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The Toxic Relationship: 9 Warning Signs To Identify And Take Action

April 30, 2023

9 min read

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Author : United We Care
Clinically approved by : Dr.Vasudha
The Toxic Relationship: 9 Warning Signs To Identify And Take Action



Do you frequently ask yourself if you and your partner are happy and healthy in the relationship? It’s possible that your relationship could be moving towards being a toxic one.

Toxic relationships have become more and more common in this modern society. We live in an era of technological advancements, but at home, we want a traditional pattern with everything moving around as per us. Both partners in a toxic relationship can abuse and try to control each other. Such behaviours can cause mental, emotional, and physical health concerns in one or both partners. Thus, figuring out the signs and finding ways to protect yourself can drastically help you.

“Don’t light yourself on fire trying to brighten someone else’s existence.” – Charlotte Eriksson [1]

What Does ‘Toxic Relationship’ Mean?

A relationship can be called toxic when both the people in that relationship do not support each other and are disrespectful toward each other. They can get into frequent fights, undermine each other, and feel that there is a sense of competition. That way, they might not be able to live with each other [2].

Usually, when we think of a toxic relationship, the only thought that comes is with reference to romantic relationships. But the truth is that a toxic relationship can begin in childhood as well- at home, in school, and in the bedroom. A relationship can be called toxic when you start causing emotional, mental, and/or physical harm to each other. Such a relationship can make you feel used, and you might start having doubts. These doubts may not just be about the relationship but also about yourself and your identity.

There can be a lack of communication, trust, or respect in a toxic relationship because of the constant need to control, abuse, and criticize each other. These feelings can lead to guilt, anger, and even hatred [3].

What Are The Warning Signs Of A Toxic Relationship?

Signs of toxic behavior can be direct or indirect. When we love someone, we might ignore their behaviour, even when it starts hurting us. But understanding the signs can change your life forever [4]:

What are the Warning Signs of a Toxic Relationship?

  1. Control and Manipulation: Ask yourself if the food you’re eating, or the clothes you’re wearing, is of your choice or someone else’s. If the answer is someone else’s, then this person who made decisions on your behalf is controlling and manipulating you, which is a classic sign of toxic behavior.
  2. Jealousy and Possessiveness: Do you feel you can freely talk to your friends or acquaintances? If not, it’s possible that your partner, friend, or family member is being overly jealous and possessive, which is another sign of toxicity. This jealousy can make you feel restricted and suffocated.
  3. Lack of Trust: Does your partner keep track of where, when, and with whom you’re going out? If that’s what they do, then it’s possible that they lack trust in you. These trust issues can lead to blame, arguments, and feelings of insecurity.
  4. Constant Criticism: Does your partner frequently pinpoint your mistakes and criticize you about them? If the answer is yes, then this contant blame can make you feel worthless and create self-doubt.
  5. Isolation: If you have a toxic partner, then they may not allow you to have friends or talk to even family members. You may feel isolated and detached from the world.
  6. Emotional Abuse: Does your partner scare you because you don’t know what their reaction to anything would be? They may verbally abuse you, threaten you, and try to control you.
  7. Physical Abuse: Domestic violence is surely toxic behavior. If your partner uses physical violence or even threatens to use violence just so that you do what they ask, then your relationship is toxic.
  8. Gaslighting: Does your partner often say that you should be grateful they are with you because no one else will or that you are incapable of doing certain things? Your partner is trying to gaslight you. Gaslighting means that they are trying to manipulate you so that you doubt your reality, memory, and sanity.
  9. Lack of Communication: Does your partner only acknowledge your presence when they need something from you? This lack of communication can give rise to misunderstandings and distance between you and your partner, causing feelings of toxicity to arise.

What Is The Impact Of A Toxic Relationship?

Ya’nilah Collins from Wisconsin, USA, shared, “When I met E, he was lovely and behaved, making me fall head over heels with infatuation. I naturally tend to comfort anyone who’s “broken” and quickly became his shoulder to cry on. I’m not sure when exactly it happened, but my relationship got toxic out of nowhere! E would message me while I was asleep, telling me how much he wished he were dead, and if I woke up to him gone, not to worry because the world would be better off without him. E would tell me about his childhood, and my heart hurt for him a lot.

