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with Tarra Bates-Duford, Ph.D., MFT

Toxic Relationships Revisited: 32 Signs

The start of a new relationship can feel exhilarating for partners, many convinced they have found their perfect match. Unfortunately, the honeymoon period of a new relationship often hides or distorts what lies ahead. Many partners fail to see or overlook the warning signs that their potential partner may not be the best person for them. Therefore, before partners see the signs that their relationship may be toxic, it has escalated into something that some partners erroneously associate with “passion”, “normal relationship conflict”, “love”, etc. Relationships, like life, undergo many twists and turns, from thrilling highs to uncomfortable lows.

Healthy relationships are those that are flexible, adjusting to time, environmental changes, illness, relationship challenges, etc. However, unhealthy/toxic relationships are rigid and inflexible, they cannot adjust to both external (environmental) or internal (health, age, disputes, etc.) changes. Partners in toxic relationships typically harbor unrealistic expectations of what each partner should contribute to the relationship, what they should have acquired during the course of the relationship, and “where their relationship should be”. Holding on to unrealistic expectations combined with their inability to identify toxic changes in a current relationship can cause a relationship to be unsatisfying and to eventually fail. Healthy relationships consist of both partners respecting and accepting normal changes that can occur in relationships.

In an effort to ensure that a relationship not only succeeds but thrive, partners must accept individual differences. Potential partners must not enter a relationship with the primary purpose of changing the other person. In healthy relationships both parties are not only allowed but encouraged to express their personal interests, wants, and needs. In healthy relationships, individual differences are respected and celebrated, they are not ignored, discouraged, or minimized. Toxic relationships are disproportionally balanced, respect does not extend in both directions. One or both partners are unable to express themselves without fear of negative consequences or further conflict. One of the most damaging aspects of being in a toxic relationship is the inability of one or both parties to identify and acknowledge the negative effects the relationship has had on them.

Unfortunately, persons on the outside of a relationship can usually see before romantic partners that the relationship shows signs of toxicity. Failure to identify problems in a relationship can create feelings of anger and resentment. Some partners in unhealthy relationships may even isolate themselves from their loved ones once confronted with examples of the relationship being unhealthy, toxic, or harmful.

Signs You Are in a Toxic Relationship Include:

• Partners do not respect individual differences
• The relationship is rigid, it lacks flexibility for changes in time, health, environments, etc.
• Partners fail to accept responsibility for the issues and conflict in the relationship
• One partner or both feel as if they can never do anything right in the relationship
• Partners insult each other
• One partner is controlling
• Expression of needs and desires is discouraged
• The relationship lacks honesty
• Expression of needs and desires is discouraged
• Partners are self, they do not acknowledge or address the needs of the other partner
• Partners engage in manipulative behavior
• One partner or both consciously and actively hurt or attempts to hurt the other’s feelings
• Partners continue to fight the “same fight” without resolution
• The relationship includes physical abuse
• Poor communication
• Infidelity has been an ongoing issue in the relationship
• One partner or both engage in passive aggressive behavior by failing to convey how they truly feel
• Negative thinking partner(s)
• Partners avoid each other
• The relationship includes jealousy
• There is resentment in the relationship
• Partner(s) do not feel comfortable being themselves, they try to be the person they think their partner wants
• One partner or both feel as if they “aren’t enough” individually, but feel they need to be validated by the other
• One partner or both wears a mask during the relationship to gain acceptance or love
• Tension seems to intensify when partners are together
• Partner(s) feel the need to seek and secure approval from the other partner in order to feel good about themselves
• Partners regularly engage in the blame game
• Partners no longer care about individual happiness, but the happiness of the other partner
• Relationship growth and other changes are viewed as negative
• Partners Reminisce on the beginning of the relationship instead of looking toward the future
• You are existing in the relationship rather than engaging or enjoying it
• One partner or both are abusing substances

Most of us enter a relationship with hopes and dreams for a shared future. However, there will be both internal and external changes that require partners to adapt both individually and within the relationship in order to remain healthy and sustainable. Relationships that are unable to adapt and adjust to internal and external changes are not permitted to grow but remain fixed in a time and environment that no longer exists. Like most things that are not able to grow and thrive, failure quickly follows. It is unrealistic for partners to expect to be happy every moment of their relationship. Overall, partners are expected to make each other happy. He or she should make you feel supported, capable of being yourself, and pursing your dreams.

Toxic Relationships Revisited: 32 Signs

Bates-Duford, Ph.D., LMFT

My name is Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford PhD, LMFT, CRS, CMFSW, BCPC I have a PhD in forensic Psychology specializing in familial dysfunctions and traumatic experience. I work with individuals and families struggling with familial dysfunctions, trauma, rape, and incest. I also have a masters in Marriage, Couples, & Family therapy. I am a certified relationship specialist with American Psychotherapy Association (#15221). I have more than 15 years in the field of mental health, relationships, and behavioral sciences.

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APA Reference
Bates-Duford, T. (2019). Toxic Relationships Revisited: 32 Signs. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 31 Dec 2019
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