5 Ways Your Relationship Could Be Toxic Without You Even Realizing It

Over the years, I've managed to find my way into various toxic relationships, all of them unique little dumpster fires of learning experience. I've dealt with the “emotionally stunted dude,” “the overly attached dude,” “the jealous monster,” and one guy so adept at gaslighting he should have just gone ahead and legally changed his name to PG&E. It's easy now to look back and say, "Wow, those were toxic AF" but when you're still in the midst of it, seeing the signs of a toxic relationship can be tricky.

While I may be an honorary expert in romancing toxic waste dumping sites, with a topic this important it was time to call in the experts to help uncover all the red flags that let us know when the relationship has turned sour and when it's time to get GTFO.

But how do we even get into these situations in the first place? According to Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, a licensed clinical psychotherapist, “Falling in love can make you feel your best — but it can also make you blind. When we get emotionally attached to someone, we tend to excuse, overlook or minimize key signs of serious trouble.” She adds, “We ignore these signs because we don't want to believe we chose wrong; we don't want to make drastic changes in our lives; and we don't want to be alone again.” Well, that sounds familiar. Anyway, if you don’t want to be a cautionary tale like me, here are the signs of a super toxic relationship that you may not be seeing.

1. They Said "I Love You" Really Fast

How quickly did your partner confess their love for you? While we all want to be loved, if a new partner says it too soon, it may be less about what’s actually in their heart and more about controlling you.

Susan Ball, founder and CEO of Broken to Blissful, warns that premature “I loves yous” are a bad sign because they indicate obsession and control. “If someone tells you how much they love you, can’t live without you, or would die if you ever left and you’ve known him for five minutes, run.” You should also be on the lookout for partners that use “I love you” in order to guilt you. Using those words to mean anything other than a declaration or a reaffirmation of their feelings is using them as a very insidious form of emotional manipulation.

2. They Call And Text You… Constantly

How often does your partner call or text you? And what happens if you don’t get back to them right away? While at first it can feel good to hear from your partner all the time, if it begins to feel overbearing or if responding right away feels like an obligation or the failing to do so will have consequences, then you’ve ventured into toxic territory. Ball says this is an early indication that they intend to control and isolate you. “He will eventually remove you from your friends and family because he wants you to himself. Period," she warns.

3. They Have A Really Sarcastic Sense Of Humor

To me, there is nothing sexier than someone who can make me laugh. So I do tend to be drawn to dry, sarcastic folks. The problem is when the sarcasm that was so appealing at first gets turned on you. A sarcastic sense of humor can be both a sign of intelligence and wit — and a warning sign of passive aggression.

April Masini, relationship expert at, explains that's because people who are overly sarcastic often tend toward negativity, which can quickly become very toxic. But most importantly, she says, “is who the target is. If your date makes passive aggressive, sarcastic comments about you — your appearance, your job, your family — and you find yourself engaging in polite laughter, but feeling like the dynamic is ‘off,’ heed your instincts.”

4. They Always Show Up Late

We all are tardy from time to time (OK most of the time, if you’re me), but does this automatically mean that if your partner shows up late, your relationship is toxic? No, not always, but this is not about occasionally losing track of time or getting stuck in traffic. The thing to look out for is someone who makes it a habit, according to Masini.

“When someone is chronically late, and you’re left waiting — and either miss the beginning of the movie or the show or have to serve a cold or overcooked meal you’ve prepared because they don’t show up when you agreed to meet — they’re not considerate of your feelings or respectful of you or your time. This is going to show up elsewhere in the relationship," she says.

5. Sometimes You Have Sex Just For Them

How is your sex life? Do you find yourself having sex with them when you’re not in the mood because of guilt or shame? Those are two of a toxic partner’s favorite tools. “Toxic partners will tell you that not having sex when they want it means you do not love them and you are hurting their feelings,” says Ball. “After all, they love you so much; why would you hurt them this way?”

Do these sound uncomfortably familiar? If so, you may have a toxic situation on your hands. In that case, what do you do now? Ball says there is really only one option: Leave. “I know that sounds harsh and sad, but the hard-core truth is that you cannot change your partner’s toxic behavior. Stop making excuses for the toxic behavior and start making plans to leave.”

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