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10 Behavioral Signs of a Toxic Relationship

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Image courtesy of  Michal Marcol  /

Image courtesy of Michal Marcol /

1. Possessiveness

Possessiveness originates from an individual’s feelings of insecurity. The possessive individual demands complete dedication and loyalty and becomes jealous and controlling if their partner causes them to doubt this dedication in the slightest. If a partner tries to break free of a possessive individual it increases the individuals insecurities and they become desperate to regain control.

Specific examples of possessive behavior in a relationship

  • All your decisions are based around your partner’s approval
  • Your partner decides who your friends are
  • Your partner systematically removes people who are close to you on “your” terms and either replaces them completely or converts the closeness to one that is on “their” terms.
  • You cannot go anywhere or do anything without your partner or their approval
  • Your partner checks your phone constantly and (in some cases) uses it to send messages pretending to be you
  • Your partner uses your social media pretending to be you and edits your friend lists and post posts to “re-affirm” your devotion to each other
  • Your partner checks your personal emails
  • Your partner becomes distrusting and upset when you deny them access to the above.

2. Controlling

A controlling individual’s primary concern is their own self-interests. They are petty and immature at heart and have to restrain their partners from doing things that will place them outside of the individual’s control or from achieving goals that will make the individual feel inferior. This manipulative personality stems from disorders that deal with narcissism, stubbornness, bi-polar personalities or histrionic personalities and anti-social behaviours.

Specific examples of controlling behavior in a relationship

  • Your partner keeps asking you about everyone you know or meet and details of their lives and how much time you spend with them and what you do together.
  • Your partner is easily jealous of others. This is displayed by negative comments and back-biting after they encounter a person.
  • Your partner is an expert at destructive criticism.
  • Your partner demands to spend more time with a particular group of friends the person they are jealous of are part of in order to undermine them.
  • Your partner displays vehement and persistent mood swings.
  • Your partner needs to feel like they are the center of attention

3. Entitlement

An individual with entitlement issues believes that the world revolves around them and they are entitled to be treated like royalty whilst feeling no empathy for the people around them. They are experts at asking for favours, dropping hints, freeloading and demanding time from their partners. Their idea of a “perfect” relationship is based on material show of affection.

Specific examples of entitlement behavior in a relationship

  • Your partner expects you to be their personal chauffer
  • Your partner feels massively put upon when you ask them for a favour, but expects you to jump at the opportunity to do them one.
  • Your partner drops hints like – “The rock is the most important thing”
  • Your partner reminds you of what their ex used to buy them – e.g. “my last boyfriend bought me a diamond necklace!”
  • Your partner never pays for anything and always expects you to take care of the bill.

4. Condescension

Condescension simply put is “masked nastiness” and is used by individuals with low self esteems as a way of feeling better about themselves. It is a passive-aggressive form of communication where the individual belittles their partners verbally while maintaining a friendly facade. The passive –aggression is implied through either tone or body language, for example a quick roll of the eyes or a sideways smirk.

Specific examples of condescending behavior in a relationship

  • Your partner has a habit of rolling their eyes while replying when you ask for their opinion on something
  • Your partner always says “if that’s what you want”
  • Your partner speaks with a double and condescending meaning

5. Undermining

Undermining is a behaviour that uses negativity as a social tool to stop people from accomplishing something or reaching a goal. An individual will undermine their partner for the purpose of keeping control of the relationship to a level they are comfortable with. They will subtly discourage any major decisions their partner may be considering which may decrease the individuals control and create insecurity.

Specific examples of undermining behavior in a relationship

  • Your partner lies regularly to make you change your mind
  • Your partner relishes gossip
  • Your partner keeps you away from your friends by telling you bad things about them
  • Your partner makes up bad things about your friends and family
  • Your life decisions are based more on what they want, rather than what you originally wanted.
  • Your partner makes you feel bad about decisions you make and blame any consequences on your thinking
  • You observe your partner undermining others
  • Your partner is unable to see other’s happiness and actively works towards undermining them.

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6. Distrust/Dishonesty

Individuals with trust issues are suspicious of everyone around them and are scared that loyalty to them is being betrayed by their partners. In most cases individuals with trust issues are the same individuals who are themselves dishonest with their partners. Because they are dishonest, they expect their partners to be dishonest as well and become suspicious and controlling of their partners actions. The slightest miscalculated action or slip of tongue from their partner can aggravate their issues with trust and increase their insecurities leading to escalated behaviours of control, possessiveness, undermining and etc.

