5 Subtle Signs That You Are In a Toxic Relationship

5 Subtle Signs That You Are In a Toxic Relationship


I’ve been in my fair share of toxic relationships over the years. In many of these relationships, I was in denial. I would argue that…

I’m too smart for that.

There’s no way some dude would play me.

I wish a dude would …Sorry, Y’all I used to have a ratchet side. Thank God for deliverance.

As crazy as this may seem, whenever I thought of toxic relationships my first thought was physical abuse. However, according to HealthScope, toxic relationships are characterized by a toxic partner exhibiting behaviors that are physically and/or emotionally damaging to their partner. Often the emotional abuse can be viewed as more subtle and “less serious;” however, the long-term impact can be astronomical.

Here are five [not so] subtle signs that you’re in a toxic relationship.


Sign one: Alienation from family and friends

You might explain the alienation as

He wants what’s best for me.

He recognizes that these people are no good for me.

Make sure you evaluate these relationships for yourself. Is it possible that some of these relationships could be toxic? “Yes”

It’s also possible that your family and friends see red flags that you might not be willing to acknowledge. Why? because you “love this person” and things are good most of the time.  Support systems are important to have. Miss me with that line “My man is my best friend.” Your partner can be your best friend, but make sure they are not your only friend.


Sign two: Setting differential “rules” within the context of a relationship.

The toxic partner will say that you can’t do something, but it’s okay when they do it.

One way that this has played out for me in a past relationship is that there were differential expectations around us communicating with others when we were together. For example, if I was on the phone talking to a sibling that was viewed negatively. I was often told that I was being rude and not paying [him] attention; however, when he would do the same thing and I would comment about it, his response was this is family, I’m always going to talk to them when they call. This was a clear red flag. Yet, I decided this was just one thing that I might excuse (What was I thinking?! Of course, hindsight is 20/20).


Sign three: Negative comments, even if the toxic partner makes them during arguments.


I know, I know, we get upset and say things that we don’t mean. My questions are

Are there consistent patterns?

Is this person’s negative comments about the same or similar things (e.g., your appearance, your personality, your family)?

I don’t care how strong you think you are, but consistently hearing negative things about yourself can impact your self-esteem over time.

In a past toxic relationship, my partner would consistently comment about my fluctuating weight (Y’all I weighed like 130 pounds and would gain and lose on average 5-10 pounds based on time of year). Eventually, I became hypervigilant about my weight and would embark on these extreme diets as soon as my weight started to increase. At the time I didn’t see the connection, but during my restoration process (aka therapy) I was able to identify this toxic relationship as one reason why monitoring my weight was so important to me.


Sign four: Controlling behaviors

These behaviors can be as subtle as preferences for clothing for you or dictating your dietary choices. I’ve seen the dietary choices camouflaged as “we should go vegan together,” when the toxic partner really wanted their partner to lose weight. Another controlling behavior is the toxic partner failing to commit, yet getting upset when you express interest in other people.

This is I don’t want you, but I don’t want anyone else to have you in action.

Another common controlling behavior is dictating how much time you spend with friends and family.

Remember: the toxic partner might not outright say, “Hey don’t talk to your friends.” However, they may start an argument every time you are going to hang out with your friends.

Can we say manipulative, controlling, and very toxic?!


Sign 5: Selfish partner

Are you the only one consistently showing up for your partner? Are you the only one initiating communication? Now, I’m not saying to keep score. However, it’s important to recognize whether or not you are in a one-sided relationship.

There must be a reciprocation of support, communication, and investment of time and resources for a relationship to be sustainable and healthy.


Bonus: Sign 6: Explanation for EVERYTHING

 Toxic partners will work really hard to convince you that they are equal contributors to the relationship and that they care deeply about you. Some explanations that are used include…

I pick up when you call don’t I?

You know I have to work. If I don’t work then how am I going to be able to pay the bills?

You know my mom has been sick, so I have to keep checking my phone to see if she calls.

I bought you a gift, but UPS lost it…you know they lose everything.

I needed to communicate with my baby momma about my little girl.

In some of these instances, the explanation can seem believable and/or at least for a short time cause you to doubt your intuition and believe that the toxic partner is being truthful. My favorite line was Why would he lie to me? So naive.  

The biggest takeaway is if you’re ever doubting yourself consistently or constantly having to explain your relationship to others then it’s time to examine whether or not you are in a toxic relationship.


What are some other signs of a toxic relationship? For real, for real, talk to me in the comments below. I want to know!

Like this post? Make sure to check out Maybe It’s You: 4 Mistakes That Are Keeping You Single.

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