20 Toxic Relationship Red Flags

June 5, 2020
Signs of a Toxic Person in a Relationship

Sadly, toxic people seem to be growing in numbers and thriving more than ever before. Western culture seems to have grown large crops of people with narcissistic traits who seem perpetually geared towards satisfying themselves without much concern for others. 

And the closer one of them is to us, the poorer we can fare in life so here are some signs to help you recognise a toxic partner. 


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1. Your feelings and problems annoy them

Emotionally healthy people want to hear from their partners.  They’ll want to know if you’re unhappy about something. They’ll show genuine concern if you’re experiencing a problem or feeling down. They’ll also want to help you work through it. 

Toxic people are sadly only interested in themselves. They’re largely incapable or uninterested in helping others unless there’s something in it for them. 

Since they lack the ability of truly bonding with a partner, they often find the feelings of their partners to be a drag. They might even accuse you of being hard work, boring, or depressive.

Yet, in reality, they just don’t care. 

Toxic people often hold a completely unrealistic picture of what a partner should look and act like. They usually fail to understand the simple truth that other people have feelings, needs, and desires. And that those feelings, needs and desires are just as valid as their own. 

2. Your physical appearance is overly important to them

If ever you’re in doubt about whether or not the person you’re with is toxic, this might be the defining red flag — and possibly the easiest to spot. 

If you feel the wellbeing of your entire relationship rests primarily on the way you look, that’s usually a massive, colossal red flag. 

Shallow people who are unable to truly, deeply connect with others will often place looks and age right at the very top of their relationship specifications list.

They need to be with someone who makes them look good. They also need them to make them feel good with endless compliments, yet they rarely return them. 

Emotionally healthy people desire a partner who will make them feel good by being fair, understanding, patient, and loving. How they physically look, or make us look, isn’t nearly as important as long as the chemistry is there. 

Mature, stable, well rounded, people know fine well that looks fade. They also know that it’s the years of mutual care, respect, and kindness that will keep you together and keep that love going strong. 

3. You feel like you’re never enough

Maybe nothing you ever do or say feels good enough for them. They can often feel like bottomless wells that require constant refilling with compliments, praise, and validation. 

Your efforts in the connection go unnoticed or are usually under appreciated. They are very rarely, if ever, returned. Sometimes you feel altogether invisible or as though you simply don’t matter all that much to them.

4. You’re exhausted 

Keeping up with paying them attention, compliments and trying to do everything right for them, all while looking great, maintaining a job and taking care of the kids is just too much.

You might feel physically, mentally, and emotionally drained and recovery can seem impossible. You might sometimes feel as if you’re able to keep up with it all but your body may show signs of sickness. 

You might start to grind your teeth at night from the stress, develop a rash, breakouts, or panic attacks. The body sometimes recognises and shows signs of stress and anxiety before your conscious mind does.

5. It’s always your fault 

You might be made to feel as if you’re seldom capable of doing anything well or right. If something fails in their life, however big or small, it’s somehow your fault. 

They might make you feel like you didn’t support them enough, didn’t compliment them enough, or didn’t help them in ways they think you should have and that lead to their failure. 

6. They’re pro dream crushers

You might as well call life quits in their eyes because unless their golden suggestions are taken up, all the ideas you come up with are simply terrible and doomed to failure.

That new and exciting business you wanted to setup that you’re super passionate about? It’s nonsense. You’ll never make it. It’ll just end up being a big waste of time and money.

That new haircut you’ve been thinking about getting? It won’t suit you. That new job you’d like to apply to? You won’t even get an interview and if you do, you’ll blow it. Even the job you have right now might be considered below par in some way. 

Toxic people are known for crushing hopes and dreams. And the more they can ruin, the better. Their reasoning and inner dialogue? Who knows. But it probably goes something like this: “I’m not happy. Nothing works out for me so why should it for you?”. 

7. They rarely compliment you

You might not be able to put your finger on why their compliments often seem underhanded or insincere on the rare occasion they make them. If and when they pay you what seems like a genuine compliment, it usually turns out they wanted something from you.

8. They often withhold validation and affection 

We can all feel insecure about so many things in life at times. You might appreciate some encouragement from your partner if you decide to apply for a new job, set up a new business, change your hair color. Alas, you’re sadly very unlikely to get that with a toxic partner.

9. Their attention is rationed 

You might sometimes feel like you’re a toy that your partner takes out of its box now and again to play with and then sets aside when they get bored. So, for example, they might want to take you out to dinner with their friends. You dress up and look gorgeous, you both convey the image of a happy, successful, loved up couple. Then you return home. And that’s where the attention wraps up, until next time.

This kind of behavior can really impact a person’s self esteem.

Genuine companionship entails frequent, clear, healthy, and caring communication. Someone who regards you as being equal to them and enjoys your companionship as their valued and cherished partner will want to converse with you often. It won’t feel like an obligation to them, or something they just can’t be bothered to do.

10. They control you with silence or rage

Narcissistic rage is scary. Really, really scary. And it can pop up out of nowhere. You may have not even said something particularly disagreeable. You may not have even known you said something that would offend them.

Because a toxic partner might be carrying severe psychological trauma from their childhood, they can be triggered by comments and actions that most healthy people wouldn’t find offensive in any way at all.

Silent disapproval is passive aggressive behavior. While it’s probably preferable to being exposed to random bouts of outright rage, it’s still unpleasant to be on the receiving end of. 

It can feel deeply invalidating and hurtful. Over time you can end up feeling severely neglected and even traumatised. It can force you to question yourself often. You might find yourself asking: “Did I do something wrong?”. “Did I say something that was rude or hurtful?”.

