8 Toxic Behaviors in a Relationship

All relationships require work and some more than others. We know that our partner, friend, or parent is not perfect, and neither are we. However, some relationships do us more harm than good. 

When we think of a toxic relationship, we typically think of an abusive relationship (though if you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please seek professional help). But, a toxic relationship can happen to anyone. 

So, what is a toxic relationship? 

toxic relationship is characterized by emotionally and occasionally physically damaging behaviors. They leave you feeling emotionally drained, helpless, and in despair, which can cause severe damage to your self-esteem. 

Here eight common toxic behaviors. 

  • Lack of support

A toxic behavior that can harm your relationship is the constant lack of support from your partner. There are many ways to feel unsupported. You may feel like they do not truly listen to you, they are dismissive of your emotions, or they constantly find faults in you. 

If you feel like your partner is unsupportive, you may want to talk to them about it. Express your feelings. However, if this is not an option, make sure you have a support system in place. Find and surround yourself with supportive friends and family who you trust and love because it will help to boost your self-esteem.

  • Controlling

Another sign of a toxic relationship is controlling behavior. Controlling behavior manifests itself through monitoring. The obvious signs of controlling behavior are if your partner dictates how you dress, who you surround yourself with, or what you say or think, but there are more subtle signs. A subtle sign of controlling behavior is gaslighting.  Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that involves planting seeds of doubt. Gaslighting makes you question your choices, perception, and emotions. Gaslighting is an insidious form of toxic behavior because it creates cognitive dissonance and low self-esteem.  Controlling behavior is not limited to gaslighting. It can also take form in any action or dialogue that restricts your freedom. 

  • Jealousy

Feeling a twinge of jealousy at the beginning of a relationship is natural. However, if a partner becomes irrationally jealous, then it is problematic. 

In her book “Daring Greatly:  How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead,” Brene Brown associates jealousy to personal vulnerability. Though we should be proud to vulnerable, most of us hide our vulnerabilities and they become the source of our insecurities. 

Insecurities stem from low self-esteem or an inadequate self-image, which subsequently foster jealousy. If your partner feels the need to monitor you, try to create a dialogue about the source of their insecurity, and extend understanding and compassion. Having this conversation will help you both establish mutual trust and create a deeper bond. Couple’s counseling is also a good resource that could help facilitate this dialogue between you and your partner. 

  • Dishonesty

We all lie, but too many lies can damage a relationship. Lies create feelings of distrust and dishonesty.

Though we may justify our lies with good intentions, the source may be fear. Relationships require us to be open and emotionally vulnerable, but past hurts can prevent us from opening up and causing us to lie. These lies bred lies and encourage dishonesty. However, lies are not the only source of dishonesty in a relationship. Dishonestly also includes telling half-truths, concealing the truth, or deliberately deceiving your partner. 

Dishonesty erodes trust, emotional intimacy, and creates feelings of guilt which places strain on the relationship.  To restore trust, be open to communicate and to forgive. 

  • Bad or no Communication

Couples who are communicators face many challenges, chiefly not developing a strong relational bond. 

Bad communication involves using “you” centered language directives, universal statements, and invalidation.  For example:

  • You have to … 
  • You need to …
  • You never 
  • You always ….
  • You’re blowing things out of proportion!
  • It’s not that big of a deal! 
  • I’m not having this discussion with you right now. 

All of these forms of toxic communication leave you feeling less than, with low self-esteem, and unwilling to engage with your partner. Additionally, a lack of communication or bad communication within a relationship can lead to an escalation in conflicts, loneliness, and lack of intimacy. 

Fortunately, communication issues can be worked on. If you and your partner are willing, there are resources available to teach both of you how to become better communicators. Remember, communication is a skill! 

  • Disrespect

Another toxic behavior is disrespect, and it is a big red flag. Examples of toxic and disrespectful behavior are feeling like your partner does not respect your boundaries, undermines you, or there is constant competition between the both of you. 

It is important to distinguish between a toxic relationship and an abusive one. The primary difference being that the abuser uses psychological, verbal or physical violence to maintain the dynamic and a the victim is never at fault. However, in a toxic relationship it is a bit more difficult. Noticing disrespect from our partners forces you to hold yourself accountable for your role in the relationship, but accountability, from both parts, is the first step to opening up a conversation. 

Mutual respect is a cornerstone of a strong relationship. Without it, the relationship will not last long. 

  • Holding on to Grudges

Holding onto grudges can foster resentment and increases toxicity in the relationship.  

Grudges destroy a relationship by dividing you and the other person, increasing feelings of bitterness and unhappiness, and it making you lose trust in each other further alienating you from them which causes the relationship to eventually dissolve. 

A way to restore the relationship is by communicating with each other about the hurt and forgive each other. 

  • Constant Stress or Unhappiness

Feeling stressed or discontent when you are around your partner, is not normal. You may have to ask yourself, “why am I feeling this way?” or “what is happening between my partner and me that is making me feel this way?” If you find that your discontentment stems from any of the behaviors listed above or any others, perhaps opening up a dialogue about how you both feel can you both address these issues and restore the relationship. 


Relationships are complicated and take work. Both parties need a willingness to invest time and effort into making the relationship work. They must also be willing to face some harsh realities about themselves and take responsibility for the hurt that they may have caused each other. Hopefully, this will help them shift the focus from blame to understanding and eventually compassion. 

Have you observed toxic behaviors in you relationships? How did you address them?  Let us know in the comments below!



Additional Sources:

Cory, T. L. (2020, June 18). Toxic Relationships -. Retrieved July 25, 2020, from https://www.healthscopemag.com/health-scope/toxic-relationships/

Ducharme, J. (2018, June 05). Toxic Relationships: Signs, Help and What To Do. Retrieved July 24, 2020, from https://time.com/5274206/toxic-relationship-signs-help/

Eldemire, A. (2018, October 30). Why Do We Get Jealous in Relationships? Retrieved July 27, 2020, from https://www.gottman.com/blog/why-do-we-get-jealous-in-relationships

Kim, J. (2020, January 19). 5 Signs of a Toxic Relationship. Retrieved July 24, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-angry-therapist/202001/5-signs-toxic-relationship

Lamothe, C. (2019, November 11). 38 Signs of a Toxic Relationship and Tips For Fixing It. Retrieved July 24, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/toxic-relationship

Manson, M. (2020, June 08). 6 Toxic Relationship Habits Most People Think Are Normal. Retrieved July 25, 2020, from https://markmanson.net/toxic-relationship-signs

Young, K. (2016, April 20). 15 Signs of a Toxic Relationship. Retrieved July 24, 2020, from https://www.heysigmund.com/toxic-relationship-15-signs/


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