Some relationships are good for us—they make our lives bigger, introduce us to new things, and help us grow into better versions of ourselves.
But then there are relationships that degrade us as individuals.
Intentionally or unintentionally, our partners in these relationships hurt us and make us question our sanity.
It’s an insidious and deep kind of deceit, one that is commonly known as “gaslighting”.
Gaslighting relationships, or “toxic relationships,” are those in which your partner—a friend, a co-worker, or even a spouse—manipulates you into believing that you cause their problems and issues.
So are you in a toxic relationship?
Here are 40 signs that you might be:
1) You Don’t Trust Yourself Anymore
Your choices seem to be wrong, and you have even begun to doubt the voices in your head. You have difficulty making decisions these days.
2) You Are Constantly Corrected
Regardless of the situation, your partner in this relationship thinks they must correct every sentence you speak. You are constantly wrong.
3) Even Simple Choices Become Difficult
Let’s say you and this partner want to find a place to have lunch. You know how critical this person can be, so even a simple choice becomes a cumbersome task.
4) You Lie About Your Feelings
You and your partner have fought so often that you now know when a new fight is about to begin.
Instead of letting yourself fall into it, you lie about what you honestly feel to avoid the fight.
5) You Believe You Might Be Too Sensitive
Your partner has abused you so often that you start to question whether the issue is with you.
Are you too sensitive to their comments and their actions? Are you the one who needs to grow up?
6) You Are Called “Insane”
Most gaslighters use this card in a toxic relationship because it’s one of the most effective ways to make you doubt yourself.
The more they call you insane, the more you start to doubt your arguments.
7) They Turn Others Against You
In arguments, your partner will often invoke the authority of those you love and respect, such as family or friends. ‘
They’ll say things like, “My family never liked you,” or, “all your friends hate you.”
8) They Use Confusion
Gaslighters need to get you off your balance, which is why they always work towards confusing you during arguments.
They will be there in times of need and then turn away from you at other times.
9) They Feed You Positivity From Time to Time
Just to keep you attached to them, your partner will make sure to feed you a bit of positivity from time to time. A common way to do this is through “love bombs.”
According to Psychology Today, love bombing is the practice of “overwhelming someone with signs of adoration and attraction…designed to manipulate you into spending more time with the bomber.”
Even if your relationship is overall a negative one, this rare positivity will convince you that it can get better.
(To learn more about love bombing and what to do to counteract it, click here)
10) They Drain Your Energy
A toxic partner sucks the life out of you little by little. Maybe with hurtful comments, slight nudges, comments that take away your confidence.
Just small enough that you can never complain about them.
11) They Deny Even When You Call Them Out
There are times when you will win the argument against your toxic partner, simply because you have the evidence to prove them wrong.
But even in the face of complete evidence, they will still deny it with all their heart.
12) You Will Excuse Them
There will be times when people around you notice your partner’s toxic and vicious behavior, but for some reason, you will still do everything in your power to make excuses for them, at times even blaming yourself.
13) You Apologize Often
A gaslighter knows how to make you feel guilty for everything you do, which is why you will often find yourself apologizing for things you have no reason to be sorry about.
14) Your Partner Plays the Victim Card
You often let your toxic partner give you whatever they’ve got, but there are times when you stand up for yourself and criticize them for their behavior.
In these cases, they will then play the victim card and blame you for their actions.
15) You Are Always On Your Guard
In everything you do and say, you always make sure to keep everything perfect.
You can’t share your true thoughts and feelings, and you are forced to walk on eggshells all day long when around your partner.
16) You Are Filled With Insecurity
Because of your constant squabbling with your partner, you have nothing but insecurity inside of you. You’re experiencing relationship anxiety.
You are unsure of everything about yourself, from the way you look to your most inner and private thoughts. Nothing is safe from your partner.
(To learn how to practice self-love, check out our guide on how to love yourself here).
17) They Don’t Back Up Their Threats
During arguments, your partner will say awful things to you. These threats and statements mean nothing, however, because they never actually follow up on anything they say they might do.
18) They Hit You Where It Hurts
Your partner will generally be intimately familiar with things that you hold close to your hearts.
These might be hopes, dreams, or even insecurities, and they will use this knowledge to get an advantage over you. They will attack you where it hurts most, to make sure you don’t even
19) They Will Lie To Your Face
We all tell small, innocent, white lies from time to time, but an abusive, gaslighting partner?
They’re not afraid to tell you giant, obvious lies, straight to your face.
