If you recognize these 10 patterns, you’re probably in a toxic relationship

Do you ever feel like something is off in your relationship?

Maybe it’s just a bad day, a rough patch perhaps. Or maybe, it’s something more serious.

In relationships, we often overlook the red flags, brush them under the rug. We tell ourselves we’re reading too much into things or that it’s all in our heads.

But what if it isn’t?

It’s no secret that many of us stay in relationships that aren’t good for us. We might even be in a toxic relationship and not realize it.

Many of us have been there, doubting ourselves, wondering if it’s all in our heads. It’s not always so black and white.

You might be stuck in a pattern that’s hard to pin down. The signs can be subtle, easy to miss if you’re not looking closely.

This isn’t about fear-mongering or getting you to question every little argument. Rather, I want to help you identify patterns that could be harmful.

While this may not be pleasant to read, it’s important to be informed.

So, let’s dive into these 10 patterns. If you recognize them, you might be in a toxic relationship.

1) Constant criticism

You know that feeling when nothing you do ever seems good enough? 

I’ve been there. It started small – an offhand comment here, a slight jab there.  At first, I thought I could brush it off. “They’re just having a bad day,” I’d tell myself. 

But over time, it felt like a barrage of critiques. The bad days turned into every day. 

In a toxic relationship, criticism isn’t constructive; it’s a way to chip away at your self-esteem.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that it’s meant to help you grow. Constant criticism is about control, period. 

If you find yourself constantly on the receiving end of harsh words that leave you feeling small, it’s not a reflection of your worth. It’s a classic sign of a toxic dynamic.

2) Lack of support

Has this ever happened to you? You land a new job or take up a new hobby. You’re buzzing with excitement but when you shared the news with your partner, the reaction was…well, underwhelming. 

In a healthy relationship, your partner is your cheerleader. But in my experience with toxicity, my achievements were often met with indifference or even jealousy. 

My ex couldn’t stand to see me shine and would find ways to make my wins feel less significant. 

What that lack of support showed me was that he was unable to share in my joy. And that’s not normal. That’s not okay. 

You deserve a partner who never downplays or ignores your successes. A partner like that will always make you feel good about yourself, even when the going gets tough!

3) Inconsistent affection

Another pattern that shows up in many troubled relationships is the unpredictable ebb and flow of affection. 

One moment, you’re basking in warmth and love; the next, you’re left in the cold, wondering what you did wrong.

I don’t mean to say that you and your partner should always be affectionate – it’s okay if we have some off days. 

But if it’s a cycle that keeps you on your toes, never knowing if it’s gonna be a good or bad day…that’s a red flag. 

Because chances are, you’ll be working tirelessly to recreate those peak, happy, cuddly moments, often at the expense of your emotional health. 

Real talk – strong relationships are stable. Steady. They’re meant to make you feel safe and grounded, not like you’re on a rollercoaster. 

And definitely, they’re not meant to make you feel alone, as the next section shows…

4) Isolation from friends and family

When you’re caught up in the whirlwind of a new romance, it’s natural to want to spend a lot of time with your partner. 

But there’s a line that often gets crossed in toxic relationships – when your partner starts to pull you away from your support network. 

It may not be blatant at first; it might come as subtle suggestions that you don’t need to see your friends as often, or that your family doesn’t truly understand you like they do.

But here’s what’s happening: they’re using isolation as a tool to gain power and control in a relationship. 

Experts agree that isolation increases dependency on the partner, making it harder to leave the relationship despite the negative effects it has on your well-being. 

If you’re finding yourself increasingly cut off from the people who love you, it’s time to question why.

5) Walking on eggshells

When I was still in a toxic relationship myself, it felt like there was a constant sense of tension, like walking on a tightrope with no safety net below. 

It was as though the air around me was charged with electricity, and at any moment, a storm could erupt. I found myself meticulously planning conversations and rehearsing words in my head, hoping to avoid any conflict. 

The effort it took to maintain this delicate balance was exhausting. It’s one thing to be considerate of someone’s feelings, but it’s another to feel like you’re defusing bombs with every word you speak. 

When you’re in a relationship where you’re afraid to speak your mind or express yourself freely, it’s a sign that the environment has become toxic. 

No one should have to live in fear of the next outburst or cold shoulder, especially not from someone who is supposed to care for them.

6) Gaslighting

Have you ever expressed your feelings, only to have them twisted and turned until you start questioning your own reality? That’s gaslighting

It’s a term I learned when trying to make sense of conversations that left me doubting my own memory or sanity.

A partner who gaslights will dismiss your experiences, may flat-out deny things they’ve said or done, and shift blame onto you. It’s a subtle form of manipulation that can have you second-guessing everything you once felt certain about. 

Recognizing gaslighting is crucial because it’s not just harmful to your mental health, it erodes the very foundation of trust that a healthy relationship is built upon.

7) Jealousy and control

Jealousy is another issue that’s common in toxic relationships. 

Now, a little jealousy is normal, but there’s a line where it stops being about love and starts being about control. 

In my own past, what seemed like protective concern gradually morphed into oppressive surveillance. It started with questions about who I was talking with and escalated to demands for access to my personal devices and social media accounts. 

Don’t be fooled like I was – this isn’t about care; it’s about ownership. 

And the studies back up how damaging this can be – excessive jealousy is often cited as one of the leading precursors to domestic abuse. 

Which brings me to the next point…

8) Physical or emotional abuse

This one doesn’t need sugarcoating – abuse, whether physical or emotional, is the most glaring sign of a toxic relationship. 

No one should ever make excuses for behavior that intimidates, hurts, or degrades another person. Cases of abuse are alarmingly common and often go unreported due to fear or manipulation by the abuser. 

It’s important to recognize that abuse can be subtle – a shove, a harmful comment made in ‘jest’, or threats made during an argument are not acceptable behaviors and are often signs of deeper issues.

9) Lack of communication

You’ve heard it before – communication is key. But in a toxic relationship, communication lines are either frayed or completely severed. 

I remember times when I would reach out to discuss something important, only to be met with silence or, worse, hostility. 

Healthy relationships thrive on open dialogue, whereas toxic ones thrive on the lack of it. 

When attempts at conversation lead nowhere or every attempt is met with aggression or avoidance, it’s a sign that the relationship is not functioning as it should. Without communication, conflicts can’t be resolved. 

And if that’s the case, then it’s hard to have a healthy, fulfilling relationship, isn’t it? 

10) Disrespect for boundaries

Finally, let’s talk about boundaries – those invisible lines that we draw around our personal space, time, and values. 

In a toxic relationship, these boundaries are often ignored or violated. 

You might have said ‘no’ or set a limit, only for it to be disregarded as if your words hold no weight. 

It’s disheartening and devaluing when someone consistently oversteps your boundaries. It’s also indicative of a lack of respect for you as an individual.

If these patterns sound all too familiar, know that recognizing them is the first step towards seeking change. 

Final thoughts

Toxic relationships can leave deep scars, but they also provide lessons that can guide you towards healthier connections in the future. 

Remember, everyone deserves a relationship built on mutual respect, trust, and genuine affection – don’t settle for anything less.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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