Toxic Relationship Behavior: Unhealthy Habits That Lead to Abuse

Toxic relationships are just that — they threaten, damage or destroy those in them. Often, people can avoid a toxic relationship, such as a friend who’s a bully. However, someone who’s in love may find their emotions get in the way of being able to spot those unhealthy or abusive behaviors.

These kind of relationships make partners feel hurt, taken advantage of or used. The other partner holds power, the victim can’t do anything right or everything is about the abuser. Here are some of the surefire signs of toxic relationships patterns:

Anger: Couples fight, but if a partner insults, resorts to name calling, explodes with anger or screams, that’s not healthy. Worse yet, if an argument turns to physical violence, such as punching walls, breaking objects or hitting, slapping and biting, it’s definitely not healthy.

Verbal Insults: Healthy relationships focus on respecting each other. If a partner belittles, criticizes, makes jokes at the other person’s expense or embarrasses them at home or in public, that’s toxic behavior. The abuser may also express that if only their partner were better – prettier, smarter, thinner – they wouldn’t say these things. Relationships shouldn’t be based on humiliation or degradation, and they should take responsibility for what they say instead of insisting their other half is the problem.

Addiction: A partner who’s addicted to alcohol or other substances, as well as other addictions like sex, pornography, gambling and food, is risking their health and livelihood above all else. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that they’re also willing to put themselves and their addiction above the relationship. Even if they mean well or insist they want to change, until they enter rehabilitation and control their addiction, they’re putting their partner’s health and livelihood at risk as well.

Cheating & Sexual Abuse: Insisting on accepting an unusual sexual behavior, such as an affair or an open relationship, is toxic as it doesn’t take their partner’s feelings into consideration. If both partners willing to be in an open relationship, that’s one thing. But if one person feels the relationship rules should not include being sexually involved with anyone else, the other is deliberately hurting their partner. Likewise, if one partner demands the other participates in sexual acts beyond comfortability, they are forcing what they want and not listening to the others concerns.

Jealousy: Extreme, irrational behavior about who their partner hanging out with, where they’ve been and what they’re planning to do is a surefire sign of unhealthy relationship behavior. Demanding to know their whereabouts or becoming extremely envious when they talk to someone else is toxic, because it demonstrates a clear lack of trust. Assuming there is not a history of lying or betrayal, it’s the kind of out-of-bounds behavior that should be a signal of possessive, controlling behavior, not love.

Control & Manipulation: Twisting words so the victim is at fault, giving them the silent treatment when they’re upset, or withholding affection are all toxic ways to manipulate them into doing what the partner wants. Or maybe they tell them how to dress, what to say or punish them for not being exactly what they want them to be.

Isolation: Does one partner ask the other to cancel plans with family or friends so they can spend time together? Do they smother the other and keep them apart from the things they love? Alienation is toxic because it’s another form of control. Keeping someone isolated from those they love and care about isn’t fair or trusting.

It may take time to look at your relationship clearly and objectively, but listen to your instincts. Living in fear is not healthy. If you think your relationship is toxic, you’re not alone. Talk to your family or friends for support, or call 866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 22522 and talk to one of our trained peer advocates.