Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)

Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)

The keys to a healthy relationship are respect, communication, and independence.

If you find in your relationship that there are feelings of contempt, distrust, or that you don’t feel fulfilled, then it may be becoming toxic.

Silvia Congost is a psychologist specializing in emotional dependence, self-esteem, and relationships.

“A toxic relationship is one in which you end up suffering or feeling unhappy, creating symptoms of anxiety and depression and gradually making you lose yourself,” Congost told Insider.

It can happen when you suffer emotional or physical abuse, but it can also happen in relationships where you simply have nothing in common.

There are a number of things that indicate you may not be with the right person.

Congost shared some of the most common symptoms of toxic relationships on her website:

  • You’re constantly having doubts about the relationship but thinking you can fix it
  • You’re unable to think about life without the other person, even if you dislike many of their personal traits
  • The relationship is continuing out of necessity
  • You lack healthy communication
  • You’re always having the same arguments
  • You’re becoming isolated from your friends and your mood is worsening

A healthy relationship implies that each partner feels accepted, free, and fulfilled.

But, if you’ve noticed any of these symptoms repeating in your relationships, then it may be because you’re someone who tends to become emotionally dependent.

You become “addicted” to your partner, and you end up in a toxic relationship.

Reasons why some are more likely to end up in toxic relationships

While it’s not actually possible to be “addicted” to a toxic relationship, Congost said that “there can be an inclination.”

For example, this could happen when a child experiences their parents’ toxic relationship.

“If our parents had a toxic relationship, and we understand that we have learned from them and have been programmed to look for the same thing, then it’s for this reason that we end up recreating this in our own lives, until we become aware of it, learn, and change,” Congost said.

This isn’t the only reason it can happen.

“Those who have low self-esteem — feelings of insecurity and unworthiness — or those who are going through a difficult time in their lives — a big loss or an unexpected event,” can also end up in a toxic relationship, she added.

Congost explained some other traits that can make you more likely to choose harmful relationships.

“A person who tends to deceive themselves, with obvious self-esteem issues, who likes to play the savior, looking for partners with problems, addictions, or disorders,” said Congost.

How to avoid ending up in codependent relationships

Simply recognizing the pattern can be the first step in breaking it. Often, it’s more than possible to get out of these relationships if you’re able to spot the signs.

“It’s important not to jump straight into another relationship, and when one ends, stop and analyze what happened,” Congost said.

The key then is to understand why you were attracted to these people in the first place and why you don’t want to pursue a relationship with them anymore.

“Only then will we be able to identify them and escape before it’s too late and we’re too involved in the relationship,” she added.

If you don’t think you’re capable of doing this on your own, then it may be a good idea to seek psychological help.

Our resident expert on how adult attachment styles can submarine our love lives.

Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)

Your Best Year Ever continues! All throughout October, clinical psychologist Dr. Wendy Walsh will help you untangle your heartstrings with just the right amount of tough (science-backed) love.

Toxic relationships come in a couple of sizes. There are the super-sized ones involving drug and alcohol dependence or violence that are easy to spot (though not-so-easy to ditch). And then there are the insidious mid-sized, self-esteem-sucking relationships, the kind that stealthily slide a lock around our hearts and snap it closed with promises of a happy future. The monumental problem with this kind of toxic relationship is that it’s not always bad. In fact, it’s good most of the time. Until it isn’t. And then it’s really, really awful. And, sometimes, nothing short of an intervention can help you kick your addiction to hope—hope that the low performance boyfriend will morph back into the prince who made you feel beautiful and giddy on those first few dates. The easiest way to be free of a toxic relationship is to learn how to avoid them in the first place. So, if you are ready to rise from your mascara-stained pillowcase, I’ve got four simple tricks to avoiding this kind of heartbreak altogether:

1. Know Your Attachment Style

Here’s a gentle reminder: Your toxic relationship needs some raw material to work with. As hard as it is to imagine, you’ve been cooperating with your inner addict all along. Here’s the crazy thing about love: it’s a blueprint drawn before you were verbal; and if your early-life attachments were unhappy, you’ll spend your adult romantic life trying to make repairs to a broken system. Our adult romantic attachment style remains a silent manipulator until we do the work (this could mean therapy, personal self-reflection, journaling, etc.) to really understand what attracted us to Mr. Toxic in the first place.

