Advertising
Advertising

8 Signs of a Toxic Relationship and How to Save Yourself from It

8 Signs of a Toxic Relationship and How to Save Yourself from It

You know what it’s like to have the honeymoon phase of any relationship die down. It’s fun and exciting in the beginning, but you get comfortable and the relationship can begin to get a little stale.

The longer the relationship lasts, the more ups and downs you will run into. While this is all totally normal, it’s important to be aware of certain negative behaviors you may run into so that you can guard yourself from their toxic effects.

So take a moment to ask yourself,

“Do I know what an unhealthy relationship looks like and how to handle the situation?”

Now imagine how much heartache you can save yourself if you knew the answer to this question more in depth. You’d be able to pick up on things much earlier before it’s too late where the relationship already reaches an unhealthy level.

Keep reading below to learn about the eight signs of toxic relationships to look out for and how to deal with them.

1. Your partner has become apathetic

When you notice your partner being more disengaged, this may be a sign that s/he is beginning to give up on the relationship. You’ll notice either they don’t argue as much with you or they just give in to your wishes because they don’t really care as much anymore.

Your partner has stopped feeling the same highs s/he felt when the relationship first started. And when you work even harder to make the relationship work, this can become even more toxic if your partner just sticks around because now s/he feels guilty. You find that the more of yourself that you keep giving, the less reciprocation you receive.

What should you do?

Before going on and trying to repair the relationship, it’s important here to provide an environment for your partner where s/he feels safe to tell you what s/he is going through.

Asking “Are you okay?” usually isn’t the greatest question. Being candid and open with your own feelings are a great start. You may want to start off with something more along the lines of “It feels like you’ve been so disengaged and distant lately, what’s been on your mind?”

Helping your partner feel emotionally safe with you is the key to starting the process of repairing the relationship that will help your partner feel connected to you again.

Other times, even though you haven’t done anything wrong and you’ve been a great partner, sometimes the best thing you can do at this point is to give your partner some space to work his or her own problems out.

2. Your partner is controlling

An important part when it comes to a healthy relationship is to make decisions together. Not for each other.

People who are controlling feel the need to be in charge of everything and express this need by being manipulative with both their environment and the people around them.

If you find yourself feeling like you need to ask for permission for simple things like meeting up with other friends or even family members, it’s a sign that you’re partner is exhibiting controlling behavior.

Advertising

Controlling partners will also use threats to get you to do what they want and they may even go as far as threatening to end the relationship.

This kind of behavior stems from a deep sense of insecurity and it’s toxic because it kills any opportunity for intimacy and connection.

While in the beginning it might feel like your partner is making such strong suggestions because s/he cares so much, you’ll eventually realize the behavior really is more selfish than selfless.

What should you do?

Controlling behavior is usually a reaction to anxiety, jealousy and insecurity. A great place to start is by helping your partner feel safe to talk about this specific behavior.

Sometimes, partners will be able to acknowledge that this behavior is inappropriate and that they should be able to trust and respect you. If this is the case, there is hope for growth in the relationship.

Other times, there may be excuses as to why they act this way. One common excuse is that they are just looking out for your best interest because they want to make sure you don’t run into trouble. It’s likely that partners like this view you as someone to be fixed.

They may try to change things like your behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs in order to help themselves feel more in control. If this is the case, they are in a judgmental mindset and you may want to consider getting professional help if necessary or start setting boundaries (See number six) and keeping your distance from them.

3. Your partner shames you

Do you often find yourself feeling like a horrible person after interacting with your partner?

If you do, it may be time to start paying attention to how your partner speaks with you. If you find that your partner is often criticizing your character, this is a clear sign that s/he is shaming you.

And this will kill your relationship because of one important thing.

Shame makes intimacy impossible.

When someone attacks your character, it causes you to feel shame rather than guilt. And to illustrate the difference, guilt is “I did something bad” versus shame, which is “I am bad”.

Rather than making you feel included in the relationship, shame will make you feel alone and isolated.

Some cases where toxic partners might shame you is by directly attacking your character with verbal abuse through yelling, berating, and judging.

Other times, partners may shame you in more subtle ways through making demeaning sarcastic comments or saying hurtful jokes about you. This is cold violence.

