Signs You are in a Toxic Relationship and How to Cope With It?

S Sharanya

May 27, 2021


Relationships are the most complicated part of growing up, and we are masters of winging it. We are often torn between many roles we play on a daily basis, and each role requires different social intelligence. In this article, we will explore the knitty-gritty of why a relationship becomes toxic and some signs to recognize it. We will also explore some coping strategies and steps to take while meeting with a toxic partner.

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According to a study conducted by TIME, the most important ingredient in making relationships healthy and sustainable is Emotional Responsiveness. Emotional responsiveness is nothing but the spontaneity and ease with which a person responds to the situation, it is also a skill that results in warm, intimate, loving, caring and non defensive attachments by partners in the relationship.

When there is a maladaptation to this behavior, partners become toxic to self and to the partner. We have all heard of the common phrase “All relationships have bumps on the road” but if the relationship has more bumps than the road, then it is likely that you are in a toxic relationship. 

Toxic relationships are basically when both partners develop unhealthy behavioral patterns and treat each other disrespectfully always. It isn’t one partner that exhibits controlling behavior but two people who aren’t able to have a common ground on anything with constant unhappiness and fights in the relationship. Toxic partners have no accountability and gaslight each other on multiple occasions that makes it exhausting and hard. 

Why Does a Relationship Become Toxic?

Why does a relationship become toxic
  • Lack of empathy

Relationships and fabricated with layers of expectations and accountability, when this exceeds the actual fundamentals of relationships such as (care, kindness, compassion), the relationship soon sever ties with love and becomes a cobweb of expectations and bitterness.

Lack of empathy
  • Mal-adaptive coping mechanism

Most of us go through a series of relationships to find the right match, in this process we face heartbreaks, trust issues and infidelity. If there has been no time given to cope and heal from it, then we exhibit toxic traits such as being commitment phobic, infidelity, emotional unresponsiveness.

  • Familial ties

if we grow up in a toxic/unstable environment, we are likely to carry traits we learn from our parents/family and display the same mechanism when we are in a relationship. 

  • Abusive behavior 
Abusive behavior

According to the famous psychologist Luisa Tam, even the best relationships can become toxic if partners don’t support and nurture them. Verbal abuse has been the most common reason for relationships to turn sour.

  • Speaking different love languages

There have been many couples who sought counseling only for the mere fact that they spoke different love languages. This is a popular concept by Gary Chapman who advocates couples adopting similar love languages. This can help in understanding one another and keep the longevity of the relationship intact.

Signs You are in a Toxic Relationship

Signs you are in a toxic relationship

1. Lack of support

In a relationship, you go through a lot of bumps, and having a conflict is inevitable. However, a toxic relationship indicates a lack of support during these bumpy times, and partners may feel alone in the relationship. Challenges are met separately and each of them fights their battles separately with no shoulder to lean on for support.

2. Communication style

If partners adopt a defensive and aggressive communication style, then the relationship slowly turns toxic and unpleasant. Instead of being kind and compassionate towards one another, things get unpleasant and hostile.

3. Constant fights/arguments

It is inevitable to have differences in opinion in a relationship. However, if it gets to a point where there is no resolution to the fights and if there is persistent unhappiness and unpleasantness, then it’s time to introspect and examine the nature of the relationship.

4. Controlling behaviors

Questioning where you are all the time or becoming overly upset when you don’t immediately answer texts are both signs of controlling behavior, which can contribute to toxicity in a relationship.

5. Lack of self-care

Spending time with your special one is always a priority in a relationship. However, if you choose to let go of yourself and your needs constantly, then it could be a trait related to toxicity.

6. Walking on eggshells

Bringing up controversial topics may include extreme tension, hence you brush things under the carpet and don’t pay head to things that require instant damage control.

7. Keeping a relationship score-card

Bringing up past mistakes and always keeping a score of who has made more mistakes can constantly keep partners on their toes and is definitely a sign of toxic behavior.

8. Dropping hints/passive aggressiveness

When something upsets a partner, they drop hints and beat around the bush to express their displeasure rather than explicitly and outrightly saying it.

9. Holding the relationship hostage

Holding the relationship hostage amounts to emotional blackmail and creates tons of unnecessary drama. Even the smallest hiccup in the flow of the relationship results in a perceived commitment crisis. 

10. Buying your solutions to relationship problems

Rather than confronting uncomfortable topics, if the relationship always relies on gifts and materialistic pleasure, then it is headed towards the direction of a toxic relationship.

10 Ways to Cope with Toxic Relationship

How to cope with a toxic relationship

#1 Accept that you are in a difficult situation, dealing with a difficult relationship

Staying in a toxic relationship is never easy, but to cope with it, one needs to expect that the relationship is difficult to deal with in the first place for us to make any necessary adjustments. Bringing in tactics of resistance like judging and criticizing your partner may not be the ideal solution here, but getting closure to choices being limited will help you move one step closer to acceptance.

#2 Tell the truth

Tell the truth

Lying/ breathing around the busy only further complicates the relationship, it also puts the partners in distress. However uncomfortable it may seem, it is vital to communicate and speak your truth to save whatever little is left in the relationship.

#3 When you are angry or possessive, just breathe 

When you are angry or possessive just breathe

Breathwork has impeccable results to calm you down. Work on breathing before you lash out at your loved one. This also delays instant gratification, thereby delaying the impulse that can do you some good. 

#4 Stop kitchen sinking

While trying to resolve a conflict, do not bring past mistakes and unpleasant memories, only focus on what’s at hand and solve the issue that is currently affecting you.

#5 Be mindful

Understand the pulse of your relationship and if you or your partner are constantly looking at each other’s flaws and pulling each other down, see how you can communicate that effectively and be mindful of the recurrent patterns of argument.

#6 Tracker


Keep a tracker on how often you feel unhappy in your relationship and note down every little detail on what is causing this. Track it for a week and you will be surprised to find common patterns of what is causing you distress.

#7 Keep a timeline

If you are in constant stress about the relationship and have made all efforts to make this work, then keep a realistic timeline to understand the future of the relationship.

#8 Be true to yourself

If the relationship is not allowed to grow, then it’s time to have a hard look at the reality and to be honest to yourself on why you are in the relationship.

#9 Talk to your loved ones

Talk to your loved ones

Your best friends and family can truly call out a toxic relationship, evaluate your situation based on what your friends/family tell you, and take a decision accordingly.

#10 Get professional help 

If you or your partner is toxic, it’s time to talk to a mental health professional to help you heal from past trauma and to start the relationship on a fresh start. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Q. How do I know if I am in a toxic relationship?

A. if you agreed to the three signs mentioned in the blog, then you probably are in a toxic relationship. Do not worry, get in touch with our experts to help you deal with this.

Q. What do I do if my partner is toxic but I can not let go of the relationship?

A. it is a good thing to realise that your relationship needs help. Talk to your partner about how you feel, if this still does not work, talk to a relationship counselor.

Q. I am always fighting with my partner – what should I do?

A. it is important to track what causes these fights recurrently. Tracking these helps you understand what topics are detrimental to the longevity of your relationship. 

About the Author

Sharanya Swaminathan holds a post-graduate degree in Psychology from Christ University in Bangalore and is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Philosophy in Psychology. Sharanya is invested in making mental health the new normal through an evidence-based eclectic approach. She is one of the few certified Prevention of Sexual Harassment members that is empaneled by the Government of India. Sharanya is ecstatic that HealthifyMe shares the same belief that overall well-being can be achieved only when physical and mental health work in tandem.

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