Is Your Boyfriend Toxic? Take This Test To Find Out

Toxicity exists on a spectrum, but there is a set of tell-tale behaviors that can point to a core lack of empathy, entitlement, and exploitativeness that can be harmful to relationships.  Use the red flag items below to assess whether you can identify the following toxic behaviors in your partner. Keep a tally. For every item that applies to your partner, add ten points. Add an extra two points if the behavior is very frequent (twelve points for frequent behaviors instead of just ten). You will see explanations for your partner’s total “toxicity” score at the end.

He started off the relationship by giving you constant affection and attention, but his behavior has abruptly changed for no apparent reason. He now emotionally invalidates and neglects you and emotionally withholds from you.

Toxic people start off the relationship at full speed: they fast-forward through emotional and physical intimacy with a manipulation tactic known as love bombing and engage in future-faking to make you believe that they are already planning marriage, children, and the perfect white picket fence life with you. However, as soon as you are sufficiently invested in the relationship, they’ll pull the rug from beneath you and act cold and callous, withdrawing attention and affection deliberately to make you chase after them. For this specific behavior, there is no apparent reason why they do this – there is nothing you did or said: it is a pattern of theirs that they use to control and manipulate you. If you bring up your concerns to this partner, he or she invalidates you and acts like you are imagining things or that there has been no change even when there has. They may even call you “crazy,” “distrustful,” “overreacting,” or “dramatic.”

He begins arguments out of thin air just to blame you when you react. You get the sense that he likes provoking you.

Manipulative people thrive on chaos. These are the same people that often claim they do not like drama, yet they are often the source of drama. If your partner habitually goes out of his or her way to provoke you with absurd claims, excessive criticism, insults, name-calling, sudden rage attacks, or mischaracterizations of you that are unwarranted and hurtful, you’re likely dealing with a toxic and abusive person.

He tries to make you jealous on purpose.

Research shows that certain toxic personality types such as narcissistic and psychopathic personalities provoke jealousy on purpose to control you and establish power over you. If your partner seems to implicitly or explicitly bring up past partners, or current prospects or talk excessively about their exes, beware. A healthy partner will not make you compete for them, nor will they label you “needy and insecure” for bringing up your concerns. The most manipulative partners will feign innocence if you bring up these behaviors but continue to engage in them excessively to further bait you into reacting. They gain fuel from these reactions.

You get the sense that he’s envious or jealous of you.

Healthy, high-quality partners support you and cheer you on. Toxic partners tear you down. Your partner may be toxic if he or she minimizes your achievements, dishes out covert put-downs, compares you to others, or deflates your joy during happy and celebratory moments.

He rarely takes accountability for his harmful actions. Instead, he stonewalls or gaslights you when you bring up your concerns.

When you address a concern constructively, you are met with extreme resistance from this partner. They may fly into a rage, shut down the conversation before it begins, or gaslight you into believing that there is something wrong with you and your perception. This person refuses to take responsibility for any of his actions – big or small – that may have hurt you.

He tries to sabotage holidays, your birthday, vacations, educational or career opportunities, and other special occasions.

You do not get peace from this person, even during special occasions. Even though you do everything to celebrate this person’s achievements and make holidays, birthdays, or milestones a happy time for them, they try to actively sabotage your joyful moments. Whether they’re always playing the Grinch during Christmas or depriving you of sleep before important exams and job interviews, it’s all about controlling you so that you view them as your only source of happiness and validation.

He abandons you during times of need.

When you are suffering from grief, trauma, an illness, or a stressful situation, your toxic partner is nowhere to be found. The most depraved of toxic people are known for abandoning or abusing their loved ones even during life-threatening illnesses. The most toxic partners actively make things worse by fear-mongering you with remarks that worsen the situation or by kicking you when you’re already down.

He’s condescending, patronizing, or chronically sarcastic.