Advertising

What should you do?

People who shame others really do it to make themselves feel better about themselves.

If you find yourself feeling hurt because of the comments your partner makes, it’s important to reevaluate if this relationship is one worth staying in. People who shame others are usually are emotional bullies and will often make you feel like you’re stupid or overreacting when you express how hurt you are.

If you find yourself feeling small, isolated and alone, first go find someone who your trust and love and share the story of what happened. The reason for this if your partner isn’t someone who validates your feelings, you need to find someone who will.

Then it’s time to start thinking about how to either repair or end the relationship. Speak with your partner and if s/he isn’t willing to listen or try to understand how the toxic behavior is affecting you, then it’s probably best to distance yourself from the relationship.

4. Your partner is passive aggressive

Have you ever had a situation where you ask partners if they’d be willing to do something for you and they say yes, but do it in a resistant way? While they’re helping you, they are half-hearted, making harsh complaints, and resentful at what you asked of them.

This is passive aggressive behavior.

It’s like those times you ask someone if s/he is okay and you get the reply “I’m fine,” but you get the silent treatment the whole time.

Passive aggressive behavior will show itself through procrastination, resistance and sabotage. You’ll also notice a lot of passive aggressive behavior the most through non-verbal communication. People will be holding expressions of contempt and anger during their interactions with you.

Here’re 12 Ways Passive-Aggressiveness Can Slowly Killing Your Relationships.

What should you do?

People who are passive aggressive don’t know how to clearly communicate their feelings. They often expect you to read their minds and already know what they are going through.

The reason they have so much trouble being open and honest is usually because of the fear of disappointing others. They are worried that if they say no to you, that you might end the relationship.

So they would much rather say yes when you ask of a favor that they would rather not do. This causes them to do it unwillingly while resenting you because they feel you should’ve known not to ask in the first place.

When dealing with a passive aggressive partner, the key is to help them feel safe enough with you to be honest about how they really feel.

Open up conversation to reassure partners that you value their honest opinion and that you would never hold things against them for it even if it means having to have a hard conversation about it. Then express how hurt or troubled you are by the behavior so this can open up the conversation on how to improve the relationship.

5. Your partner holds grudges

People who bring up the past issues you’ve already settled over and over again usually means they haven’t gotten over it yet. Partners who hold grudges like this mean they have never truly forgiven you.

Advertising

As more time passes in any relationship, there will come a point where you get hurt. And unless you’re planning to ditch every relationship that you started whenever you get into a conflict, forgiveness will play a key part in keeping the relationship healthy and growing.

The strongest relationships are strong not just because of all the positive situations they have, but it’s more-so because of how they handle the negative ones together.

You’ll find that these couples know how to tackle the tough conversations and always try their best to find a healthy way to use forgiveness in effort to move towards reconciliation in times of conflict.

What should you do?

If you’re partner often holds grudges that s/he can’t let go of, this can lead to a toxic situation.

If you notice your partner subtly or obviously bringing up past issues you thought were already resolved, it may be time to have a conversation about it again.

You will probably need to dig deeper to see if your apology wasn’t enough and if it wasn’t, you may need to first figure out what is expected of you to help you reconcile with your partner.

If the expectation is unreasonable, there may be a chance the grudge is not only towards you.

You’ve probably triggered a reaction to some painful experiences your partner has gone through because of other people that s/he has still not gotten over yet. If this is the case, professional help may be required. But the key first step is to really validate your partners feelings as s/he express them.

6. Your boundaries aren’t respected

When you get comfortable in a relationship, it may be easier for your partner to try and pressure you to do something s/he wants. It may be okay with you the first few times to give in, but the more frequently this kind of situation occurs, the more toxic the relationship becomes.

People in healthy relationships understand each other and know how to respect the other’s boundaries. When partners start to cross those boundaries, it’s a sign that they no longer respect your own needs and values.

What should you do?

Being firm with your boundaries can be really tough to do especially with people you love and care about. Nevertheless, it’s ultimately your responsibility to set them. Otherwise, people will never know and may often cross them without even knowing.

You will end up being the one suffering the most because you might end up in situations where you are resentful, exhausted and overwhelmed.

