15 Signs of a Toxic Relationship

15 Signs of a Toxic Relationship

Toxic relationships will cause monumental breakage to people, families and workplaces, but they aren’t necessarily the territory of the weak, downtrodden or insecure. Strong, healthy, independent people can find themselves in the white-knuckled grip of a toxic relationship. Similarly, relationships that seem to begin strong because ‘omg we’re soooo in love you guys,’ can dissolve into nothing but ash and legal fees that could have bought a castle on the river Seine, if they weren’t being used to divide half your assets more ‘half-ly’.

Relationships evolve. They change and they grow. Sometimes they crash and they burn. We never know how things will look when each other’s less adorable, kind of awful habits start to show themselves publicly, or under the influence of alcohol or in-laws.

Some relationships are all shades of wrong from the outset (‘Darlin’ you’re so pretty. You’re the image of my ex. See? Here’s her photo. You can keep that one. I have plenty – in my wallet, as my screen saver, on my bedside table, at my mum’s house, on my desk, on my fridge and yeah, all over the place. Sometimes I just, like, hold it in front of me and run backwards and pretend like she’s chasing me. Wanna get some tequila baby?’) Some start off with promise and with all the right ingredients, but somewhere along the way, the right ingredients get replaced with resentment, jealousy, history and hurt.

We love love. Of course we do. Love sends us to joyous, lofty heights that we never want to come down from, but the same heart that can send us into a loved-up euphoria can trip us up and have us falling into something more toxic. The hot pursuit of love can be blinding. Even worse, sometimes it’s not until you’re two kids and a mortgage into the relationship, that you realise something has been missing for a while, and that something is you.

What is a toxic relationship?

A toxic relationship contaminates your self-esteem, your happiness and the way you see yourself and the world. A toxic person will float through life with a trail of broken hearts, broken relationships and broken people behind them, but toxic relationships don’t necessarily end up that way because the person you fell for turned out to be a toxic one. Relationships can start healthy, but bad feelings, bad history, or long-term unmet needs can fester, polluting the relationship and changing the people in it. It can happen easily and quickly, and it can happen to the strongest people.

Can I fix it?

All relationships are worth the fight, until they’re not. In a toxic relationship there will always be fallout:

  • moodiness, anger, unhappiness become the norm;
  • you avoid each other more and more;
  • work and relationships outside the toxic relationship start to suffer.

If the relationship is toxic, it is highly likely that all the fight in the world won’t change anything because one or both people have emotionally moved on. Perhaps they were never really there in the first place, or not in the way you needed them to be anyway. Even worse, if your relationship is toxic, you will be more and more damaged by staying in it.

Fighting to hold on to something that is not fighting to hold on to you will ruin you. Sometimes the only thing left to do is to let go with grace and love and move on

What are the signs that I’m in a toxic relationship?

Being aware that the relationship is toxic is vital in protecting yourself from breakage. To stay in a toxic relationship is to keep your hand hovering over the self-destruct button. Not all toxic relationships are easy to leave, but being aware of the signs will make it easier to claim back your power and draw a bold heavy line around what’s allowed into your life and what gets closed out.

Toxic behaviour exists on a spectrum. All people and all relationships do some of these things some of the time – but that doesn’t make them toxic. A toxic relationship is defined by the consistency, the intensity and the damage. Here are some of the signs.

  1. It feels bad. All the time.

    You fall asleep hollow and you wake up just as bad. You look at other couples doing their happy couple thing and you feel the sting. Why couldn’t that sort of love happen for you? It can, but first you have to clear the path for it to find you. Leaving a relationship is never easy, but staying for too long in a toxic relationship will make sure any strength, courage and confidence in you is eroded down to nothing. Once that happens, you’re stuck.

  2. You’re constantly braced for the ‘gotcha’.

    Sometimes you can see it coming. Sometimes you wouldn’t see it if it was lit with stadium floodlights. Questions becomes traps. (‘Well would you rather go out with your friends or stay home with me?’) Statements becomes traps. (‘You seemed to enjoy talking to your boss tonight.’) The relationship is a jungle and somewhere along the way you’ve turned into a hunted thing in a skin suit. When the ‘gotcha’ comes, there’s no forgiveness, just the glory of catching you out. It’s impossible to move forward from this. Everyone makes mistakes, but yours are used as proof that you’re too uninvested, too wrong, too stupid, too something. The only thing you really are is too good to be treated like this.

  3. You avoid saying what you need because there’s just no point.

    We all have important needs in relationships. Some of the big ones are connection, validation, appreciation, love, sex, affection. When those needs are mocked or ignored, the emptiness of that unmet need will clamour like an old church bell. If your attempts to talk about what you need end in a fight, a(nother) empty promise, accusations of neediness, insecurity, jealousy or madness you’ll either bury the need or resent that it keeps being overlooked. Either way, it’s toxic.

  4. There’s no effort.

    Standing on a dance floor doesn’t make you a dancer, and being physically present in a relationship doesn’t mean there is an investment being made in that relationship. Doing things separately sometimes is healthy, but as with all healthy things, too much is too much. When there is no effort to love you, spend time with you, share the things that are important to you, the relationship stops giving and starts taking too much. There comes a point that the only way to respond to ‘Well I’m here, aren’t I?’ is, ‘Yeah. But maybe better if you weren’t.’

