Warning signs that you’re in a toxic relationship

People, especially those closest to you, have a profound impact on your well-being. We’ll all experience the ups and downs of living with and loving imperfect people, but ultimately, our relationships should be a source of joy, not frustration.

Every human being on the planet deserves having rich, rewarding and safe relationships. And every human being on the planet has a responsibility to co-create those relationships. Let’s learn to spot the signs of a toxic relationship so you can start creating healthy ones instead.

Darlene Lancer, an author and marriage/family therapist says, “healthy relationships nourish and support us. A toxic relationship, on the other hand, is like poison; instead of lifting us up, it makes us feel worse. When it ends, we might experience post-traumatic stress or a lessening of self-esteem and trust in ourselves and others.”

In some cases, however, it is important to assess whether you as a partner are the toxic one in a relationship rather than blaming the other person. Counselling psychologist Susan Gitau of the Susan Gitau Counselling Foundation says self-awareness is one of the first steps in identifying behaviors that those around you may find repelling.

Therefore, in order to avoid heartbreak and mental health breakdown, take an early assessment and look out for the following signs:

Controlling behaviour

This is where one partner dominates the other in an unhealthy, self-serving manner. If your partner constantly makes you feel intimidated, insecure, or guilty, you could be in a controlling relationship. And control in a relationship is a form of abuse and could develop into worse. A controlling partner wants things done their way and never gives their partner a chance to express themselves. This may result in low self-esteem issues in the long run.

Constantly blames you

Being on the receiving end of blame can be exhausting, exasperating and painful. If your partner struggles with high levels of anger and always blames you for things that aren’t your fault, you could be dealing with an emotionally abusive person. They are notoriously known to want to be in the driver seat all the time.

A relationship is supposed to be a two-way street where both partners give and receive. However, if a partner only reciprocates with blame and anger without considering their position in situations, then you may be in a toxic relationship.

Here are some things you can consider doing in such situations:

  • Ask your partner to point out the issue gently.
  • Speak up and share your perspective.
  • Focus on solutions rather than on the blame game.
  • Stop and remember that blame may not really be about you.

You don’t feel safe

There are plenty of reasons why you might not be feeling safe in a relationship, and those reasons may stem from your partner’s behavior or character. Many women don’t feel safe in their relationships but somehow, they stay. Some may feel reluctant to leave a relationship because of the time invested in that particular one or for fear of what those around them might think or say.

You must and should feel safe in your relationship and if you’re always scared that your partner may go off anytime, it is time to move on.

Silent treatment

Researchers have found that silent treatment is used by both men and women to terminate a partner’s behaviors or words rather than to elicit them. In abusive relationships, silent treatment is sometimes used to manipulate the other person and to establish power over them.  In short, silent treatment is the deliberate refusal to communicate with another person verbally. Some partners are likely not to even recognise their partner’s presence.

These kinds of people will ignore you and the next thing you know is it is becoming an everyday situation that you presume normal or a minute thing but it could greatly affect your mental health. Take precaution and talk to your partner about it and see if they are willing to change. If they don’t, it is better to save oneself an episode of depression.


Lying is selfish and unacceptable behavior. This behavior may start with small lies that later escalate into bigger ones. When a partner is dishonest, it shows that they are not willing to take the blame for the greater good of the relationship. In such cases, a partner may lie about certain things and situations to save their pride. For a relationship to survive, both parties have to be honest with each other.


In case one detects some of the traits mentioned above, it is advisable to seek counselling from a professional on how to proceed. It is better to come to talk to your partner about some issues that may be bothering you so that you find a solution together.

However, if nothing changes, it is advisable to come to an early decision to leave the relationship and save time and mental wellbeing. The longer you tolerate, the more these toxic traits can tend to escalate, so be alert and ensure that your mental health is not on the edge.

Lancer advises that regardless of decisions made to leave or stay in a toxic relationship, one should always allow mental health to redeem autonomy and self-esteem. She also advises that one should create a life outside the relationship, build your self-esteem, be assertive and set boundaries.