When we’re in a relationship, it can be difficult to see what’s wrong with it. Sometimes, we’ve been with them for so long that certain behaviors that might have once raised a red flag are now ignored. Maybe we’re tired of fighting over every little thing and so we’ve let certain habits or actions pass by. Maybe we don’t know what we deserve anymore, and so we’ve settled for the bare minimum.
While we may not always know the best course of action in our own relationship, we probably have loads of thoughts about our friends’ love lives! From the outside looking in, it can be a lot easier to deduce what’s going on when we’re not wearing rose-colored glasses (or turning a blind eye).
If we have an inkling that something may be awry in a relationship – beyond just a relationship naturally fizzling out – it might be worth looking to see if our friend is ticking these 20 signs. If her relationship is toxic and she doesn’t see it but you do, you could be in a position to listen, understand, and help her get out.
The dictionary defines “toxic” as something poisonous, but some poisons are insidious, sneaking their way through the body, destroying every living part of it until there’s nothing left. Toxic relationships work in much the same way, leaving those in them husks of who they were if they don’t get out.
Trust is a major component in a healthy relationship, but if she’s snooping through his stuff to ease her insecurities, something is definitely amiss. Not only is it a total invasion of privacy to scroll through his texts, emails, or DMs, but it likely points to something deeper, a realization that her relationship isn’t as sturdy or solid as she once thought (or pretended to think). Even looking over his shoulder to try and catch the name of a girl on his phone is unhealthy behavior and a sign that her relationship may be headed into toxic territory.
When she talks about her relationship, it seems like she has a litany of complaints. He doesn’t do this or they never do that or he’s always behaving in some way – it never ends! Only being able to see the negative aspects of her partner means that she can no longer find enough good to outweigh the bad (which all of us have in us, at least a little bit). Moaning about her SO makes it seem as though she would be better off being single, but she seems more contented to complain rather than take any action. If her SO is no longer a knight-in-shining armor at least some of the time, her relationship may have gone off the rails.
What might have started out as a friendly bit of poking fun at one another has turned into something much more sinister. He doesn’t compliment her anymore and instead gives her backhanded remarks that chip away at her self-esteem. Saying things like, “That dress would look great on you if you got a tan,” or “Aren’t you putting on makeup? We have to leave in 10 minutes” are passive-aggressive ways to her feel small. Sometimes, her SO gets so good at it that he’ll deliver these lines in public, but she’s desensitized, she doesn’t even notice!
She was vivacious and spunky and a little quirky, but now she’s become kind of Stepford-esque in her need to please her SO. While some change is natural and healthy in a relationship as we develop and grow as people and as partners, upending her whole appearance, personality, and lifestyle could be a sign that her relationship has become poison. How to tell the difference? If it seems like she’s not happy with the “new her” and is only doing it for her guy, that’s a clear sign that she’s changed herself – against her better instincts – for someone else.
When she told him she wanted to introduce him to her inner circle of family and friends, he acted like it was a huge obligation for him – and an unnecessary one at that. She should want him to meet her family to show how she feels about this person, and he should respond with a genuine enthusiasm at this significant step. Sure, not every family is going to welcome a new SO with open arms right away, but if he acts as though it’s some big favor so that she worries about the meeting itself, there’s a red flag.
Simply put: a romantic partner should build you up, not tear you down. While she may not be the most knowledgeable about every subject in the universe (and who is?), he takes every opportunity he can to correct her, make her feel small, or downright insult her – sometimes in front of other people!
Even if her hobbies don’t align with his, he shouldn’t insult them or make her feel stupid for enjoying them. The right guy will appreciate her mind, even if she does like goofy rom-coms with epic makeover scenes – he won’t use it as a reason to demonstrate his superiority.
In a healthy relationship, your SO should be your go-to, your person, your teammate. Rather than go to her guy when she’s having a rough day, she closes herself off, bottles everything up, and pastes on a smile. She knows that he won’t be able to deal with her emotions – or worse, make her feel like she shouldn’t have those emotions to begin with – and so she figure she’ll handle them herself. But, in a solid relationship, you should feel comfortable opening up to your SO! She’s become so used to doing this and making things “easy” for him that she doesn’t realize how hard she’s made things for herself.
While not every relationship’s future can be judged on texting, there is something to be said about the importance and validity of texting in a relationship. Erratic texting behavior, only texting her for a late-night “cuddle” session, or taking forever to reply when they update their Insta makes her feel as though she’s not a priority. This kind of behavior preys on her insecurities and, when she does commit the dreaded “double text”, she gets called out for being crazy, even though it was his texting behavior – and lack of apology – that were its source!
Fact: Couples fight. Arguments and bickering come with the territory of being with someone you love, especially if you live together. However, she argues without communicating, which means that she’ll have the kind of blowout screaming matches that set those “Toxic Relationship” alarms ringing, but there doesn’t ever seem to be any kind of solution; pretty soon, she’s back at it again, shouting about the same issue with nothing resolved. Not conveying how she’s feeling and instead getting angry at her SO (and vice-versa) is a fruitless cycle, and a race that nobody ever wins.