Because to them, it’s more than just a lie—it’s an assertion of power, and they want you to know it’s a lie but accept it anyway.
20) You Always Seek Acceptance From Them
And the reason why you can’t leave your gaslighter is that you have been manipulated into believing you need them in your life.
You continuously work to improve the relationship, believing all it takes is better behavior on your part to make your partner become a better person.
21) You’re Giving More Than You Get
You’re continually expending energy trying to please your partner, but they’re not doing the same for you.
In the end, you feel emotionally drained because the resulting energy of the relationship is negative, not positive.
22) There’s No Trust
You can’t trust anything they do or say. If they say they’re going out with their friends, you can’t be sure of what they’re really doing.
For all you know, they could be having a secret relationship on the side.
And of course, without trust, a relationship can’t grow. Your mind won’t stop wandering in all directions about what they’re doing behind your back.
23) The Atmosphere is Hostile
Constant bickering, anger, and darn-right mean comments cause a toxic atmosphere.
Because you don’t trust each other, the resentment comes out in all sorts of ways.
When one of you have a bad day at work, you can’t help but take it out on each other, even though they didn’t have anything to do with it.
24) There’s Constant Imbalance
Whether it’s the effort put into a relationship or the love one of you are giving each other, there’s no balance.
It’s simple: One person needs the other person more than they need them. It’s a recipe of imbalance that’s destined to fail.
25) You Feel Like You Can’t Be Honest With Them
Healthy relationships are built on communication. With your partner, you can’t be honest. You know they’ll judge you negatively and won’t be fully supporting.
And let’s be honest, if you’re afraid your partner won’t support if you’re truly honest with them, then you need to leave as soon possible.
26) They Always Want to Control What You’re Doing
You feel like there’s no freedom. It’s almost like you have to get their permission before you do anything.
However, a healthy relationship is where you both grow and live freely.
27) They Only Want Action in the Bedroom
If their main focus in the relationship is what happens in the bedroom, then you need to wonder what the real reasons are for them being in the relationship.
If they’re not willing to communicate their feelings and they only want to do one thing, then you might be in a toxic relationship.
There’s more to the relationship than what happens in the bedroom.
28) They’re Always Playing the Victim Card
You know how this goes: Whatever happens to them is always a personal attack on them.
Nothing is their fault. They’re always negative and use the phrase “Why does this have to happen to me?” way too often. It’s a type of toxic energy you simply don’t need in your life.
29) They’re Making You Believe That You’d Be Nothing Without Them
A narcissist will do this. They want you to believe that they’re the best thing that ever happened to you. Why? Because they’re insecure and they NEED to lift their ego.
Ask yourself: What were you before you started the relationship? Don’t let them manipulate you into having these false beliefs.
30) They’re Manipulating You With Gifts and Compliments
A narcissist regularly uses “love bombing” as a secret weapon.
Love bombing is actions to gain your love and trust. It could be flattery, compliments, romance or promises of the future.
Once they have your trust, they’re in control. A narcissist will manipulate you to get what they want.
If you find that you’re experiencing a roller-coaster of ups and downs, then they might be using love bombing to make you feel better and to keep the relationship going.
31) They Say One Thing, Then They Do Something Entirely Different
Can’t trust what they’re saying? Aren’t their actions in line with their words?
This is what toxic people regularly do. It means you can’t trust them, and without trust, there is no healthy relationship.
32) They Check Your Phone Constantly
This means they don’t trust you. They think that you’re cheating on them and that you’re hiding something.
A phone is someone’s personal property, and you shouldn’t feel like you’re being spied on.
33) They’re Complain All The Time
Everything that comes out of their mouth is negative. It’s bringing you down and making you feel like crap.
34) Their Eyes are Everywhere but Yours
A classic example of this is when you go out to a public place, and they’re continually looking at other attractive people.
They don’t even care to hide it. It’s a surefire sign that they might be prepared to cheat.
35) They Lie About Little Things
If this is becoming a theme in the relationship and you can’t trust what they say, even over the little things, then it could be toxic.
This is becoming a theme in this article, but trust is the foundation of a strong relationship.
36) The Relationship Has Become Boring
If you’re not excited to see them, touch them and go on a date with them, then the relationship may have lost its spark.
37) They Hold You to Double Standards
A great example of this is they’re going out drinking with their friends, but they get mad when you do the same. No matter how they spin it, it’s wrong, and you deserve better.
38) They’re still flirting with others
It’s such a terrible feeling to go out with your partner and witness them flirting with the waitress or waiter.
These actions are a huge indicator that they’re toxic and capable of cheating.
