5 Early Warning Signs Your Relationship Is Becoming Toxic, Therapists Say
You should be on the lookout for these concerning behaviors.
Most relationships start out full of fun and excitement, but unfortunately, they don't always stay that way. Over time, your partner might stop bringing you joy and even become a source of negativity in your life instead. This can be a slow and painful transformation, and it's possible you won't realize you're in a toxic relationship until it's too late—unless, of course, you're paying close attention. We consulted therapists and other experts to identify helpful indicators that your relationship is headed down a troubling path. Read on to discover five early warning signs your relationship is becoming toxic.
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You're always taking the blame.
Do you find yourself taking most of the blame for problems in your relationship? If so, that could be a sign of bigger problems down the line.
Taylor Remington, a therapist and the founder of Impact Recovery Center in Alabama, says that when you look at a healthy relationship, you'll notice that both partners will take responsibility for their mistakes and work together to fix any issues. In a relationship that's becoming toxic, on the other hand, blame shifting becomes more prevalent as other issues arise.
"If your partner is constantly deflecting blame or shifting it onto you, then it is a sign that the relationship is becoming unhealthy," Remington explains. "This type of behavior can lead to resentment and make it hard to move forward in the relationship."
Your partner seems threatened by your success.
It's important to feel supported in any relationship. After all, partners should naturally want the best for each other, according to Jenna Nocera, MA, a psychotherapist who also works as a life and wellness coach. But when your relationship is heading down a bad path, you may start to realize that this isn't the case.
"If your partner seems jealous of you, take note," she advises. "Any attempt to block your progress should be looked at carefully."
According to Nocera, you should compare your partner's past behavior to determine whether this is a one-off problem you can work through, or if it's becoming a common occurrence.
"Is your partner going through a personally challenging time and acting out of character? Or, is this a pattern that is likely to continue? This can be a sign that the relationship will not be healthy for either party," she says. "You will be unable to grow and flourish if your partner continually brings you down to their level."
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You're finding it hard to get any type of space.
It's natural to want to spend a lot of time with the person you love, but a lack of personal space can also be a major point of concern, according to Hafiz M. Imtiaz Afzal, FCPS, a psychiatrist with over 11 years of experience. "Everyone deserves to have healthy boundaries but someone trying to breach your space can be one of the red flags indicating a toxic relationship," Afzal explains.
Donna Andersen, a relationship expert and founder of Lovefraud.com, says this is something you should especially pay attention to at the beginning of a relationship.
"If your new partner wants to be with you all the time, and when you're not together is calling and texting constantly, watch out," Andersen warns. "The non-stop attention may feel flattering—like your new partner is head-over-heels in love with you—so it's easy to misinterpret this warning sign. But in reality, he or she may be love-bombing you by showering you with attention and affection in order to hook you before you escape."
Your partner is exhibiting too much control.
A disregard for your personal space could be a form of control, according to Andersen, but that's not the only way your partner might exhibit this trait.
Cherlette McCullough, LMFT, a licensed therapist and the founder of Center Peace Couples and Family Therapy in Florida, says you may notice you feel overly controlled in a relationship as it starts to become toxic.
"You find yourself complying in the relationship versus enjoying the relationship," she says. "You often have to downplay what you want to do, and do what your partner wants to do, to keep the peace."
There are some common signs of controlling behavior you should watch out for, according to Afzal. These include "someone stopping you from seeing your friends without a valid reason, forcing you to quit activities you do, trying to change the way you look, speak, and so on," he says.
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You don't feel respected.
Respect is essential in any romantic relationship, so feeling like it's lacking in yours can be concerning.
"If your partner consistently shows a lack of respect for you or others, then this could be an early sign that your relationship is becoming toxic," says Mike Anderson, PhD, a residential relationship expert for OhMy.ca. According to Anderson, disrespect for a partner's opinions, feelings, and boundaries "will only lead to further toxicity down the line."
Katie Adam, a psychologist and mental health first aid trainer at Skills Training Group, says you should take note of how often you are having to exceed your boundaries at the hands of your significant other. "If you're in a healthy relationship, your partner will respect your limits," she notes.
On the other hand, an unhealthy connection will cause a dispute every time you say "no," or constantly require you to reiterate your limits. "Some potentially harmful actions may not appear harmful at first," Adam adds. "But if they pressure you to cross your boundaries on a regular basis, they'll become toxic."