Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Toxic  Relationships

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Toxic Relationships


What is a Toxic Relationship?
Signs You're in a Toxic Relationship.
What a Toxic Relationship Does to You Mentally and Physically
Why Do Toxic Relationships Occur?
Characteristics of a Toxic Person
Characteristics of a Psychopath
Questions to Ask Yourself If You Think You May Be in a Toxic Relationship
Can You Heal a Toxic Relationship?
Why Do People Stay in Toxic Relationships?
Here’s What to Do if You’re in a Toxic Relationship

Toxic relationships exist on a spectrum. Just because you, your partner, best friend, or sister may exhibit toxic behaviour at one time or another, doesn’t mean the entire relationship is toxic. However, if you are starting to feel like your negative moments with that person far outweigh the positive ones, if you are being physically or verbally assaulted, or if you’re feeling stuck and hopeless for the future, then it may be time to walk away altogether.

To determine if your relationship is a toxic one, you must evaluate the consistency, intensity and damage of the toxicity both mentally and physically. From there you’ll be able to decide if it’s worth the effort to fix the relationship or if it’s better to leave it behind.

What is a Toxic Relationship?

The first person to coin the term “toxic relationship” was Dr. Lillian Glass, a California psychology expert and author of the book Toxic People. According to Glass, a toxic relationship is any relationship between two people who 1/ don’t support one another, 2/ have frequent arguments with no resolve, 3/ undermine one other 4/ compete against one another 5/ disrespect each other and 6/ lack cohesiveness. While most people are referring to love relationships when they describe them as being toxic, the truth is that toxicity can seep into any relationship you have whether it’s with a family member, a coworker, or even a friend. If your relationship is consistently unpleasant or unsupportive, prevents you from having a healthy lifestyle, or prevents you from being productive or achieving your goals — it’s likely a toxic one.

Signs You're In a Toxic Relationship

How can you tell if you’re in a toxic relationship? It’s likely your gut has been sending you warning signs for some time now. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of being in a toxic relationship is that your intuition gets buried under a mountain of criticism and insecurities. An increase in self doubt and a decrease in self esteem will make it harder for you to recognise if you’re in a toxic relationship, and even harder so if you intend to leave it.  Because toxic relationships don’t normally start out that way, identifying them as so can be even trickier. Eventually you wake up one day and you’re buried deep in hell with no idea how you got there or how to get out.

The toxicity signs can include obvious damage such as physical and verbal abuse but often it’s the less obvious damage — insomnia, hopelessness for the future, feeling stuck or unworthy, and adopting unhealthy lifestyle choices — that are the hardest to recognize and therefore treat.

If more than a few of these signs ring a bell for you, it might be time to face the music and call it what it is, a toxic relationship. 

  • Physical Abuse

  • Verbal abuse

  • Harassment

  • Lack of emotional support

  • Lack of trust

  • Dishonesty

  • Judgement

  • Hostility

  • Passive aggressiveness

  • Negative energy

  • Narcissism

  • Avoidance or lack of communication

  • Disrespect

  • Controlling behavior

  • Extreme jealousy

  • Competitiveness

  • Lack of privacy

  • Increased risk behaviors

  • Disrespect

  • Unnecessary drama

  • Lack of growth or change

  • No division of labor (emotional or physical)

  • Lack of effort to spend time together or do nice things for each other

  • Stonewalling or shutting you down every time you want to talk about something

  • Tiptoeing

  • Criticism

  • Lack of autonomy

  • Unreliable

  • Inability to do anything right

  • Brings out your worst

What a Toxic Relationship Does to You Mentally and Physically

Being in a toxic relationship slowly chips away at your Deep Self, your true essence. If the toxicity goes on long enough, you’ll end up with a lack of confidence, an inability to make decisions, and a large amount of self-doubt that might cause friends and family to repeatedly utter the question “Are you feeling ok, you don’t seem like yourself.” A toxic relationship can also have an effect on you physically. When you are feeling unworthy of love or affection, it can cause you to engage in risky behaviors or adopt unhealthy lifestyle habits such as binge drinking or obsessively working out.

What a Toxic Relationship Does to You Mentally

  • Lack of confidence- “I’m not sure I can do that.”

  • Making excuses for your partner’s toxic behavior- “He doesn’t mean it when he talks to me like that. His parents didn’t show him enough love.”

  • Feeling trapped or stuck- “I just don’t see any way out of this.”

  • Poor self-worth- “I don’t deserve better.”

  • Negative body image- “My cellulite is repulsive.”

  • Passive aggressive behavior- “I’m fine.”

  • Lack of motivation- “I don’t see the point of going to a therapist. Nothing ever changes.”