  5. All the work, love, compromise comes from you.

    Nobody can hold a relationship together when they are the only one doing the work. It’s lonely and it’s exhausting. If you’re not able to leave the relationship, give what you need to give but don’t give any more than that. Let go of the fantasy that you can make things better if you try hard enough, work hard enough, say enough, do enough. Stop. Just stop. You’re enough. You always have been. 

  6. When ‘no’ is a dirty word.

    ‘No’ is an important word in any relationship. Don’t strike it from your vocabulary, even in the name of love – especially not in the name of love. Healthy relationships need compromise but they also respect the needs and wants of both people. Communicating what you want is as important for you and the relationship as communicating what you don’t want. Find your ‘no’, give it a polish, and know where the release button is. A loving partner will respect that you’re not going to agree with everything they say or do. If you’re only accepted when you’re saying ‘yes’, it’s probably time to say ‘no’ to the relationship. And if you’re worried about the gap you’re leaving, buy your soon-to-be ex some putty. Problem solved.

  7. The score card. Let me show you how wrong you are. 

    One of the glorious things about being human is that making mistakes is all part of what we do. It’s how we learn, how we grow, and how we find out the people who don’t deserve us. Even the most loving, committed partners will do hurtful, stupid things sometimes. When those things are brought up over and over, it will slowly kill even the healthiest relationship and keep the ‘guilty’ person small. At some point, there has to be a decision to move on or move out. Having shots continually fired at you based on history is a way to control, shame and manipulate. Healthy relationships nurture your strengths. Toxic ones focus on your weaknesses.

  8. There’s a battle – and you’re on your own. Again.

    You and your partner are a team. You need to know that whatever happens, you have each other’s backs, at least publicly. In healthy relationships, when the world starts throwing stones, the couple comes together and fortifies the wall around each other. Toxic relationships often see one person going it alone when it comes to public put-downs. Similarly, when attempts are made from outside the relationship to divide and conquer, the couple is divided and conquered as easily as if they were never together in the first place.

  9. Physical or verbal abuse. Or both.

    These are deal-breakers. You know they are.

  10. Too much passive-aggressive.

    Passive-aggressive behaviour is an indirect attack and a cowardly move for control. The toxicity lies in stealing your capacity to respond and for issues to be dealt with directly. The attack is subtle and often disguised as something else, such as anger disguised as indifference ‘whatever’ or ‘I’m fine’; manipulation disguised as permission ‘I’ll just stay at home by myself while you go out and have fun,’ and the worst – a villain disguised as a hero, ‘You seem really tired baby. We don’t have to go out tonight. You just stay in and cook yourself some dinner and I’ll have a few drinks with Svetlana by myself hey? She’s been a mess since the cruise was postponed.’ You know the action or the behaviour was designed to manipulate you or hurt you, because you can feel the scrape, but it’s not obvious enough to respond to the real issue. If it’s worth getting upset about, it’s worth talking about, but passive-aggressive behaviour shuts down any possibility of this.

  11. Nothing gets resolved.

    Every relationship will have its issues. In a toxic relationship, nothing gets worked through because any conflict ends in an argument. There is no trust that the other person will have the capacity to deal with the issue in a way that is safe and preserves the connection. When this happens, needs get buried, and in a relationship, unmet needs will always feed resentment. 

  12. Whatever you’re going through, I’m going through worse.

    In a healthy relationship, both people need their turn at being the supported and the supporter. In a toxic relationship, even if you’re the one in need of support, the focus will always be on the other person. ‘Babe like I know you’re really sick and can’t get out of bed but it’s soooo stressful for me because now I have to go to the party by myself. Next Saturday I get to choose what we do. K? [sad emoji, balloon emoji, heart emoji, another heart emoji, lips emoji].’

  13. Privacy? What privacy?

    Unless you’ve done something to your partner that you shouldn’t have, like, you know, forgot you had one  on ‘Singles Saturday’, then you deserve to be trusted. Everybody deserves some level of privacy and healthy relationships can trust that this won’t be misused. If your partner constantly goes through your receipts, phone bills, text messages this shows a toxic level of control. It’s demeaning. You’re an adult and don’t need constantly supervision. 

  14. The lies. Oh the lies!

    Lying and cheating will dissolve trust as if it was never there to begin with. Once trust is so far gone, it’s hard to get it back. It might come back in moments or days, but it’s likely that it will always feel fragile – just waiting for the wrong move. A relationship without trust can turn strong, healthy people into something they aren’t naturally – insecure, jealous and suspicious. The toxicity of this lies in the slow erosion of confidence. Sometimes all the fight in the world can’t repair trust when it’s badly broken. Know when enough is enough. It’s not your fault that the trust was broken, but it’s up to you to make sure that you’re not broken next.

  15. Big decisions are for important people. And clearly you’re not one of them.

    If you’re sharing your life with someone, it’s critical that you have a say in the decisions that will affect you. Your partner’s opinions and feelings will always be important, and so are yours. Your voice is an important one. A loving partner in the context of a healthy relationship will value your thoughts and opinions, not pretend that they don’t exist or assume theirs are more important.

