By Robin Silver
People have quirks, and in relationships, those quirks will eventually surface—whether it is with a partner, a family member, co-worker, or friend. Sometimes it can be incredibly frustrating to deal with someone’s idiosyncrasies when they clash with your own. This is a normal part of being a human in the world, and one that everyone must deal with.
But in some relationships, what may start as a simple disagreement or difference in perspective can become poisonous. Relationships typically don’t start out toxic. They slowly develop, and by the time it has manifested, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees.
Here are some signs to recognise if your relationship has gone from merely frustrating to toxic
You Feel Bad More Often Than Not
At the start of relationships, we are often overwhelmed with warm fuzzy feelings. Of course, these feelings fade as time goes on—but they should be replaced with a more settled and secure type of love. If you mostly feel worried, afraid, or like you’ve done something wrong, it could be a sign that your relationship is unhealthy and poisonous to your self-esteem.
You’re Constantly Walking On Eggshells
Sometimes, waiting to bring up an issue or choosing your battles is the emotionally intelligent thing to do. But if you find yourself censoring your thoughts more often than not, something is amiss. If you almost always doubt yourself and your feelings, or chalk up your reactions to what they say or do as you being too sensitive, it may not be true—it may actually be gaslighting. In a healthy partnership or friendship, you should feel safe to bring up your thoughts and feelings without fear of their reaction, even if you know they may not like what you have to say.
There’s A Significant Imbalance
Do they always choose where to eat, which movie to watch, and what you’re doing on date night? Are you the one who compromises every time? Relationships are meant to be a balance of give and take. If you are always there to listen to them, support them, and encourage them, they should be happy to return the favour. If they won’t, or only do so begrudgingly, it’s a bad sign. While there might be times when one partner gives more—for example, during a time of illness or stress—it should overall be reasonably equitable. Compromise is something that both people in a relationship will have to do at times.
You’re Always Making Excuses For Them
Do you find yourself often making excuses to others, or even to yourself, for their bad behaviour? Do they regularly say mean things, or do they get falling-down drunk at every social event you attend together? Recognising the difference between the occasional social faux pas and genuine lack of concern for others is important. Everyone has bad days and make mistakes, and sometimes the people we love will take the brunt of that sour mood. But those days should be the exception, not the rule.
They Regularly Push Your Boundaries
Mental health is contingent upon being able to say yes and no depending on your needs. Whether that is a request for time alone, specific topics you’d rather not discuss, or activities that you don’t want to participate in, that should be respected. Do they try to persuade you otherwise, and to do things that make you uncomfortable? Maybe they accuse you of being unsupportive if you don’t do certain things, trying to guilt you into it. Respecting someone’s clearly stated needs and boundaries is the genuinely supportive action, even if it means not getting what they want.
Scorekeeping And Competitiveness
If you had a bad day, they had a worse one. If you were stuck in traffic, they totalled their car. If they forgot to do something you asked, you’re reminded of all the times you forgot something. An obsession with maintaining the status quo is not a sign of a good relationship. Always making sure things are tit-for-tat or being afraid to screw up because it will be tacked on to the long list of sins committed against them—this is toxicity at its finest, disguised as fairness. In healthy relationships, we accept people as they are, and listen before making any comparison or accusation.
While not all toxic relationships are irredeemable, it takes commitment and hard work from both sides to fix these problems. If both parties aren’t willing to do the work—and it may require third-party assistance, such as a mediator, counsellor, or therapist—it may be time to cut your losses. Then you can take what you’ve learned into future, hopefully, healthier, relationships.