Is Your Relationship Toxic?

Toxic Relationships – photo courtesy of Pixabay

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

What is a toxic relationship?

Relationships we might describe as toxic lie on the extreme end of unhealthy relationships. The term toxic relationship is commonly used to describe a lot of unhappy and unhealthy relationships. One way of defining a toxic relationship is any relationship that lacks emotional safety. These relationships are characterized by chronic disrespect and frequent personal attacks.

People in these relationships often report that they experience gaslighting, their words are being twisted, and every conversation ends in an argument. If your relationship makes you feel bad about yourself and you are always on edge when you’re around this person, it’s likely that you’re in an unhealthy or toxic relationship.

Toxicity can range from high to low.

Like most aspects of personality, there’s a range for how toxic someone might be. For example, the trait of narcissism ranges from so low that the person has little self-esteem to so high that they’re unable to empathize or see others’ points of view. Some people can handle being around a severe narcissist and not be damaged, but most people can’t.

The same thing is true of many of the personality characteristics associated with toxic relationships. What you may be able to tolerate in a partner might be harmful to some of your other family members. What someone else may be able to put up with in a relationship might damage your self-esteem and ability to have a well-functioning life.

Being in a relationship that you find toxic can leave you chronically unhappy and even depressed. It makes your life feel unstable and unpredictable. Here are some signs you may be in an unhealthy or toxic relationship.

They are dream destroyers.

If your partner constantly belittles you and makes fun of your dreams, this will turn destructive over time. There’s something wrong with a partner who needs to pull you down in order to feel good about themselves. If your partner can’t support you in pursuing your dreams, you better reevaluate that relationship.

Their lives are full of drama that has nothing to do with you.

Some people live in the eye of the hurricane. Their life is always full of drama. If nothing is going wrong, they create more drama. You are constantly being dragged into their drama.

Whatever they want is more important than your wants and needs.

In toxic relationships, one partner will disregard the other wants and needs. Everything becomes about them. A healthy relationship is characterized by give-and-take. If you’ve come to expect that what you want will be disregarded and that your needs don’t matter, you’re in a very unhealthy relationship.

They belittle your accomplishments.

Healthy relationship partners are delighted when the partner accomplishes something. If your partner needs to minimize your accomplishments, this is a sign that your partner is insecure and only able to think about themselves. Having your partner constantly minimize your contribution to the relationship and your individual accomplishments will chip away at your self-esteem. Eventually, this kind of relationship will turn toxic.

You would avoid this person if you could.

Are you ever tempted to stay at work a little longer just to avoid having to go home? But then, when you get home, do you try to busy yourself with something that avoids the person you live with? If you find you would just as soon avoid this person if you could, that’s a sign of an unhealthy relationship.

When you’re around them, you can’t be yourself.

You feel that the person is constantly evaluating you and judging you negatively and that it’s not a healthy relationship. If you have to hide your true self when you’re around someone, it’s not a healthy relationship. If you have to change who you are to please this person, it’s not a healthy relationship.

Being around them makes you physically ill.

There’s a lot of truth to that old saying that someone makes you sick to your stomach. The body reacts to unhealthy or dangerous situations by motivating our defenses to freeze, flee, or fight. If when you’re around someone you chronically have headaches, an upset stomach, or other unpleasant body sensations, and you’re not having those problems when you’re alone or with supportive people, your body is trying to tell you there’s something wrong with this relationship.

Do they avoid hearing about your feelings?

In a healthy relationship, you should feel free to express feelings about things without your partner getting defensive. If your feelings are a taboo subject, it’s an unhealthy relationship. Does your partner get angry whenever you tell them how you feel about something? Not wanting to hear about your feelings, or worse yet, not wanting you to have feelings, is a sign of an unhealthy relationship.

Do they blame you for all the problems in the relationship?

Having a good work relationship requires two people, each caring about the other. Most relationship problems can only be solved by work on both parties’ parts. If your partner won’t look at how they contribute to the issues between you and tell you everything would be fine if you would just change, your relationship is not very healthy.

Relationships in which one person has a significant problem, an addiction, a severe untreated mental illness, or uncontrolled anger issues can’t be made healthy by their partner no matter how hard that partner tries. But if you’ve done your best to be a healthy partner, their problems aren’t all your fault.

Have you become totally dependent on your partner?

A characteristic of unhealthy relationships, particularly abusive relationships, is when your partner insists that you rely solely on them. If your partner doesn’t like your friends and family and doesn’t want you talking to them, it’s an unhealthy relationship. If they don’t want you going anywhere without them, they control all the money; your relationship has become unhealthy.

You disagree on your goals and values.

The things that tear couples apart are often the things that they hadn’t discussed when they got together. Does one of you want to have children, and the other wants to put it off maybe forever? Do you disagree on whether to spend or save? Have you discussed where you want to live and what you want to do when retirement arrives?

Think about all these factors, particularly in your primary intimate relationship. Beware if you see signs of an unhealthy relationship. Recognizing toxic relationships early on can save you years of unhappiness.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now! And more are on the way.

For these and my upcoming books, please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Is your relationship healthy?

Couple not talking

Unhappy relationship.
Photo courtesy of

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

What should you look for in a healthy relationship?

It’s easy to spot an unhealthy relationship. The couple never gets along. They fight about everything, and there’s a lot of collateral damage when they fight. When there is an unhappy relationship, family, friends, and even the children wish this couple would call it quits. But just because there are no outside signs of conflict doesn’t mean that this is a healthy relationship.

The notion that in healthy relationships, there are never any conflicts is a myth. The idea that people in a good relationship are soulmates who need to be together continually isn’t accurate either. To have a healthy relationship, there needs to be a balance of togetherness and individuality. People in a healthy relationship do have disagreements and conflicts, but they can solve them without harming each other or the relationship. Here are some of the signs of a healthy relationship.