Specific examples of distrusting behavior in a relationship

  • Your partner reacts to questions with suspicion.
  • Your partner answers questions vaguely, but gets upset if you don’t answer their questions clearly.
  • Your partner spies on you – both stalks or using electronic softwares and devices
  • Your partner keeps tabs on everything you do, everywhere you go and everyone you meet.
  • Your partner threatens your friends
  • Your partner demands access to all your personal social media and email accounts
  • Your partner opens your mail
  • Your partner checks your phone
  • Your partner goes through your bag and/or pockets

7. Judgemental

Judgmental individuals find fault with everything and everyone and in particular their partners. They have a habit of glorifying themselves by homing in on the smallest fault in their partners and magnifying it either verbally or through body language and actions. This behavior stems from control issues as the individual tries to groom their partner into a pre-determined version of an “ideal” mate. Judgmental individuals also find it very hard to socialize, be carefree and make or keep friends.

Specific examples of judgmental behavior in a relationship

  • Your partner cares more about what others think rather than what you think
  • Your partner is critical of your style
  • Your partner is critical of your friends
  • Your partner is critical of your family
  • Your partner is critical of your occupation
  • Your partner is critical of others
  • Your partner is constantly trying to change you – they have passed judgement that “You need help”

8. Faultlessness/Blameless

Faultlessness or blamelessness is when an individual cannot admit to their own mistakes and will look to blame others for the negative consequences of their actions. They put more value on preserving a spotless self-image than maintaining good relationships with their partner, friends, colleagues or family. They harbour a delusional belief that the world is against them if their mistakes become obvious and cut of relations with those who point it out.

Specific examples of faultlessness/blameless behavior in a relationship

  • Your partner exaggerates and blames you for small things
  • Your partner uses emotional manipulation to blame others for situations they’ve created
  • Your partner gets you involved in conflicts with others to stand up for you because secretly they know their argument isn’t credible
  • Your partner never admits to mistakes and becomes defensive and vehement

9. Backbiting

Backbiting is slandering someone when they are not present. Backbiting behaviour from an individual can stem from personal insecurities, jealousy and resentment. Normally the reason for the slander is something insignificant and not clear-cut and the backbiting individual will resort to attacking a victim’s character, exaggerating gossip and making up out-right lies to convince others of their victim’s bad character.

It is a repetitive habit and often practiced around the individual’s partner in which case it also comes down to control. By backbiting to ones partner about someone the individual is attempting to sway their partner to their personal insecurities about that person and seeking sympathy through emotional blackmail and creating a situation where their partner cannot develop or maintain a healthy relationship with that person.

Specific examples of faultlessness/blameless behavior in a relationship

  • Your partner always talks smack about one person or several people
  • Your partner is sweet like sugar in front of people they talk badly about
  • Your partner gets upset or feels insecure when something good happens to someone else
  • Your partner isn’t good at being happy for others
  • Your partner criticises others constantly
  • Your partner focuses on insignificant things such as clothing brand, hair, make-up, money
  • Your partner is always convincing you how much better they are then a certain person. Richer, wiser, smarter, prettier, doctor, etc.
  • Your partner is always competing

10. Selfishness

It takes two people and a lot of give and take to make a healthy lasting relationship. Selfish individuals do not understand this, nor do they want to. To them the relationship is all about perks financially, socially and materialistically. Selfish individuals believe that their personal happiness is their partner’s happiness and that their partners are there to grant them all their whims.

Specific examples of selfish behavior in a relationship

  • Your partner mostly talks about themselves
  • Your partner only thinks about how things affect them and no one else
  • Your partner expects things from everyone around them while contributing very little to them in return
  • Your partner has an entitlement mentality
  • Your partner doesn’t give into anyone whether they are right or wrong
  • Your partner promises things that they never follow through
  • Your partner thinks its okay to lie, manipulate and exploit you or others to in order to get what they want
  • Your partner doesn’t consider the impacts of their actions and believe themselves to be above reproach

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 HubTen5


Benjamin on March 18, 2019:

I am not sure what "bi-polar personalities" the author is referring to, there is no such term or concept in a clinical context. It is possible to write articles without playing into stigma or trivialising certain population groups' experiences with mental health (that don't include egocentric, immature, controlling and belittling behaviour). These practices, too, can be quite toxic and damaging. I feel that a revision would be in order.

Melissa on December 30, 2018:

I'm trying to define a behavior my boyfriend has. If i wrong him he will carry on about it for days or weeks. He uses phrases like. I cant believe you did this to me. How could you make me feel this way or I never thought i could feel this way about you. At first I feel bad for upseting him. Then i get mad as it continues. I call him on the behavior and he refuses to understand how it is disrepectful to me. I do expect him to tell me when he is upset and what his expectations are of me but this is madness

maureen on April 12, 2017:

such a good article. ..very to the point. .unfortunately

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