Why is it, even though you’re in a relationship–maybe even in love–you still feel so unhappy and unsatisfied with your partner? Is this what sharing your life with someone is supposed to be like? Maybe everything you thought you knew about love is wrong because when you’re with you’re partner you don’t feel swept off your feet, you don’t feel butterflies in your stomach…what you feel like is something more like anxiety. Here are four warning signs to tell if you’re in a toxic relationship.
1. The Criticizing
Criticism can be helpful when a partner points out a problem the other person in the relationship doesn’t notice. It’s how healthy relationships work. But once a problem ends so should the critique. With a criticizer in a toxic relationship everything the other person does is a target that can be attacked, and often in front of other people. This goes beyond playful banter: this criticism is overly harsh and causes real harm. Behind a chronic criticizer is a person whose low self-esteem leads them to find faults in their partner because of their own insecurities. Criticizers need to fix themselves first, or else they may not have partners to criticize for long.
2. The Controlling
Power dynamics in relationships can be tricky. Sometimes one partner clearly runs the show. That can be okay, if the other person doesn’t want any control, but other people may feel like they have no say over their lives. Controlling partners limit their loved ones’ choices and never let them have any independence. Even if their controlling partners make them go out and party, the other person in the relationship feels locked away from the world, like prisoners, because doing that was not their choice. Someone has to let go, or else you’ll both be searching for more leverage somewhere else.
3. The Withholding
Keeping things to yourself is one thing, but withholding is something else. Withholding is when one or both of the people in the relationship refuse to share how they really feel to keep the other person from harm. That may seem nice, but it’s actually toxic because if something is wrong, the other person has no idea about it and therefore can never hope to fix it. The brokeness spreads, and eventually the relationship will fall apart. Open up, or you’ll have to pick up the pieces.
4. The Lying
You’re not going to find a much worse sign that you’re in a toxic relationship than if your partner is overtly lying to you. Some liars are so good at what they do that it almost seems as if they believe the lies that they tell instead of the truth, and blame you for not believing them. This is probably the most toxic trait on this list. If you’re the one who thinks you need to hide everything from your partner, consider the harm you are doing both to that person and to yourself: eventually your lies are going to get you dumped.