We often hear that “Relationships are hard work” (Ducharme, 2018). But true as that may be, however, cliché statements like these can actually distract us from legitimate causes for concern in one’s romantic life, including signs that a relationship may have become, or always was, toxic.
What is a toxic relationship
By definition, a toxic relationship, is characterized by insecurity, self-centeredness, dominance, and control. A healthy relationship on the other hand, involves mutual caring, respect, and compassion, an interest in our partner’s welfare and growth, an ability to share control and decision-making and lastly, a shared desire for each other’s happiness (Cory, 2012).
Why does it take so long to realize you’re in a toxic relationship?
With all the talk these days about toxic relationships, red flags, and how to recognize an unhealthy relationship before it starts, how is it that some of us can still take so long to realize that we are in a toxic relationship? (Miller, 2020).
To figure this out, let us talk about love. There are a total of four stages of a relationship (Abrams, 2019).
- The Euphoric stage
This is the stage where your brain is in love. In this stage, the other person becomes the center of your life and it is also in this stage where you forgive almost everything about your partner.
- The Early Attachment Stage
In this stage, the more evolved part of the brain begins to take over. You would know when you have reached the early attachment stage when you stop thinking about your partner 24 hours a day.
- The Crisis Stage
This stage is the make it or break it point for most relationships. Almost every relationship has a drift apart phase and it is during this phase where you and your partner would either keep drifting or come back together. You will need a crisis to get through and to be able to talk about it together. When a couple can overcome a crisis successfully, they will then move to the next stage.
- The Deep Attachment Stage
The deep attachment stage is the calm after the storm. This is the stage where you and your partner have been through the inevitable ups and down.
And therefore because of this, love allows you to believe that whatever problems that you and your partner is experiencing is just a minor blip in your relationship, something that you both will look back on years from now and laugh about or appreciate (Miller, 2020).
However, love should not be the reason to stay in a relationship. This is because it can cloud our judgment in other important areas of our lives. For example, if you are prioritising the love you get out of a relationship over the respect that you are given, you will tolerate being treated like a doormat and if you prioritise love over the trust in a relationship, then you will end up tolerating the lying and the cheating (Manson, 2013).
With that being said, being aware that your relationship may be toxic is still vital in protecting yourself from breakage. To stay in a toxic relationship is to keep your hand hovering over the self-destruct button. Therefore, it is still important that you know the different types of a toxic relationship, so it is easier to claim back your power and draw a bold heavy line around what’s allowed into your life and what gets closed out.
So here are 5 different types of a toxic relationships
This type of individual will constantly belittle you. They will make fun of you, essentially implying that almost anything you say that expresses your ideas, beliefs, or wants is silly or stupid and even though you may have asked your toxic partner to stop belittling you, they will continue this behaviour, occasionally disguising it by saying, “I’m just kidding. Can’t, you take a joke?” (Cory, 2012).
It is important to note that in a healthy relationship both you and your partner are supposed to help to build one another up. You affirm and cheer each other on. So, if you are going through these picking regularly, then there is a problem because everyday criticism at every little thing you do can strip away your self-esteem and confidence.
It is okay to make sacrifices in relationships, but your happiness, self-esteem and self-respect shouldn’t have to be on the list.
The Possessive (Paranoid) Controller
In the early stages of your relationship with them, you may actually appreciate their “jealousy” particularly if it is not too controlling. However, as time goes by, these individuals will become more and more suspicious and controlling (Cory, 2012).
Everybody deserves some level of privacy and healthy relationships can trust that this would not be misused. If your partner constantly goes through your receipts, phone bills, text messages this shows a toxic level of control.
In other words, they do not see themselves in a relationship with you but rather, they see themselves as possessing you and you start to realise that your efforts to reassure a toxic possessive partner about your fidelity and commitment to them may be in vain.
The Bad Temper Partner
Often these individuals have an unpredictable temper. You often feel as though you are “walking on eggshells” around them, never quite knowing what will send them into a rage. This constant need for vigilance and the inability to know what will trigger an angry outburst wears on both your emotional and physical health (Cory, 2012).
And somehow, when you attempt to confront a bad temper partner about their temper, they often push the blame of their temper outburst to you. Somehow, it would become your fault that they yell and scream. This disowning of responsibility of their dysfunctional behavior is also another toxic trait.
If you have ever tried to tell your significant other that you are unhappy or angry about something they did and somehow find yourself taking care of their unhappiness, hurt, or anger, you are dealing with an over-reactor (Cory, 2012).
You often find yourself confronting them instead of getting comfort yourself. And, even worse, you feel bad about yourself for being “so selfish” that you brought up something that “upset” your partner so much.
Needless to say, your initial hurt, or irritation gets lost as you remorsefully take care of your partner’s feelings. Somehow your toxic partner finds a way to make this your fault.
The Passive Aggressive Partner
This type of individual is so passive that you have to make most of the decisions for them. This is interestingly one of the methods of toxic control as not deciding is actually a decision that has the advantage of making someone else, you, responsible for the outcome of that decision (Cory, 2012).
And, you will only know when you have made the “wrong” decision by your partner’s passive aggressive behavior such as not talking to you or giving you an attitude when you chose a restaurant or movie they did not enjoy.
If you are involved in a relationship with a passive aggressive partner, you will likely experience constant anxiety and fatigue, as you worry about the effect of your decisions on your partner and are drained by having to make almost every decision.
Keep in mind that the toxicity of the above individual is clearly a matter of degree. You may have experienced some, if not all of these behaviours, occasionally in your relationships. And that is the keyword: occasionally. In a toxic relationship, these behaviours are the norm, not the exception. Most of us manipulate once in a while as we are not perfect nor our relationships. However, what distinguishes a toxic relationship is both the severity of these behaviours and how frequently they occur (Cory, 2012).
Does any of the above sound familiar to you or seem to apply to someone you know? And if it does what would your next step be?
Camellia Wong (MA), Demi Ng
Abrams, A. (2019, September 11). Navigating the 4 stages of a Relationship. Retrieved fromhttps://www.verywellmind.com/the-four-stages-of-relationships-4163472
Cory, L, T. (2012, January 9). Toxic Relationships: What They Are and 8 Types of Toxic Individuals. Retrieved from
Ducharme, J. (2018, June 5). How To Tell If You’re In a Toxic Relationship – And What To Do About It. Retrieved from
Manson, M. (2013, August 8). 6 Signs You Are In A Toxic Relationship. Retrieved from
Miller, W. (2020, January 13). Why Do Toxic Relationships Last So Long? Retrieved from