Approximately 50 percent of U.S. men and women say they’ve been the victim of psychological aggression from an intimate partner. A smaller percentage — 35% of women and 28% of men — say they’ve experienced physical violence, sexual assault and/or stalking in their lifetime. While shocking, these statistics only represent the most egregious of offenses. The signs of toxic relationships are often much more difficult to spot.
Being miserable is a sign that something is off in the relationship, even if you can’t put your finger on exactly what it is. Sure, there are good times and bad times in every relationship. But if your default state is misery, something is seriously wrong. Your needs are not being met, which is a sure sign that the relationship is unbalanced at best and unhealthy at worst. Pay attention to how you feel.
Imbalance in the Relationship
Ideally, both parties in a relationship should give equally. However, the effort you both put in may ebb and flow based on what is needed at the time. If you get sick, for example, your partner may contribute more than you. But if it feels like things are constantly one-sided, you may be in a toxic relationship. Signs that things are one-sided include non-reciprocal intimacy, not putting in effort, ignoring relationship problems and treating you or the life you've built as an obligation.
You Fear Conflict
Conflict in a relationship is inevitable and natural. It can even be healthy. When your partner’s reaction to conflict is unhealthy, however, it may create feelings of fear. Gaslighting, turning things around on you, acting disproportionately angry, playing the blame game and lying to get an upper hand are all tactics used by abusive and toxic partners to make you fear and avoid conflict.
You Can’t Say No
In a healthy relationship, you should be able to set boundaries and say “no.” But in a toxic relationship, you may be afraid to not give into your partner’s demands. When you say “no”, a toxic partner might try to manipulate you into giving in to their requests, say mean or hurtful things or beg you to change your mind. You might feel guilted into saying “yes” — even when you don’t want to.
The most obvious signs of a toxic relationship are physical and verbal abuse. In addition to name-calling and physical violence, these can take the form of controlling your behavior, playing with your emotions, withholding physical or financial needs, silencing you and being passive-aggressive.
If you believe you’re in a toxic relationship, it’s vital that you begin to distance yourself from the person in question and find help to get out. Many cities and towns have resources for abused partners. If you need help getting out, finding resources, or if you need help navigating your emotions and healing from the trauma, speak to a therapist or mental health professional who specializes in trauma.