Girl meets person. Girl falls madly in love. Cue a steamy, window-fogging sex scene, followed by some quickly-resolved, tiny disagreement, just in time to ride happily ever after into the sunset. Are you puking? I'm puking. Idyllic movie versions of love have been engrained in us, but they're super sappy and farfetched when it comes to real-life romance. The reality is, hardship is an unavoidable part of IRL love. But while there will almost certainly be some bumps in the road, it is also important to be able to recognize the signs of a toxic relationship.
What differentiates a healthy relationship from a toxic one? According to Psychology Today, if the relationship is negatively affecting you, your partner, or someone else, it might be toxic. That doesn't mean that one person is evil or even that both people are unhealthy, it just means that, for any number of reasons, the two of you together don't form the best possible thing.
When we think about toxicity, we generally think the signs will be obvious (and sometimes, they are). Constant blow-out brawls, manipulation, chastising remarks, and an air of disrespect are all pretty clear indicators that the relationship needs to be reevaluated. But the signs aren't always so glaring.
Here are the signs to look out for that you might not even realize are indicators of a potentially toxic relationship.
1. Your Partner's Sarcastic Tone Seems Cruel
The Office's Jim Halpert is one of the most sarcastic characters on television, but he is also probably the best husband ever. Quick-witted sarcasm is something we can all find humor in (and find kind of sexy), but there is a line where it goes from just a little fun to a sign of contempt.
"It is important to notice whether or not the sarcasm is mostly critical of you and if there is that sense of superiority over you," says doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker, Dr. Danielle Forshee. If the biting remarks become constant and riddled with criticism, address it with your partner to get to the root of the issue. (After all, it could be due to something they're going through.)
2. Their Actions Are Kind Of Lackluster
Your SO should be stoked to be with you, obviously. And you should be able to feel that they are. That doesn't mean they're doing cartwheels every time you walk into the room of course. "Excitement can be translated through consistent behaviors and follow through," says Dr. Forshee. Doing little things like checking in on you to see how your day was, doing the things they say they will, and being on time show how much they care.
If they aren't following through, that might be a sign that they aren't totally feeling the fireworks. And while it is OK for someone to decide the relationship isn't for them, if they keep you on the line regardless, then it is a problem.
3. They Have A Hard Time Focusing On You, Even In Person
It's one thing for your partner to be a bad communicator via text message, but it is a whole other (way worse) thing for your partner to not be able to be attentive to you when you're face-to-face. According to Dr. Forshee, "if their eye contact isn’t directed toward you most of the conversation, if they are easily distracted by their phone, or they don’t seem to recall important details that you have told them about yourself," they may not be invested in you or the relationship.
4. They Tend To Be Very Temperamental And/Or Impatient
If your SO is angered very easily and has a flaring temper, there may be a deeper issue. Bestselling author and relationship expert Susan Winter says looking out for impatience in external situations could be a signal that the anger may turn inward — toward you — down the road. "Whether it's the waiter that didn't bring the drinks fast enough or the drivers who don't move quickly enough, impatience is a prelude to anger and outbursts of emotion," she says.
5. Your SO Plays The Victim Card... A Lot
We all know the "woe is me" type who feels like the whole world is out to get them. Dating a person who constantly victimizes themselves could be a sign of trouble. "People who are preoccupied with looking for problems will certainly find (or create) some with you in time to come," says Winter.
6. They Are Incredibly Impulsive
Spontaneity is a desirable trait in a partner, for most, but people who ping-pong their emotions and decisions can be detrimental to a partnership's stability. Winter says, "Impulsivity makes for confusion as it churns up a series of mixed messages." That doesn't mean you have to write this person off, though. Instead, try talking it out. "This is a dispositional trait that [can] be changed [if] the individual is made conscious of its impact and wants to improve themselves for the sake of their relationship with you and themselves," she says.
7. You Are Constantly Venting
"If you're constantly venting to your friends about your [boyfriend/girlfriend], chances are you know something isn’t right and you’re seeking validation," says Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist and relationship coach. That doesn't mean you can't look to your friends for advice. However, it is when you talk to your friends about the relationship more than your partner that it becomes a problem. You might be uncomfortable with your partner or just know deep down that the relationship is not right. Ask yourself why you're avoiding your partner.
8. The Things You Wanted Have Been Replaced
You might be trying to make this relationship work for all the wrong reasons. Replacing the things you originally wanted in a relationship and defining yourself based on your partner is a major sign that you're too dependent and a sign of an unhealthy relationship. "Relationships require a great deal of compromise and striking a balance where both partners are happy is sometimes challenging," says Silva. Make sure that you don't lose yourself in a quest to hold on to your partner.
You don't have to constantly be on edge, evaluating every little thing for signs of a toxic relationship. But if you notice something that isn't feeling right, be sure to discuss it with your partner. Dr. Forshee concludes. "When you point it out, simply address the situation, say how it made you feel, and then tell them what you need."
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