2. Speak Your Truth

When you begin to learn your attachment style—whether it’s riddled with abandonment fears, intimacy avoidance behaviors, or a disorganized push-pull mechanism—you’ll also learn to become acutely aware of your personal roller coaster of feelings. But just as important as identifying those feelings is being able to communicate them. That may mean that even in a vulnerable, new relationship, you explain why it would be helpful to receive regular texts or suggest waiting to have sex until you feel more secure about things. This is the literal opposite of game playing. You’ll understand that you control the pace of an early relationship, and that your emotional needs are valid. Being able to model healthy emotional communication will also create a safe place for him to open up about his feelings.

3. Red Flags Mean Stop

Therapy and emotional honesty won’t necessarily make you happy, but these things will make you real. If you’re truly relating in an authentic, open, vulnerable way, and facing a partner who is rejecting or dismissive, this is called a red flag. You must be brave and move away early. This isn’t a signal to squelch your feelings or your voice. This isn’t an indication that you are unlovable. This is simply confirmation that you two are a bad match. And the game of finding a secure relationship is a game of elimination. Be real. Be authentic. Be honest. Be loving and kind. And, I promise you, the right person will reward you for that.

4. Dust Off, Grow, and Begin Again

There’s a story about the four stages of personal growth. Stage one is this: You’re walking down the street, you don’t see a hole, and you fall in it. In the second stage, you see the hole and you still fall in it. At stage three, you finally recognize the hole, and you carefully walk around it. Finally, in stage four, you take a different street. Every toxic relationship is an opportunity for you to examine the hole and to choose a different path. If you do this often enough, you’ll turn the corner long before you step near another toxic pot hole. The best-kept secret of women who have a secure attachment style is that they move away early on from people who do can’t meet their emotional needs. And that’s a brave move for women who are longing to feel loved. The most important question to ask yourself is: Am I in love or simply addicted to longing? If it’s the latter, it’s time to move on and grow.

Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)

I just got out of a relationship with a guy that had a lot of ups and downs. In the beginning we were inseparable, and it totally felt like we were falling in love. Then, about a month in, he went cold fish. He only returned my calls every couple of days and kind of started ghosting me. Then all of a sudden, he invited me to go out of town with him, and we had this amazing long weekend with great sex and I was feeling connected again. Then when we got back, I didn’t hear from him for a week.

I feel like it’s push-and-pull. One minute he’s saying, “I could fall in love with you,” and the next he says he wants space and doesn’t want a relationship. When it’s good, it feels like the real thing, but then all of a sudden I’m being treated like a random hookup.

My question is: How can I tell whether he’s a good guy or a jerk when it seems like he’s changing his mind every week?

How many times have we heard our friends (or ourselves) say, “Why do I keep falling for the bad boys?” That seems to be the million-dollar question, because really, why do we keep falling for emotionally unavailable men? They wreak havoc on our lives, our bodies, and our brains, so why on earth would we continue to seek these toxic relationships out like a bloodhound trailing a prison escapee?

First of all, it’s not your fault. You aren’t a sucker, and you are not broken. I know it’s frustrating when you feel like your good-guy radar is way off and you end up going home with muscle-shirt-wearing, spiky-haired Brandon who spends more time flexing in the mirror than he does talking to you. But here’s the thing: Our brains can actually become programmed to seek out people who aren’t good for us. Emotionally unavailable men (and other types of toxic partners, like narcissists and sociopaths) depend on our getting “hooked.” This involves a bunch of chemicals and hormones produced by our brains that make a powerful cocktail of attachment that, ironically, has little to do with the person you’re dating and everything to do with their sketchy behavior.