If your partner crosses a boundary, first thing to do is to speak up about it. Let the conversation flow so you can get on the same page and let your partner know how you would like him or her or to adjust the behavior.

If you find that your partner repeatedly crosses your boundaries, you will have to make the tough choice and take action to prevent him or her from doing it again whether it’s taking a break from the relationship or cutting it off entirely.

7. You feel like you’re always walking on eggshells with your partner

If you find yourself in fear of how your partner will react to something reasonable that you’re wanting to do, you’re likely in a toxic relationship already.

Advertising

For example, you might be hiding certain text messages you received from certain people because you’re afraid of how your partner may react. Or maybe you’re afraid to go out with certain friends from work because you’re afraid your partner will get jealous.

Assuming that you’re a loyal and caring person, if you find yourself constantly feeling this kind of fear and anxiety when making decisions, it means you don’t feel safe to share these things with your partner. Hence, at times it leads you to be secretive and even dishonest about some things.

What should you do?

The healthiest relationship are always built upon a foundation of trust and open communication.

If you’re frequently thinking about how you might make your partner mad and you intentionally avoid doing those things, it is an unhealthy relationship; especially when you end up avoiding doing things that are reasonable and something you normally would want to do such as hanging out with new friends or going to new events.

This will be tough, but since the relationship is probably moving towards a toxic one anyway, it’s important to have a discussion with your partner how you have been feeling. If your partner’s jealousy and anger are causing him or her to engage in irrational behaviors, it’s important to understand and address why s/he is doing so.

These situations often stem from your partner’s fears and insecurities because of previous painful experiences from other relationships. The key here is to help your partner feel safe enough to talk about those things first. So then you can then open up the conversation about how it’s been negatively affecting you and discuss how to improve things.

If you can’t get to a place where you feel safe enough to be yourself around your partner because of how s/he is behaving, the relationship is probably not one worth investing in.

8. Your partner is overly dependent on you

If you’ve been feeling like you always have to tend to your partner’s needs at a moments notice, you have a partner that overly depends on you. This usually occurs in partners who who don’t have a strong sense of identity and struggle with a low sense of self worth.

This kind of relationship is toxic because you don’t feel the freedom to be yourself. Instead, you start taking on the role of being a servant rather than a friend or partner.

You’ll start to feel guilty for wanting to spend time on yourself when it’s probably one of the most important things for you to do at this point.

What should you do?

It’s important for you to care for yourself too and if you find it difficult to express this to your partner, it’s only going to end up for the worst.

Express how you’ve been feeling to your partner. It will be a difficult conversation so if the first few ones don’t go too well, you may need to seek professional help or worst case scenario may be to start considering ending the relationship.

Either way, if you’re finding yourself stretched too thin and starting to feel like this is a one-sided relationship, it’s important to get the conversation about it started with your partner. It’s the only road that leads to the possibility of reconciliation and a healthier relationship.

Final thoughts

The healthiest relationships are formed from people who continually build up a safe environments for each other in order to make it feel okay to be vulnerable.

Toxic relationships always cause people to feel unsafe to express their opinions and really be their genuine selves .

Review the 8 signs mentioned here and if you feel like you are stuck in a toxic relationship, the first step is to acknowledge that this is a problem. Seek professional help if necessary, take care of yourself and most importantly, stay true to yourself.

Featured photo credit: The HK Photo Company via unsplash.com

More by this author

Eugene K. Choi

A life coach who helps people discover how to best utilize their passions and talents through a proven process.

15 Ways Meditation Benefits Your Brain Power and Your Mood Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly How a Gratitude Journal Can Drastically Change Your Life How to Be Happy Again: 13 Simple Ways to Shake off Sadness Now How to Attain Self Realization (Step-By-Step Guide)

Trending in Social Animal

1 How to Use the Law of Reciprocity for Effective Persuasion 2 What Will Happen When You Surround Yourself With Positive People? 3 How to Surround Yourself With Positive People 4 How to Create Social Goals to Make an Impact in the World 5 The Lifehack Show: Improving Social Skills with Dr. Daniel Wendler

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

Advertising

1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

Advertising

3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

Advertising

It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

Advertising

Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next