  • Unhappy- “No matter what I do, I just feel empty inside.”

  • You’re always making compromises for the relationship even when it comes to your personal goals- “I guess we can spend Christmas with your family again, but next year I really want to spend it with mine.”

  • Feeling ‘off’- “I just don’t feel like myself.”

  • Inability to make decisions, big or small- “I am not sure which rug to choose, I’m afraid of making the wrong choice.”

  • Not feeling good enough- “I don’t fit in here, these people are way more successful and beautiful than I will ever be.”

  • Envious of happy couples- “I’m so happy you’re engaged. I wish my boyfriend loved me as much as yours.”

  • Low self-esteem- “I would be attractive if only I lost 20 pounds.”

  • Lowering your standards- “At least he doesn’t physically abuse me.”

  • Being a victim- “Why do you spend more time with your friends than me, am I not as fun?”

What a Toxic Relationship Does to You Physically

  • Increase of risky behaviors- binge drinking, excessive drinking, recreational drug use, smoking, promiscuous or unprotected sex,

  • Weight loss

  • Weight gain

  • Not practicing simple acts of self-care such as drinking enough water or taking time out for yourself

  • Eating unhealthy foods

  • Obsessing over your caloric intake

  • Insomnia

  • Anxiety

  • Excessive working out

  • Distancing yourself from friends or family

  • Feeling like you have to buy new creams and potions in order to improve your physical appearance

  • Physical yet inexplainable pain in the body

  • Upset stomach

Why Do Toxic Relationships Occur?

Toxic relationships manifest when one or both people in the relationship lack healthy boundaries and the ability to communicate honestly. Not every toxic relationship starts out that way, in fact, many rarely do. When you first enter a relationship with someone, it’s normal to want to put your best foot forward. You don’t go on a first date and divulge all of the toxic behaviours you exhibited in your previous relationship. The person would likely high tail out of there! Instead, you project your most positive traits. This song and dance may last a few dates or it may go on for months, but eventually everyone’s true nature will be exposed.

Even the most intelligent, independent, and strong people find themselves in toxic relationships from time to time. Why? Because humans repeat patterns they’ve inherited in previous relationships or conditioning. Don’t worry if you have ever exhibited toxic behavior, though. Just because you’ve been jealous one time, doesn’t mean all of your relationships are destined to be toxic.  A toxic relationship can only be defined as so, when the negative moments far outweigh the bad. By educating yourself on what it means to be a toxic person, and putting in an ample amount of self-work, you’ll be able to retrain your brain to exude healthy relationship behaviors instead of toxic ones.

Characteristics of a Toxic Person

Because toxic people may be unaware that they are being toxic in the first place, it can be hard to come to grips with the information. The most important thing to remember is that it’s not your job to fix anyone else. You can, however, make yourself aware of the impact their toxic behavior has on you and choose whether or not you want that kind of behavior in your life. You can also make yourself more aware of the toxic tendencies you may be exhibiting and then commit yourself to breaking those unhealthy patterns that no longer serve you. By putting in an ample amount of self-work, you’ll be able to develop your inner strength and adopt healthy patterns that will bring more loving, caring, and respectful relationships into your life, instead of toxic ones.

If you suspect that someone in your life is exhibiting the following traits, it may be time to re-evaluate the impact this relationship is having on your life.

Characteristics of a Toxic Person

  • Manipulative

  • Preying on others for personal needs or gratification

  • Energy suckers

  • Selfish

  • Calculating

  • Self-absorbed

  • Preoccupied with their own needs, goals, or interests

  • Passive aggressive

  • Jealous

  • Frequent player of the blame game

  • Inability to admit fault

  • Contempt

  • Pointless arguing

  • Negative energy

  • Controlling

  • Super competitive

  • Full of empty promises

  • Needy

  • Insecure

*If the person you are in a relationship exhibits the following traits, it could be that you are dealing with a Psychopath, and in that case you should seek immediate safety.

Characteristics of a Psychopath

  • Masking themselves to those they wish to manipulate or con

  • Chronic psychological disorder

  • Impulsive

  • Imposing

  • Pretentious

  • Extravagant

  • Inflated sense of self

  • Deceitful

  • Egotistical

  • Lack of empathy

  • Rare to accept personal responsibility

  • Crave acceptance

Questions to Ask Yourself If You Think You May Be In a Toxic Relationship

How do you feel before you see that person?

If your answer includes any of the following feelings — nervous, disinterested, apathetic, fearful or stressed — you might be in a toxic relationship. Meeting with friends or a partner shouldn’t feel like a chore or obligation. Relationships should feel like a safe haven, a place where you can truly be yourself without fear of being judged, denigrated, or insulted.

