What Is a Toxic Relationship? 8 Red Flags You Should Know

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Author Name: Mia Barnes
Date: Tuesday August 11, 2020

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Toxic relationships can ruin lives. They can make the workplace unbearable and lead to Sunday night blues that cast a pall over even the pleasant morning hours. At home, they create so much negativity that you feel like you can never find a moment’s peace. Both scenarios create adverse health effects like anxiety and elevated blood pressure. 

The problem is, many people overlook the signs of negative relationship patterns until they become enmeshed. Recognizing the red flags of what signifies a toxic relationship before you accept the job offer or begin dating exclusively can spare you heartache and frustration. 

1. They Get Jealous Readily 

You admire an outfit in a department store window, and your partner thinks you’re checking out the hottie reflected in the glass. Every time you get a text, they respond, “Who’s that?” even if you only went on one or two dates. 

While it’s natural to raise your eyebrows if your beau teams up with a model-like cutie for a challenging work project, it’s not okay to accuse them of cheating. If they check up on you every hour, every day or stalk your social media, consider these red flags. You may choose to proceed with the relationship but exercise caution. 

2. They Resent When You Take “Me Time” 

This behavior can be an extension of jealousy or a sign of dependent personality disorder. Either way, a mere, “I’m heading out with the guys/girls,” evokes fireworks. Alternatively, your partner’s shoulder turns into an ice block when you try to communicate. 

Everyone needs time to themselves, but if your partner reacts as if the sky is falling when you suggest an outing without them, proceed with caution. Maybe they are merely clingy — but is that behavior you want to tolerate long-term? 

3. You Have to Walk on Eggshells

If you feel like you can’t express your feelings or your legitimate concerns, either in the workplace or at home, consider it a red banner the size of Mt. Everest. It’s one thing to avoid complaining — it’s quite another to feel too intimidated to point out a potential health code violation or ask how your partner’s day was. 

Walking on eggshells can signify a potentially abusive situation. Think about it — in a well-managed workplace, your manager would want to know if someone keeps putting raw chicken above the vegetables in the fridge. That way, they can correct the situation and keep customers healthy. 

In relationships, you often hope the situation will change and excuse the occasional stressed outburst. However, if your partner reacts with an angry, “It was (expletive) terrible, what do you think?” every time you ask, “how was your day?” question how long it will be before that simmering rage boils over into violence. 

4. You Feel Unsupported During Challenging Times

ICYMI (in case you missed it) a pandemic rages. Has your employer communicated anything about the security of your position to you? While you can’t expect them to keep you in the loop on every meeting, managers should recognize that you have a lot riding on your continued service.

Senior management may experience repetition fatigue from reiterating core information. However, they should realize that their team needs additional reassurances to keep morale high during times of crisis. 

In romantic unions, you likewise need to keep your expectations realistic. However, if your partner repeatedly leaves you responsible for navigating financial or household crises, pay attention. Address the fact that they aren’t pulling their weight and study their reaction. Growing defensive is understandable, but refusing to let you air your concerns is toxic.

5. You Take the Blame for Everything 

Are the words, “I’m sorry,” your mantra? Everyone makes mistakes, but if you find yourself apologizing 24/7, ask yourself if you are to blame. 

A wise way to identify toxicity through this method is to start saying “thank you” instead of “I’m sorry.” If you arrive a few minutes late, for example, say, “Thank you for waiting for me.”

This statement makes healthy individuals feel warm and fuzzy, but toxic ones will react with, “You’re never on time.” It’s one thing if this criticism has merit, but if it doesn’t, examine if you want to associate with someone who only sees your mistakes, not your positive qualities. 

6. You Never Move Past Old Wounds 

You get into an argument, and your partner time-travels you to 10 years ago when you had a bit too much to drink at a holiday party and embarrassed yourself. Everyone makes mistakes, but those you made a decade ago shouldn’t continue to haunt your present unless you were convicted of capital murder. 

If you find yourself reliving old wounds because your partner, or even a supervisor, keeps harping on prior wrongdoings, start to distance yourself. Ask yourself if you have more room for growth and improvement in that area, but if not, question why they refuse to let it go. They could have ulterior motives for bringing you down. 

7. You Do All the Compromising 

Relationships take work. As much as you love your partner, you’ll eventually disagree on whether to buy a more expensive home closer to town or a less costly one involving lengthy morning commutes. In a healthy relationship, both parties lay out their concerns and come up with a mutually agreeable action plan. 

However, if you find yourself giving up things like your future dreams and goals or sense of self-worth, ask yourself why. It’s one thing if it’s a mutual decision to put off building your business while you work to put your spouse through medical school. It’s quite another if they expect you to give up your career aspirations to become a stay-at-home parent against your wishes. 

8. It Feels Wrong — All the Time 

If you are in a toxic relationship at home or at work, you will know. You’ll have a nagging feeling of dis-ease, perhaps the one that hooked your curiosity on what represents toxicity. Listen to those feelings — emotions serve a vital evolutionary purpose to alert you when something is wrong and help you survive. 

Escaping a toxic relationship isn’t easy. After all, people need to cooperate with others, and breaking free might mean facing a substantial economic or emotional loss.

However, in the long run, you will benefit your mental and physical health by seeking positive connections that respect your humanity and dignity. The stress of toxicity can drive you to the brink of anxiety or chronic disease. 

Watch for the Red Flags of Toxic Relationships at Home and Work 

It’s more practical to avoid getting too involved in toxic relationships at home or work than to extricate yourself once enmeshed. However, breaking free is possible. Learn to recognize the red flags and exercise selectivity in who you allow into your sphere. 

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