A healthy partner will calmly and patiently express why they disagree with something you said or did. They’ll always bear in mind that they’re talking to someone who they love and respect and treat you with care. They won’t suddenly flip out, overreact, or treat you like the enemy.

11. You can’t disagree with them 

Disagreeing with them can lead to huge arguments. Having your own opinion is rarely, if ever, okay. Oftentimes, you just aren’t allowed to disagree with them — on anything. 

You didn’t vote for the same politician? Bah, you’re either being intentionally difficult for whatever reason or you’re just plain stupid. Because, you know, they’re always right and infinitely intellectually superior to you (and everyone else). 

A healthy partner will never berate you for having a different opinion. And although they might strongly disagree with some of your opinions and ideas, they understand that we all think differently and that no two people can agree on absolutely everything all the time.

They respect your opinions, and appreciate you respecting theirs. They know that this will help to cultivate a harmonious and respectful partnership.

If you’re scared to share your opinion with someone because you know they’re likely to react react badly, you’re probably dealing with a toxic person. 

12. They wouldn’t be there for you if you got sick

This is probably the most shocking and painful realization someone who is in a toxic relationship may ever have… You might intuitively just know that if you ever become seriously or chronically sick, they wouldn’t be there for you or if they stayed, they just wouldn’t wish to care for you.

Fair enough, this is a totally hypothetical situation but they haven’t really been there for you when you were going through hard times in the past so why would they be there for you in a truly serious situation? 

And yet, you know that if they ever become seriously sick, they would categorically expect you to devote yourself to them and their every need.

13. Alone time is… weird

Let me explain why.

You might feel needy for them, unable to relax and enjoy your time alone. You might wonder if they’ve gone off you, or if they’re seeing someone else behind your back. If so, you may have been conditioned by them to feel this way. It’s all part of the control they wish to have over you. 

Or, contrastingly, you might feel super relieved when spending time alone. You might find yourself relishing every single moment you have without them because their unreasonable behavior and high standards are exhausting. 

14. You’re always walking on endless eggshells

This kind of relates to point 11 where I talk about not being free to express your own opinions on things for fear of encountering their wrath. You might feel on edge all the time. You feel as if you have to place every thought through 10 filters before speaking them aloud.

You might find yourself to spend a lot of time being preoccupied about accidentally saying something that will offend them in some way. You might even find yourself going through your texts over and over again before sending them.

15. The future never happens

They might make hefty promises that simply never come to fruition. Promises like going on holiday together, traveling together, visiting your parents or buying a home together. Yet, oddly, they might have come across as genuinely enthusiastic at the the time they agreed to doing certain things together, both big and small. 

But as time passes, very few, if any of those plans actually happen. When you try to bring them up in conversation, they’ll tell you that’s all in the future, but again, they still fail to take appropriate action on any of them.

The sad reality is that they may have never been genuinely interested in actually following through with any of the plans you created together when you were dating. It may have simply been part of their strategy to extract something from you; a relationship, sex, money, a place to live etc. They simply told you what you wanted to hear.

16. They only behave well when you start to withdraw

Only when they feel you’re getting fed up of their poor behavior do they spring into action to attempt to win you over again.

Someone who genuinely loves their partner will know a relationship takes time, consideration, thought and commitment. They’re fully aware that they need to do things to maintain and grow the connection. They don’t just allow it to slide down the wall and then, just before it hits the floor, pop up at your workplace with a big smile, roses, and a dinner reservation.

17. Special occasions are forgotten 

Because sadly and bluntly, they just kinda don’t mean that much to them.

When you love and respect someone, you want to ensure you make special days special or them. You love seeing them happy and smiling. You find pleasure in it. The last thing you would want to see is them being sad on their Birthday or disappointed on your anniversary.

A toxic partner may genuinely forget a special occasion. If they do remember it and attempt to put something together, they might take you to their favorite restaurant, buy you a shockingly cheap or otherwise inappropriate gift, or mess up in some other kind of way. 

Year on year.

18. They make bad situations worse 

If you’re feeling down about something, not only will they not be all that interested in discussing it, they might enjoy twisting the knife. They might do this by blaming the situation on you or start demeaning your character in some way. They might also start talking about themselves and their woes and how your issues pale in comparison. 

19. They have bizarre double standards

They might expect you to behave and look a certain way but it’s fine for them to look and behave a totally different way. You might feel obliged to look great all the time and say all the things that make them happy but they have carte blanche to behave and look any way they like.

20. The amount of jealousy is staggering

In a loving, mutually fulfilling relationship, feelings of jealousy are experienced by both parties. They’re totally normal. However, they’re usually infrequent and fleeting because your partner will reassure you that their affections are for you and you alone.

However, in a relationship with a toxic person, they might enjoy making you feel insecure. They condition you in this manner so that they feel validated and attractive when you feel unsure of your future with them. 

Nothing much else makes them feel worthy or secure in themselves than the validation of others. Even if it’s at someone else’s emotional expense. 

They might also be incredibly jealous of you. It could be of your life, your hair, your bank balance, your home, and most certainly any attention you receive from other men or women.


Final thoughts

The level of entitlement and general nastiness of toxic people is often astounding. Yet, as we all know, human psychology is infinitely complex and we all have our own unique reasons for behaving the way that we do. Deeply narcissistic people are usually very wounded people who require a lot of inner healing — and they may not even know it.


From someone who has dealt with toxic people in one form or another their entire life, I just want to say I know what you’re going through. I truly wish you all the best.


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