8 signs you’re in denial about the toxicity of your relationship

Let’s be real — relationships are hard! Each one has its own ups and downs and not-so-rosy moments.

That’s to be expected, and totally normal. 

Except… what if it isn’t? Sometimes we want so badly for a relationship to work, or we’re so afraid of a breakup, that we may convince ourselves what we’re experiencing is normal when it’s not.

In other words, maybe you’re in denial about the toxicity of your relationship.

How can you tell if this is the case?

For me and my ex’s relationship, it boiled down to the 8 signs below. 

1) Your friends and family have expressed concerns

Have any of your friends or family members expressed concerns about your relationship?

Comments about things your partner does, or questions about if you’re really happy in the relationship.

This alone isn’t necessarily a sign that your relationship is toxic.

Not everyone clicks well with each other, and maybe it’s just your friends’ or family’s subjective opinion.

They could also be prejudiced, or make assumptions without knowing your partner well.

However, it’s important to listen to their concerns. Do they have valid reasons backing them up, or is it just something superficial or personal to them?

If a lot of people are voicing concerns, with good reasons why, you should think seriously about if there’s any truth to what they’re saying. 

2) You’re touchy about any negative comment about your relationship

In addition to people voicing concerns about your relationship, another sign you might be in denial is that you’re touchy when they do. 

Because think about this. If you’re wearing a red T-shirt and someone tells you it’s blue, do you get offended?

Of course not. You might wonder how they can come to that conclusion, but ultimately you know that your T-shirt is in fact red, and just because someone interprets it as blue doesn’t change that.

We only get triggered by things that deep down we’re afraid are true, or we’re insecure about.

So if you get upset or lash out when someone has doubts about your relationship?

Unfortunately, that might mean there’s more truth to their words than you’re willing to admit. 

3) You rationalize your unhappiness

Every relationship has its difficult times. There’s no denying that

I’m currently in a very happy relationship, but there are still definitely moments when I feel like I don’t like my partner very much — I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. 

We can’t jump ship at the first problem, because we all deserve space to make mistakes (and it’s impossible to find a relationship that makes you 100% happy all the time.)

Yet, if you find yourself always justifying your unhappiness, this may be a sign of denial. 

In the past, I found myself making excuses like “he’s just having a rough day” or “I’m sure he didn’t mean it that way.” And then I realized how terribly often I would do that. 

As I said, we do have to give our partner some grace, but if it’s the rule rather than the exception, then you have to wonder: is your relationship giving you any kind of happiness at all?

Unhappiness is a sign of a deeper issue, and it shouldn’t be your constant state in a relationship.

4) You feel as if you have no choice

Do you ever feel stuck in your relationship? Like there’s no other option but to keep going, even though you’re hurting? 

This feeling of having no choice could be a sign of a toxic relationship

I know it’s hard to come to terms with this, because a friend of mine went through this in the worst way possible. She had met a guy while doing an overseas internship and then moved abroad for her last semester in order to be with him.

She was in a foreign country far from her family and friends, where it was extremely difficult and expensive to find a place to stay, and where she had to finish school.

Not to mention that her ex had also moved countries and away from his family for the relationship, and would not stop reminding her of that, as if she now owed him to stay with him forever. 

So even though they were fighting for hours daily, she felt like she was trapped in the relationship and could not leave it.

But eventually, she realized that she could – all it takes is one word: “no”. It was difficult at first, but now looking back she sees that the relationship was extremely toxic, although she was in denial about it before.

I hope you’re not in a situation like this friend of mine… but if you are, remember that you DO deserve a loving, respectful, relationship, and you always have a choice. 

5) You’re always stressed

Stress can creep up in our lives for various reasons. Work, health, family matters. 

But if your relationship is the main source of your stress, it’s time to take a step back. 

Sometimes I would text my ex that I got caught up at work and would be late to meet him — and then when my phone buzzed a few minutes later, I automatically tensed up, anticipating an argument or a passive-aggressive reply from him. 

I was in denial about this for a long time — I still remember the moment I realized it and faced the truth. 

I knew that I really had to do something about the relationship or let it go, because it would ruin my health otherwise.

Be on the lookout for physical reactions like this in your body, but also remember that stress can show up in a myriad of different ways. 

You might have trouble falling asleep, develop a bad habit like biting your nails, or find yourself constantly worrying about your partner’s mood or reactions. 

Don’t ignore these signs — your well-being matters.

6) You feel the need to hide your emotions

With my ex, there were times when I would bury my feelings deep down, only to keep the peace. It was exhausting, pretending that everything was okay when it wasn’t. 

Meanwhile, my anger and resentment just kept building up inside me. Sometimes it would leak out as passive-aggressiveness, which of course would just lead to more tension in the relationship. 

So as a result I tried to bury my emotions even more… it was a snowball effect. 

Here you really have to stop and ask yourself: why are you hiding your emotions?

There could be different variations of your answer, but it always boils down to this: your partner doesn’t hear you out.

Which is a massive red flag pointing to the toxicity of your relationship. It should be a safe space where you can freely express your feelings, not a battlefield where you’re constantly on guard. 

7) You latch on to even tiny amounts of affection

If you have a toxic relationship with your partner, you might be deprived of their affection (whether you consciously admit it or not). 

And then when they do give you even a tiny morsel of it, you grab hold of it like your life depends on it.

“See? He does care about me…” or “She’s not a PDA kind of person, but this shows that she really does love me.”

I recognize this feeling, this hope, or almost desperation… 

And unfortunately, while it’s nice to appreciate even little gestures, it’s not normal if you need to give so much meaning to something so small. 

Love should never be rationed or scarce. It should be a daily gift, not an occasional surprise.

8) You give them chance after chance

Back in the day, I prided myself on my patience. I held on, thinking that if I just waited long enough, things would change. But they didn’t. In hindsight, my patience was a cloak for my denial.

If you’re finding yourself waiting for things to get better, constantly giving your partner second (and third and fourth) chances, it’s time to examine why. 

Obviously, we all make mistakes. That doesn’t mean your relationship is toxic — only if they keep making the same mistakes over and over again, saying they will change without actually doing anything about it. 

In a healthy relationship you and your partner will both change and grow, meaning you will overcome your previous challenges and find new ones. 

If you find yourself stuck in a windmill of the same fight time after time, that’s not growth. Unfortunately, that’s toxicity

Never lose sight of the idea that you deserve love, respect, and kindness now, not at some undefined point in the future. 

Just realized you’re in denial about the toxicity of your relationship?

Now you know 8 signs that you’re in denial about the toxicity of your relationship.

It took me a while to realize these things, but eventually it became glaringly obvious to me that my relationship was very unhealthy.

And realization is the first step you need to make any sort of improvement. Once you see a problem, you can decide what to do about it next.

So if you’ve realized you’re in the same boat as I was a few years ago, I know this can be a difficult moment.

But know that you’ll for sure find the best path for you to move forward, and I wish you the very best of luck along the way!

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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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