How Do You Know If You’re In A Toxic Relationship? Here’s What It Looks Like
Because red flags are more difficult to spot through rose-colored glasses.
Let’s be honest: It takes effort, respect, energy, and consistency to make a good relationship work. No matter how “good” a relationship is, we still have to adjust to our partner’s moods, and vice versa. However, some relationships particularly require much more work, understanding, and effort to keep afloat. Sometimes we find ourselves anxious and stressed instead of happy and thriving. If you can relate to this, you might be in a toxic relationship.
What is a “toxic relationship”?
The term “toxic relationship” was first used by communication and behavioral psychology expert Lillian Glass in her 1995 book Toxic People. It was defined as an unhealthy relationship that can be emotionally and physically harmful to the people involved. A relationship built on conflict, competition, and control.
According to Lillian, a toxic person “robs you of your self-esteem and dignity and poisons the essence of who you are. He or she wears down your resistance and thus can make you mentally or physically ill.”
Signs to watch out for
It can be difficult to spot red flags, especially if it involves a person you genuinely care about. However, 29-year-old Micah, who experienced a toxic relationship firsthand, says you should try to observe if these not-so-obvious signs are present when you’re in a relationship.
In case you didn’t know, “gaslighting” is a form of psychological abuse wherein a person manipulates his partner by questioning her sanity or perception of reality. Because of this, a person who is being gaslighted can lose trust in herself.
“I experienced this and all I can say is that it happens so gradually you would not even notice,” shares Micah. Her previous partner would often question Micah’s recollection of how things happened, and would accuse her of making things up.
“If you often hear your partner say, ‘you’re just being dramatic’ or ‘that’s not what happened’, he may be gaslighting you,” she adds.
It’s simple. If you genuinely love a person, you would not call him names that would degrade his personality, beliefs, or physical appearance.
“I noticed that my once confident self was nowhere to be found. Naging sobrang insecure ako, feeling ko ang pangit ko, because that’s what I would always hear from him,” shares Micah. “Always remember that a good partner will make you feel comfortable and loved, not the other way around.”
Constant stress and anxiety
According to licensed therapist Shannon Thomas, being in a toxic relationship can manifest on your physical health. Common symptoms include constantly feeling stressed, anxious, or exhausted.
"The high moments feel really good but when those downward spirals start, the gaslighting or the silent treatment, the body can go into a crash," she says. "And it's that up and down and up and down that wears on survivors."
Lack of trust
A toxic partner can be overprotective, but for all the wrong reasons. Micah says, “It’s okay if your partner constantly checks in on you if they have good intentions, like wanting to know you’re safe. But if it’s because they get jealous whenever you spend a minute without them, then it’s their insecurity talking.”
If you feel like your partner is isolating you from your friends and family, exhibiting lack of trust but justifying it as being “afraid to lose you,” run.
Making excuses for their behavior
Sure, nobody’s perfect. We might find ourselves trying to justify our partner’s unacceptable behavior, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to realize that we deserve better.
“Kapag dumating sa point na paulit-ulit mo nalang kinukumbinsi ang sarili mo, mapapagod ka,” Micah shares. “Don’t wait until you have nothing left to give. Choose yourself.”
Realizing that you have to get out of a toxic relationship may take some time, but it’s never too late. For Micah, talking to her friends and getting constant reality checks immensely helped.
“Find genuine friends and family who will tell you the truth,” she says. “They will be your support system, but you have to help yourself too.”
Micah also recommends getting professional help, especially if the emotional trauma gets too much. “Hindi mali o nakakahiya ang humingi ng tulong,” she adds.
Healing takes some time, and you might also find yourself crying about things you thought you’ve healed from. But always remember that the fact that you chose yourself and got out of a difficult, draining relationship is already a win in itself.
You have to give yourself credit for realizing that you deserve better. And trust us, you will receive the love you deserve.
Your feelings are valid. You are valid. And there is no shame in asking for help.
If you need someone to listen, call the National Mental Health Crisis Hotlines at 0917-899-8727, (02) 7989-8727 or 1553 (toll-free landline) anytime, 24/7.
You may also call hotlines 0917-8001123 or (02) 8893-7603 for free telephone counseling in the Philippines.