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6 Ways to Tell If You and Your Partner Are In a Toxic Relationship

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Are you giving everything and getting nothing but hurt? It’s time to move on…

The unspoken dating rule is that once you’re bonded with someone, you don’t want to let go, even if things aren’t going great.

Since most of us like to avoid our feelings, we don’t want to do the grieving that’s necessary to let go. But when you’ve had a loss, there are a certain number of tears you must cry to let go — getting on with the crying is the fastest way. Even if the dissolution of the relationship was your idea, you may be clinging to a dream — in denial.

A bad relationship can become like an addiction — a difficult habit to break, because you are emotionally attached, and the attached part of you wants to keep trying, while the rational part knows you need to let go.

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We also have a lot of cultural mythology about “I’ll never stop loving you” and that clinging and martyring to a toxic love means you are truly in love. Clinging to a toxic love is immature, to begin with. A relationship is a partnership and requires work on both lovers’ parts in order to succeed.

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The initial romance stage isn’t supposed to last, the relationship is supposed to grow into a real-life partnership, and that requires paying attention, learning and growth. It’s not a fairy tale — it’s a real life love story, and well worth the work required.

If you give nothing, you get nothing; but you can’t be the only one giving. Your partner must be acting in ways that make the relationship better, not worse.

Sometimes, a toxic partner doesn’t really want to be with you, but either doesn’t want to “hurt you” or is still getting benefits (sex without commitment, you do the laundry, you’re willing to take the kids more than your share) that he doesn’t want to jeopardize.

If you gave it your best shot, and you know it’s over, or if it never really got started, don’t waste time in resentment and anger. Learn to let go. If you’re dumping a badly behaved cheater/jerk, be careful. Jerks often throw temper tantrums when they don’t get what they want, so break up from a distance. I often advise clients who need to break up with an abusive, violent partner or a stalker to break up via e-mail to be safer.

If you find you have real reason to doubt this person, and there are real problems, such as lying, severe money problems, a history of alcohol abuse, violence, many past relationship problems, a criminal record, reports of illegal activities, or drug use, do not make excuses, and do not accept promises of change. Change is difficult and will take a lot of time.

Mere promises, no matter how well intended, are not sufficient. Get out of this relationship before you are any more attached, or any more degraded than you are now. If your partner decides to get help, let him do it because he or she knows they need it, not to get you back. That’s not a strong enough motive to keep him committed to change.

From Our Experts: How to Get Over a Bad Breakup

To dump a jerk, don’t be kind. He won’t get it. Be clear, say “It’s over” in no uncertain terms, ask him not to contact you, and then cut him off. Block your ex on the phone, on Facebook, and other social media sites. If you keep looking at his Facebook page, or letting him contact you, you are not grieving and letting yourself heal and move on. Don’t answer phone calls, e-mails, etc. If you do, you’ll give him cause to think he can badger you into coming back. If he shows up, don’t let him in. If you have to call the police to get rid of him, do it. He’s a spoiled brat, and he needs to know you mean what you say.

Know the signs of emotional blackmail that could lead to a toxic relationship:

  1. Your partner won’t take “no” for an answer, and requests are really demands.
  2. Every discussion turns into an argument.
  3. Your partner pressures you to go along.
  4. When it’s not going your partner’s way, he/she uses threatening or coercing tactics: threatening to end the relationship, crying, rage, badgering.
  5. Once he/she knows you can be pressured into giving in, the pressure increases.
  6. You’re trapped in a cycle going through the Numbers 1 through 5 over and over, and you’re getting worn down each time. The easiest thing is to be sure when you say “no,” it means no.

This guest article originally appeared on 6 Signs That Your Relationship Is Sucking The Life Out Of You.

6 Ways to Tell If You and Your Partner Are In a Toxic Relationship

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APA Reference
Guest Author, P. (2018). 6 Ways to Tell If You and Your Partner Are In a Toxic Relationship. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 5, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 11 Jan 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.