5 Tiny Triggers That Signal Your Relationship Is Toxic

A healthy relationship means you feel safe and at ease to be yourself.

Toxic relationship, man leaning forward pointing in woman's face getty

Most of us can admit to remaining in a toxic relationship well beyond its expiration date. Few of us get out unscathed in life in that department. We often remain in these relationships for many reasons, even though we know the signs of a toxic relationship, which are rarely any good.

I came across a blog, 5 Signs You're In A Toxic Relationship by Yvette Bowlin, who eloquently summed up what it means to be in a toxic relationship. "Toxic doesn't only entail obvious damage like physical abuse, stealing, or name-calling. It also represents all the internal turmoil that results from an unhealthy relationship."


Not only could I relate to many of these things, but I felt compelled to share some of the things I have learned along the way from my own experiences and from those whom I help(ed).

RELATED: How You Know *For Certain* It's Time To Leave A Relationship

Here are 5 tiny triggers that signal your relationship is toxic:

1. It seems like you can't do anything right

"The other person constantly puts you down as not good enough. They mock your personality, and you feel ashamed most of the time. You only feel pardoned when you take on the traits of the person doing the condemning or judging. Belittling makes you feel less than and takes away your power and inner strength," says Bowlin.


Arguing couple has relationship they need to get out Just Life via Shutterstock

When you agree with the other person, the relationship is going well. When you disagree, relationship strife bubbles to the top. and the relationship becomes uncomfortable. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you like this person?
  • Are they good for you?
  • Do they bring out the good in you?
  • Do you find that you become more negative while in their presence?
  • What are some of the feelings that you experience when around them?
  • Is there more criticism than compassion?

The answers to these questions are important and telling.


2. Everything is about them and never about you

Bowlin says, "You have feelings, too, but the other person won't hear them. You're unable to have a two-sided conversation where your opinion is heard, considered, and respected. Instead of acknowledging your feelings, they battle with you until they get the last word."

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The toxic person seldom, if ever, asks about you, and the conversation is one-sided. If you do share, it's momentary, and they find a way to quickly return the conversation to them.

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3. You find yourself unable to enjoy good moments with this person

"Every day brings another challenge. It seems as though they are always raising gripes about you. Their attempt to control your behavior is an attempt to control your happiness," says Bowlin.

Furthermore, they focus on the negative to keep you in the same state they are: unhappy β€” though they would not admit it.

4. You're uncomfortable being yourself around that person

According to Bowlin, this is when "you don't feel free to speak your mind. You have to put on a different face just to be accepted by that person. You realize you don't even recognize yourself anymore, and neither do your closest friends and family."

Forcing herself to smile in a relationship she needs to get out of Asti Mak via Shutterstock


5. You're not allowed to grow and change

"Whenever you aim to grow and improve yourself, the other person responds with mockery and disbelief. There is no encouragement or support for your efforts. Instead, they keep you stuck in old judgments insisting that you will never be any different than you are now," she said.

You can set yourself free. Growth and change are part of life, yet toxic people feel threatened by this very thing β€” your desire for growth and self-improvement. Their negativity can easily sneak in and stifle your growth, question your desires to change, and influence your judgment. Because they are unhealthy, they want a partner in crime. Don't do it!

RELATED: 9 Painfully Honest Signs You've Settled In Your Relationship

I found myself in two previous toxic relationships that overlapped in time (which are now a lifetime ago for me) β€” a friendship and a marriage. The friendship started when we bonded over intense doctoral demands and for each of us, an impending divorce.


The friendship turned toxic when I was able to see the truth in her personality and how she treated others: condescending and often with a self-righteous attitude, which is the opposite of my value system.

As I slowly came out of my "divorce fog," that relationship quickly ceased to exist, and so did my marriage, which was exceedingly more toxic than friendship. I learned a valuable lesson in both of these experiences: Introspection and distance provide invaluable clarity.

Learn to recognize the signs of a toxic relationship. Listen to your intuition, the "inner voice" we all have (it's there for a reason), which often steers us in the right direction. Take the time to listen to it.

@juliethe_therapist Emotional safety is an essential element of any healthy relationship. Emotional safety refers to feeling secure, accepted, and valued in a relationship. It involves the sense of being understood, respected, and supported by your partner without fear of judgment or rejection. Emotional safety is necessary for a relationship to thrive, as it creates an environment in which both partners can express themselves freely and be vulnerable with one another. When partners feel emotionally safe, they can trust each other, communicate openly, and work together to overcome challenges. To cultivate emotional safety in a relationship, it is essential to establish trust and mutual respect. This involves being open and honest with each other, actively listening and validating each other's feelings, and showing empathy and compassion. It also involves being aware of your own emotions and needs and communicating them effectively to your partner. Creating a safe space in which both partners can share their vulnerabilities without fear of judgment or criticism is key to building emotional safety. Emotional safety is an integral component of a healthy relationship. It requires trust, mutual respect, open communication, and vulnerability. When partners feel emotionally safe, they can build a strong foundation for their relationship and navigate challenges together. Creating a safe space where both partners can express themselves without fear of rejection or judgment is essential for a healthy and fulfilling relationship. #therapytiktok #therapistsontiktok #couplestherapy #relationshiptherapist ♬ original sound - Julie The Therapist

Remember, being in a healthy relationship means you feel safe and at ease to be yourself. You can live your life with authenticity. Sharing your thoughts and feelings is acknowledged and embraced not ridiculed and left to make you feel uncomfortable.


At the core of a healthy relationship is open and honest communication, trust, and support. People are not critical, able to manage their problems, rely on one another productively and reciprocally, balanced, and not defensive nor inappropriately blaming the other person.

Take a moment to think about your relationships. The 5 most important people in your life. Are they toxic or healthy?

RELATED: The 3 Most Common Excuses People Make For Staying In Toxic Relationships

Dr. Kristin Davin is a Clinical Psychologist specializing in marriage, divorce, dating, and relationships. She helps people build better relationships, whether it’s with their spouse, partner, children, siblings, parents, coworkers, or friends.