I think I might be in a toxic relationship. What now?

If it’s toxic, it’s changing you and it’s time to leave or put up a very big wall. (See here for how.) Be clear about where the relationship starts and where you begin. Keep your distance emotionally and think of it as something to be managed, rather than something to be beaten or understood. Look for the patterns and look for the triggers. Then, be mindful about what is okay and what isn’t. Above all else, know that you are strong, complete and vital. Don’t buy into any tiny-hearted, close-minded push that would have you believe otherwise. You’re amazing.

And finally …

There are plenty of reasons you might end up in a toxic relationship, none of which have nothing to do with strength of character or courage.

Sometimes the toxicity grows and blindsides you and by the time you realise, it’s too late – the cost of leaving might feel too high or there may be limited options.  

Toxicity in any relationship doesn’t make sense. In an attempt to make it make sense, you might blame history, circumstance or your own behaviour. The truth is that none of this matters. It doesn’t matter where the toxicity comes from or the reason for it being there. 

Love and happiness don’t always go together. The world would run so much smoother if they did, but it just doesn’t happen like that. Love can be a dirty little liar sometimes. So can commitment. Staying in a relationship should never have losing yourself as one of the conditions. You’re far too important for that. 

It’s important to make sacrifices in relationships but your happiness, self-esteem and self-respect should always be on the list – always. If a relationship is built on love, it nurtures, restores, replenishes and revives. It doesn’t diminish. It isn’t cruel and it doesn’t ever violate a warm, open heart. Everything you need to be happy is in you. When you are with someone who suffocates those precious parts of you, be alive to the damage they are doing. You owe them nothing, you owe yourself everything. You deserve to thrive and to feel safe, and you deserve to be happy.

[irp posts=”1602″ name=”When It’s Not You, It’s Them: The Toxic People That Ruin Friendships, Families, Relationships”]

151 Comments

Mary

I know I am in a toxic relationship but my partner won’t let us leave. We have a age gap and been together for 12 years and have a 5 yrs old child together. he has been divorced with two grown up kids. We have brown up few time before my child but got back together again. He is abusive verbally and have been physically , he puts me down all the time and tells me I am working class peasants and have no education. He makes fun of my family whom are well off but not wealthy and adding to that I found out he has cheated on me with a prostitute, I confronted him and he is denying. He tells me that I am a really bad mother coz I try to discipline my child and if I tell my child no to something he goes and gives it to her ! My life is a total mess and I am trapped so badly, he doesn’t want to separate from our child so I am stoke in this hell . I don’t want my child to be exposed to his behaviour towards me . She has seen few episodes as he has anger management issues. He keeps saying let’s solve this problem but I have no feelings towards him and can’t stand him anymore, he has broken every rule that keeps the relationships going .

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Lou

Wow get out of there. As soon as they start to do that against you using your child that is the biggest no. You’re not stuck, you’re brave, strong and very capable. You have been unfortunate enough to get into a relationship with a toxic person and he doesn’t care about your mental health, your child’s mental health or the effect he is having on it. He is there for him, if he got absolutely nothing out of the relationship or didn’t wanna be there he’d be gone I promise. You have to respect your wishes and needs and you don’t wanna be there. Sometimes love isn’t enough to keep a relationship, if he loves you but you need trust, kindness, commitment there’s a bunch of things you need for a healthy relationship… love is just one small factor. You need a person who will not change you or your life but someone who you can welcome into your life like a pleasure who contributes and you’re equal, you figure out what works best for you both and you’re BOTH happy with the result I’m not saying there is no compromise but there is no manipulation making you compromise too much or the wrong thing.

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Stargazer

I am in a toxic relationship myself.He was a really loving guy but I dont know when it became like this.He talks to me like he’s crazy in love with me and the next moment he calls me a slut and what not.He abuses me verbally almost everyday.He says he wants to “bottle me”.He says nasty stuff about my family.And he isn’t even realising how nasty it is.I want out but I love this guy.

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Unknown

Brilliant article. In my own personal relationship, I know the answer but don’t want to face the music. I met my partner when I was 18 and he was 36 (although he lied about his age initially and told me he was 26) I believed him, why wouldn’t I? He looked great and was very handsome. He also told me the house he lived in was his own (I eventually learned that it was his ex girlfriend’s dad’s house). The relationship was very volatile, beautiful times followed by awful arguments that usually ended up with the police being called. I was a child of the system, so never had a great support network to fall back on which made me try to make things work with him even more. Nevertheless, I moved in with him, he use to love chucking me out at midnight whenever we’d argue (everyone I knew was 200 miles away so I often had to make arrangements to stay in a hotel or get a train back down). I cheated on him eventually, our sex life was dreadful and he only ever cared about his own satisfaction, once he ejaculated, that was the end of sex. He didn’t care (and still doesn’t) care for pleasuring me. Then there’s the financial issues. He wants to be self employed mostly for the freedom aspect of it but never does anything that will create a stable and healthy income. It’s all cash in hand crap that won’t last. I’ve lost count of the amount of arguments I’ve had about this. I even had to fight with him to get us life insurance. I asked what would happen if you passed, you haven’t got a penny to your name or a pot to piss in. He then agreed to take a policy out. We had a child together 4 years ago, he’s honestly the best thing to have happened to me. So now im in a position where I feel trapped and guilty. If I leave I become a single mum, I will have failed my son who has the best bond with his dad. I know my partner won’t let go easy so I know im not prepared for the fight. I also have no finances of my own so I’m looking to start university soon. Hopefully, I will find the courage to leave once I have a degree and earning potential. I sometimes think ‘am I being ungrateful’ my partner has changed a lot and is a brilliant dad, helps around the house and cooks too sometimes but I just don’t want to spend my life with him. I’m very much done. Thanks for reading if you got this far.

