If someone is secretly toxic, they’ll display these 8 subtle behaviors

Navigating relationships can be tricky, especially when it comes to identifying toxic traits in people we are close to.

You might be dealing with someone who seems perfectly normal on the surface, but deep down, they’re not as genuine as they appear to be.

It’s not always a big showdown or a major argument that reveals this.

Sometimes, it’s just this nagging feeling that something isn’t quite right with how they behave.

This article is here to guide you in spotting those 8 subtle behaviors that indicate someone is secretly toxic, even if it’s difficult to see at first glance.

1) They are consistently passive-aggressive

Dealing with someone who is secretly toxic can often feel like trying to navigate through a dense fog.

One of the first indicators you might notice is their consistent use of passive-aggressiveness.

This behavior is often displayed as sarcasm, backhanded compliments, or veiled criticism, all disguised as harmless comments.

It’s like they’re playing a game where they throw the ball at you but pretend it was accidental.

If you find yourself constantly questioning whether a comment was meant to hurt you or it was just a joke, this could be a sign of their toxic behavior.

In a healthy relationship, communication should be direct and respectful, not a guessing game. If they’re consistently passive-aggressive, it’s time to take note.

2) They never take responsibility

One thing I’ve noticed is how a secretly toxic person never steps up to take responsibility for their actions.

There’s always an excuse, a justification, or worse, a deflection onto someone else.

I’ve found myself in situations where I’m left feeling responsible for their actions or mistakes.

It’s as if they’ve mastered the art of blame shifting so subtly that you won’t even realize what’s going on until you’re left holding the bag.

And because they don’t acknowledge their part in any issues, it becomes incredibly difficult to resolve conflicts or move forward.

It’s a continuous cycle of blame and evasion which can leave you feeling drained and confused.

This inability to take responsibility is a clear sign of toxicity. Because in any mature relationship, both parties need to be able to own up to their actions.

3) They’re control freaks

I once knew someone who always had to be in control. It started with small things, like choosing the restaurants we ate at, the movies we watched, even the music we listened to.

It didn’t seem like a big deal at first.

But over time, their need for control began to creep into more personal areas of my life.

They started giving unsolicited advice about my career, my friendships, and my lifestyle choices.

I felt like I was slowly losing my autonomy.

At first, I mistook their behavior for concern. I thought they just wanted what was best for me.

But as their hold tightened, I realized this wasn’t about concern. It was about power and control.

4) They gaslight you

Gaslighting is a term that originated from the 1944 film “Gaslight,” where a man manipulates his wife into believing she’s losing her sanity.

In real life, gaslighting is a manipulative tactic used by toxic people to make you question your own perception of reality.

It’s subtle, it’s insidious, and it’s incredibly damaging.

Say you’re upset about something they did. Instead of acknowledging your feelings, they might tell you that you’re overreacting or being too sensitive. Or they might deny that the event ever happened at all.

The goal is to make you doubt your own experiences and judgments, and it’s a classic behavior of someone who is secretly toxic. 

5) They’re always the victim

Have you ever noticed how some people always seem to be the victim, no matter what?

It’s like they have a supernatural ability to twist any situation so that they come out looking like the wronged party.

I’ve seen this behavior in action. They mess up, but somehow it’s never their fault.

There’s always a reason, an excuse, a story where they are the innocent one and everyone else is out to get them.

This constant victim mentality can be draining and it’s definitely a subtle sign of toxicity.

It’s their way of avoiding responsibility and manipulating your sympathy to always side with them.

6) They’re dismissive of your feelings

phrases someone deflecting If someone is secretly toxic, they'll display these 8 subtle behaviors

Imagine you’re having a rough day and you decide to share your feelings with someone, only to have them trivialize or dismiss your emotions.

It’s like they’re trying to tell you that your feelings don’t matter or aren’t valid.

This has happened to me more than once.

I’d share something that was bothering me and instead of empathy or understanding, I’d get responses like “you’re just overthinking” or “it’s not that big of a deal.”

In the end, I was left feeling unheard and invalidated.

In a healthy relationship, both parties should feel safe to express their emotions without fear of being dismissed or invalidated.

If they can’t respect your feelings, it’s time to reconsider the relationship.

7) They’re excessively jealous

Jealousy is a natural human emotion, but when it becomes excessive, it can be a sign of toxicity.

I’ve been in a situation where someone would get overly upset if I spent time with others or showed any sign of success or happiness that didn’t involve them.

Their jealousy wasn’t just limited to romantic relationships, but extended to friendships, family, and even professional successes.

And it wasn’t about them being protective or caring. It was about control and insecurity.

This excessive jealousy can quickly turn a healthy relationship into a toxic one.

After all, trust and respect for each other’s personal space and achievements are fundamental in any relationship.

8) They lack empathy

At the heart of many toxic behaviors lies a significant absence of empathy.

I’ve witnessed this firsthand when someone was unable to share my joy during a time of celebration or offer comfort in a moment of sadness.

It was as if they were incapable of understanding or sharing in my feelings.

To them, my experiences were trivial unless they directly affected or benefited them. It was a one-way street, with no room for mutual understanding or emotional connection.

Lack of empathy is a major red flag in any relationship. It signals an inability to connect on a deeper emotional level, which is essential for a healthy and balanced relationship.

Moving forward

When you find yourself recognizing these signs in someone close to you, it can be a difficult realization to face.

But understanding these behaviors is the first step towards breaking free from the toxicity.

This isn’t about blaming or labeling people as ‘bad.’ It’s about identifying unhealthy patterns and taking steps to protect your mental and emotional well-being.

Consider this an opportunity for growth. You’re gaining knowledge and awareness that can help you navigate future relationships more effectively.

It’s important to remember that everyone deserves respect, empathy, and kindness in their relationships.

If someone consistently exhibits these toxic behaviors, it might be time to reassess the relationship.

Change is often scary, but it’s necessary for growth. It may feel daunting to distance yourself from a toxic individual, especially if they are close to you.

But remember this – your well-being should always be a priority. You deserve relationships that uplift you, not ones that drain you.

So take a deep breath and trust in your strength. You’re more resilient than you think.

And remember, it’s okay to seek professional help if you need it. There are numerous therapists and resources available to guide you through this process.

Picture of Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

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