12 Potential Toxic Behaviours that Push People Away

We can all fall into the trap of acting in ways that hurt the people around us or begin to push people away. But for many of us, we can see the effects and start to change for the better but there are sets of toxic behaviours that can cause great harm to those around you and begin to isolate you. Here we discuss just 12 of these behaviours for you to look out for and change to make your relationships even better.

1. Being constantly envious of others

The first main behaviour that you should look out for within your relationships is the tendency to be envious of everything else around you. Envy is the desire to have something that someone else already has. This type of behaviour can cause serious issues within relationships as you look to others to see what they have, rather than valuing what you already have before you. Looking only towards others rather than valuing your existing relationship can only lead to resentment and a general sense of dissatisfaction within relationships as you see everything you perceive to be missing from yours, ignoring the potential traits that you might already have. Moreover, expressing the level of envy within a relationship can be a key marker of how successful a romantic relationship will be. One study showed that the expression of jealousy and the raw levels of cognitive jealousy were the most potent predictors of relational satisfaction, this means that the amount of jealousy one has can be one of the most realistic measures of how happy someone will be within a relationship out of the measured variables (Andersen, Eloy, Guerrero & Spitzberg, 1995). Constant envy can lead to the breakdown of a relationship and cause you to eventually push people away as you constantly compare your life to others and look for what’s missing in others.

2. Taking all events personally

Another issue within relationships is the tendency towards taking events personally. This tendency causes someone to believe that everything happening around them is directly related to them and that any form of criticism or feedback is a direct assault towards them. Generally, someone who shows these behaviours can be described as insecure, defensive and self-absorbed, none of which are positive the majority of the time. Your reactions to the world around you feed directly into how others perceive you and therefore how successfully a relationship would function. While the ability to understand criticisms and feedbacks directed towards oneself is an important trait and the ability to act on them forms a very important part of life in general, over-reacting to events that do not have any relation to oneself is simply foolish. Additionally, by constantly looking or seeing assaults within non-confrontational interactions, people can begin to become cautious about what they should say when interacting with you and therefore begin to be pushed away as the effort put into controlling their language and behaviours becomes too great.

3. Constantly acting like a victim

Acting as a victim is a common problem and something that almost everyone will do at some point. However, if it becomes a habit in which you complain about everything around you being out to get you and acting as if you are always a victim, you can begin to drive people away. This tendency is referred to as self-victimisation and can often be easy to do and an easy method to divert blame from oneself, you are not at fault, you are simply the victim and have no ability to change what is happening. But this is not true, we often have an incredible amount of control in the world, while it is true that we cannot control everything, we certainly can cause big impacts based on who we choose to associate with, how we approach tasks in the world and how we deal with the problems that we face. Changing how we do these things can be a very difficult process for some and can take some work and time to do, but in the end, we do have the ability to change our lives. Moreover, acting as a victim is also a common manipulation tactic in order to manipulators to evoke compassion in whoever they are talking to or in order to get something specific in return (Simon, 2005).

4. Hoarding pain and loss

Keeping things to ourselves is something that we will all do by nature, very rarely do people wish to share every detail of what is happening in their lives (although the occasional look at social media may make you question this fact). However, there has to be a balance, especially when it comes to the pain and loss that we all experience. Throughout our lives, we will inevitably deal with a significant loss, be it due to someone close passing away, someone moving out of your life or just due to some unforeseen circumstances but one of the most important things is not the events themselves, but how we choose to deal with them (this was also how Ellis, a psychologist, suggested that depression occurred). Holding on to negative events is natural in a lot of cases straight after it happens, but at some point, we have to accept that the event has happened and that there is nothing we can do to change the event afterwards. This is letting go and can help you move on with your life and stop obsessing over it. I would be the first to admit that this is not an easy process but it is something that we must work towards. By hoarding the pain and loss that we have experienced, we can begin to push people away as we become fixated on them.

5. Obsessive negative thinking

This point links in quite nicely to the last point and refers to the tendency to focus on the negatives that you experience and refusing to let go of negative experience. This can show up in many ways but you can often think of a person who would always focus on the negatives of a situation and never seemed to take note of the positives. Some may commonly talk about the bad things that have happened to them in the past or about their belief in the unfairness of life. We must be clear here in not confusing this with pessimism, someone who is a pessimist can still see the positives of a situation, but someone who obsesses over negative thoughts cannot. This kind of behaviour can be a hard one to break and for some, it may be impossible to do on their own (such as those experiencing depression or a similar psychological condition) but as much as possible we must try and balance out the experience of positive and negative. We can draw some connections between this type of behaviour and that exhibited by those suffering from depression and it has been shown that in a romantic relationship, these kinds of behaviours can place an “emotional toll of depression on the relationships” and that they can cause “problems with romance and sexual intimacy, over dependence on the relationship, and feelings of uncertainty about the relationship” (Sharabi, Delaney & Knobloch, 2015)

6. Lack of emotional self-control

Lack of emotional self-control can be a very difficult problem to deal with, both for the person who lacks it and for all those around them. Not being able to control outbursts of emotion or being set off by the smallest and most insignificant thing can become exhausting to those around you, like with taking all events personally, as they begin to worry about their own actions and how they could possibly affect you. Being able to control your feelings and more importantly, how you express your emotions can be a hard skill to develop should you not already be able to, but can be an incredibly valuable skill that will help you out in almost every area of life. It can improve your relationships with others as you can control how you appear to them by understanding and controlling your own emotions. For many, this could take a long time and a lot of work but it is incredibly worthwhile.

