Relationships are supposed to be a source of comfort and support. What do you do when your relationship is more emotionally draining than fulfilling?
Recognizing and addressing relationship problems is not easy. All relationships have their ups and downs, but when you and your partner are always in conflict, it may be time to reach out for help.
No one deserves to be in a toxic relationship. The first step toward strengthening your bond with your partner is acknowledging the unhealthy habits that are making you feel emotionally exhausted or distant. This will give you the clarity you need to decide the best way forward.
What Is a Toxic Relationship?
A toxic relationship is a partnership that is more harmful than helpful. A healthy relationship should make you feel supported, safe, and confident. A toxic relationship has the opposite effect.
Toxic partnerships are characterized by competitiveness, conflict, disrespect, and a lack of support. Sometimes, these issues are caused by problems within the relationship. Other times, the toxic traits stem from problems within yourself or within your partner.
Not all toxic relationships are romantic. Family, friend, and professional relationships can also be toxic.
Signs of a Toxic Relationship
Recognizing a toxic relationship while you’re in one can be difficult. When you have so much emotion attached to the situation, it’s hard to objectively see the red flags.
Here are six signs of a toxic relationship:
1. Criticism and Belittling
In a healthy relationship, partners can discuss the things that upset them without resorting to insults or character assassination. Constant criticizing and belittling is a very toxic trait, and it can take a serious toll on your mental health.
This isn’t always obvious. Toxic partners sometimes make subtle digs, but these comments can build up over time until they affect your self-esteem. Hurtful jokes about your character can be a sign of an unhealthy relationship, too. Even if your partner doesn’t mean to offend you, if they continue with the jokes after you’ve told them that the comments are upsetting, it shows disrespect.
2. Excessive Control
Control can be a complicated topic in a relationship. You and your partner are a team, so it’s normal and healthy to want to be involved in each other’s lives. However, if your partner is stopping you from engaging in the things that add meaning and value to your life, your relationship may be toxic.
One of the most common characteristics of a toxic relationship is controlling where your partner goes or who they see. You should not feel isolated from your friends, family, or colleagues because of your partner. You should be able to go places on your own without upsetting your partner, and you shouldn’t feel like you have to lie to your partner about where you went or what you did.
Controlling behaviors aren’t always done with evil intent. Sometimes, people don’t realize that they’re acting controlling over their partners. Sometimes, the need for control comes from insecurity or anxiety. Regardless of the reason, though, trying to control your partner’s life and decisions is a toxic trait.
3. Never Apologizing
No relationship is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes. When one partner hurts the other, they should be able to acknowledge what they did wrong, apologize, and take active steps to avoid making the mistake again. Apologizing shows consideration for your partner and a willingness for growth, which are both cornerstones of a strong and healthy relationship.
If your partner never apologizes for anything, your relationship may be toxic. This is a sign that your relationship isn’t improving or strengthening over time and that your partner isn’t trying to grow.
4. Dropping Hints
Many relationship problems boil down to lack of communication or ineffective communication. If you or your partner try to hint at your feelings or wants in the hope that the other will pick up on the message, it may be a sign that you’re struggling to communicate.
In a healthy relationship, you should feel free to speak openly about your concerns. Communicating through hints isn’t a sign that your relationship is doomed, but it’s a toxic habit that can eventually make the relationship take a turn for the worse.
5. Lack of Support
Your partner should be a major source of support in your life. In a healthy relationship, both people want the other to achieve their full potential and reach their professional and personal goals. When things become toxic, jealousy or spite may get in the way of you and your partner celebrating each other’s wins.
Feeling like your partner doesn’t care about your goals or successes is a sign that the relationship has turned toxic. When you reach an important milestone or succeed at an important task, are you excited to tell your partner about it? If you aren’t, it may be time to reflect on the relationship.
6. Walking on Eggshells
Most people have certain topics that cause stress or anxiety, and it’s good to be careful and considerate when bringing up those sensitive discussions with your partner. If you feel like you’re constantly walking on eggshells, though, you may be in a toxic relationship.
You should be able to communicate about problems without worrying that your partner will blow up or shut down. Keeping these problems to yourself will only lead to more issues in the future, too. You can’t suppress your concerns forever, and trying to avoid important discussions is harmful to yourself and to the relationship.
How Therapy Can Help
Maybe you recognize some of these toxic traits in your relationship, but you don’t want to let go of the partnership. You’ve been with your partner for a long time, and you see a bright future together if both of you commit to working on yourselves and the relationship. Fortunately, in many cases, toxic partnerships can improve with therapy.
For relationship therapy to work, both you and your partner have to be willing to go. You can’t force your partner to change, and you also have to commit to doing the work. Therapy for toxic partnerships requires a great deal of self-reflection, communication, and patience from both parties.
Counseling creates a safe, neutral environment for you and your partner to speak openly about your concerns. Your therapist will help you identify the root of the issues in the relationship, and they’ll work with you to develop skills that will strengthen the relationship. You and your partner might be assigned homework to do outside of your therapy sessions, too, so that you can put these new skills to the test.
It’s important to note the difference between toxic relationships and abusive relationships. In a toxic relationship, one or both partners has unhealthy habits that make the relationship more stressful than rewarding. In an abusive relationship, one partner causes emotional, mental, or physical harm to the other. Abusive relationships are highly toxic, but toxic traits aren’t always a sign that a relationship is abusive.
If you’re experiencing a toxic relationship, therapy can help you and your partner salvage your bond, improve your communication, and make the relationship healthier and happier. Therapy can also be a valuable experience as you work through the safe steps needed to allow you to leave an abusive relationship.
The Beverly Hills Therapy Group offers counseling for couples and individuals who are hoping to strengthen their relationships. Our therapists understand the many struggles that can lead to unhealthy partnerships, and we’re here to help. To meet with a relationship therapist in Beverly Hills, contact us today.