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Tony

I read your story and can see some of your unhappiness. My opinion is that you should plan your life for the long term. You need to know what will make you happy first. Then decide where you want to be and take the steps to get there. You have a child so any change you make has to include his welfare. Your husband has a point of view too. Talking to him about what he wants and why he does things will give you understanding if you listen and trust what he says is the truth (and it usually is)

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John

Thank you for this article. It was extremely well written.

For those of you who are in a situation like this… Just know it is not forever.

You will make it out alive. You will be able to take care of yourself. You will be able to realize your self worth.

You will make it.

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Preferably Anonymous

Hi. I read this because I find myself questioning if my relationship is what I thought it was, and not sure if it’s going in a good direction.

I’ve been in this relationship for around two years. It’s been great. It didn’t feel toxic, I didn’t feel sad all the time like this list mentions. But now I’m not so sure. I’ve been cheated on, once. Tried to hook up with my best friend, she held her ground. She’s the only reason I know about what happened.

This was a year ago. Of course I was upset, but I worked through it and it seemed like everything would be alright even after what happened. But now that I’m with my best friend again, I don’t know what to do. He sent me 48 texts in two minutes while I was with her. I was worried and tried to talk to him constructively, asked him if he’d talked about what happened a year ago with his therapist. He was convinced my friend was the one asking, not me. Insinuated she was the reason I was angry. He just, blamed the fight and everything on her.

I can understand him being worried about what would be said, but this isn’t even the first time things like this have happened. He gets jealous when I hang out with other friends. When I tried to work on the relationship in the past when he tried to cheat on me any changes fell apart almost immediately. God knows I can’t talk about things with him because it doesn’t matter and everytime it becomes this dramatic mess.

I love him. I care about him. I want to be with him. But I don’t know if I can anymore. For the longest time I’d forgotten about my worries and everything and gave in to his wants because I’d given up. I gave up and did what he wanted, said what he wanted to hear, because I’d given up on him, and because I thought it would make him happy. I can’t do that anymore, and I won’t. I’m starting to try to change it, to fix it, but even now I can still feel that I’m defeated. Even as I try to change things I can only believe that it will all fall apart. But I can’t just leave without trying to change this, right?

I’m not even sure what I’m asking. Maybe I’m just venting. But, even though it didn’t feel toxic at all, and I had fun being with him, it was still toxic without me realizing until two years in. It really scares me.

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Daniel

I’m with a woman who rarely helps with house work. Plays games often on her phone. Works thirds but sleeps all day and sometime tell she needs to be up for work again. Smoking is #1. Has told me she is thinking about suicide and that if I leave her alone she would most likely kill herself. I know have to ask permission to leave my own house. She gets upset cause I own the house and truck and car. She has even to my son’s presents said she wanted to die. I’m also disabled with seizures and bipolar disorder

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JD

Wow, I just broke up with a similar woman. Rarely helps with housework, am alcoholic and like to hold off from sex and not much positive to say. Eventually I snapped and tops her about her extremely selfish ways
Always justifying some negative shes done. O told her she needs to be out by the end of the week…she left the next day

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penny g

Its so hard to realize that an abusive partner is sucking your self esteem. Moreover, their demeaning actions put you in a situation that demoralises you and if you dont leave, there goes another hack out of your already diminished self esteem. It always feels like fight or flight just to save a part of you before theres nothing left.

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yoyo

I just divorced!!!! I made it!!
He started with trashing my 10-year-old friend 3 month after our dating, and then all of my friends are “strange,” so I have to distance them.
Throwing away all my belongings that had followed me for 7 years. Read through all my letters with my friend and accusing me of lying on “facts” about my ex.
Deleting my “set private” social media photos simply because he thought those photos might relate to my ex.
peeping into my package even when we’re already separated (sent to the address by accident)
He got mad because I said that I am not ready yet for getting married.
We argued A LOT even if I don’t want to, he would say”dont run away from problems, they HAVE to be solved!”
I became depressed once even tho I was the most optimistic person around all of my friends.
It was hard to leave him, but glad I left him now!!!! Now I am happy and independent.

