10 subtle signs your partner is bringing you down, not lifting you up

We’ve all heard the stereotypical red flags of toxic partners: the gaslighting, the constant criticism, the outright disrespect. 

But what about the less obvious signs, the ones that sneak up on you like a slow drip of poison? The ones that leave you feeling drained, doubtful, and a little less like yourself?

I’ve been there, spending far too much time holding on to a relationship that was not only gradually eroding my self-esteem but also actively destroying it. I chose to ignore the red flags, dismissing them as mere quirks or the result of bad days.

But in hindsight, I realize that those subtle signs were screaming at me to run for the hills.

So, grab a cup of coffee (or a stiff drink if you’re feeling particularly adventurous) and let’s dive into the murky waters of not-so-obvious relationship red flags. 

We’ll uncover the 10 subtle signs that your partner might not be your biggest cheerleader and what you can do about that:

1) Backhanded compliments galore  

“You look great compared to usual!” 

“That dress would be cute on your sister.” 

“Wow, you don’t usually come up with clever solutions! Well done you!”

Is your loved one a fan of these seemingly harmless comments which have a certain sting to them? 

Backhanded compliments are favored by the toxic and cruel individuals out there. They are often masters of disguise, adept at hiding the bitter aftertaste of their nastiness beneath a thin veil of praise. 

Over time, these types of heartless comments add up to erode your confidence and make you question your worth.

2) Emotional vampire

No matter how big or small the achievement, they still manage to put you down in some way.

Landing your dream job? “Booooring. What’s for dinner?”

Finally mastered the yoga pose you’ve been working on for months? “Yawn. Did you remember to pay off the car tax?”

Solved a Rubik’s cube? “Yeah, but did you manage to do that in a time shorter than mine? No? You’re so slow! Oh, you did it faster than me? Must’ve been cheating…”

On the whole, if your partner never shares in your excitement but always manages to slamdunk a lukewarm response or dismissive comment in there, bad news for you!

Joy-sucking vampires have a knack for draining the enthusiasm out of your accomplishments, leaving you feeling deflated and questioning your own happiness.

3) High highs, low lows (and you never know which to expect)

One minute, they might actually be supportive and cheery. 

Next, it’s like you’ve opened the door on a whole other person, Jekyll and Hyde style. They stomp around with a dark cloud over their head, irritable and willing to snap at the smallest of inconveniences.

Their moods are as unpredictable as the weather, and you’re often unsure of what version of them you’ll get. 

This constant inconsistency creates an environment of anxiety and uncertainty, making it difficult to feel secure in the relationship. 

You in essence spend your time tip-toeing around on eggshells, trying not to upset them.

4) Godzilla of squashed dreams

Forget dreaming of the future together, crafting up elaborate plans and getting swept up in your imaginations. 

Toxic partners might play pretend with you in the early days of your relationship (as promising you a perfect future is a big part of lovebombing).

But will they deliver?

Lower your expectations, sweetheart!

Whether it’s building up the courage to attend a pottery class or landing your dream job, be aware that a partner who consistently throws cold water on your aspirations is signalling that they’re not invested in your personal growth and happiness. 

A supportive partner should encourage your dreams (and hopefully offer to go to that pottery class with you) – not rain on your parade.

5) “Why can’t you…”

Oh, the burn of comparisons!

“Why can’t you be more like [insert name of their effortlessly perfect friend/colleague/ex]?”

“Why can’t you smile more?”

“Why can’t you dress more like…”

No one needs constant comparisons in their life. No one really needs any comparisons whatsoever.

So take caution of a partner who is constantly trying to compare you to others. This toxic tactic plants seeds of doubt and insecurity, making you feel inadequate and unworthy. 

A healthy relationship should celebrate your unique qualities, not compare you to others.

6) Silent treatment & stonewalling tendencies

Disagreements are a normal part of any relationship, but if your partner resorts to silent treatment as a weapon, it’s a major red flag. 

Stonewalling is a form of emotional manipulation that leaves you feeling powerless and frustrated. 

Sure, we all need a lil’ cooling off period sometimes, but shutting someone with whom you’re in an active disagreement out for days or weeks is just plain cruel. It prevents any form of healthy resolution and leaves you both in a period of limbo and angst.

It’s not a healthy way to resolve conflict; it’s a way to control and punish.

7) Fluent in passive aggression

Is your partner the type to never directly say what’s bothering them, but still take subtle digs at you, toss out sarcastic remarks, and roll their eyes countless times?

This passive-aggressive behavior creates a toxic atmosphere of resentment and unspoken tension. It poisons everything!

It’s like a constant game of emotional hide-and-seek where you’re perpetually left guessing what they’re really thinking or feeling, feeling on edge and like you’ve done something to upset them.

8) Unapologetic guilt-tripping

Guilt-tripping bingo time! How many of these do you regularly hear in your relationship:

“If you really loved me, you’d do this for me.” 

“Everyone will judge you if you don’t help me with this.”

“I always have to sacrifice for you. If you don’t do this for me you’re being selfish.” 

These guilt-laden statements are designed to manipulate your emotions and make you feel obligated to do things you don’t want to do. 

A loving partner supports your choices and won’t ever guilt-trip you into compliance, especially if you’re not comfortable with their request.

9) Fixer-upper tendencies

Does your partner ever give off the vibe that they see you as a project, someone they need to “fix” or “improve”?

Maybe they offer unsolicited advice, criticize your choices, or try to mold you into their ideal partner. Think telling you that you need to hit the gym, that your friends aren’t good for you, that you could do better at work.

Whilst encouraging each other to be better is a big part of partnerships, this sort of lack of acceptance can be incredibly damaging to your self-esteem and sense of self-worth.

All in all, don’t let an unsupportive partner tell you that you need to be better. You’re already doing far better than they ever could!

10) Your gut feelings are off 

Sometimes, the most telling sign is that nagging feeling in your gut. Your intuition is there to help you out anyway – trust it!

If you consistently feel uneasy, anxious, or unhappy around your partner, it’s worth paying attention to what your body is telling you.

Our intuition is often far wiser than we give it credit for, so try and tune in and listen from time to time.

Help! I recognize these signs in my partner…

Recognizing these signs is just the beginning. Next, decide what to do about them:

  • Communicate with your partner about how their behavior affects you.
  • Set clear boundaries and stick to them.
  • Seek support from friends, family, or a therapist.
  • Consider couples therapy if both of you are willing to work on the relationship.
  • Most importantly, prioritize your own well-being. You deserve a relationship that lifts you up, not one that holds you back.

Remember, you’re not alone in this. Many people struggle with recognizing and addressing these subtle signs of an unhealthy relationship. 

But by being aware of them, you empower yourself to make choices that prioritize your own happiness and well-being. 

You deserve a relationship that lifts you up, not one that drags you down.

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