All relationships have moments of conflict, stress, and unhappiness. That’s a given and doesn’t necessarily make for a bad relationship, especially when the overall positivity and relational benefits outweigh the difficult or bad times. But when a relationship depletes the vitality of the people involved, is overwhelmed with negativity, and plain and simply hurts, it has become toxic.
Below are seven separate, but closely related, warning signs that your relationship may be in an toxic state.
1. Loss of Identity.
When a relationship causes you to lose your sense of self, slowly eroding your individuality you may need to take a step back. Even when you’re in a relationship, you still need room to satisfy your own needs as an individual. Are you maintaining friendships and interests without your partner? Or are you so attached to your partner that you’d be “lost” without him or her? Maintaining your identity, separate from your partner not only makes you a better partner, but also a well-rounded human being.
2. There’s a Lack of Trust.
Do you search through your partner’s cell phone while he sleeps? Do you secretly access his Facebook page? Do you have a tracker on her cell phone or keep tabs on her through mutual friends? There’s a lot of mental and emotional energy involved in not trusting your partner. You get stuck in a pattern of constantly wondering if your partner is being truthful, obsessively looking for clues and hints that either verify or discredit what they have told you, and fretfully pondering what they are doing and with whom. And if you’re the one deflecting accusations, the relationship can be just as stressful.
Trust is a basic ingredient in any relationship, and when it’s not there, the relationship suffers. If trust is an issue in your relationship, ask yourself why this is so and then consider finding a means to heal you both.
3. Difficulty Balancing Give and Take.
Relationships are all about give and take. Some say that 50(given)/50 (received) sounds perfect. But realistically, 50/50–or any set ratio–is nearly impossible to maintain and is an unrealistic expectation to have in a relationship. There may be times when your needs exceed what you give for any number or reasons. Be flexible and willing to give or receive based on needs and life circumstances. Realize that some people are givers and some are takers. It’s okay to be comfortable in either role. But the crucial question you need to ask yourself is–are both of our needs being met more often than not? If they aren’t, is the unrealistic expectation of a constant 50/50 division at the root of your dissatisfaction? Or is it because the balance between you and your partner simply isn’t possible?
4. Poor Conflict Resolution.
All relationships have moments of conflict, but how those conflicts are handled and solved are indicators of a relationships health status. Passive aggressive behavior is an extremely problematic and common way of handling conflict that will turn a relationship sour. A more direct approach to conflict will save both you and your partner energy. Don’t drop hints when you don’t like something your partner does. You may argue that if your partner truly knows you, then they will know what you want and need. This might be true to a certain extent–but why test your intimacy this way? Don’t avoid conflict by sweeping it under the rug with sly maneuvering. Address it head on or it will certainly accumulate and seep into other aspects of your relationship in the form of resentment.
Do you identify with any of these first four signs that your relationship may be toxic?
- Have you lost yourself in the relationship?
- Do you spy on your spouse?
- Harbor unrealistic expectations?
- Fight dirty?
Don’t forget to check back next week for the remaining four signs that you may need to reevaluate your relationship.
This article is intended for general education purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional counseling or medical care. If you are interested in seeking professional counseling, please contact The Stone Foundation by clicking here, or by phone at 410-296-2004.
Lauren Greenberg, MS, LGPC is a graduate of Loyola’s Counseling Practitioner Program. For three years, Lauren provided hotline crisis intervention to residents of Baltimore City. She also has experience providing counseling to students at a local college for issues including grief and loss, depression, substance abuse, self-harm, anxiety, and trauma. Her professional interests and areas of study include positive psychology, promoting social and emotional competence, and women’s issues.