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Mary

I’m in a toxic relationship we are both addicts but I’ve been sober 11 years ,he uses still, we have been together for 14: years with 2 children. I have matured immensely, he seems to be going backwards.Im 39 he is 40 he acts like a teenager drinking smoking crack and he and I fight constantly because crack is not allowed in my house I do not have the urge to use anything. I’m tired ready to be happy. He went to jail it was the happiest 2 weeks of my life me and my so.Life is tough and I plan to leave him but I must be careful, because he is very book and street smart. His revenge is cold and cunning wish me luck

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leah

my boyfriend he’s respectful ,he respects me my family and my beliefs but he doesn’t put in much work when it comes to me like he doesn’t plan to see me or spend time with me he wants to but he doesn’t do anything ,I’m not sure if he supports things that i do he wants me to do good but I’m not sure i know he brings out the happy in me but he also gets on my nerves and before i end it i want to know if I’m the toxic one so i can work on it i always question if he interested in somebody else i say i trust him but i still have a what if mindset ,i always think negative i try to think positive but the negative thoughts seem to be more powerful and it’ll affect my moods toward him and in general whenever on thing goes wrong i immediately think about ending it but i don’t be because i think I’m toxic i tell him how i feel but i don’t say the whole thing and get jealous over my what if thought like what if he looks at another girl or if he likes talking to them more than talking to me and ill question him but the with him he’s supportive but not ,he is lazy,and doesn’t put much effort into seeing me , he cheated in his last relationship and that has worried me but he says he don’t want to hurt me and that he wants to be better because he cant hurt me like that i think I’m toxic for example he called my sports team trash and i slapped him because immediately thought he doesn’t support me and he didn’t hug me before he left and it hurt my feelings so i thought about breaking up with him because i felt like he doesn’t support me and because he didn’t give me a hug am i toxic if so how do i help it

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Anonymous

I’ve been with this guy for almost 4 years. He is dominant, subtly trying to control everything. He is emotionally and physically abusive. He is extremely narcissistic, turning every conversation around to make himself look like a saint. He blames me for everything that goes wrong, and shows no appreciation for anything I do. He disrespects me, who I am, and finds something in the past to degrade me about. He threatens to leave the relationship when he doesn’t get his way. He doesn’t consider my needs/opinion on big decisions. He collects evidence to use against me at a later stage. He is completely unstable. He lies constantly. He manipulates everything to his advantage. He ticks all 15 signs above. The worst part is, he’s the father of my child – so I’m left with a choice of being a single mom, or tolerating his BS for assistance.

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Jessica

I’m in the same boat. Check where you live for a domestic violence shelter they should have resources to help you. Start journaling every thing!!! Narcissistic abuse is the hardest thing to prove but it can be done. When he starts his rants, record him. Just start building your case. Pay attention to the patterns also don’t get sucked into the “nice” phase. It’s gonna get worse before it gets better. I’ve been fighting my narc ex for 4 years and I finally just got an order of protection. There’s tons of support groups on Instagram as well. Good luck and hang in there. Xoxo

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Tj

Good morning been there and 32 yrs layer I’m still here putting up with his b.s.. Do yourself and your baby a great deal and leave him. I’m to old (61)to leave now but wish i could have a 2nd chance and do all over again. I would get as far away from him i could. E even turned my child against me.

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Sydney G

I really need advice, I figured since I am googling “am I in a toxic relationship?” I probably am.
I have been with this guy for about 8 months, He has two kids 6 and 8. When we met he was going through a divorce and living with his parents. After about a month him and his kids moved in with me, he continued to talk to his ex every day and when I would get upset about it he would get mad and tell me it was always about the kids and I needed to be more secure (but he would only talk to her away from me like in the other room and sometimes for 20-45 min at a time). I have a son and an ex husband and we never talk for more than 10-15 min if needed.
After he moved in he got laid off from work, he received unemployment but I was paying all the bills and he would spend his money on ridiculous things and I would have to ask him multiple times to help with any bills. Recently he has started working but he now withdraws almost all and keeps cash which makes me think its so I don’t know what he’s spending his $$ on.
He also has confined in me that he needs help with a pain medicine addiction. On new years eve he left me crying on the porch in the rain begging him not to go and went and got some and then caused a big fight when I got upset about it. In a moment of weakness I texted my ex boyfriend just to come hang out and grab a drink. My boyfriend went through my phone and saw this, he freaked out and left and went and got more pain medicine which he thinks I don’t know about but I know the signs when hes on it.
He has wrote my best friend on facebook and hit on her, he immediately apologized to her after but never told me she had to tell me, but he thinks this is totally not in the same ballpark as me writing my ex boyfriend to come get a drink with me.

I know in reading this you think “isn’t this obvious” and even in the back of my mind I think that. But I love him so much, and he is so sweet and loving, but when I bring up the money thing I get “I spent all the money I had making our relationship good in the beginning and then I lost my job and you make me feel like shit for not having $$” and he points out how he can’t trust me since I texted my ex (I never actually did meet up with him btw). I just really want some advice. I know I am not perfect, every time I try to talk to him he gets defensive and its a big fight no matter what its about. I don’t know what to do because I really can’t see my life without him.