If he treats you like you’re less than and is contemptuous and condescending in his communication with you, this is emotionally abusive and toxic. If he responds to your emotions as if you don’t have a right to your emotions and should be a passive sponge for his cruelty, this is also emotionally abusive and toxic. If he uses chronic sarcasm to belittle and bully you, this can actually be a potential red flag of darker personality traits like psychopathy.

He’s unpredictably hot and cold and retaliates when you set boundaries.

You never know where you stand with this person. One minute, they’re sweeping you off your feet with grand romantic gestures, especially when they’re hoping you forgive them. The next, you’re walking on eggshells hoping not to enrage them. They may even try to justify this behavior by pretending they’re lashing out due to stress – yet continue engaging in this behavior regardless of how many times you’ve pleaded with them to stop. If you fear disclosing your basic feelings and thoughts to this person and hesitate to set boundaries because you’ve encountered retaliation from them for setting boundaries, it is clear you do not feel emotionally safe in this relationship.

He’s shady and disrespectful on social media.

If he’s following inappropriate and lewd accounts, being flirtatious with shady female friends, sliding into the direct messages or comments sections of other people in a boundary-trespassing manner, or posting suspicious and passive-aggressive captions referencing your relationship, don’t believe the minimization that it’s “just social media.” Social media is simply another platform to showcase pre-existing behaviors and habits, a very public platform at that. If they’re being disrespectful to you and your relationship on social media, they’re being disrespectful – period.

You catch him in white lies and big lies.

You catch your partner lying about minuscule matters that don’t seem relevant to lie about. You also catch them in “big” lies as well – about who they were with or where or even who they are. This is likely a sign of a larger pattern of deception and pathological lying or possible emotional and/or physical infidelity that you need to pay attention to. It is especially manipulative if this person claimed they would never lie to you in the beginning but ended up lying about almost everything – this is a sign you’re dealing with a pathological personality who wants to engage in impression management.

You go overboard trying to please him, but he’s rarely reciprocal. He returns your kindness with cruelty.

Even if you were once ardently pursued by this partner, you now find yourself going to extreme lengths to keep your partner pleased. This may be because you’re trauma bonded to them in ways that make the toxic relationship seem addictive and difficult to end. There is very little reciprocity as he returns your generosity with cruel and callous treatment. The kinder and more compassionate you are to him, the more you are degraded and punished by him. He only seems to become kinder to you when you withdraw your attention because he seeks to re-establish control.

He expects you to fix his life and do extra labor.

It’s one thing to mutually support and help each other in healthy ways, but a whole other affair if a person is excessively dependent on you to fix his mental stability, finances, career, social life, or take on extra domestic and emotional labor that drains you. In that case, you do not have a healthy partner. You have the full-time job of raising a grown adult.


Scoring Explanation:

12-36: Has some harmful toxic tendencies. If you find that these behaviors have not improved in the long-term even after communication, it may be best to reevaluate the state of your relationship with this person. Even a few of these red flags can be indicators of dangerous behaviors that can escalate over time, especially if they are very frequent.

46-96: Toxic. This person is displaying too many toxic behaviors which could harm you. It is best to detach as soon as possible. Cut down on your investment in this relationship and begin reality-checking in terms of how this relationship has affected you. Think about how this relationship will continue to harm you and what it will rob you of if you stay in the relationship.

106-156: Extremely toxic (high probability of narcissistic and psychopathic tendencies present and possibility for escalation). It can be helpful to seek professional support at this time. Create a safety plan and begin breaking the trauma bond so you can free yourself of the dangers ahead.

About the author

Shahida Arabi

Shahida is a graduate of Harvard University and Columbia University. She is a published researcher and author of Power: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse and Breaking Trauma Bonds with Narcissists and Psychopaths. Her books have been translated into 16+ languages all over the world. Her work has been featured on Salon, HuffPost, Inc., Bustle, Psychology Today, Healthline, VICE, NYDaily News and more. For more inspiration and insight on manipulation and red flags, follow her on Instagram here.