12 signs you’re in a relationship with a toxic person, according to psychology

Every relationship has its ups and downs, so it’s totally normal if it’s not ‘roses and sunshine’ all the time.

However, there is a BIG difference between being in a sticky patch and a toxic relationship.

How do you determine which one it is?

Well, firstly, if you feel like you’ve done all you can to improve things, it may be that your partner is the issue. 

Moreover, thanks to psychologists and research studies, there are many indicators of an unhealthy relationship.

So, if you notice several of the following signs, the root cause of your relationship problems could be that your partner is toxic…

1) You give much more than you get

In healthy relationships, there’s a balance of giving and receiving. 

Both partners do things for each other out of love and kindness.

They appreciate and express gratitude to each other for all they do.

So, if you find yourself constantly giving without receiving much in return, it could be a sign of toxicity. 

According to psychology, this dynamic can indicate that your partner is taking advantage of your generosity and not valuing your efforts.

They might:

  • Ignore your boundaries or need for space
  • Ignore your needs and preferences
  • Pressure or guilt trip you into uncomfortable situations.

This lack of respect erodes trust and autonomy within the relationship.

Plus, when you’re doing so much for your partner, you have no time to honor your own needs, which can lead to resentment and frustration.

This behavior may also be part of a control tactic known as isolation. If this is the case, you’ll identify with the following…

2) You no longer spend time with your friends or family

Isolation from supportive relationships is a common tactic used by toxic individuals to maintain control

If you’ve noticed that you’re spending less time with friends and family because your partner discourages or prevents it, it’s a red flag. 

Psychology suggests that this isolation tactic can leave you feeling dependent and vulnerable.

And all psychologists agree that spending all your time with only your partner is not healthy.

For example, behavioral analyst Wendy L. Patrick explains that a healthy relationship is one in which partners have a balance of time together and space to express their individuality.

3) They are constantly nitpicking

Is your partner constantly criticizing you for everything you do?

Do they make a huge deal from a tiny mistake while failing to recognize everything you do right?

According to psychology, toxic individuals often exhibit this behavior as a way to exert control and undermine your confidence. 

Another reason could be that they are insecure, as this study found a link between nitpicking and social anxiety.

Whatever the reason for your partner doing it, constant criticism and nitpicking can chip away at your self-esteem, which is why you will likely also notice the following sign…

4) You’re always doubting yourself

Do you often doubt your perception, feelings, memory, or sanity?

If so, know that there is nothing wrong with you. You are being gaslighted.

Toxic people often undermine their partner’s confidence and self-esteem through a manipulative technique known as gaslighting. 

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, manipulators can use gaslighting in various ways, including:

  • Countering – They make you question your memory by saying, “Are you sure about that? or “I think you are forgetting what really happened.”
  • Withholding – They pretend they don’t understand you, saying something like, “Now you’re just confusing me,” or “I do not know what you are talking about.”
  • Trivializing – They belittle or disregard your feelings by claiming you’re “too sensitive” or overreacting.
  • Denial – They refuse to take responsibility for their actions by pretending to forget what happened, saying they did not do it, or blaming you for their behavior.

If your partner is gaslighting you, you will often feel confused and anxious, leading to a distorted sense of reality and a loss of self-trust.

5) They are jealous or possessive

Jealousy and possessiveness are common toxic traits fueled by insecurity and mistrust. 

But let me be clear: I’m talking about unhealthy jealousy here.

We can all get a little jealous sometimes.

In fact, in this 2017 survey, 79% of men and 66% admitted feeling jealous in their relationship.

But when someone is unable to control their jealousy, it becomes toxic.

Intense jealousy can lead someone to feel overwhelmed by their emotions and insecurities. As they cannot control their feelings, they exert control over their partners instead.

This leads to controlling tendencies, such as monitoring your activities or isolating you from others. 

Common examples include:

  • Dictating what you can and cannot wear
  • Not allowing you to go to certain places or see certain people
  • Frequently emphasizing your flaws to make you feel self-conscious
  • Using threats or guilt-tripping to get their own way

If your partner controls you in any way, you will feel the following way…

6) You feel like you can’t be your true self

You feel like you cant be your true self 12 signs you’re in a relationship with a toxic person, according to psychology

In healthy relationships, you should feel comfortable being authentic without fear of judgment

However, if you find yourself hiding aspects of your personality or conforming to your partner’s expectations or demands, it’s a sign of toxicity. 