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Anonymous

I’ve been with a women for close to five years. I feel like this maybe a toxic relationship. At first things were great and then a pattern started to take place that I didn’t recognize at first but started to catch on after a while. Whenever this women is faced with conflict she will get very abusive and start to insult me. And when I come to her about how upsetting the comments are she will act like I have serious issues and that I need to deal with them on my own and that it is not her issue. We’ve gone to lots of therapy, singles and couples and when we go she never brings up any of the mean things she says during the conflict we experience. I’m beginning to have some break through a with personal therapy and am realizing that this women loves me when I keep everything to myself and don’t have an opinion. She will go way out of her way to avoid talking about the lack of connection we have and will get super mad and defensive if I bring up the fact that our relationship is not doing well. To be honest my mental health is suffering because of her and I’m close to separating because I feel like she doesn’t care about our relationship as much as I do.
I’ve taken a long inner look on my behaviours and will admit I can be challenging to be with but Geez, I’m starting to get burnt out and am feeling am feeling really lonely because she can’t talk openly about the issues in our relationship.
We have kids and I don’t want to break the home up but I’m drowning because of this . I’m so frustrated!
The weirdest part is , I think she thinks are relationship is really awesome when I don’t voice my opinions. Which I do to not cause problems .
It’s hard being the one that’s always wrong and that is always feeling, especially as a man.

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Anonymous

Since you keep everything to yourself, I’ve got to ask: have you told her exactly this? Maybe you should forward her what you wrote here.

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Jlm

I totally understand all of this. I am sorry that you have to go through all this. I feel in my relationship that if I just go with the flow and not let things bother me or voice it when things do that we will be okay. The minute I say something or show any emotion or uneasiness about something than the fights start.

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Lou

She is the one who has issues, a relationship is a partnership in which you choose to spend your life with that person and you are open and nothing is suppressed. That’s unhealthy. I think she probably has much deeper issues than what you imagine and the likelihood is if she is forcing you to hide your issues she is probably doing the same which is what gave her these expectations for you. But she’s wrong you’re right, you should be expressive, and be 100% you around your partner and for them to be ok with that

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Unknown

I’ve been in a relationship with the same guy for 12 years we started dating really young about 13 years old got pregnant at 15! Moved in with him and parents after finding out I was pregnant.. His family always very supportive with me and very helpful I have the best brother/sister in laws. He loves working & I love that about him because now days so many guys are lazy… He is very smart when it comes to pretty much anything! Always helps me when my car breaks down knows how to cook great! He’s handsome however he always gets mad at me for any little thing he did cheat on me around 5 years ago and that really crushed me! Ever since that our relationship changed! I don’t trust him but it’s like he doesn’t trust me either(even tho he’s the one that cheated) he doesn’t let me go any where sometimes he gets mad if I’m not home when he’s back from work even if I just went to the store to grab something I needed for dinner! Sometimes I get invited out to dinner or to have a drink I never bother on going because he will say that’s not ok! Also SEX he always wants to be having sex! Even if we do it 2 times a day if he asks me to do it one more time & if we don’t then his mad at me! Most of the time I don’t even enjoy our sex! Now we have 2 kids together! Not sure what to do. I feel like I’ve been stuck in the same whole & not sure how to move on…

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Heartbroken

Hi I’ve been in a relationship for nearly 8 years I was so happy for 6 0f those years then my life as I new it came rumbling down I found out he has been cheating for four of those years on dating sites on hook up sites having sex with heaps of women I want to walk away but I love him. He want have sex with me now an always on porn sites an know that he still in contact with women what do I do

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Heartbroken

Hi I’ve been in a relationship for nearly 8 years I was so happy for 6 0f those years then my life as I new it came tumbling down I found out he has been cheating for four of those years on dating sites on hook up sites having sex with heaps of women I want to walk away but I love him. He want have sex with me now an always on porn sites an know that he still in contact with women what do I do

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fari

i am still in a relationship with the sweetest guy, who would swirl the world around for me, but he has some issues with my guy friends. Back in highschool, how any teens would do, I did the same. I would enjoy house parties and everything, hugging my friends, being friendly and nice. All of a sudden, he doesnt like any male figure around me. I did few times hide talking to my guy friends, but I am not allowed to talk to guys from my high school or my friend group at all because he thinks they are rich spoilt brats and ” has no limit”. Besides that, he always have problem how I dress. I am still in college, I wanna make the most out of every experience, and he would have to hamper it. I love dancing, and now I am not allowed to dance, unless its a classical dance, I mean, who does classical dance here in college? he has problems where I grew up, how my friends are, how my mother is, etc. He tends to say I come from a posh family with no sense of responsibility, whereas the truth is, it is all very new to me.
I have been with him for 2 years, I am just not sure what to do.

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Bunny

I just got out of a toxic relationship with my boyfriend. I broke up with him because I told him I was questioning my gender (I know I’m trans but I said this to test the waters). I was very shocked by his transphobic response. He said things like, “You’re nothing but a girl,” or, “This is a problem and lucky for you I’m optimistic, so I’ll help you fix it.” These responses made me feel sick to my stomach. I felt trapped in the relationship before I even told him any of this. We had good memories together and we were good friends before we started dating. I really miss him, but i know i made the right decision. Sadly, however, my friends keep inviting me to things that he’s at. I keep telling them I’m not ready to see my ex again (IT’S BEEN THREE DAYS, GIVE ME A BREAK). Someone please give me advice or something. I don’t know what to do!

