When it comes to the people we love, most of us are willing to be more forgiving and understanding with them than we are with others. We try not to judge them too harshly on account of their worst traits or mistakes, and instead, choose to see the good in them and hope that our love, care, and support will change them for the better. But how do we know when to draw the line between compassion and exploitation? How do we know we’re not already sacrificing our mental health for the wrong person?
A lot of us tend to have a bad habit for easily forgiving someone’s bad behavior and tossing it under the rug by thinking that’s just “the way they are” or that it’s “so typical of him/her.” But in doing so, we are actually normalizing their problematic attitudes and failing to recognize that we are enabling them to keep behaving this way by refusing to speak out.
With that said, here are 8 warning signs that you’re dating someone who’s toxic for you:
1. They try to control you.
Does your partner tell you who you can and can’t go out with? Do they dictate what you can wear and what time you should be home? Do they need to know where you are and who you’re with every hour of every day? This kind of controlling behavior is a definite red flag because it shows that your partner doesn’t trust you. They want to control you and keep you all to themselves, so they exert their dominance over you. But they fail to see that in doing so, they are suffocating you and disrespecting your boundaries (Fontaine, 2020).
2. They don’t listen to you.
Your partner talks much more than they listen, and the communication in your relationship is largely one-sided. You don’t have much of a say in your relationship because they’re the ones who are always deciding where to go, what to do, and when you’ll do it. They don’t ask for your opinion and they don’t seem to care about what you have to say. They’re only interested in talking about themselves and their lives, never bothering to ask you about how you’re doing or what’s going on with you. They’re self-absorbed, inconsiderate, and selfish – all toxic qualities to have in a romantic partner (Muller, 2011).
3. They manipulate you.
Sad to say, there are really some people out there who are willing to do anything to get what they want, even if it means having to take advantage of the people they supposedly love. Manipulative people have lots of sneaky ways to try to exert control over you and trick you into giving in to their demands. Common tactics of emotional manipulation include: preying on your insecurities, giving you the cold shoulder, treating you with contempt, guilt-tripping you, and using your good nature against you (Holden, Zeigler-Hill, Pham & Shackelford, 2014). It’s not healthy for you to be in a relationship with someone you can’t trust and you should never tolerate this kind of manipulative behavior from anyone, let alone your significant other.
4. They constantly criticize you.
Your partner always seems to have a problem with the way you do things. They criticize your every move and focus on every little mistake you make. They have a back-handed compliment ready for you the moment you slip up and they undermine all your accomplishments. Constant criticism isn’t something you want in your life. And while you might be tempted to believe, like your partner says, that it’s all “good-natured fun” and that you should “learn to take a joke”, it’s not good for your self-esteem to be with someone who’s never supportive of you and doesn’t believe in you (Knee, Canevello, Bush, & Cook, 2008).
5. They talk down to you.
Being with someone who talks down to you all the time and belittles all your ideas, feelings, and goals is emotionally exhausting and toxic for your mental health. Worst of all, it’s the person you love treating you this way. They call you names when you’re fighting, dismiss your concerns, dress you down in front of other people, and don’t take anything you say seriously. Not only is this kind of behavior insensitive and disrespectful, but it borders on emotional abuse. And while it may only happen sometimes, usually when you’re arguing, there’s only so many times you can excuse it (“Oh, he doesn’t really mean that” or “She’s just in a bad mood”) before it starts to get worse (Kim, 2020).
6. They take things out on you.
Toxic people don’t know how to deal with their problems or work through their emotions, so they usually take it out on other people and project their negativity on those around them. You might notice this when your significant other gets upset with you for no reason, treats you with sarcasm and harsh judgment, or even throws temper tantrums when they hear bad news. They want to make you feel as miserable as they do and they are willing to put you down just to make themselves feel better (Florsheim & Moore, 2008).
7. They bring you down.
Negativity can be contagious, so if your romantic partner is constantly weighing you down with their cynicism and their negative thinking, sooner or later, it’s going to rub off on you (University of Chicago Press, 2007). After all, it’s hard to be happy when you’re spending so much of your time with someone who’s so gloomy and pessimistic all the time. It drains a lot of your energy to be around them because they just can’t seem to find anything to be positive about. They spend all their time complaining about how difficult and unfair their life is and they expect you to just listen and commiserate with them.
8. They’re never sorry.
Finally but perhaps most importantly, if your significant other displays a lack of compassion and remorse, then that’s a definite warning sign that you’re dating someone who’s toxic for your mental health (Winters, 2017). No matter how much you call them out on it, a person who lacks compassion will never feel sorry for what they’ve done. Sure, they might apologize just to get you off their back, but it’s never sincere. They don’t care about the way they’ve hurt you or wronged you because they don’t have any empathy for you or anyone else. They only care about themselves, so don’t waste your time trying to see the good in them and redeem them from their horrible actions.
Do you recognize any of these signs in your partner? If you are trapped in a toxic relationship, it’s important that you love and respect yourself enough to prioritize your own mental health and emotional well-being over them. Talk to them about what you’re going through and maintain healthy boundaries in your relationship. If nothing changes, then it’s time for you to move on and save yourself from someone who’s only going to leave you heartbroken and emotionally drained.
- Muller, R. J. (2011). Failing Narcissistic Defenses Can Turn Love Toxic. The Humanistic Psychologist, 39 (4), 375-378.
- Holden, C. J., Zeigler-Hill, V., Pham, M. N., & Shackelford, T. K. (2014). Personality features and mate retention strategies: Honesty–humility and the willingness to manipulate, deceive, and exploit romantic partners. Personality and Individual Differences, 57, 31-36.
- Knee, C. R., Canevello, A., Bush, A. L., & Cook, A. (2008). Relationship-contingent self-esteem and the ups and downs of romantic relationships. Journal of personality and social psychology, 95(3), 608.
- Florsheim, P., & Moore, D. R. (2008). Observing differences between healthy and unhealthy adolescent romantic relationships: Interpersonal Processes. Journal of Adolescence, 31(6), 795-814.
- University of Chicago Press Journals. (2007 October 7). Negativity is Contagious, Study Finds. Science Daily. Retrieved 30 April 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071004/135757.htm
- Winters, J. (2017). “36 Signs You’re Dating A Toxic Person.” Retrieved 30 April 2020 from https://thoughtcatalog.com/jessica-winters/2017/04/36-signs-that-the-person-youre-dating-is-toxic/
- Kim, J. (2020). “5 Signs of A Toxic Relationship.” Retrieved 30 April 2020 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-angry-therapist/202001/5-signs-toxic-relationship
- Fontaine, Z. (2020). “How To Know You Are Dating A Toxic Person.” Retrieved 30 April 2020 from https://medium.com/@perspective_zita/how-to-know-you-are-dating-a-toxic-person-46f7b46c2976