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“Love is blind” goes the old saying.

There can be a fine line between real love and feelings of emotional attachment.

Research shows that our judgment can get clouded when our emotions are more intense. Is it any wonder why so many people seem to stay in bad relationships? “Bad” to onlookers or outsiders of the relationship, that is. A pattern of behavior can feel so familiar to you that it becomes part of your perception of what is normal and expected.

I was in a couple of toxic relationships myself during my younger and more impressionable days. It was an emotional roller coaster a lot of the time because I was confused as to just how much I should be sacrificing or accepting of for the sake of a relationship.

Listening to your gut is helpful when it comes to other people’s behavior. Knowing what some of the red flags are can help you reach a decision more quickly as to the state of your relationship.

While every romantic bond has its own qualities because of the unique personalities and backgrounds of you and your partner, here are certain signs to look out for when it comes to a toxic relationship.


* Editor's Note: Listen to Joc Marie discuss what a toxic relationship is in Episode 179, Episode 332, and Episode 422 of Optimal Relationships Daily. If you're a new listener, check out all the shows in the Optimal Living Daily podcast network!


Get our PDF with tips on how to spot — and get out of — a toxic relationship.

5 Signs of a Toxic Relationship

1. Your Partner is Abusive and/or Controlling

Abusive behavior can take place in a physical, mental, emotional, or verbal manner.

My ex was a gifted speaker. He was full of charm and confidence. It was one of his traits that I found instantly attractive, as I tended to be on the shy and reserved side when it came to social situations. Unfortunately, this same talent for words was used to belittle my mind and opinions whenever I had a point of view that clashed with his.

Verbal sparring can be done in a spirit of fun if you and your partner enjoy friendly debates. It’s not the same thing as being on the receiving end of mean and hurtful insults just because your partner cannot accept your views on something.

As for physical abuse, it’s something that you may think is common if you grew up in an abusive household. No matter where this behavior learned, it’s not acceptable as a way of behaving in a healthy relationship.

As LoveIsRespect.org says:

“It’s most important to know that abuse is a choice, and it’s not one that anyone has to make.”

Controlling behavior is not difficult to spot. If your partner constantly snoops through your phone and other technological devices, discourages you from spending time with your hobbies or friends, or manipulates you into doing things you’d rather not do, they’re exerting their need to always be in control. You’re a human being, not a bird that needs to be caged or have its wings clipped.

2. Lack of Mutual Respect

Real love is secure and based on trust and mutual respect.

What is mutual respect? It can be defined as having an admiration for who our partner is as a person — and this must be mutual in the sense that both you and your partner feel this way towards each other.

If your partner only zeroes in on the negative things you do, without acknowledging the good that you bring to their life and the relationship, they’re not showing you kindness or respect. No relationship is all sunshine and butterflies 24/7. But in a healthy relationship, your partner supports you and vice versa, instead of constantly harping about bad traits or what a disappointment you are.

If you’re such a “disappointing” choice in terms of dating or marriage to your partner, both you and your partner would be better of single or with someone else who’s more compatible.

3. Your Partner Doesn’t Accept Responsibility for Anything

A responsible person knows that they always have a choice to improve a situation or work towards finding a solution.

As guest writer Greg Audino shared in his post not too long ago, taking action leads to answers.

If your partner always blames everyone else for their problems — whether it’s you, their family, or the universe — they’re not doing anything positive or constructive. They’ll go round in circles trying to put the blame on everyone else but themselves and be stuck in a negative and vicious cycle where nothing goes the way they want it to.

This behavior is self-destructive. Nobody is entitled to a perfect life that is free from setbacks and difficulty. If you’re not careful, you will end up as part of the collateral damage from being with someone who refused to grow up.

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4. You Don’t Feel Like the Best Version of Yourself

Do you feel like you’re always walking on eggshells in your relationship?

It’s exhausting to live in a way where you’re trying to second-guess your partner’s reactions to every little thing you say or do, for fear of doing something that will infuriate or upset them.

In a secure and healthy relationship, you and your partner will love and accept each other for who you are. It doesn’t mean that both of you cannot grow and evolve together, or that you’ll always be the same person as when you both first met.

It means that you feel secure and comfortable to be authentic to yourself. You’ll have a life and identity out of your relationship if being attached at the hip is not your style of dating or marriage. You’ll feel supported in your goals. You’ll be able to calmly and openly discuss things with your partner, such as needing to split household chores or share parenting duties. You’ll feel happy to be with your partner because of their companionship, and them having a positive effect on your quality of life.

5. The Relationship Feels One-Sided

A good relationship is a nurturing partnership.

If you feel like you’re the only one who’s putting effort into maintaining the relationship, you’re going to be frustrated about your unmet emotional needs. There shouldn’t be a disproportionate amount of time and energy focused on pleasing your partner at the expense of your own wants.

Think about what a healthy relationship looks like. There is lots of listening so that you can try to understand how to make things better if something is bothering your partner. It doesn’t involve coercion where a person threatens you to do something, “or else.”

I chose to leave my toxic relationship when I realized I was sacrificing far too much of myself. I had put aside some of my creative passions and my happiness for the sake of trying to keep the peace. I wanted to feel a sense of balance and support in a stable relationship, and I wasn’t going to get it with a demanding, egotistical, and emotionally unstable partner.

Don’t let your partner’s charming qualities take precedence over how they treat you as a partner. Toxic behavior suffocates a kind, loving connection, and you deserve more than to be treated like garbage by someone you want to trust and rely on.

So what do you do if you realize you’re in a toxic relationship that you want to get out of? Stay tuned for an upcoming post for some practical tips that you can implement right away. (UPDATE: Here's the post on how to leave a toxic relationship.)

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Jess Chua

Jess writes and edits content for the Optimal Living Daily podcast network. Her interests include personal growth, cooking, and spending time with her pets.
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