What is a Toxic Relationship? How Do You Know If You’re In One?

Are you in a toxic relationship, or are you simply with the wrong person?

How can you tell?

Toxic relationships are any relationships that are considered unhealthy for either one or both partners.

In some cases, both partners in the relationship contribute to its toxicity by prioritizing their own needs and the need to be in a relationship over having a healthy relationship (or no relationship at all).

However, there are some situations where a toxic relationship is caused by one partner behaving in detrimental ways and the other partner sticking around because they idealize the idea of being in a relationship and get caught in a toxic cycle of abuse.

In the end, toxic relationships are those that lack respect, trust, and comfort and cause one or both partners to feel drained and unhappy.

The Toxic Abuse Cycle

When it comes to toxic relationships, it is possible that the relationship can be emotionally abusive.

So if the relationship is emotionally abusive, why do people stay?

It’s because they get trapped in a cycle of toxic abuse that escalates subtly over time, making it difficult to spot that the relationship is toxic right away.

Emotional abuse from a toxic relationship typically follows a cycle that ends up repeating itself:


Idealization often happens at the very beginning of a relationship but can occur during the cycle when the toxic partner feels like things are falling apart.

Also known as “love bombing,” idealization involves showering one partner with love and adoration in order to get them hooked on the good feelings.

When arguments or conflicts happen, the toxic partner will likely revert back to idealization in order to confuse the other person – how can they be so bad when they are so loving?


Once the “love bombing” stage is over, the toxic partner may start to subtly target the other person’s insecurities and things they are proud of by making dismissive comments or insulting remarks in order to make them feel not special.

However, this verbal abuse may be interspersed with idealization to boost those good feelings and create a sense of confusion for the victim.

And this is how the cycle repeats.

Breaking the Cycle

Sometimes the toxic partner will grow bored and discard their significant other in search of someone else they can control and manipulate.

But over time, they may try to come back and start up the cycle again – whether they can’t find someone else or they aren’t ready to relinquish the control they once had.

When a victim gets involved with a toxic partner again, the cycle repeats.

Toxic Abuse Cycle: An Example

To help you better understand this cycle, I’ll give you an example:

You do something seemingly innocent, like forgetting to empty the dishwasher, and your partner gets upset over it. You know a fight is coming, so you act as if you are walking on eggshells to avoid upsetting them.

Eventually, they do blow up and call you out for not emptying the dishwasher. They may call you lazy or harp on how much they do and how unappreciated they feel – and it’s all your fault!

Once all is said and done, however, they will “make up” with you and give you positive attention. They may recognize other things you do around the house and praise you for your help.

They may also promise not to get upset over little things like this again.

Everything goes back to normal and seems calm.

They may make the promised changes, but they don’t last, and you end up repeating the cycle when you do something else that upsets them.

But somewhere in the back of your head, you know the lovey feelings are coming, and you may even convince yourself that their treatment of you is not that bad.

Signs You Are in a Toxic Relationship

To help you figure out whether or not you are in a toxic relationship, here are some signs you should look out for:

Blame, Blame, and More Blame

Do you find your partner blames you for everything? Maybe they blame you for how they feel, their crappy day, or even things that happened to them in the past.

They may also blame you for past mistakes and feel you owe them something because of them. Or they may use your past mistakes to cover their own behavior.

For example, if you bring up how you don’t like how much time they spend video games, they may blame you and say it’s because you don’t pay enough attention to them.

Or if they had a bad day at work, they blame you because you didn’t wake them up early enough and they were late.

This toxic behavior is used to bring up guilt and bitterness from the past in order to manipulate you into feeling at fault for the current situation.

Emotional Blackmail

If your partner uses your behaviors to threaten the relationship, this is known as emotional blackmail, and it can cause small issues in the relationship to become explosive crises.

They may say something like, “I can’t be with someone who goes out every weekend,” instead of saying, “It concerns me that you go out every weekend, and we don’t get to spend a lot of time together.”

They may threaten to break up with you if you don’t do something or stop doing something.


Despite what you may have been led to believe, jealousy is not a sign of a healthy relationship.

In fact, jealousy is a way that toxic people try to control their partners. It’s not a display of affection, it’s a manipulation tactic.

It’s demeaning because it’s used to make you feel like your partner believes you are a liar or incapable of controlling your impulses.

What Can You Do?

Does being in a toxic relationship mean that you have to break up?

The answer to this question depends entirely on how toxic the relationship is and whether your partner is the toxic one or if you both are.

If you are both toxic, you can try and fix the relationship and turn it into something healthy – but this will take work on both parts.

If your partner is toxic, it’s worth discussing their behavior with them. It’s possible that they are not aware of what they are doing and how they are making you feel.

But before you put any effort into saving the relationship, ask yourself: “Do I want to stay in this relationship?”

Do you truly love your partner? Or are you afraid of being single?

If you’re ready to check out, or if your partner is unwilling to change their behavior and work on the relationship, it may be time to leave.

Are You in a Toxic Relationship?

While there is no official way to label a relationship as “toxic,” understanding the signs will help you figure out if you are in a toxic relationship or not.

If you are, what you do depends on the situation.

However, if you are experiencing emotional abuse from your partner, it’s time to go.

Emotional abusers are unlikely to change, so your priority has to be your own well-being.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.