What are the warning signs that a relationship is becoming toxic?

article relationships toxic relationship Mar 10, 2021

What are the warning signs a relationship is becoming toxic?

Here is an article that I wrote for Natural Health Magazine.

Do you feel anxious or unhappy when your partner comes into the room?

Do you feel trapped in a relationship that is getting worse but don’t know what to do?

How did you get to that place when you were once in love with your partner and the future looked wonderful?


1.You are dreading the future

You are either looking back and remembering the good times or looking back at the negatives ‘why did I ever start a relationship with them?’  You are also unable to enjoy the Now, either because it is not good or because it is overwhelmed by a miserable future.

  1. Communication is bad.

Maybe you are having arguments that just go round and round in circles and nothing gets resolved.  Maybe you are both talking but there is no listening.

Maybe you are unable to express how you really feel.

Maybe you have just given up and there are lots of uncomfortable silences.

  1. There is a lack of connection.

You feel that you have drifted apart and are living parallel lives.

Hugs, touches and lovemaking are infrequent or unsatisfactory. 

When you meet again after one of you has been out any greeting is cursory, and you almost wish they were not there.

Also, you are finding them irritating or you perceive that the things that they are doing wrong outweigh the things they do right.  

  1. There is no real commitment to the relationship.

They, or you, are going through the motions and your relationship has become a habit. 

You might also feel controlled by them and unable to be your true self.

They may be putting you down and not taking responsibility for their part in the relationship. You are feeling that you are the problem.

  1. The Fun has leaked away.

When did the two of you last really have fun together?

If you are struggling to remember or it seems a long time ago; why is that?  

  1. There is no growth.

It feels like you are stuck in a rut and have not grown as an individual or as a couple.

Maybe every day feels like Groundhog Day.

Maybe you feel held back; you want to be so much more than you are now but feel unable to grow because your partner ‘wouldn’t like it.’

  1. Trust has gone.

You don’t trust them. 

There are times when you don’t know where they are, what they are doing or who they are communicating with. 

You may have a feeling that there is someone else in the relationship and you don’t know who. 

You have tried raising this and had an unconvincing response or be met by anger.   

How can it impact our mental health? 

The impact of a toxic relationship on our physical and mental health can be significant and negative.  Research shows that the physical effects include poor sleep, a higher risk of heart problems, high blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, obesity, weakened immune system and organ damage.

The impact on mental health is more insidious and can create insecurity, poor self-image, unhappiness, depression, reduced energy and mental fatigue. 

A lot of these are because the stress puts us into fight, flight or freeze mode and the body is being flooded by the stress hormones of adrenaline and cortisol.

What can we do to make it less toxic?

You have three choices:

  • Continue to put up with it
  • Separate
  • Work to try and resolve it

Continue to put up with it

Why would you do that?  You both deserve better. If you are feeling that dealing with it is too difficult; what will the future be like if you carry on. How much pain will this cause to you, your partner, family and friends. 


This might ultimately be the best long-term solution, particularly if your partner is being controlling or abusive. If you separate without trying to resolve it then you will both carry unhelpful patterns of behaviour into future relationships and will not have learned the important lessons from this one.

Work to try and resolve it 

Communication is the key to dealing with Toxicity.

This starts with an open and honest conversation where you can both share how you are feeling about the relationship and what you both want to have happen. 

A suggestion to start on this journey are:

Create the space and time to have this conversation, free of interruptions

Calibrate where you both feel you are in the relationship.  Give scores out of 10 (where 10 is wonderful and 1 is awful) for each of the key elements of your relationship:

  • Communication
  • Connection
  • Commitment
  • Fun
  • Growth
  • Trust

Share your scores and talk through the similarities and differences

Talk about your feelings rather than the ‘stuff’ and try and remove blame by talking about ‘I feel’ rather than ‘You don’t’

Agree just one step that you are both going to take, that week, to improve on one priority.

Repeat every week until you are both happy with the relationship. 

If you are afraid to do this; why?  How else will the relationship improve?

If your partner does not want to engage; that is giving a clear message that they are not committed to your relationship so maybe it is time to separate.



Neil Wilkie is a Relationship Expert, Psychotherapist, author and creator of the Relationship Paradigm  www.relationshipparadigm.com