When a couple argues, there are two people involved. However, in her relationship, it seems as though she’s flying solo since she’s the only one who’s ever forced to apologize or take responsibility for her actions. Him, on the other hand? A totally innocent victim.
If her guy is stubborn and steadfast in the idea that she is constantly at fault, that’s a sure sign of an unhealthy relationship (and an insecure personality). We all make mistakes, but the likelihood that she’s to blame for everything in her relationship? We wouldn’t take those odds.
Her relationship is filled with drama, fights, and tantrums the likes of which most mature people have never seen before. More often than not, a major blowout ends with one of them saying that they’re going to break up with the other – and yet, miraculously, they never do!
Whoever is the one delivering the threats (unless it’s both) lives in constant fear that the smallest screw-up could result in a breakup, and that’s not an okay way to handle a relationship. She (or he) should be able to voice negative concerns without fearing that it’ll lead to the end of things.
Her schedule has become his schedule – whether she likes it or not. In toxic relationships, one partner may feel the need to always be priority one, no matter what – and it’s the “no matter what” part that can lead things into dangerous territory.
She may have put off important family events, her career, and even her own mental health and wellbeing for his convenience, which is never okay. She should feel like there’s an equal division of labor and love in her relationship, but if he’s the one who’s always in first, that means that she will always be coming second.
Mismatched desire in a relationship is a common issue, although it is rarely discussed. Communication and connection outside of that atmosphere is necessary to foster a healthy partnership. However, her guy is either constantly demanding things around his needs or holding up their intimate history as proof that she’s doing something wrong.
Using coercion or other toxic behavior to manipulate an SO into getting what you want is disrespectful and harmful. None of us are “owed” anything in that arena, and if she thinks she does, there’s something not right here.
While all of her friends are happily discussing their relationships, flings, dates, and hookups, she stays tight-lipped. It’s not that she likes to keep some things private (which is totally okay) but that she’s ashamed of her relationship.
Shame is not something that should enter into a relationship built on mutual trust, love, and understanding. However, when it’s become the overriding feeling, that should tell her that something is amiss. Digging deeper into why she isn’t just ashamed of her SO but of their relationship might inform her that something isn’t quite right.
He leaves for a weekend with the boys and she doesn’t hear from him for 48 hours. She goes out for a girl’s night and he won’t talk to her until the following morning. There’s giving your SO some space and then there’s acting like you’re completely single when they’re no longer in your scope of vision.
Unless she has discussed and mutually agreed upon having an open or casual relationship, cheating on her SO (or vice-versa) or at least coming as close to cheating as she can without crossing that blurry line means that she isn’t being satisfied in her relationship, but still wants to have her cake and eat it, too.
After a big fight, it’s normal to need some time to cool off and come back with a clear head. (That old adage, “Never go to bed angry?” Total BS, BTW.) However, she talks about her dude totally disappearing after an argument, refusing to respond to any of her increasingly frantic texts and calls, only to waltz back into her life a couple days later as though nothing has happened!
Ghosting is toxic, even if it’s temporary. A healthy relationship should allow her to feel safe and secure without the constant fear that her SO is going to up and leave her whenever the mood strikes him.
People change. It’s a part of life. We develop new interests, adjust our perspectives, get an expanded worldview, and even change our goals. In a relationship, we need to be with someone who will allow and even encourage this growth. Unfortunately for her, her SO would rather she stay the exact same, forever.
Feeling threatened or insecure by an SO’s growth is definitely a sign of toxicity within the relationship. If her SO is willing to stunt her growth to get her to stay with him, that points to an ingrained selfishness that could leak over into many other aspects of the relationship if not dealt with.
We spend time with the people we love, but she’s got us wondering how she really feels, because it seems like she actively avoids spending any time with him! Looking at that late grocery store run or work retreat or, heck, even the commute to work as a blessing because it takes her away from her SO should be as clear a sign as any that this thing is not working! If she can’t even tolerate her SO’s presence (which is really the bare minimum of having a relationship to begin with), she should just call it quits, because how is this not headed that way already?
Everyone tells little white lies now and again, and sometimes we do it to protect those we love. This moves into toxic relationship territory, however, when the lies become bigger and are used to mask excuses for unacceptable behavior.
If she’s lying to cover up some nefarious deeds that her SO has done, it’s because she knows that what he’s doing is wrong and that, if the truth of it were to be exposed, she would have to face why she’s allowed it to happen in the first place. It’s a messy area to navigate! Lying for an SO about things that are evil or downright criminal – or being asked to lie – signifies an imbalance of power in a relationship, which is not healthy in the least.
Whatever light she used to have about her, whatever sparkle in her eye, seems to have dulled now that she’s been with her SO for a period of time. This isn’t an instance of getting comfortable or feeling at ease – the exact opposite, in fact. Instead, she’s become stressed, anxiety-ridden, insecure, cautious, and skittish. Basically, she’s no longer happy. Whatever behavior she might have tried to write off as a “one-time thing” has now become a pattern that’s eroded her wellbeing, and once you see it, it’s impossible to miss. She’s just not the person she used to be.