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Marie

I’m in a toxic relationship. I have noticed patterns. My kids are getting the brunt of it. She acts like I am the culprit but all I want is peace. She is jealous of my kids and says I’m the one who can change it. She is so toxic she tells me she doesn’t feel part of the family but always removes herself when my kids are around. If I even have a conversation with one of them she accuses me of hiding something. It’s ridicules.

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K

Hi I’d really like some help. I’ve recognised that I was the toxic person in the relationship which has recently broken up… I’ve suffered from depression and emotional instability and tots has affected my relationships… I don’t know how to move forward. My ex still cares for me but he needed out.. I was never nasty or abusing, or controlling just very sensitive to when I didn’t get attention so he often felt he couldn’t do enough because I felt needy and he didn’t feel that I was happy a lot of the time.. but our connection was amazing and when things good amazing which he recognised.. but he didn’t feel secure, there was trust issues and he didn’t feel good about himself…. I’m heartbroken and really stuck as I know my behaviours would self destruct and I ruined the best relationship I’ve ever had with the most amazing caring funny open man ever… I just want to end it all and can’t see how I’m ever going to get over it and regret so much but I couldn’t change those behaviours at the time… I’d really appreciate some help 🙁

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Anon

I’ve been with my partner for 3 years now. It started off perfect we travelled a lot and made many memories. Both of us made mistakes along the way to break each others trust. For the past year my heart has just not been in it. I feel completely disconnected and see him more as a best friend.

He has suffered with depression and suicidal thoughts since I first met him yet they only seem to rear their head when we argue/I try to break up. The last time I tried to break up with him he grabbed a knife and ran and locked himself in the bathroom, made sounds as if he was sobbing of course I screamed and cried alongside him and begged him to let me in. When he finally did, there wasn’t a single tear on his face. Although I know he has depression I feel like sometimes he uses it to manipulate me and get what he wants.

He shows his true colours when angry, screaming shouting swearing calling me names. He has an incredibly sharp tongue then moments later when he sees I’m getting upset and mention not wanting this relationship anymore he will somehow find a way to make himself the victim time and time again. Then come the apologies and tears and then before I even realise it, I’m consoling him.

I care for his physical well-being over my own mental well-being. The idea of him potentially hurting himself over this relationship ending makes me think I should just suck it up and stay with him incase one day he were to actually do something because ultimately it would be my fault. I know that I could never live with myself if anything were to ever happen to him at the hands of me just wanting to break up.

He posts about me a lot on his social media trying to create this facade of a perfect life. He lives to one up his ex and her current relationship. I hate it so much because I tell my friends about how I love and care for him dearly but I’m not sure if I’m IN love anymore, how I don’t know how to get away without hurting his feelings and then in turn him hurting himself, I tell them what he says when we argue and send them voice notes of his screaming and then the next day he’ll post a picture of us talking about how he can’t wait for his next adventure with his babygirl. But I guess all that glitters is gold?

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AJ

This is SO spot-on. It gives me all the confidence now to seek better companions in life. My best friend, Sybian, recommends I look a bit closer at my relationships to find this toxicity.

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neverdye

But how do I know whether it’s all in my head? The most annoying thing is his distant attitude, it’s especially difficult when the only interactions are via messages. I tried to walk away, but he contacted, now I’m quite done, just need to give myself strength and love

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britt

Currently I’m in a 10 yr relationship been lied to, and cheated on now I’m seeing the toxic signs the more I pay attention to his patterns whenever we get into a argument, which are normally sparked by me voicing my hurt or feelings about something, i used to just keep my feelings bottled but i refuse too anymore however the outcome is always “passive aggressive self-pity” which never resolves my hurt or feelings its almost as though I just don’t matter like im not allowed to be human and have a moment of weakness i love him but lately my heart just feels so empty and i don’t want to leave but I’m not whole here I just want to feel loved, please help

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Anxiety has a way of demanding ALL of the attention. It shifts the focus to what feels scary, or too big, or impossible, or what needs to be avoided, or what feels bad, or what our kiddos can’t do. As the grown ups who love them, we know they are capable of greatness, even if that greatness is made up of lots of tiny steps, (as great things tend to be).
Physical activity is the natural end to the fight or flight response (which is where the physical feelings of an anxiety attack come from). Walking will help to burn the adrenalin and neurochemicals that have surged the body to prepare it for flight or fight, and which are causing the physical symptoms (racy heart, feeling sick, sweaty, short breaths, dry mouth, trembly or tense in the limbs etc). As well as this, the rhythm of walking will help to calm their anxious amygdala. Brains love rhythm, and walking is a way to give them this. 
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Try to help your young one access their steady breaths while walking, but it is very likely that they will only be able to do this if they’ve practised outside of an anxiety attack. During anxiety, the brain is too busy to try anything unfamiliar. Practising will help to create neural pathways that will make breathing an easier, more accessible response during anxiety. If they aren't able to access strong steady breaths, you might need to do it for them. This will be just as powerful - in the same way they can catch your anxiety, they will also be able to catch your calm. When you are able to assume a strong, calm, steady presence, this will clear the way for your brave ones to do the same.
The more your young one is able to verbalise what their anxiety feels like, the more capacity they will have to identify it, acknowledge it and act more deliberately in response to it. With this level of self-awareness comes an increased ability to manage the feeling when it happens, and less likelihood that the anxiety will hijack their behaviour. 

