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Signs of a Toxic Relationship: Red Flags to Avoid

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Pharmacology

Updated Feb 11, 2021

Signs of a Toxic Relationship: Red Flags to Avoid

Are you and your partner constantly fighting over the same things? Does he or she make promises that they never seem to keep? Does spending time apart feel better than when you are together? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be in a toxic relationship. Read more about the signs of a toxic relationship you should avoid.

Signs of a toxic relationship

1) You are always caught in loop

Firstly, arguments in any relationship are normal and expected. Even twins and so-called soulmates are not always on the same page all the time. However, if you find yourself repeating the same conversations or arguing over the same things time and time again, your relationship might be toxic.

One example would be if you or your partner starts digging up things from the past, even if it was supposedly resolved long ago. This is not productive and tends to open up old wounds. If the problem keeps coming up, you need to address it directly. Keep in mind that the past cannot be changed, but we can always live in the present and work toward the future.

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2) Empty promises

Similarly, if you try to address problems only to be met with empty promises to fix things, the relationship will become toxic. Frequently making empty promises is a toxic trait and can be disrespectful to those who expect the promiser to follow through. In addition, people will become tired and lose trust in someone who is constantly irresponsible or dishonest.

However, in times when you do need to cancel plans for urgent matters, inform others as soon as you can. Be genuine with your apology and try your best to make it up as soon as possible.

3) Cheating

It goes without saying that cheating, whether it be on an exam or on a partner, is never acceptable. If you are in a romantic relationship, you should respect your partner enough to talk to them about any and all problems. If there are irreconcilable differences, then it would be best to break things off.

When a partner cheats, it does not always signal the end of the relationship; however, it does make everything much more complicated. For married couples, cheating or adultery may be grounds for separation, divorce, or annulment. Some couples are able to recover from infidelity, but the damage is often severe. Worse yet, it can be a traumatizing experience and harm future relationships.

signs of a toxic relationship

4) You don’t enjoy time with them

Relationships should be enriching and enjoyable. However, your relationship may be toxic if you feel uncomfortable or even bored around your partner. Forcing yourself to be in someone else’s company can be draining on your part. It can be a waste of time as for both parties as well.

These can become points of resentment down the road. Indeed, many relationships fall apart when one person feels that they have “lost the spark.’ Before things go downhill, make sure that both of you are getting what you want our of the relationship. In addition, try new experiences every once in a while to keep things fresh.

5) Abusive behavior

Last but not least, the biggest red flag in any relationship is abuse. While we often think abuse as bruises or burns on the skin, it goes much deeper than this. Abuse can be manifested physically, emotionally, and sexually. People who abuse others take advantage and may even enjoy causing them harm.

Common traits of abusers include:

  • Minimizes or denies the severity of their actions (“I didn’t hit you that hard’)
  • Seeing their victims as objects or lesser beings (“I’m just putting you in your place’)
  • Manipulation or gaslighting (“I would never said that. You’re just imagining things’, “I would love you more if you looked like this’)
  • They may have underlying self-esteem issues (many abusers were victims as children or were bullied themselves)
  • The need to feel power over others (“Stop talking to that person because I said so’)
  • Never taking responsibility for their actions (“You made me do it’)
  • Having a different persona or image at different times (they may seem very nice at times but become violent later)

Sadly, abuse can happen to anyone regardless of gender, age, profession, religion, or race. In addition, abusers can be from any background or social standing.

Having a partner that is abusive or toxic can be confusing. You may think that you can overcome their actions by being more loving, but it might be more dangerous for you down the line.

Fortunately, there are therapies available for anger management and rehabilitation. If you or someone you know is being abused, contact the proper authorities as soon as possible.

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Key takeaways

In summary, there are many signs that you should be aware of in a toxic relationship. However, the bottom line is that if you feel uncomfortable, unhappy, or even afraid of someone, the relationship has already become toxic. If you are willing to work things through with the help of a professional therapist (and if the relationship is not abusive), it is possible to save the relationship. However, if you choose to leave, you should not feel bad or guilty about it.

For more relationship and intimacy concerns, it would be best to talk to a therapist.

Learn more about Healthy Relationships here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Written by

Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD


Updated Feb 11, 2021

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