How to Tell If You're in a Toxic Relationship

Updated: Jul 6

Controlling, possessive, belittling, mean, isolating - all these are signs you are in a toxic relationship.  According to Healthscopemag.com, a toxic relationship is characterized by insecurity, self-centeredness, dominance and control.  Sadly, most of us have been in a toxic relationship at one point in our lives whether it be with a family member, significant other, friend, co-worker or boss.  There is hope after leaving a toxic relationship, but you need to know what to look for and have the inner strength to leave.



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Signs You’re In a Toxic Relationship

WomensHealthMagazine.com list 24 signs that you are in a toxic relationship, but I choose 8 because those are the signs that I ignored in 2 of my toxic relationships.

  1. There’s Always Something Wrong - My boyfriend in high school made such a big deal about spending time together that I would skip school to be with him, but it was never enough.  He would make me feel guilty for wanting to spend time with friends and family that I eventually started to withdraw from them, but guess what? It still wasn’t enough.

  2. They’re Controlling and Jealous - I wasn’t allowed to talk to any men, how hard is that to do when you’re in high school?  There was a time when I had friends over to work on a group project, he wanted me to call him every 30 minutes or he would call me. because he didn't like the facts that I had guys over my house.  I literally was a few minutes late and he called and he made a big deal out of me not calling. His rationale for being jealous and controlling was that his last girlfriend cheated on him and he was scarred by it so I had to pay for her past indiscretions.

  3. You’re Not Taking Care of Yourself - I was so stressed out from trying to please my boyfriend, that I wasn’t taking care of myself.  Of course I didn’t know what self-care was back then, but the things that once brought me joy, I neglected because I was ridiculed for wanted to do anything that didn’t include him.  One day I was so stressed, I thought that I was having a heart attack, my mom took me to the doctor and she told me I was having a panic attack. Yup, I was 16 and so stressed from this toxic relationship that it was affecting me physically.

  4. Your Friends and Family Are Concerned - when I came home from the doctor, of course my boyfriend called because he was ‘concerned.’  My mother wouldn’t let me talk to him because she knew he was toxic and my panic attack was a side effect of being in a relationship with him.  Family can be overprotective, even if you’re in a non-toxic relationship. However, if you trust your family and they express concern, take what they say to heart.

  5. There Are Trust Issues - The second toxic relationship I had, my boyfriend lied about any and everything.  He didn’t just lie to me, he lied to everyone. He lied about working the graveyard shift at a new job, but in reality, he would take his mother's car and sleep on the street.  Can you see how hard it was to trust him, but I still stayed because I felt like I could change him. I couldn’t change him and he continued to lie.

  6. The Future Doesn’t Look Bright - Although the relationships I was in were toxic, I still did my best in school and when it came time to look into colleges, I took that seriously.  I’m sure you already know that boyfriend #1 was mad I was looking into colleges that were away from home and when I was in college boyfriend #2 was insecure that I would leave him for someone else.  Both of them gave me grief about wanting a better future. To be honest, I was starry eyed with both of them at first and wanted to marry them (thank God I didn’t) but things changed when I started to see them for who they were.  I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life with a jealous manipulator or a chronic liar.

  7. Game Player - I remember I was in the supermarket with my mother bagging groceries and I saw my boyfriend walk past with a friend of his.  He looked me dead in my face and continued to walk away, foolishly, I went after him. We were ‘together’ for 2 years and I’m sure there were more games that he played with me, but I will never forget what he did that day.  I guess you could say what happened was how our relationship went, he never stopped to look at me the way I should have been looked at and I was always chasing him. 

  8. They are Borderline Abusive - anyone that lies, manipulates, is jealous and tries to control you is abusive.  If they are doing the aforementioned along with using hurtful words against you, it’s emotional/verbal abuse and it can soon develop into physical abuse.

Some people would say, why didn’t you leave?  Well, I thought I loved them and it was hard to leave.  Why? Anytime I wanted to, I was met with guilt trips and threats that they would harm themselves.  The reasons why people choose to stay in toxic relationships vary and truth be told, the longer you stay in one, the harder it is to leave.  However, there is hope!





An Unpopular Opinion 

You know that saying, It takes 2 to tango?  Sometimes we must admit our part in a toxic relationship.  It’s a hard pill to swallow, but sometimes we need to be honest with ourselves, especially if we want to begin healing.  Talkspace.com gives 3 ways that someone contributes to their toxic relationship.

  1. You use affection or compliments as a bargaining chip

  2. You’re passive aggressive

  3. You play with your partner’s feelings (i.e making them jealous)

If this behavior is something that you participate in, own it and work towards change!


How to Get Out of A Toxic Relationship

If you got into this relationship, you CAN get out of it!  It won’t be easy and your ex partner can make it hard to leave, but you can do it.  Find that inner strength and put yourself and your mental health first. I found a website that lists 6 ways to get out of a toxic relationship:

  1. Make a commitment - it’s over and there’s no going back!

  2. Get the support from friends and family - let them know your plans and how they can help you

  3. Make a clean break - like Nike says, Just Do It!

  4. No “Let’s Be Friends” - a friendship will be just as bad if not worse than being in a relationship.  Being friends can lead you back into another toxic relationship with your ex

  5. Don’t rescue your ex - feelings will be hurt, emotions will run wild and mean things even threats can be made, but DON'T give in.

  6. Fill the void - this, in my opinion, is the most important.  Ending a relationship could mean you have a lot of time on your hands, do something positive that will give you something to do so you won’t have time to go back to a toxic relationship



Effects of a Toxic Relationship

I’m not going to sit here and lie to you and say that once you end your toxic relationship, you’ll feel fine and go tiptoe through the tulips.  The truth is, it’s gonna suck! You will have so many conflicting feelings and your mental state will go through it too. There will be days where you’re glad you left and days where you’ll be questioning why.  In fact, you could be experience some form a trauma, especially if the relationship was abusive.


Your feelings can lead to depression, anxiety, low-self esteem and self-harm. Your mental health issues could be triggered as well.  You may want to isolate yourself and develop toxic characteristics.


It is very important that you lean on your tribe and practice self-care! Below are a few ways to take care of yourself after leaving a toxic relationship according to PsychologyToday.com:

  1. Surround yourself with positive people

  2. Practice self-care

  3. Don’t allow feelings of regret or self-doubt creep in

  4. Take time for yourself before starting another relationship

  5. Talk about your feelings

  6. Seek professional help if needed

  7. Don’t be afraid to share your story

  8. Make new friends

  9. View yourself as a strong individual 

Surviving a toxic breakup can really test your mental fortitude and it will be hard, but I know that you can do it!


My 2 Cents

  1. I’ve been in 2 toxic relationships, one after the other.  I was not healed from from 1 toxic relationship before I went into another.  Let my experience teach you that you must be healed and ready before entering a healthy relationship.

  2. It is possible to survive a toxic relationship and enter into a healthy relationship, but don’t make the person pay for your ex partner(s) behavior

  3. Be kind to yourself when it’s over, we all make mistakes.  Make sure you learn and grow from yours.

  4. Make sure you make a commitment to yourself, seek support from your tribe and fill the void when the relationship is over



Did you know that I now have a podcast? It's called, For My BrownGirls! Podcast and you can listen to it HERE!


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*I am not a licensed therapist.  This post does not serve as a form of therapy or diagnosis.  If you are experiencing an emergency, please call 911 or your doctor.

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