39) They Don’t See You as a Priority
If they’d rather do anything else but have a date with you, then you’re not high on their priorities. It means that they might see you as a burden and they’re avoiding spending time with you.
40) They Still Mention Their Ex
This is a giant red flag that you don’t want to miss. If they continuously mention an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend, then they’re not over them and they won’t be able to love you fully.
You deserve more than someone that is loving multiple people.
(To learn how to be a strong woman and not take sh*t from anyone, check out our eBook on strong women here)
How To Get Out of a Toxic Relationship
If you believe that you might be in a relationship with a toxic person, it’s crucial that you come to terms with the reality of your situation as soon as possible.
Here are three reminders to help you escape this relationship as painlessly as possible:
- Do not blame yourself. It isn’t your fault that the relationship became so toxic; it’s theirs. You’ve been tricked into believing that everything is your fault
- Be kind to the person who matters most: you. Accept that you deserve better, and give yourself the freedom to run away from this relationship as soon as possible
- Reclaim your identity. It’s about remembering who you were before your partner psychologically manipulated you, and reclaiming that person you once were
Learn to Love Yourself Even After You’ve Left a Toxic Relationship
The end of any relationship is hard.
When you add an abusive, toxic partner, breaking up can be even harder.
Logic tells us that leaving an abusive relationship should be easy, but reality doesn’t always follow logic.
The end of a toxic relationship should be celebrated, but it’s usually just exhausting and trying.
Toxic relationships affect people that can last a lifetime; some people never recover.
Here’s how you can love yourself even after you’ve left a toxic relationship.
1) Get the help you need when you need it.
Everyone needs someone to talk to, especially following a bad breakup.
If you have just gotten out of a toxic relationship, you need to find someone who can help build you back up.
Whether you seek out professional help or your best friend fills the void, it’s essential that you have someone you can lean on.
Professionals and even friends can help you see things from a different perspective and provide you with a sounding board so that you can get clear on the fact that none of what transpired was your fault.
It’s easy to blame ourselves for things falling apart, but when you are the victim of a toxic partner, you are never to blame.
2) Get your thoughts out.
Take time to write down what you are thinking and feeling so that you can make sense of how you are processing the events of your breakup.
Make sure you are going easy on yourself and reminding yourself that you are not at fault. Journaling can help you reconcile feelings and thoughts that are holding you back from moving forward.
It’s hard to imagine moving on when you are hurting so much, but it’s important to process your worth and how you want to change things in your life.
When you write, you benefit from cathartic activities and a chance to organize your thoughts and make a plan for your next move.
3) Decide to be good to yourself.
Above all else, it’s important that you take time to care for yourself.
After leaving a toxic relationship, you need time to normalize again and realize that toxic relationships are not the norm and that you have a right to be happy.
You don’t need to be beaten down for someone to love you.
You can be happy all your own. It’s a decision you need to make. You can decide to be happy and move on with your life, or you can decide to mourn a relationship that wasn’t good for you in the first place.
It’s better to choose yourself over someone else in these circumstances.
4) Bring joy into your life.
Whatever may come, you need to find joy in your life again. Take a road trip, hang out with a good friend, do something nice for yourself.
As part of loving yourself again after leaving a toxic relationship, you need to revisit what makes you happy.
Do more of what makes you happy and let the joy back into your life. You’ll tell yourself that don’t deserve to be happy or that you can’t live without someone, despite them being mean to you.
Ask yourself what you used to do, what you used to like, what used to make you happy and pay attention to those things.
Redirect your focus away from things that take your joy and refocus yourself in directions that are important to you.
5) Commit to seeing it through.
Regardless of how you feel, you need to commit to doing what is best for you.
It might feel easier to just go back to your toxic relationship, but the truth is that it’s uncomfortable to see it through.
It’s just your old thoughts and ways that are dragging you back into that relationship, and you can overpower them and move on with your life.
(If you’re looking for specific actions you can take to stay in the moment and live a happier life, check out our best-selling eBook on how to use Buddhist teachings for a mindful and happy life here.)
Do you want to live a more mindful life?
Mindfulness has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years and is endorsed by celebrities, athletes, and CEOs alike.
Hack Spirit's eBook, The Art of Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Living in the Moment, is the perfect introduction to mindfulness. You’ll learn what “mindfulness” really is, and uncover a set of simple yet powerful techniques to bring mindfulness into your everyday life.
Sign up to Hack Spirit's daily emails
Learn how to reduce stress, cultivate healthy relationships, handle people you don't like and find your place in the world.