Now - let’s give their awareness some muscle. If they are experts at what their anxiety feels like, they are also experts at what it takes to be brave. They’ve felt anxiety and they’ve moved through it, maybe not every time - none of us do it every time - maybe not even most times, but enough times to know what it takes and how it feels when they do. Maybe it was that time they walked into school when everything in them was wanting to walk away. Maybe that time they went in for goal, or down the water slide, or did the presentation in front of the class. Maybe that time they spoke their own order at the restaurant, or did the driving test, or told you there would be alcohol at the party. Those times matter, because they show them they can move through anxiety towards brave. They might also taken for granted by your young one, or written off as not counting as brave - but they do count. They count for everything. They are evidence that they can do hard things, even when those things feel bigger than them. 

So let’s expand those times with them and for them. Let’s expand the wisdom that comes with that, and bring their brave into the light as well. ‘What helped you do that?’ ‘What was it like when you did?’ ‘I know everything in you wanted to walk away, but you didn’t. Being brave isn’t about doing things easily. It’s about doing those hard things even when they feel bigger than us. I see you doing that all the time. It doesn’t matter that you don’t do them every time -none of us are brave every time- but you have so much courage in you my love, even when anxiety is making you feel otherwise.’

Let them also know that you feel like this too sometimes. It will help them see that anxiety happens to all of us, and that even though it tells a deficiency story, it is just a story and one they can change the ending of.
During adolescence, our teens are more likely to pay attention to the positives of a situation over the negatives. This can be a great thing. The courage that comes from this will help them try new things, explore their independence, and learn the things they need to learn to be happy, healthy adults. But it can also land them in bucketloads of trouble. 

Here’s the thing. Our teens don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to go behind our backs, but they also don’t want to be controlled by us, or have any sense that we might be stifling their way towards independence. The cold truth of it all is that if they want something badly enough, and if they feel as though we are intruding or that we are making arbitrary decisions just because we can, or that we don’t get how important something is to them, they have the will, the smarts and the means to do it with or without or approval. 

So what do we do? Of course we don’t want to say ‘yes’ to everything, so our job becomes one of influence over control. To keep them as safe as we can, rather than saying ‘no’ (which they might ignore anyway) we want to engage their prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) so they can be more considered in their decision making. 

Our teens are very capable of making good decisions, but because the rational, logical, thinking prefrontal cortex won’t be fully online until their 20s (closer to 30 in boys), we need to wake it up and bring it to the decision party whenever we can. 

Do this by first softening the landing:
‘I can see how important this is for you. You really want to be with your friends. I absolutely get that.’
Then, gently bring that thinking brain to the table:
‘It sounds as though there’s so much to love in this for you. I don’t want to get in your way but I need to know you’ve thought about the risks and planned for them. What are some things that could go wrong?’
Then, we really make the prefrontal cortex kick up a gear by engaging its problem solving capacities:
‘What’s the plan if that happens.’
Remember, during adolescence we switch from managers to consultants. Assume a leadership presence, but in a way that is warm, loving, and collaborative.♥️
Big feelings and big behaviour are a call for us to come closer. They won’t always feel like that, but they are. Not ‘closer’ in an intrusive ‘I need you to stop this’ way, but closer in a ‘I’ve got you, I can handle all of you’ kind of way - no judgement, no need for you to be different - I’m just going to make space for this feeling to find its way through. 

Our kids and teens are no different to us. When we have feelings that fill us to overloaded, the last thing we need is someone telling us that it’s not the way to behave, or to calm down, or that we’re unbearable when we’re like this. Nup. What we need, and what they need, is a safe place to find our out breath, to let the energy connected to that feeling move through us and out of us so we can rest. 
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But how? First, don’t take big feelings personally. They aren’t a reflection on you, your parenting, or your child. Big feelings have wisdom contained in them about what’s needed more, or less, or what feels intolerable right now. Sometimes it might be as basic as a sleep or food. Maybe more power, influence, independence, or connection with you. Maybe there’s too much stress and it’s hitting their ceiling and ricocheting off their edges. Like all wisdom, it doesn’t always find a gentle way through. That’s okay, that will come. Our kids can’t learn to manage big feelings, or respect the wisdom embodied in those big feelings if they don’t have experience with big feelings. 
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We also need to make sure we are responding to them in the moment, not a fear or an inherited ‘should’ of our own. These are the messages we swallowed whole at some point - ‘happy kids should never get sad or angry’, ‘kids should always behave,’ ‘I should be able to protect my kids from feeling bad,’ ‘big feelings are bad feelings’, ‘bad behaviour means bad kids, which means bad parents.’ All these shoulds are feisty show ponies that assume more ‘rightness’ than they deserve. They are usually historic, and when we really examine them, they’re also irrelevant.
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Finally, try not to let the symptoms of big feelings disrupt the connection. Then, when calm comes, we will have the influence we need for the conversations that matter.

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