  One of my character strengths is that I am extremely sincere and compassionate.  But when pushed to its limit, my sincerity and compassion can become people pleasing.  I’ve realized that I sometimes quickly appease people who are pushy or rude just so they will like me.  By doing so, I inadvertently allow these people to enter my life and subject me to their toxic behavior.

I eventually learned to find my boundaries and say no, without losing myself in the process.  I became aware of how people may try to use my character strengths to their advantage.  This awareness has helped me ward off many toxic relationships.

The key is not to suppress your positive character strengths, but to educate yourself so toxic people can’t use them against you. 

If you feel like these people are drawn to you, here are seven surprising reasons why this may be happening, and some actionable tips to help you address it:

 

1.  You are a great listener.

Let’s face it.  With technological distractions stealing our attention all the time, great listeners are often hard to find.  When you find one, it’s hard not to take advantage of the rare opportunity to be heard.

Toxic people, however, take things to the next level.  They’ll talk to you for hours when they can get away with it.  They’ll ignore every body language and verbal cue you throw at them.  They’ll share unsolicited, negative details about their life every time they see you.  And they’re certainly not interested in what you have to say — because they’re only interested in seeing and hearing things their way.

If you’re great at active or empathetic listening, you may find yourself unwittingly becoming the target of a conversational bully or narcissist.

The fix:

When entering into a conversation, decide how much time you can, or wish to, spend with the other person.  Limit your conversations with toxic people to no more than a few minutes.

Think ahead of time about some exit lines you can use when the time is up or when a lull in the conversation develops.  Here are a few examples: “It was great catching up with you…” or, “I’ll talk to you again soon, but right now I must…” or, “I’ve got to get back to work.”

The key to deploying this strategy well is to not send mixed messages.  Let your body language and your words match.  Of course, this will feel harsh and awkward sometimes, but it’s a necessity for your own well being.

 

2.  You are incredibly generous with your time.

Most people would agree that being generous is a desirable character trait.  But beware; toxic people can be drawn to overly generous people.

They will cling to you if you’re willing to drop everything for them, answer all their calls, reply promptly to their emails, and fulfill their requests and demands every minute of the day.

As they consolidate their power by demanding more and more of your precious time, you may find yourself becoming increasingly resentful.

The fix:

Generosity without boundaries is a recipe for toxic relationships.  To establish healthy and reasonable boundaries, start by becoming aware of your feelings and needs.  Note the times and circumstances when you’re resentful of fulfilling someone else’s needs.  Gradually build boundaries by saying no to gratuitous requests that are likely to cause resentfulness in you.