Being able to see a situation for what it is and accept that it isn’t going to change can be empowering. It gives you the ability to look at things through an objective lens and make a decision that is in your best interest. To help you get there, I have identified the biggest signs that you’re in an emotionally toxic relationship.
1. You never feel good enough.
You feel like nothing you ever do is quite right and are constantly trying to prove your worth. You become addicted to his validation. Whenever you do something and it generates any sort of approval from him you feel relieved, and it gives you just enough rope to hang onto. You try even harder to get more of that feeling, and feel like a failure when it doesn’t come. No matter how hard you try, you never feel like you’re enough or like you’re doing things right. You live in a constant state of unease, of second-guessing yourself, of trying to be better and good enough.
2. You can’t be yourself.
One sign that you’re in a healthy, loving relationship is the feeling that you can just be. A big sign that you are in an unhealthy, toxic relationship is the opposite, the feeling that you can’t be yourself. Instead, you have to walk on eggshells and monitor everything you say and do. You feel like you need to think twice before you speak and that certain topics are off limits, that you have to act a certain way. You are afraid to bring things up to him because you don’t know how he’ll react, and saying nothing is better than saying something and having him get angry. So you suffer in silence and hope that somehow things will change, that somehow this relationship will magically transform into a healthy, happy one.
You may not even recognize the person this relationship is turning you into. You wonder why you’re not the same cool, fun, confident girl anymore, and maybe your friends and family feel the same. But you love him and you’ve invested this much into the relationship and you reason that as soon as you get through this rough patch, you’ll go back to being that girl again.
3. He puts you down
This is one of the biggest signs of a toxic relationship, and it seems like it would be pretty black and white, but often you don’t even realize all the ways he’s putting you down because it can be done in sneaky ways that aren’t flat-out criticisms. And if you’re in far enough, you already aren’t feeling like yourself and aren’t feeling good enough about yourself, so you may even agree with the negative things he says to you and about you.
Relationships are a chance for enormous personal growth. Sometimes our less-than-stellar qualities are brought to the surface and they need to be dealt with. However, there is a huge difference between a partner who can point out your flaws in a loving way, a way that encourages you to grow, and a partner who does it from a place of contempt. In a healthy relationship, he will accept you for who you are. He will love the good and accept the bad because we’re all human and we’re all flawed, and bad qualities just come with the territory.
Anyone expecting perfection in a partner is paving the way for a lifetime of disappointment. In a healthy relationship, you will want to improve because you genuinely want to be your best self—for your sake, for his sake, and for the sake of the relationship. You will feel loved and accepted for who you are, and both you and he will understand that change takes time, so you won’t feel bad about succumbing to some of your negative qualities from time to time.
In a toxic relationship, you won’t feel accepted, your partner will have little tolerance for your negative qualities, and he may shame you and belittle you for them.
4. You fight dirty.
Couples fight, even the happiest ones, it just comes with the relationship territory. Fights can occur over all sorts of things, both big and small. Happy couples aren’t ones who never fight, they are ones who use fights and disagreements as a means to resolve the issue. If something can’t be resolved, they learn how to communicate better and reach a place of deeper understanding.
Toxic couples usually fight to win. They use fights as an opportunity to tear the other person down, to hit below the belt, to get out all the anger and resentment they feel. Dirty fights are a sign that the resentment level in the relationship has hit its limit. These fights are full of hostility and contempt, and each person is overcome by the desire to “win” and prove their case rather than work together to lovingly resolve the issue.
5. He won’t work on it.
He doesn’t take responsibility and instead blames you and makes it all your fault. (Things like, “Well I wouldn’t get so angry if you weren’t always on my case!”) In a toxic relationship, you feel like the problem. He doesn’t value your feelings or your needs. If you’re upset, it’s because you’re too “sensitive” or “emotional” or “irrational.” He may say sorry, but he doesn’t really own up to anything and thinks if you have a problem with the relationship then it’s just that, your problem. He doesn’t want to talk about it or work on it or try to change.
The most important quality to look for in a partner is someone who is willing to work on it. Even toxic relationships can be repaired if both people are committed to working on it. However, if he refuses to change or try to understand your feelings and your needs, then there is nothing that can be done and your only choice is to leave. It’s hard because a guy with toxic qualities also has a lot of really good qualities, and we think if we try hard enough we can draw those positive qualities out even further and inspire him to change and be a better man. It rarely works that way; the only way people change is if they recognize there is a problem and they want to fix it. And no matter how many positive qualities he has, the only one that matters is a desire to make the relationship work. If he doesn’t have that, then everything else is useless.
This post originally appeared at A New Mode.