7. Cruelty

Unsurprisingly, this is an extremely toxic behaviour and one that can cause an incredible amount of distress to those that are subject to it. Being understanding of other people and more importantly being understanding of their feelings is a key skill in life and something that can make you become more receptive, understanding and compassionate. Cruelty and a lack of empathy can come out in many ways, be it online when you feel hidden behind a screen and forget that at the other end of the network is another living person who has their own set of feelings that you can either raise or crush. Additionally, separate from the internet, many people also forget about the effect of their words even when the person they are talking about is not there. This includes complaining about a friend to someone else because, even ignoring the idea of the words finding their way back to the person, it can push away the people you talk to as they realise how you deal with your friends and may begin to wonder if you say the same things behind their backs. Fixing these kinds of behaviours can be tough but is something that can instantly improve your friendships, relationships and interactions with people.

8. Cheating

When we refer to cheating here, we aren’t just talking about cheating on a partner. We are talking about cheating in a moral sense. This can include cheating people out of something or taking advantage. It is easy to form a reputation for being a cheater when people start to realise the frequency to which you do it. Cheating in many ways can very quickly break a relationship with someone, be it platonic or romantic and word can also very quickly spread about your actions. No one wants to associate with someone who is known for cheating on their friends or cheating them out of something that is theirs. There is not too much to say here as the point mainly speaks for itself, being trustworthy and being seen as having integrity can do wonders for your reputation and relationships in your life.

9. Secrecy

In personal relationships, holding onto secrets that are affecting you can cause a significant impact on the quality of your relationship. You must strike a balance between dealing with what is happening in your life and being able to express how you feel to your partner as if you don’t you can begin to drive them away as they feel they do not know you or that you don’t trust them enough to share what is troubling you. It was shown in a study that both secrecy and disclosure are important within a relationship and that both should be valued and the interactions between the two parties as a result of these two processes is an important indicator of relationship success and satisfaction (Finkenauer & Hazam, 2000; Reis & Shaver, 1988). Hiding details from your life can be beneficial, not everyone needs to know everything but at the same time, not everyone should know nothing.

10. Putting up a mask permanently

Putting up a mask is something we all do naturally, we all change who we are in different situations. For those in school it is almost guaranteed that you change how you express yourself when dealing with teachers compared to your friends, and for those in work, the same applies to your friends and your boss. Changing how we express ourselves is natural, different social norms require different methods of acting, but there is a difference between using a mask and hiding your true self. To use the cliche phrase, everyone is unique and as a result, everyone will have something interesting about themselves and it should be expressed. The main danger of putting up this false front wherever you go, and to everyone you interact with, is that it can become permanent and to the point where you cannot remove it. This happens when someone close to you becomes attached to the image that you hold up and not the real you. This means that they love what they believe to be you but not the actual you that hides behind the mask. This is a highly toxic action and can cause people to lose trust in you as they realise that they don’t know the real you. You should not try and make people like a version of you, you should try and make people like the real you, in the long run, it can be much easier and allow you to live a more fulfilling life.

11. Requirement of validation

We all love validation, to most, there’s nothing better than someone giving approval or showing a genuine interest in something that we do. But there is a point where your need for validation becomes exhausting. Trying to prove your worth and making sure that everyone likes you can become an irritating habit to those around you and can also lead to what we talked about above where you put up a fake image to each person in order to present the most likeable version of you. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t care what people think, you should to some extent and you should show things off that you’re proud of, it’s when you do it only for validation that things become toxic. Life is about more than just people liking you, although what that is varies from person to person. You should aim to rely on your own happiness rather than the validation of others and not base the success of yourself and your life around what others believe about you and your achievements.

12. Perfectionism

Perfectionism is natural, it’s something that the majority of us will strive towards in at least one aspect of our life, be it work, school or a hobby. Perfection is an odd concept, however, as it is hard to pin down exactly what that means. For each person, it may mean getting to a different point but for many, it will always be out of reach as every time you reach that point, the point just moves. While we should aim to improve, it is much better to try and improve for the sake of improving rather than reaching some arbitrary point that we call perfection. Hearing someone talk about that point constantly can become draining and tiring as you realize that they will never actually reach that point. Moreover, aiming for perfection within a relationship can be a risk factor for dysfunction and issues within a relationship according to one study (Lopez, Fons-Scheyd, Morúa & Chaliman, 2006). This should show that the view of perfection can actually be toxic to you and the relationships you try and develop. Be better, but not for perfection but simply for the joy of improving.


  • Andersen, P., Eloy, S., Guerrero, L., & Spitzberg, B. (1995). Romantic jealousy and relational satisfaction: A look at the impact of jealousy experience and expression. Communication Reports, 8(2), 77-85. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08934219509367613
  • Simon, G. (2005). In sheep’s clothing. Little Rock, AR: A.J. Christopher.
  • Finkenauer, C., & Hazam, H. (2000). Disclosure and Secrecy in Marriage: Do Both Contribute to Marital Satisfaction?. Journal Of Social And Personal Relationships, 17(2), 245-263. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0265407500172005
  • Reis, H., & Shaver, P. (1988). Intimacy as an Interpersonal Process. In S. Duck, Handbook of personal relationships: theory, research, and interventions (2nd ed., pp. 367-389). John Wiley & Sons.
  • Sharabi, L., Delaney, A., & Knobloch, L. (2015). In their own words. Journal Of Social And Personal Relationships, 33(4), 421-448. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0265407515578820
  • Lopez, F., Fons-Scheyd, A., Morúa, W., & Chaliman, R. (2006). Dyadic perfectionism as a predictor of relationship continuity and distress among college students. Journal Of Counseling Psychology, 53(4), 543-549. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-0167.53.4.543

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