8 non-obvious signs you’re in a toxic relationship

Have you ever felt emotionally drained but couldn’t quite pinpoint why? There’s a good chance your relationship is toxic, without you even realizing it.

I’ve been there too, stuck in a relationship that slowly chipped away at my happiness. And I didn’t realize it until years into it. 

Because sometimes the signs of a toxic relationship aren’t glaringly obvious; they lurk in the common, everyday behaviors that you may be so used to, you don’t even realize what they mean. 

It’s like being in a fog — you don’t realize how thick it is until you’re out of it. 

I want to help you clear that fog. Let’s delve into 8 non-obvious signs you’re in a toxic relationship so you can reclaim your emotional well-being.

1) You’re frequently interrupted

The first trait of a toxic person— “Hey, you know what I was thinking?” This is exactly the type of thing that happened nearly daily in my previous relationship. 

My ex-partner would often interrupt me to steer the conversation back to himself or to make a point he felt was more important. 

Back then, I thought that maybe I was just a slow talker or my stories weren’t that engaging. I prided myself on being a good listener, and I was happy to get to know him better. 

But over time, I realized that he rarely seemed to do the same back. It was like my words were merely background noise to him.

Being interrupted continually erodes your self-esteem. It’s a way of saying, “What you’re talking about isn’t as important as what I have to say.” And that’s a hard pill to swallow.

The next time it happens, don’t let it slide. Politely but firmly say, “I was in the middle of saying something. Can I finish?”

If they respect you, they’ll understand, apologize, and let you continue.

2) They always make it about them

Imagine you have a stressful day at work, and you look forward to coming home and venting to your partner.

But no sooner than you’re done telling them what happened, they flip it around to themselves. Their stressful day was even worse than yours, and boy, their boss can sure be a pain in the butt!

This is a pattern you might recognize if you’re in a toxic relationship. Whether it’s a problem, a success, or even a neutral experience, instead of giving you the floor and their full attention, they always manage to make it about them.

Your conversations end without you feeling heard or understood, which leaves you feeling like you’ve never even said what you said.

And in fact, when people do this, they are not engaging in the same conversation as you are — they are starting their own while disregarding what you brought up. 

It may not be their intention, but they’re effectively saying your experiences, feelings, and opinions don’t matter as much as their own. It’s a clear sign that the relationship needs better emotional balance.

3) They’re always late, never sorry

Let’s be honest, we’re all late sometimes; life happens. But there’s a big difference between occasionally running behind and making it a habit — with zero remorse. 

With my ex, tardiness was like a defining trait for him. I’d find myself waiting at restaurants, cafes, or even at home, as the clock ticked away. 

And when he finally showed up, not a word of apology was uttered. It was as if my time didn’t matter at all.

Now, he came from a culture where being on time was not seen as super important, and people expected others to arrive late to appointments. 

So I tried my best to be understanding, but the biggest problem was that I shared with him how frustrating this was for me — and he didn’t seem to care.

Even if we had cultural differences, the one thing people from any culture should both see the same way is that both partner’s feelings and boundaries matter, and should be listened to. 

4) They participate a lot in gossip

Some call gossip harmless chit-chat; others consider it a social faux pas. Heck, I even thought it was fun that my partner was so “in the know” about everyone’s lives. 

But as time went on, I started to see that gossip was in fact a pretty toxic behavior. 

If your partner is gossiping, it raises questions about their maturity and their ability to handle conflicts or sensitive topics in a respectful way.

The constant gossip also creates a negative atmosphere that seeps into the relationship. 

Before long, you may find yourselves competing, comparing, or belittling others as a form of bonding. Trust me, it’s not a healthy foundation for a relationship.

If you find yourself entangled in a gossip-laden relationship, it might be time for a heart-to-heart. 

You could say, “I’ve noticed we talk a lot about other people’s lives and problems. How about we celebrate their wins or focus on us instead?” 

5) They’re constantly on their phone

Ah, the modern-day dilemma: the ever-present smartphone. It’s one thing for someone to be occasionally distracted by a text or an email. 

But when your partner is perpetually glued to their screen, barely lifting their eyes to acknowledge you, that’s really not healthy anymore.

It took me time to realize it, but my ex also did this quite a lot. Whether we were at dinner, watching a movie, or just lying in bed together, his phone was always in hand. 

It felt like I was competing with a piece of technology for his attention — and losing.

Constant phone usage in your presence isn’t just annoying; it’s a sign of emotional neglect. You deserve someone’s full attention when you’re together. 

If that’s not happening, it might be time to evaluate just how ‘together’ you really are.

6) They keep changing the goalposts

In relationships, we all have things we would love our partner to do — and if you love them, you’ll do your best to make them happy.

But have you ever felt like you achieved one goal, only to have it changed? It’s like playing a game you literally can’t win. 

I had this issue with my ex — he was not a native English speaker, and he wanted me to help him with his English.

At first, we just had casual chit-chats every so often during date nights. But then he started complaining that I’m not taking his progress seriously enough.

So I scheduled a couple of short “English conversation” sessions for us throughout the week.

Only to have him start criticizing me for not making the sessions longer, or not preparing something more structured to do with him.

He never mentioned those things to me at the beginning — it’s like he kept looking for what else he could add to his request each time I fulfilled it.

This sign often points to underlying unhappiness in the relationship, as it’s like the person is looking for a reason for their unhappiness and misattributing it to things you are or aren’t doing. 

7) They’re not concerned with reciprocity

Do you ever feel like your relationship is a one-way street? I’ve been there too, where I gave and gave but didn’t get much in return. 

Now, I’m not saying that you should keep a scorecard, or expect something in return for everything you do.

Of course, it’s healthy for partners to do things for each other out of love. But well, if someone cares about you, they will want to make sure your needs are met.

They will make it a point to think about how they can help you, and notice if you are carrying much more of a burden than they are — picking up the bill every time, doing all the cleaning, or giving them compliments and appreciation just to get a “thanks” back. 

It may be difficult to confront this issue, especially if you’ve normalized this lack of reciprocity

But for the sake of your well-being, you have to. A one-sided relationship will only drain you emotionally in the long run.

8) You have to justify your needs to them

It’s tough when the person you care about turns your basic needs into an interrogation session. “Why do you need some alone time? Aren’t I enough for you?” 

Or “Why are you so set on visiting your family? You see them enough already.” Every request or need you have becomes a point of contention.

I remember the moment in my previous relationship when I realized I spent my way home preparing a well-thought-out case for why I wanted to stay home that weekend rather than going out with my partner’s friends.

I found myself rehearsing conversations and making myself frustrated with how I anticipated him to push back rather than just accepting that I needed alone time.

And now I see things clearly: in a healthy relationship, your needs are respected without the third degree. 

I’m in a toxic relationship — what now?

You’ve just read about 8 non-obvious signs you’re in a toxic relationship.

These are so important to keep in mind because everyone can easily spot the obvious signs like constant criticism, lying, cheating, verbal abuse, etc.

But these little actions can seep into your relationship without you even realizing it — or noticing the effect they have on you and your well-being.

If you’ve recognized most of these signs, there’s a good chance you’re not feeling totally happy in your relationship — and I know how heavy your heart can feel.

But the good news is, now that you have brought to light a problem, you can do something to fix it.

Try to work on improving these signs one by one, by leading with your own behavior and perhaps also having some calm and open discussions with your partner.

Remember not to come at them with blame or accusations — many people do these things without realizing, or having bad intentions. 

But if things don’t change, it may be a sign that to prioritize your well-being, it’s time to walk away and let yourselves grow on different paths. 

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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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