Nearly all of us have been in a toxic relationship or two. Then, once we get out of that relationship and get over the heartache, we look back and wonder, “What on Earth was I thinking?” This is when it all becomes so clear. This is when we reflect and can pretty much pin-point where and when things started to go wrong. This is when it’s too late, and we have already invested (or wasted, to be blunt) precious time on what we might call “a tree with no fruit.”

In the aftermath, we learn what our family and our friends truly thought and all of the “Danger, Turn Back” and other toxic signs they saw but … respectfully, chose to keep quiet about so that you could figure things out for yourself. We ask ourselves, “Why?” Being fairly intelligent creatures, we don’t quite understand how things could be so obvious and in-your-face, yet we, in our “love goggles” never saw it coming. Well, here are a few relationship “red flags” that we should never ignore. If your person displays these toxic behaviors, wipe the lenses of those goggles and start paying attention.

Attempting to Control Your Appearance

You had your own, personal style before you met this person, right? You were rocking that look when you met … right? If all of a sudden, your “soul-mate” seems to have issues with the way you dress, this could be an issue. Maybe you are an attractive person and you feel comfortable in your skin and maybe he or she feels like you should tone it down to “dumpster dressing” so that you don’t attract too much attention. Maybe you feel more comfortable in relaxed casual attire and they suddenly feel you should step up your game.

This can be a sign of jealousy, arrogance or the need to control. If you reflect back to your initial connection with this person and feel like you are being pushed into a place where you can’t be yourself anymore, step back. You can try the adult conversation, of course, and tell them how you are starting to feel but, this behavior is not new and will most likely continue, probably even becoming worse.

(I once dated a person who cut up all of my clothes when I was away from home because he didn’t like what I wore to my friend’s wedding. The above is just how it started.)

Invading Your Personal Privacy

Relationships are intimate. We share a lot of personal things with our “person” that we don’t normally share with the rest of the world. However, we are individuals, and we are entitled to be exactly that. If the person in your life is sneaking around, trying to discover your fantastical, secret life, by sneaking your phone, going through your Facebook or checking the history on your computer, you may have yourself a problem. This is on an even worse level if you have given the person you are with an open invitation to look (with permission) and they still sneak, like the clumsy ninja they are, trying to do it behind your back.

Signs Of A Toxic Relationship
Signs Of A Toxic Relationship | Photo by Gilles Lambert on Unsplash

This can be a sign of insecurity as well as personal guilt. We all know that a person who behaves a certain way doesn’t necessarily understand that other people don’t always act like they do. You are probably looking at one of two things with this. The person you are with has had an extremely traumatic, past relationship experience that has burned insecurity into their lives or … more likely, you are dealing with someone who has their own dark secrets – that you probably don’t want to know about – and they think you do, too.

(I used to work from home. I once caught a person I was dating peeking into my office window behind me … trying to see what I was doing while I was working at my desk. This person then lied and said, “I was just trying to see if you were awake.”)

Isolating You From Family and Friends

It’s all “happy-go-lucky”, in the beginning, with no strings and the freedom to visit your friends and attend family gatherings. If you have introduced your “special person” into this group and things start feeling weird. Pay attention. If you start hearing things like, “I don’t feel like going to that.” or “Why don’t we just stay home or do something by ourselves?” too often, you may have a problem here. While sometimes it is subtly done, there may even be times when you hear outright protests. If you are hearing “I don’t like your friends!” or “I don’t want to go there because I don’t think your friends like me.” … this is when you should assess the situation.


Another way this is done is through guilt. If you are dealing with, “Why can’t we just spend time together? Am I not enough for you?” or “Why do we have to be around your friends? We only need each other.” … this is when you put your foot down. You are seeing signs of toxic dynamics such as control, selfishness and possibly even future abuse. One of the first things a control freak wants to do is alienate you from all of your people. Not long after, they may begin working on the complete and total destruction of your self-esteem, possibly even keeping you from working, and ultimately, backing you into a corner where you must solely depend on them.

(I have a relative who married a woman that eventually alienated him from our entire family. She would guilt him right out of coming to any gathering we had by playing “sick” or “injured” with magical timing.)

Unrelenting Criticism
A woman criticizing her husband. Signs of a toxic relationship include unrelenting criticism.
Signs of a toxic relationship include unrelenting criticism

Another sign that you might be in a toxic relationship is constant criticism. The relationship gets to a point where you feel that you can not do anything right; everything you say or do annoys him. You deal with this by tiptoeing around in your own relationship, but you need to understand that you are not the problem and that this is not a long-term solution.

Unless you both roll up your sleeves and open an honest line of communication as to why there is such unhappiness/frustration, the passive-aggressive behavior will continue add to the existing toxicity of the relationship.

While some of these relationship issues may show up as a rare occurrence that you may be able to talk through, it is important that we keep our wits about us and recognize these toxic signs before they get out of hand and take control. One of the easiest ways to do this is to step out of our own shoes. Look at the situation as if it had happened to a dear friend or a loved one who was coming to you for advice. What would you say to them? Once you know the answer to that, step back into your own shoes and handle your business like the champ you are. Life is meant for smiling. No one needs a toxic relationship.

Photo by Dollar Gill on Unsplash

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