5 Signs of a Toxic Relationship: What Are Toxic People?

Updated on June 19, 2017
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After seeing many friends (or himself) seduced by love, only to crash and burn afterwards, Jorge writes advice based on his observations.

Signs of a Toxic Relationship - It's Worse Than You Think

Toxic people are those individuals who contribute nothing to your life--and in fact, make it worse. A toxic person could be anyone: a friend, a lover, or even a parent or sibling.

The point is that toxic people suck the joy out of your life by their mere presence.

You know the type: You dread visiting them because you know they'll bring you down. You hesitate to pick up the phone when you see them call because you know you're going to feel depressed by the time you hang up. You avoid them at parties because you know they are going to start drama.

The thing is, we often still feel obligated to spend time with these people out of a sense of duty. This is especially true if they're a family member like a parent or grandparent. They might even guilt trip you into coming around when you'd rather not.

Just because someone is toxic doesn't mean that they're a bad person, though. Often they don't even realize what they're doing to other people. Still, being around them can not only bring you down emotionally, but can start to affect your life in general.

If you have to constantly deal with someone's negativity, that's mental energy that you could have put into educating yourself, working harder, or just having rewarding leisure time. Toxic people are a drain on all of those resources.

If you suspect that you are in a toxic relationship, look at these tell-tale signs to get a better idea of what you're dealing with:

Many signs of a toxic relationship may go unnoticed if you're simply used to the dysfunction.
Many signs of a toxic relationship may go unnoticed if you're simply used to the dysfunction.

Sign #1: You Hate Sharing Good News With This Person

Toxic people have a way of draining all the happiness out of life. If you're afraid to tell a person good news because you know that they'll always have something negative to say about it, that's a definite sign that you're in a toxic relationship.

"So I decided to start a new business."

"Oh my gosh, in this economy? You know that 90% of businesses go bankrupt their first year, right? Do you have the money for that?"

Does that conversation sound familiar at all? Maybe it's time to let go of this toxic relationship. It might be holding you back from bettering yourself.

Sign #2: You Actively Hide Parts of Yourself From Them

Being around a toxic person can be like walking on eggshells because you never know when they're going to unleash their negativity. Slowly, you learn to adapt your behavior and hide parts of yourself in order not to "trigger" them.

For example, if you have a very toxic friend who sabotages your romantic relationships, you might fail to let them know that you started dating someone. You might hide your love life from them entirely.

If your parent always has something negative to say about your finances, you might hide the fact that you bought a new car or that you got a new job.

If your boss always criticizes you for every tiny mistake, you might start to hide everything that goes wrong at work until it snowballs.

Toxic people poison the emotional environment with their drama.
Toxic people poison the emotional environment with their drama.

Sign #3: You Feel Relief When They're Not Around

Have you ever had a boss that everyone seemed to hate? Wasn't it interesting how people would get more work done when he or she wasn't around?

You might have had a toxic boss. These are often people who feed their own egos out of a sense of authority or even sadism. Other times they're toxic people who just don't know how to relate to other humans properly, so they resort to yelling or similarly inappropriate forms of motivation.

A huge problem with these kinds of "authority" figures is that they create a hostile work environment. Workers end up producing less efficiently because their morale is extremely low.

A similar thing can happen with toxic people in a family. While some misguided parents believe that being harsh with their children will cultivate respect, often the opposite is true and the child will become resentful. Maybe you were that child at one point. Did you feel relief when you were free from your parents' criticism?

A huge sign of a toxic relationship is when your life is simply better without them around.

Sign #4: You Get the Urge to Ignore Your Phone When They Call

Phones are easier to ignore than a person's physical presence. You can just make up an excuse for why you couldn't answer, right?

When a toxic person calls, you know that you're in for a conversation that could sour your day. If you feel this way about a person and find yourself avoiding contact with them, this is a glaring sign that they are a toxic influence in your life.

Toxic People and You

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#5: You Feel the Need to Warn Other People About Them

It's natural to want to protect our spouse, children, and dear friends from toxic people. Have you ever found yourself warning people about someone?

Maybe it's subtle:

"My mom really loves to judge if you're not the type of person to go to church every Sunday. Maybe it's better to just not mention you're an atheist."

Maybe it's extreme:

"Yeah, watch out for Linda. If you tell her anything personal she'll use it against you and blab it to everyone at the office."

Either way, if you find yourself trying to spare people from the pain and suffering that someone inflicts on your, then that's a sign of a toxic relationship.

Are toxic people wearing you out?
Are toxic people wearing you out?

How to Deal With Toxic People

Sometimes we're thrown into a situation where we have to be around toxic people. This can be tough because their presence is so draining that it might actually make it harder to find a way to leave.

We might be in a job that we can't afford to quit, or a relationship with a family member who can't take care of themselves. What can we do to deal with toxic people like this?

Set Boundaries

The first thing we can do is set boundaries and enforce them. No, you boss can't call you on the weekends. No, your Uncle needs to stop calling you by your embarrassing childhood nickname.

Of course, for this to really work you have to be willing to walk away from the toxic person--and they have to be aware of this, too. Otherwise, you are just blowing hot air.

At the very least, be willing to put some distance and silence between the two of you if they won't respect your limits.

Letting Go of Toxic Relationships

Ultimately, the most efficient way to deal with toxic people is to just let go of the toxic relationship. It may be difficult at first, especially if you have a sense of duty towards the person or you have known them for a long time. Perhaps they are a childhood friend or a family member. Loyalty can keep us close to toxic people that we might otherwise cut out of our lives.

Sometimes, if the person won't listen to reason or agree to your boundaries, then this is what you have to do.

If you hate confrontation, sometimes you may be able to slowly lose contact with the person by just progressively ignoring their calls and texts more and more. This works especially well with coworkers or random acquaintances. For toxic people who are closer to you, though, such as your entire family, you may only be able to rid yourself of their influence if you move away.

It's tough, but it's for the best. You're not doing them any good by enabling them, either. Spend some time away from the toxic person and feel the relief of not having them around to remind yourself of why you need to let them go.

Leaving Toxic Relationships

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Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Jorge Vamos

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      • profile image

        Lauren 

        2 days ago

        Yeah I had to let let go of a friendship recently I'm now on good terms with my former friend I knew he was toxic because I never felt happy for a year and a half I hadn't been happy he never made time for me he only texted me something felt very wrong with that friendship ever since he got a girlfriend I started seeing red flags everywhere I knew he wasn't a good friend I'm not sure why I stuck around so long his girlfriend was around a lot of the time but she needed to get away from me another red flas was he never made time for me

      • dashingscorpio profile image

        dashingscorpio 

        13 months ago

        Anytime you're not "free" to just (be yourself) in a relationship you're in a "toxic relationship". Being "unhappy" with how you're being treated is another major sign.

        If something doesn't (feel right) to you it's probably not right for you. Natural compatibility trumps compromise!

        Too often people are willing to embrace "drama" because they're programmed to believe relationships are "hard work".

        A healthy relationship is a "labor of love".

        Much like a gardener who gets up early in the morning to till the soil, plant seeds, add fertilizer, water, pull weeds, and build a fence if need be to keep out pests.

        He/she knows if they (neglect) the garden it will die.

        Doing whatever is necessary to (maintain) something (you) wanted is the mature and responsible thing to do.

        Any so called "work" is truly a "labor of love".

        If a relationship is "hard work" you're probably with the wrong person and possibly in a "toxic relationship"!

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