3 Scary Signs You're In A Toxic Relationship And Need To Get Out

Sometimes, the slow burn of toxicity is hard to spot.

couple going through problems Eugene Symonenko / Shutterstock

Most people have a sense of what toxic relationships feel like. But it can be hard to recognize those signs when they first appear in your own life. 

Often, there is something in you that says, "There should be more."

That dissatisfaction will turn into relationship conflict and power struggles, creating a toxic situation that leads to unhappiness.

A sense of unease or emotional doubt is a sign from your body and higher self that you are not in a loving, healthy relationship.


It’s important to trust these warnings from your gut and/or your heart —  much more than trusting your head/logic or your sexual desires, which can direct us into toxic relationships.

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Here are three warning signs that often arise in people who are in toxic relationships:

1. You often try to please your partner in order to get love

Do you notice yourself going out of your way to get your partner's attention, acceptance, and approval? This is a common way people learn to receive love. We learn in childhood to please others in order to earn these types of "rewards."

As a result, you become the “pleaser” to get the love you desire. Holding the core belief, “If I do this for you, you will love me.”

This core belief will lead you to do for others at the expense of yourself.

In the long run, your distorted core belief leads to distortions with relationship boundaries, which points to your own insecurities, low self-esteem, and fear of losing the relationship.


If this feels familiar, you're not alone.

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Playing the pleaser role is very common. However, it’s very exhausting —  physically and emotionally. Furthermore, it’s a sure way for your partner to have control and power over you in the relationship.

It’s also a sure way for you to lose yourself in the relationship because you soon realize you often can’t do enough for your partner and can’t please him/her.

Not only is pleasing someone physically and emotionally draining, but it also builds resentment inside you. 

To cope, you either keep your emotions in check to prevent conflict or you suddenly lash out verbally and/or physically at your partner or others, causing conflict anyway —  especially inner conflict.


To compensate, you are the one taking responsibility for (owning) most if not all of the relationship problems. This only reinforces your self-created core negative belief about yourself.

Tragically, guilt or shame may then consume you, filling you with regret over what an unloving person you feel you are now. End result? You apologize for the conflict, even though it's not all your doing.

This also lets your partner off the hook in looking at themselves and their part in the relationship conflict and drama.

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2. You feel alone in the relationship

Have you been in, or are you currently in a relationship, yet often find yourself feeling alone? This is often a sign that you don’t feel included in the relationship.


Your partner is doing their thing, like working long hours or getting involved in recreational and/or social activities, and they are choosing to do these things without you, maybe even to avoid you.

Love means including, so if you are experiencing more exclusion than inclusion from your partner, they do not really love you.

Yes, it’s healthy to have some interests and activities without our partners. However, if this exclusion is more the rule than an exception, this should be a red flag of a toxic relationship.

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3. You lose yourself

Being the pleaser with a partner who’s selfish and excluding will likely cause you to lose yourself in the relationship.


Consciously or unconsciously, you begin to sacrifice your own freedom and self-worth in order to keep the relationship intact.

This is almost a form of “selling your soul” or “prostituting” yourself for the sake of being in a relationship.

It’s a sign that you care more about being in a so-called relationship with someone outside of yourself than being in a healthy relationship with the person inside of you.


A loving relationship should offer you the opportunity and freedom to be yourself, not lose yourself in the relationship.

If you notice any of the above signs happening in your relationship, you are likely in a toxic relationship.

However, it’s not about changing your partner. Your partner is loving you the best way they know how. Until they desire to change how they know love, they will love and interact with you the way they do now.

Your role is to love yourself enough to seek help and resources so you can learn how to cope with a difficult relationship. Additionally, consider the merits of not being with someone who is causing you more heartache than joy.


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David Schroeder, LMSW, CPC from Grand Rapids, MI., is a licensed social worker, certified life coach, and author of Just Be Love: Messages on the Spiritual and Human Journey.