I eventually had to break it off with E. We had a massive argument over my friend, and he ended the conversation with a death threat. Instead of responding to my constant messages and calls, he sent his friends to all message me about how much of a terrible person I was. On my mom’s birthday day, I got a message from one of his closest friends telling me E had passed away. A few minutes later, a bunch of our mutuals messaged me, saying I was evil and heartless. A while later, E had a “funeral.” It turns out it was all fake. I finally ended my relationship with E for good. I didn’t need a toxic relationship.” [5]

The impact of a toxic relationship can be severe and long-lasting [6]:

  1. Feeling that you deserve what you’re getting can lead to self-doubt and reduced self-worth.
  2. Facing increased symptoms of anxiety and depression, maybe even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  3. Increased headaches, stomach issues, and constant body aches.
  4. Not being able to talk and feeling lonely.
  5. Having little to no money of your own.
  6. Difficulty in trusting people.
  7. Physical harm with bruises, cuts, or burns

How To Take Action To Protect Yourself From A Toxic Relationship?

Everyone deserves a safe, healthy, and supportive environment in life. If you are in a toxic relationship or are questioning whether you are or not, then take the following measures to protect yourself: [7]

How to Take Action to Protect Yourself from a Toxic Relationship?

  1. Recognize the Signs: Having knowledge about the warning signs can help you know if you are in a toxic relationship or not. If you see the signs, then I will strongly urge you to accept.
  2. Set Boundaries: If you feel your relationship has started taking the dangerous route, pause and allow yourself to set some boundaries. Talk to your partner and be firm about getting the boundaries in place for the betterment of the relationship.
  3. Seek Support: You don’t have to handle everything on your own. If you can, get in touch with trusted people or even a therapist to help you deal with the issues. Work on the plan of action they provide. Your safety is more important than everything else.
  4. Create a Safety Plan: If you are in physical danger, Make a plan to safeguard yourself. You can figure out places you can go to and phone numbers of government bodies that can help you.
  5. Develop an Exit Strategy: If you decide to leave the relationship, make a plan for the time that things might become most harmful and how you can escape. You can even get in touch with the local police and a lawyer. Contact someone who can even help you financially.
  6. Take Care of Yourself: Most importantly, breathe! There is a way out of everything. But you need to take care of yourself as well. Get in touch with yourself with meditation, physical exercises, breathing exercises, etc. These activities can bring you joy and happiness and help you decide the way forward.
  7. Consider Legal Action: If you are experiencing physical abuse or harassment, you can contact a lawyer. There are also government bodies that can help you find a good lawyer to get a restraining order or any other legal action needed to be taken to help yourself.


Toxic relationships can have severe negative impacts on your mental, emotional, and physical health. It is necessary to be aware of the signs and take action to protect yourself. Set boundaries, seek support, and create a safety plan for when needed. You, like everyone else, deserve to feel safe, happy, and at peace. Learn to love yourself above everyone else so that no one can make you question or doubt yourself.

If you are dealing with a toxic relationship, you can reach out to our expert counselors or explore more content at United We Care! At United We Care, a team of wellness and mental health experts will guide you with the best methods for well-being.


[1] Angelofgodismyjudge, “Don’t light yourself on fire trying to brighten someone else’s existence. CHARLOTTE ERIKSSON POWER – America’s best pics and videos,” America’s best pics and videos, Nov. 11, 2022. https://americasbestpics.com/picture/don-t-light-yourself-on-fire-trying-to-brighten-someone-olvxgxR1A

[2] “How to Tell If You’re in a Toxic Relationship,” Time, Jun. 05, 2018. https://time.com/5274206/toxic-relationship-signs-help/

[3] “What Is a Toxic Relationship?,” Verywell Mind, Nov. 04, 2022. https://www.verywellmind.com/toxic-relationships-4174665

[4] “What Is a Toxic Relationship? 14 Signs and What to Do,” What Is a Toxic Relationship? 14 Signs and What to Do. https://www.healthline.com/health/toxic-relationship

[5] “What was the most toxic relationship you’ve ever been in? How did you leave?” Quora. https://www.quora.com/What-was-the-most-toxic-relationship-youve-ever-been-in-how-did-you-leave/answer/Ya-nilah-Collins

[6] “Dangers of Toxic Relationships and Mental Health,” Laguna Shores Recovery, Mar. 28, 2022. https://lagunashoresrecovery.com/dangers-of-toxic-relationships-and-mental-health/

[7] “Protecting Yourself from Relationship Violence | Disease Prevention and Healthy Lifestyles,” Protecting Yourself from Relationship Violence | Disease Prevention and Healthy Lifestyles. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-monroecc-hed110/chapter/protect-yourself-from-relationship-violence/

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Author : United We Care

Founded in 2020, United We Care (UWC) is providing mental health and wellness services at a global level, UWC utilizes its team of dedicated and focused professionals with expertise in mental healthcare, to solve 2 essential missing components in the market, sustained user engagement and program efficacy/outcomes.

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