15 Signs You're Stuck In A Soul-Sucking, Toxic Relationship, According To Experts

Once you know what to look for, you can free yourself and find the healthy love you deserve.

unhappy girl stuck in bad relationship carballo / Shutterstock

When we reviewed the results from an informal survey of more than 100 YourTango Experts, we discovered that 89% of them believe that half or more of all couples are in toxic, unhealthy relationships.

We wanted to know more, so we decided to ask for some more specific examples of what toxic relationships look like, and how people can know when they're in one.

The red flag waving at the top of their list of responses was, "You spend more time fighting than enjoying each other."


But how do you find red flags in a toxic relationship? Red flags can include anything from jealousy, criticism, gaslighting, disrespect, threatening, emotional abuse, and having no empathy. ​But those aren't the only signs you should watch out for. What are the warning signs of a toxic relationship?

RELATED: 15 Relationship Red Flags You Should Never, Ever Ignore

Here are 15 signs you're stuck in a soul-sucking, toxic relationship, according to experts: 

1. Your partner seems hostile all the time.

Is your partner angry a lot of the time?

"If you feel you're living with a lot of tension, feeling stressed and not able to express yourself the way you want, your relationship isn't healthy for you", explains Dr. Marian Stansbury, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Milford, Connecticut.


We all need to feel safe and secure to express our authentic selves.

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2. Your partner constantly puts you down.

Does your significant other criticize or demean you? Are you on edge most of the time because you feel that you can't please your partner or do anything right? Do they make fun of you or criticize you in public or in front of family and friends? Do they act superior towards you or mock you? "These are all warning signs of an unhealthy, dysfunctional relationship," explains Dr. Stansbury. 

3. Your partner purposely avoids you.

Does it seem like they don't want to be around you? "Maybe they give you mixed messages that make you feel confused, like saying, 'Of course, I love you,' while not behaving in a loving manner", explains Dr. Stansbury. "Or your partner might withhold physical affection from you, causing you to feel rejected, to which they respond by complaining that you are just too needy."


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4. Your partner refuses to consider changing and won't talk about problems in the relationship.

Is your partner open to being influenced by you? Are they able to be self-reflective? When you express how you feel and ask for what you want, do they listen and then try to meet your needs? If they refuse to acknowledge your feelings and needs as important and refuse to go to counseling, you may be stuck in a toxic relationship. Dr. Stansbury explains if that's the case, you need to ask yourself, "What do I need to do for myself to be happy and satisfied with my life?"

5. Your partner fights dirty.

"Name-calling is a definite sign of toxicity in a relationship. Attempting to hurt someone with words isn't the way to resolve conflict or communicate hurt feelings," explains Keri Nola, a psychotherapist based in Winter Springs, Florida. Problems usually escalate quickly when name-calling is present, and it makes it especially difficult to create intimacy and connection in the relationship.

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6. You don't feel as though can be yourself.

Do you change your likes, dislikes, or opinions when you're with your partner? "Feeling like you can't be yourself and adjusting to please out of a fear of retaliation can be a sign of a toxic relationship," Nola explains. It's important to be able to express yourself honestly in your relationship in order for authentic love to grow as well as personal growth too. 

7. Your partner acts like an overly involved parent.

"I'm not talking about the kind of parent who drives you to your violin recital. I'm talking about the kind who decides what your career will be, what school you will go to, and who you can hang out with," says relationship expert Mika Maddela.

When your partner acts like an overly involved parent, they choose which friends you can have and what kind of clothes you can wear. You've learned from past experiences that your thoughts and opinions don't matter, and if you do try to express them, you will regret them later on.

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8. Your partner is the king or queen of guilt trips.

They have a certain knack for making you feel guilty and indebted to them. You feel obligated to give in to whatever they want, especially when they remind you of that thoughtful gesture that they made for you the other day. "When every kind gesture comes with strings attached, it might be time to cut the cord," explains Maddela. 

9. You feel a need to hide the relationship from your friends and family.

"Your family and friends don't like the way your partner treats you, and you're afraid that what they have to say might be the truth," Maddela explains. Rather than face that painful reality check, you tend to avoid talking about them, bringing them around, or involving them in any way with your friends and family.

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10. Your partner is gaslighting you.

Whenever you have a problem with your partner, he always makes it that he's somehow the victim and constantly gaslights you to make it your fault to cover his actions. "Toxic people blame others for their mistakes and find ways to cover up their actions so they're never at fault. They will find a way to turn the problem around to be your fault," says psychotherapist Nancy Carbone.


Toxic partners purposely avoid shame-induced judgment by distorting the truth. "They avoid taking responsibility to cover up their mistakes. They do this by finding fault in others, whom they blame for their shortcomings." A big red flag that you can notice right away is if they say their ex was the crazy one or that they cheated because their partner never gave them sex when they wanted it. "You're told that you should get over issues and not bring them up. It is always the other person's fault and they're perfect," explains Carbone.

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11. Your partner has no empathy.

It's a big red flag if you notice that your partner doesn't have any empathy or remorse for how they treat people. "They feel like they have the right to behave in whatever manner meets their own needs with no regard for others," explains Carbone. People like this will try and justify cheating or having affairs because they portray themselves to be kind and to have empathy just to use people for what they need. 

12. Your partner sees everyone through his own behavior.

Remember that a toxic person may have had parents or people in their past who were envious and criticized or humiliated them.


Therefore, they hide their real self. Maybe your partner felt like a failure if they didn't meet their expectations or needs. "They will not take ownership and see the part they play in relationship problems. They feel injured when issues are raised and turn their back on their partner for attacking them or criticizing them. So, the partner feels beaten down and gives up, feeling wrong," explains Carbone. 

Toxic people always project their sense of inadequacies onto others by finding things wrong with them or finding fault in them to make themselves feel better. These kinds of people are delusional and see everyone through their own projections, constantly distorting the way they see others and relate to them. You cannot trust these types of people. 

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13. You feel scared or in danger.

If this is the case, then you need to take precautions in order to get out of the relationship without getting physically hurt.


This is a major red flag if he's shown aggressive and abusive behavior. This is something that will, likely, remain with you long after he's gone from your life because an emotionally abusive partner — consciously or unconsciously — establishes a reign of terror over your life, explains relationship coach Doctor Annie Kaszina

"You're meant to feel frightened of bad things happening out of the blue — the technical term is he has you 'walking on eggshells," explains Dr. Kaszina. He maintains absolute power over you by making you terrified because that's his agenda.

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14. You lie to yourself.

If you're lying to yourself or avoiding/not listening to any friends or people you know that try to help you get out of the relationship, then that is a huge red flag. You might be doing this and not even realize it as it's become a long-term pattern for you in this relationship. It doesn't make sense to do this to yourself.

"If he was halfway wonderful, you wouldn’t be feeling the way you are right now, and wonderful people don't hurt and humiliate the living daylights out of their partner," explains Dr. Kaszina. "You tell yourself (and, maybe the world, too) how good he is and your heart sinks. Being with someone who is truly wonderful lifts your heart."

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15. You give up on yourself.

This isn't a normal response to your problems in life. However, it is a normal response in the case of constant brainwashing and emotional trauma your partner puts you through. 


"Giving up on yourself is just your mind's way of telling you, "I can't take any more." It's a sign that you need to get out, not give up. Since he's the one who makes you feel bad when you get him out of your system you can expect to start feeling a whole lot better," explains Dr. Kaszina. 

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