Like other slang words that become overused, especially in the era of social media, it can be hard to know what "toxic" means when it comes to relationships. Of course, clear-cut physical abuse is easily identifiable, but what about emotional abuse? What even counts?
Is a relationship toxic if you're crying all the time? But are you crying because you got upset about small things, or because they did something deliberate to hurt you? Is it because you think your boyfriend should act a certain way, and get crushed expectations, or is he constantly overstepping boundaries?
If your ex did any of the following things, the relationship was toxic.
They never compromised with you.
Every fight, every disagreement, every discussion always ended up with you giving up your side because you were tired of fighting. If you were stuck always doing what your partner wanted, your relationship was likely toxic. Especially if they were not willing to compromise or hear your side of the arguments and it was like talking to a wall. They'd deny, switch topics, belittle you, and undermine your feelings. Eventually, you'd end up giving up or always stuck in a fight, and never be able to express your thoughts.
They were hypocritical when it comes to what they've done wrong.
When you did something wrong, all hell broke loose. You had to get down on your knees and practically beg for their forgiveness but when they messed up, they laugh and brush it off as "not a big deal" or gave a half-hearted apology. Does this sound familiar? If so, your relationship with your ex was probably toxic. If they were the judge, jury, and executioner when you messed up but never took responsibility for their own mistakes, that's a huge red flag.
You weren't truly happy.
It seems obvious, but a lot of us can be pretty dense when it comes to our own feelings. Maybe you constantly cried. Maybe you were always arguing. Maybe you felt like you were trapped. Regardless, you weren't happy, but you were scared you'd be even less happy if you left because heartbreak is scary. This is a sign your relationship with your ex was a toxic one.
They threatened you.
Threats of every kind really. Maybe they said they'd leave and find someone better. Maybe when you were fighting, they'd bring up an ex and bring past issues into it. If they compared you to other people, if they threatened to cheat or leave, this was emotional abuse. Whether or not it was a "joke," words that hurt you like this are meant to destroy your self-esteem and are a tool of emotional abuse. Or maybe, they threw something at you. They yelled at you, with all of their anger and darkness spewing out of their mouth at full force. They threaten to tell your friends or family about a secret. They said they'd leak your nudes on the internet. This was all abuse, emotional, physical, and mental abuse.
They were controlling and demanding.
One of the biggest signs of a toxic relationship is if someone tried to monopolize all of your time. The expectation that you need to share 100 percent of your time and attention with your romantic partner is unrealistic and unfair. You're allowed to have personal time, work time, time with friends, and family. If they were trying to take up all of your free time, whether intentional or not, your relationship was not a healthy one. Being controlling of your time is a big sign of a toxic relationship because dating someone doesn't mean you signed a contract to become one person, you are your own separate human beings. If your partner wanted to tell you what you could and could not do, how you could spend your free time, who you could see, how you could dress, what you could say, it's a good thing they're your ex.
No one, no matter who you are, should be subjected to that kind of degradation of character. Whether it comes from anxiety or fear, if your ex did these things, it means they didn't really respect you as a human being. Even if they claimed to, the fact that they didn't trust you enough for you to be your own person speaks volumes. Your partner should always be able to trust you, and if they monopolized your time or controlled you, they clearly didn't trust or respect you.
While these are seven clear signs your relationship is toxic, if you are in a relationship like this, it may be valuable to talk to a licensed professional. There can be many signs of emotional abuse in a relationship, and many other important signs that weren't covered in this article. If you or a loved one needs help, please explore these resources listed below.
National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
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