Sometimes it’s hard to know whether you are in good, mutually supportive relationships with your partner, friends and family. If you’re worried about what kind of relationship you’re in, here are 12 telltale signs it could be toxic:
1. It’s all about the other person — your needs, wants and desires don’t rate.
2. You feel tired, drained or exhausted being around this person.
3. You’re always in trouble or are “wrong.”
4. You’re afraid to express your opinions, thoughts or feelings.
5. The person mocks your looks, occupation, activities, mannerisms, family and friends.
6. You constantly feel unhappy or complain about the relationship to others.
7. You often play the parent or therapist role — even if it’s for your parents!
8. You compromise yourself to maintain the relationship.
9. The person attempts to control aspects of your life like activities, finances, schedule, social outlets and friends.
10. You lack trust or you feel unsafe.
11. The other person takes out his or her bad moods on you.
12. Abuse, be it physical, emotional, sexual or financial (this is NEVER acceptable).
If this sounds like you, talk to someone independent about what is going on in the relationship. This may be a professional, like a psychologist, or a friend or family member who’s not too involved. An expert can give you a new perspective on the relationship; sometimes we live relationships in our head, rather than in reality. Having someone look at situation objectively can help you sort out what’s really going on in the relationship.
It may also be helpful to look at what you can be responsible for. The way other people treat you can be a reflection of the relationship you have with yourself. What can you do to start taking care of yourself? As a client said to me after reflecting on the toxic relationship she was in, it was about realizing she was a key factor in creating the harm in the relationship. She said, “Now I have a much better handle on who I am and what I want from the relationship. I can be flexible, but only within what it means to be ‘me.’ If I am asked to change in a way that’s not me, I can say so. At that point, the other person can decide if they can accept me for who I am, or not.”
Being very clear on who you are, what you want, what you need and maintaining your commitment to that is ultimately the best way to avoid creating toxic relationships.