According to psychology, this behavior reflects a lack of respect and support from your partner. It also suggests your partner had a lot of insecurities or trust issues. 

Of course, if you have to hide certain parts of yourself around your partner, you’ll also feel the following way…

7) You can’t relax around them

Are you constantly walking on eggshells around your partner, fearing what they will do or say next?

Do you feel yourself tense up whenever they enter the room and can never fully relax?

If so, your relationship is volatile. Things could be going well, but any little thing could instantly change it, leaving you in a constant heightened state of vigilance.

Psychology explains that toxic individuals often create an atmosphere of tension and unpredictability, making it difficult for you to feel at ease. 

Moreover, this is not just a sign that your relationship is toxic but likely also abusive (whether physically or emotionally).

They might not hurt you physically, but behaviors such as blaming, criticizing, guilt-tripping, or humiliation are all signs of emotional abuse.

8) They disregard your feelings and concerns

Emotional invalidation is another typical tactic manipulators use to maintain control of the relationship. 

But what exactly does this behavior look like? 

Well, your partner will consistently:

  • Disregards your feelings
  • Dismiss your concerns
  • Minimizes your experiences

According to Brittany Carrico, who has a bachelor’s in psychology, emotional invalidation can make you feel unimportant, unheard, or even like you are being irrational. 

If your partner disregards your feelings, it demonstrates a lack of empathy.

On a deeper level, it reflects a lack of emotional intelligence and an inability to form emotional intimacy, a vital aspect of a healthy and loving relationship.

9) They threaten to leave you after every argument

Toxic people will often threaten to break up with you as a way to manipulate and control you.

These threats will occur after an argument or whenever they feel you are not doing what they want.

Threatening to end the relationship also indicates that your partner is emotionally immature and has poor communication and conflict-resolution skills.

Psychology suggests that this behavior can create a cycle of fear and uncertainty in the relationship, making it difficult for you to express yourself or address issues.

However, this behavior may not show up in all toxic relationships. 

Another sign that your partner is emotionally immature is if they do the following…

10) They stonewall you whenever they are upset with you

An emotionally mature person handles conflict and problems by talking it out and discussing the issue with their partner.

However, if someone is emotionally immature and lacks communication and conflict resolution skills, they will avoid the issue altogether.

How?

By ignoring you.

As Dr. John Gottman explains, stonewalling, or withdrawing emotionally and refusing to communicate, is a harmful behavior that can erode trust and intimacy in the relationship. 

It can also reflect an unwillingness to address issues or take responsibility for their actions.

So, if your partner shuts down or ignores you whenever they are upset, it’s a sign of toxicity. 

11) They have frequent outbursts of rage or aggression 

Explosive anger and aggression are clear indicators of toxicity and potential abuse in a relationship. 

Being the recipient of these outbursts can feel unpredictable and frightening, creating a constant sense of tension and fear. 

Research has found that having an angry or aggressive partner severely impacts relationship communication

Separate studies also show that relationship aggression increases the risk of various physical and mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.

12) You feel emotionally exhausted

Healthy relationships leave us feeling safe, supported, at ease, happy, and loved.

So perhaps the most telling sign of a toxic relationship is feeling emotionally drained and exhausted. 

Dealing with toxic dynamics can take a toll on your mental and emotional well-being, leaving you feeling depleted and overwhelmed. 

So, if you constantly feel drained after interactions with your partner, this is a clear sign that something is not right!

Final thoughts

If you feel like your partner is toxic, don’t ignore the issue.

By understanding the signs of a toxic relationship, you can determine how healthy your relationship is.

But what should you do if you notice the above signs?

Firstly, it’s essential to prioritize your mental and emotional health and seek support.

Secondly, remember that you deserve to feel valued, respected, and safe in a relationship.

Picture of Gemma Clarke

Gemma Clarke

I am a certified yoga and mindfulness teacher and an experienced content writer in the spirituality and personal growth space. I’m passionate about sharing my expertise through the power of words to inspire and guide others along the path of personal and spiritual development.

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