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A Toxic Person in a Relationship: Here are the Signs

January 16, 2021

a toxic person in a relationship, picture of arguing couple

Who you choose as your romantic partners is possibly the most important decision you will ever make. That’s why it’s so important that you choose a healthy person who will bring out the best in you rather than hold you back. This may sound like common sense, but it’s amazing how many people fall into committed relationships with toxic people. Here we’ll walk through how to identify a toxic person in a relationship.

What is a Toxic Person?

The term “toxic person” is fairly broad depending on who you talk to. When I talk about toxic people, I’m talking about negative people who drain your energy. They have rigid mindsets and generally operate from victimhood. Their behaviors can range from unpleasant and unhelpful to abusive.

Allow me to elaborate, because it’s important to understand what a toxic person looks like in general before we talk about a toxic in a relationship. Toxic people often don’t take responsibility for themselves and their actions, choosing instead to blame others for what they don’t like in their lives. Ironically, they also don’t like themselves and have very low self esteem. This causes them to be needy of affirmation and attention, though they often will not be grateful for these things when they get them. Just the opposite: toxic people feel entitled to your time, resources, service, and affection. 

Above all, toxic people are unhappy and focus on the downside of everything. Their favorite activities are criticizing and complaining, and they’re very good at these things.

How Do You Get Trapped in a Toxic Relationship?

“Why would anyone want to be in a relationship with someone like that?” You may be asking. It’s a good question, because I doubt anyone goes looking for a partner with the traits I described above. Yet people end up with them all the time. 

I’m convinced that one of the reasons is that everyone is on their best behavior in the early stages of a relationship. A lot of the things I mentioned above will be downplayed, and because most people aren’t wary of toxicity to begin with, they miss the signs of a toxic person in a relationship.

Frankly, another reason people don’t recognize that their partner is toxic is because they’re distracted. Their partner may be incredibly good-looking, or they may have a lot of money. It may sound shallow, but those things are enough for a lot of people. 

Finally, people get stuck with a toxic person in a relationship because they have low self-esteem themselves. I don’t say this with any judgement, but the reality is that if you can’t stand yourself, you’ll attract other people with the same self-hatred. People who can’t love themselves won’t be able to love anyone else well. This is the true cause of a lot of failed relationships – two people who hate themselves and end up hating each other.

Spotting a Toxic Person in a Relationship

So what are some of the warning signs that your partner may be toxic? I’ll share some of the most common that I’ve seen below. Before I do, please note that many of the behaviors described below could qualify as abusive behavior. Therefore, if you finish reading these descriptions and feel they may describe your situation, consult with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist.

#1 – They Drain Your Energy

This bears repeating. Toxic people suck the life out of you. Now, it’s possible to be in relationship with someone who is emotionally healthy but who still doesn’t light your fire. This likely just means you aren’t really attracted to them at your core, for whatever reason. And you know what? That’s fine. Either way, if someone isn’t giving you life, you may need to break up.

#2 – Constant Complaining, Criticism, and Gossip

Again, a toxic person in a relationship will talk with you a lot about what bothers them – what’s got them down, what they’re worried about, why they can’t get a break, etc. They’ll rarely praise anything or express gratitude, and they won’t have much to say about stuff they like. However, they will have a lot to say about what they don’t like, and their favorite objects of scorn will usually be people.

Someone who loathes themselves will always project their issues onto others. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because it’d be too painful to admit their flaws to themselves, so they have to find an outlet outside themselves to vent at. Beware people like this. It may be other people they are trashing today, but it won’t be long before they start focusing on what they don’t like about you.

#3 – Neediness

It’s not ok for your partner to need you. What they really need is to be secure enough in themselves that they can function without you. They should have their own life apart from you – their own friends, activities, opinions, etc. Furthermore, they should be willing to give you space if you need it, and you will eventually. If they have to be talking to you all the time to be secure in your feelings for them, this is a bad sign. 

#4 – They Need to Be Right

Defensiveness is obviously not ideal, but it’s rare that you find someone who doesn’t ever get defensive in conflict. Most of us have room to grow here, and that’s ok. That said, a toxic person in a relationship will often cross other lines in an argument. One of the most heinous manifestations of toxicity is when your partner tries to make you the bad guy. Rather than assume the best about your intentions and be open to acknowledging how they might have contributed to a problem, they’ll insist it’s all your fault. 

Here’s the thing. If someone can’t give understanding and grace to you, I wouldn’t stay in that relationship. Additionally, if they can’t compromise, apologize, or admit fault, I would strongly urge you to reconsider staying with them. This last point goes double if they hurt you and consistently try to turn that around on you like it’s your fault. These are unacceptable and abusive tendencies, and you deserve better.

#5 – Control & Manipulation

Healthy relationships are marked by mutual trust and authenticity. A toxic person in a relationship isn’t capable of these things. Instead of being vulnerable, they will often attack you and withhold love. Rather than have basic faith in you, they will be suspicious of what you’re thinking and doing. A toxic partner may invade your privacy, check up on you excessively, or even try to make decisions for you. They may even demand you spend more time with them, or manufacture emergencies in order to keep you all to themselves.

#6 – They Invalidate Your Feelings

A toxic person in a relationship will often try to make you feel weak to make themselves feel strong and to make you dependent on them. They may say you’re overly sensitive, and they may often make you feel confused. A toxic person may even attempt to make you question your own judgement with tactics like gaslighting. If you think you may be experiencing these tactics from your partner, seek help from a professional. You may be experiencing emotional abuse. 

Use the Journey Principles to Find Healthy Relationships

We at the Journey Principles Institute want you to enjoy healthy, beneficial relationships. Right now we’re offering my eBook – 7 Relationships You Must Have to Win at Life absolutely free. This eBook will help you identify the right people to associate with while avoiding the wrong ones. 

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