How do you feel while you are with that person?

If you answered anything along the lines of diminished, pushed aside, smaller, or lesser than, then you might be in a toxic relationship. Healthy relationships should uplift you and bring out the best in you, not diminish your self worth. Feeling understood, being on the same wavelength, and connection are all side effects of being in a healthy relationship.

How do you feel afterwards?

If you feel exhausted, mentally drained, blue, or even irritable after hanging out that person, you might be in a toxic relationship. A healthy relationship should invigorate you, inspire you, and comfort you, not leave you feeling depleted. You should walk away with a smile on your face, an extra kick in your step and a warmth in your heart.

Does this person make you feel safe?

Do you feel like you can tell this person your deepest fears or wildest dreams without being judged or belittled? If not, then you might be in a toxic relationship. If you can’t dream the biggest dream with this person, you will always feel like you’re settling. You will compromise so much of yourself that eventually your true self will dull.

Is this person reliable?

Would you be able to rely on this person if there was a natural disaster, a zombie apocalypse, or alien invasion? Is this someone that would drive over in the middle of the night if you found out your father passed away? Would you ask this person to help you move? Would they show up? Dependability and reliability are traits that healthy relationships are founded upon. Without them, you’re better off alone.

Do you feel like you have to puff yourself up around this person?

When you are around this person do you find yourself exaggerating about how much money you make, people you know, or confidence you possess?  Toxic people tend to bring out the worst in others. Because toxic people are also very judgemental and critical it’s normal that they make others insecure with themselves.

Do you feel like you are always on the defense?

Are you constantly defending your values, beliefs, ideas, loved ones, actions or behaviours? If you’re always explaining yourself, you might be in a toxic relationship. Healthy relationships encourage open and honest communication as well as promote active listening and constructive criticism. If your husband is standing over you and giving you unsolicited advice about how best to prepare dinner while you are cooking dinner for your family, you might be in a toxic relationship.

Does this person manipulate you?

Do you find yourself feeling guilty if you don’t meet this person’s expectations? If so, you might be in a toxic relationship. Healthy relationships aren’t devoid of expectation, but the person in them certainly doesn’t go to great lengths to make you feel bad for making a mistake. If they do, remind yourself that it isn’t a healthy behavior.

Does this person say one thing yet do another?

A key component to any healthy relationship is how accountable a person is. If you can’t count on this person to show up for the small stuff, how on earth will you be able to navigate the harder waves of life such as the passing of a loved one, getting laid off or facing a serious illness? Furthermore, if your partner, friend, or family member is consistently stretching the truth or flat out lying, you might be in a toxic relationship. Healthy relationships are built on trust. Without it you’ll suffer disappointment after disappointment.

Do you feel like this person complicates your life?

Even healthy relationships have ups and downs. But more often than not, healthy relationships make your load feel lighter by offering words of encouragement, supportive brainstorms, or even physical affection or action. If your relationship is lacking those things, it might be a toxic one.

Can You Heal a Toxic Relationship?

First you must determine if the relationship is worth saving. In order to do that you’ll have to ask yourself this question and answer it very honestly: “Am I gaining more from this relationship than I am sacrificing?” If you have low self worth, your answer to that question might be skewed. That’s why it’s so important to regularly check in with self. Oftentimes we attract toxic partners because we have a toxic relationship with self. If we shift our focus from healing a toxic relationship onto strengthening our relationship with self, it will become much easier to eventually break the bad habit of attracting toxic people and will provide the necessary framework for us to attract healthy and supportive healthy relationships.

After you’ve done the self-work, and you still determine that the relationship is one that’s worth saving, then consider speaking to a professional. Therapy will help both parties establish new boundaries, gain new insights, develop healthy communication strategies, and provide problem solving techniques. Be leery of any expedited one-size-fits-all approach being thrown at you, however. Every relationship requires hard work and effort in order to grow and evolve through the years. A toxic one requires even more effort. If only one party is interested in putting in the necessary effort, then you might want to rethink the reasons why you are in this relationship at all.  

Why Do People Stay in Toxic Relationships?

The unfortunate side effects of staying in a toxic relationship are also the reasons why people tend to stay in toxic relationships; they have a low self worth, they are addicted to a substance (which is often made worse when there is lack of emotional support), or they fear being alone.

Some people stay in toxic relationships because they feel obligated too. This is especially true in familial relationships. Perhaps you are married to a man whose mother is very critical of you. You fear putting distance because then your children and husband would suffer.

Others might stay in toxic relationships because they lack the resources (financial or otherwise) to get out. They might fear being unable to provide for their children, or worse, losing custody of their children.

Furthermore, some people fear retaliation either physical or emotional abuse. For those that fear they are in physical danger, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline immediately. They are available 24/7 guidance at 1-800-799-7233.

Regardless of the reason you think you can’t leave a toxic relationship, know that there is always a way. And the way always starts from within.

Here’s What to Do if You’re in a Toxic Relationship

1/ Identify triggers or negative patterns

In this stage, you’ll identify possible triggers, making note about how you feel when certain things happen to you. Keep a feelings journal. Journaling provides a bird’s eye view of your feelings. No longer are your feelings just bumping into one another causing chaos, they are now living outside of Self on paper. This allows you to view your emotions from a different perspective. It also helps to keep a record because the mind plays tricks on us. If we are in a toxic relationship, we may forget the way our other half treated us last week, if this week he is being gentle and loving. If you’ve identified that you are generally dissatisfied with your job, keeping a feelings journal will help you discover exactly why this is so. This stage is particularly focused on identifying how you FEEL when certain things happen to you.

2/ Distancing yourself from triggers or negative patterns

Keep your distance emotionally (and if need be, physically). Give yourself permission to put distance between anyone that makes you feel bad, disrespected, lesser than, not good enough, exhausted, or inadequate. The distance doesn’t have to be permanent, although it might end up being so, it will just give you some space to breathe and reflect. The distance will help you separate your feelings from reality so that you can objectively analyse their toxic behavior  It will also clear up your schedule so that you have more time to work on Self.

3/ Put in self-work

Self work works! It really does. When you establish healthy rituals, show kindness to self, and practice an attitude of gratitude, you build an indestructible inner strength, one that even the most toxic of people can’t penetrate. Commit to putting in an ample amount of self-work

Do these things. Do all of them. And then when you wake up, do them again. Do them again until they become habits. If you don’t know how to do them, Google it. The internet will be a huge help on your self-work journey, especially if you live somewhere rural and your community doesn’t offer a lot in terms of workshops, meditation classes or bookshops.


  • Praying

  • Journaling

  • Meditating

  • Eating mindfully

  • Nourishing your body

  • Abstaining from toxins (smoking, processed foods, alcohol)

  • Setting intentions

  • Dancing

  • Stretching

  • Practicing yoga

  • Extending your belly when breathing in

  • Laughing

  • Listening

  • Painting

  • Crafting

  • Playing an instrument

  • Perform random acts of kindness

  • Decluttering your living space, desk space, car, purse, backpack

  • Walking in the grass/or on the earth barefoot

  • Exploring nature

  • Freeing yourself from distractions (Taking a technology timeout)

  • Spending time with a child or dog, doing as they do

  • Downsizing

  • Admiring nature

  • Expressing gratitude

  • Exercising /moving your body/breaking a sweat

  • Reading about ancient philosophies or religions

  • Practicing self care- painting your toe nails, moisturising your body, massaging your scalp, taking a bubble bath,

  • Volunteering and not telling anyone about it

  • Becoming an activist

  • Participating in community development

  • Attending a workshop about a subject you are interested in

  • Love on someone/something

  • Give yourself a compliment

  • Repeat affirmations


  • Reflecting

  • Questioning the status quo

  • Feeling emotions

  • Not letting same emotions succumb you

  • Manifesting

  • Checking in with your mental, physical, emotional state regularly

  • Listening to your gut

  • Focusing on the things that matter most

  • Forgiving

  • Empathising

  • Being, just being (you are human being, not a human doing.)

4/ Incorporate the toxic person back into you life and determine whether or not you should put permanent distance or seek professional help.

After you’ve spent a lot of time on developing an inner strength through self-work, now it’s time to incorporate that toxic person back into your life. Pay special attention to the feelings that arise before, during, and after your meeting. Are any of the same toxic signs still present? How do they affect you now that your inner strength has been fortified through regular self-work exercises?

If you are still unsure about how to proceed, that’s ok. Have trust that you will receive clarity soon. Give yourself time and space to understand how you feel. In the meantime, continue to nourish your deep self with self-work. The more self-work you do, the quicker your layers of fear will begin to peel back, revealing your fiercely impenetrable core. When you actively and regularly nourish deep self, you will no longer make decisions based on fear but on prosperity. You will have an innate trust that things will work out because they always do. You will have trust the Universe will be working for you, not against you.

No matter what story you’ve been telling yourself, you deserve to be in a happy, healthy relationship that evolves with you as you dance through life. Furthermore, you don’t need anyone because you are already perfectly enough the way you are. There is no person on this planet who will complete you or make you more whole, more beautiful, more perfect than you already are.


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