It’s hard to see that you are in a toxic relationship when you’re living inside one every day. You’ve ignored the red flags and the signs for so long that the bad behaviour just seems normal to you. Toxic behaviour is subtle at first, creeping in unexpectedly, slowly disintegrating the foundation of your relationship until the collapse starts to happen. A toxic relationship will impact all areas of your life from your friendships to your career, finances, home, health and family relationships. It will make you feel anxious and fearful most of the time and it will erode your self-esteem, self-confidence and self-respect to the point that you don’t know who you are anymore.
Both of you could be engaging in toxic behaviour without even realising it. If you are in a toxic relationship, it’s time to get help or make the choice to leave. Your relationship may be toxic if…
1. You treat each other like the competition
Is your partner dismissive or jealous about your success? Do you compete over who has more money, a better job, a higher education or who does more around the house? There isn’t supposed to be a winner and a loser in a relationship, both of you should be winning. If you cannot acknowledge or celebrate the good things that happen to each other, then you are stuck in toxic behaviour.
2. One is giving and the other is taking
Who does all the talking? Who does more around the house? Who pays for everything? Who does all the initiating sexually? Who steps in first to resolve the conflict? Who makes all the social arrangements? Who cooks all the meals? You are in a toxic relationship if one of you is doing all of the giving and making all the effort and the other is only taking and doing nothing in return.
3. You think you own each other
Your partner had a life before they met you with independence, friends, hobbies, adventures and life experiences. That story did not end just because you got married. A ring does not imply possession. If you won’t let your partner have a life, friendships & experiences outside of your marriage then you are breeding toxic behaviour. If they monitor every call, WhatsApp message and social arrangement you make then that is why there is no trust in your marriage. If you demand that they give up activities and ask them to stop seeing people that are important to them, then you are suffocating your partner by isolating them inside your marriage. This toxic behaviour needs to stop.
4. You don’t respect your partner’s space and needs
Toxicity builds rapidly when one partner takes the other for granted. Do you remember the dates and anniversaries that are important to your partner? Do they make dinner when you’ve had a bad day? Did you use the last of the milk but didn’t buy more? Do they fulfill your sexual desires? Do you leave your dirty dishes and laundry lying around, expecting your partner to clean up after you? Do they plan date nights or is it always up to you? Are you sharing chores and parenting responsibilities equally? If you disregard your partner’s needs, disrespect their space and undervalue them for all they do, then you’re engaging in toxic behaviour..
5. You don’t listen
Do you really listen when your partner is trying to tell you something or do you interrupt and ignore them? Are they actually hearing what you are saying or are they only hearing what they want to hear, dismissing your truth and feelings as irrelevant? Are you available and present for your partner when they want to talk or do you get distracted by calls, TV, social media and work? Intimacy is built when people feel heard. Not being willing to listen is toxic behaviour.
6. You expect your partner to change
Do not expect your partner to change who they are (their beliefs and values), the way they look (weight, clothes, hairstyle), their friends, their hobbies, the food they eat, the entertainment they enjoy, the social arrangements they love. Trying to mould your partner into someone else is toxic behaviour and it undermines their self-esteem and confidence. If you cannot appreciate or accept your partner’s uniqueness and life choices then don’t be with them in the first place.
7. You don’t keep your agreements
Integrity is everything in life and in relationships and keeping your agreements is one of the cornerstones of integrity. Do you keep treating your partner with contempt by not doing what you said you would do? Do they keep breaking your trust by not following through with their promises? A lack of reliability = toxic behaviour.
8. You’re unwilling to get help
You know things aren’t OK between you but you’re not willing to see a marriage therapist. They are aware that they don’t have the tools to deal with conflict in your relationship yet they refuse to ask for support. You’re both unwilling to address the damaging behaviour and neither of you want to change so you’ll both just stay in this horrible space, watching your relationship implode. Toxic people try to shut out everyone else, friends, family members or professionals who can help. Break the silence and get the support you need to find a better way.
9. You’re stuck in the past
You keep thinking about how wonderful they were in the beginning. They keep waiting for you to stop being so angry all the time. You keep wondering when this moody person will go back to being the bubbly, energetic person you fell in love with. They keep longing to go back to that honeymoon phase. Both of you need to stop living in the past and accept the reality of the way things are now. If you can no longer support each other or speak to each other with respect or behave in a workable way, then it’s time to rethink your relationship.
10. You do not respect each other’s boundaries
You both have the right to mental, spiritual, emotional, physical and material boundaries. Your partner is not entitled to your space without your permission. Are you saying yes all the time when you really want to say no? Do they shame you or ridicule you for what you believe? Do you disregard your partner’s feelings? Do they treat your possessions badly? Do you tease them about their physicality? A lack of regard or respect for each other’s boundaries is toxic behaviour and a big indicator that the relationship is no longer healthy.
If you recognise any of these toxic behaviours in your relationship then it’s time to get help. Stop the denial about how bad things really are and reach out for support. Phone a friend, ask a family member or book an appointment with a therapist. You need to get real about what’s really going on in your relationship and find a way through and forward.
If you want to address the toxicity in your relationship, book a couple's coaching session and find a new way to engage. Sessions can also be individual.