There are no topics you can’t talk about.

Are you able to talk about what’s on your mind? In a good relationship, there are no topics that are taboo. You shouldn’t have to censor what you say to your partner. That doesn’t mean that rude or hurtful comments are okay. In healthy relationships, you can talk to your partner about anything, you don’t have to feel like you’re walking on eggshells, but you need to say things respectfully.

You can still be you while being a part of an “us.”

Being in a couple-relationship involves a balancing of the individual and the couple. In the early stages of getting together, couples typically go through a period during which they can’t get enough of each other. In the early stages, they want to spend every minute together. But for the relationship to develop, the two people need to reach a point where each of them can be a separate “me” while still being a part of “us.”

Not being able to transition from creating an “us” to balancing your individual needs and interests with the things you do together as a couple can result in an unhealthy relationship. If your partner is pathologically jealous and doesn’t want you to do anything or go anywhere without them, that’s not love. Not allowing your partner to have separate feelings and interests creates severe problems in a relationship.

You can disagree without hurting each other.

In a healthy relationship, you can disagree. You don’t feel the need to force your partner to change their thinking. If disagreement threatens you or your partner, it’s a good indication that this is an unhealthy relationship.

You look for solutions, not who’s right.

“Right fighting” continuing arguments to prove that you’re right and your partner is wrong, is both a sign of and a cause of unhealthy relationships. In healthy relationships, you can look for “win-win” solutions. If you feel the need to fight to the bitter end and approach every conflict thinking that one of you must be right and the other is wrong, you’re not in a healthy relationship.

You don’t have to change each other.

Getting into a relationship, expecting your partner to change leads to incredible conflict. If either one of you feels that your partner needs to change for this to be a good relationship, you’re headed in a terrible direction. Certainly, people do change both when they get into relationships and when they lead them. There’s plenty of room for both personal growth and growth as a couple. But if you’ve convinced yourself that your partner needs to change for you to be happy, you need to take another look at yourself.

You don’t need something to happen to be happy.

The belief that something must happen and then the two of you can be happy together is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. If you’re not satisfied and not getting along, thinking that having a child, moving to a different city, or getting a new job will fix this are likely signs that this is not a healthy relationship. If you don’t enjoy the process of where you are going, you’re very likely to be disappointed when you get to your destination.

You make decisions together.

Every couple evolves how they handled decision-making. If your relationship is characterized by one person having all the power and control, and they make all the decisions regardless of what you think, this is an unhealthy relationship.

Your relationship creates more joy than pain.

Every relationship has some problematic patches. But if the bulk of your time with your partner is painful and you struggle to hold on to small patches of joy, you’re in an unhealthy relationship. The joyous times should far outweigh the pain.

You’re able to divide up the duties fairly.

There are myriad ways in which couples divide up duties. I read somewhere that 50-50 marriages do not work. Generally, each person in a relationship feels they are doing more than half the work. But when you step back and look at it, both of you need to agree that there’s a fair distribution of the duties.

You appreciate your partner and feel appreciated.

If you don’t appreciate your partner and they never show you appreciation, this is not a healthy relationship. Knowing that each of you cares about the other helps the health of the relationship. Couples who expressed their appreciation for each other build their relationship. Taking each other for granted is a sign your relationship suffers from ill-health.

In a healthy relationship, you trust each other.

In healthy relationships, people trust each other. If you don’t trust your partner, it can feel like you’re living with the enemy. Sometimes something has happened in the relationship to make one partner distrusts the other. If that’s happened, you need to be working on rebuilding that trust. If you came into the relationship with “trust issues,” this is your issue, and you need to be working on it. People with trust issues may need to seek individual counseling. Healthy relationships are characterized by high levels of trust and acceptance for each other.

Neither of you holds on to resentments.

Resentments poison relationships. The resentments you harbor that you haven’t been able to release prevents you from being happy. Both people in a relationship need to be working on getting rid of their resentments. Unhealthy relationships are characterized by high levels of resentment on both party’s parts.

The two of you are emotionally intimate.

In romantic relationships, physical intimacy helps build the couple’s relationship. But physical intimacy by itself is not enough. Healthy relationships need to include emotional closeness. If you don’t feel you can share your feelings with your partner, this is a sign of an unhealthy relationship.

You feel safe when you’re with your partner.

Your partner should make you feel safe, and you should make them feel secure. Any relationship where someone feels unsafe is inherently unhealthy.

You can talk to each other about anything.

Open communication is essential for a healthy relationship. You should be able to talk with your partner about anything. That doesn’t mean your partner needs to agree with either your thinking or your feelings, but they should be open to hearing what you need to say. If there are things your partner wants to talk about that you don’t want to hear, you probably have work to do on yourself.

You both make repair efforts.

In healthy relationships, whenever there are problems, both parties need to make repair efforts. If you or your partner are holding onto grudges, unwilling to give in or even to discuss possible solutions, these are all signs that this is an unhealthy relationship.

You appreciate them and know they appreciate you.

Being appreciated and giving appreciation are not just nice things to have. High levels of appreciation flowing in both directions are essential for a healthy relationship.

While none of these characteristics are inherently all or nothing, each of the things I’ve described above is a good indicator of the health of your relationship. If your relationship is unhealthy, or simply not as healthy as you would like, you’ll need to decide if you are willing to work on yourself and work on your relationship with your partner. If you’ve discovered you’re in an unhealthy relationship, consider getting professional help either for the two of you or for each of you individually. Please don’t spend the rest of your life in an unhealthy relationship wishing that it would somehow miraculously change. Professional help is available for relationships and individual emotional problems.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel