It’s normal for relationships to be challenging. But when they exceed a certain level of stress, they negatively impact every aspect of your life: your business, your friendships, your health, even your mental stability.
If you’re seeing the following signs of a toxic relationship, it may be time to seek help:
1. Passive aggressive behaviour
If you can feel something is wrong but when you ask, “What’s going on?” the other person says, “Nothing,” but then punishes you by giving you the silent treatment … that’s passive aggression. One problem with it is that it doesn’t leave much room for resolution of the conflict. If you don’t know what’s wrong, you can’t fix it.
Passive aggressive behaviour is often accompanied by gaslighting or making the other person think they’re crazy for even bringing it up. If you constantly feel like there’s something off but when you try to talk to your partner about it you get shut down, you may be in a toxic relationship.
A relationship with extremely high highs and extremely low lows that tend to repeat have a high likelihood of being toxic. This is especially true if you find it hard to predict when your partner will be upset.
Uncertainty has been demonstrated, over and over, to be very hard on not just human beings, but all animals. Study after study shows that not knowing what’s going to happen, or how to avoid pain, spikes your levels of glucocorticoids (stress hormones).
A healthy relationship includes conflict, of course, but not all the time–and not to an acute degree.
3. “Jokes” that aren’t really jokes
If your partner makes belittling comments about you but then claim they were “just joking,” there’s a problem. Emotional bullies not only drop subtle insults but they often then try to make their victims look stupid or like they’re overreacting.
The way you can tell: a good joke will make you feel included; a toxic joke will make you feel small, angry, and powerless.
4. Walking on eggshells
Ever hide your phone because you’re afraid of what your significant other is going to say about a text from someone else? Are you afraid of going out with people after work because s/he might get jealous?
Healthy relationships are built on trust and open communication. If you often find yourself trying to predict what will make your partner angry and avoid that (even if it doesn’t always work), it could be a toxic situation. You don’t do that kind of thing with your friends; why is OK with your significant other?