For example, you’re wondering why you can’t let go of this partner and your relationship that seems based on wishy-washy, ambiguous words and actions. Our bonds to these types of people are cemented through the cycle of their obsessive attention followed by their retraction of that attention. Our brains get hooked on those highs and lows, just like they would a drug.

When your partner is showing you love and attention, dopamine and serotonin are released in your brain which creates the lovey-dovey emotions that lead to an Instagram post of you and him accompanied by a bunch of heart-eye emojis. And then when he goes AWOL and retracts that love and attention, your brain craves it all over again. This is known as “frustration attraction”—instead of reducing your feelings of love when your partner withdraws, your brain heightens them. The result? A sensation similar to that of a cocaine addict getting his fix.

Once this pattern is repeated a few times, you subconsciously start to seek out people who hurt you or who are bad for you. You’re drawn to the guy who takes you out for an amazing date that ends with earth-shattering sex and breakfast in bed, only to ghost you a week later. During the positive experience, dopamine is being released and making you feel great. Then, when your partner withdraws, all you can think about is getting your next “fix.” The fancy term for this cycle is “intermittent reinforcement,” and it consists of receiving rewards (hot dates and a dozen roses) at inconsistent intervals. It’s the back-and-forth that gets us addicted, and when it comes to the bad boys, the back-and-forth is what they’re best at, baby.

Whether you’re in a relationship that makes you feel like your partner really loves you (when he isn’t threatening to burn your house down), or you’re dating a “tough nut to crack” who you totally think you can change, the end result is always the same: You become attached to the tune he’s playing on your heart strings, whether it’s sweet and romantic or sketchy and dangerous.

But before you freak out and check yourself into relationship rehab, here’s the good news: Knowing how our brains respond to toxic relationships makes it easier to move on. Because, you know, the first step is admitting you have a problem.

The powerful, obsessive bonds we feel with these “bad boys” come from our biochemical makeup—not our personal morals or standards. The dopamine released in these situations causes our brains to associate pleasure with the painful aspects of our relationship. So the key to overcoming your bad-boy addiction is to reverse the cycle with new and healthy experiences.

That means taking off your rose-color glasses and seeing your relationship for what it truly is. Once you can honestly address the underlying cause of your attraction to a toxic relationship and the behavioral patterns that got you into it, you can start taking steps to relearn what a truly healthy relationship should look like.

Take the time to invest in productive and positive ways to distract yourself from the pull of the bad boy—whether it’s a new exercise class, music, cultivating a new hobby, or pursuing an interest or passion that was on the back burner while you prioritized your relationship with a not-so-great guy. Substitute the unhealthy “drug” (an unstable relationship) with healthier rewards and obsessions. With enough time and effort, you’ll be able to find a person who truly nourishes and nurtures you, rather than someone who leaves you feeling starved and desperate for the next drop of a table crumb.

I t’s a common refrain: relationships are hard work. Fights are normal and rough patches are par for the course.

True as that may be, however, these platitudes can distract from legitimate causes for concern in one’s social and romantic life — including signs that a relationship may have become, or always was, toxic.

Here’s what you need to know about toxic relationships, and how to tell if you’re in one.

What is a toxic relationship?

Dr. Lillian Glass, a California-based communication and psychology expert who says she coined the term in her 1995 book Toxic People, defines a toxic relationship as “any relationship [between people who] don’t support each other, where there’s conflict and one seeks to undermine the other, where there’s competition, where there’s disrespect and a lack of cohesiveness.”

While every relationship goes through ups and downs, Glass says a toxic relationship is consistently unpleasant and draining for the people in it, to the point that negative moments outweigh and outnumber the positive ones. Dr. Kristen Fuller, a California-based family medicine physician who specializes in mental health, adds that toxic relationships are mentally, emotionally and possibly even physically damaging to one or both participants.

And these relationships don’t have to be romantic: Glass says friendly, familial and professional relationships can all be toxic as well.

What makes a relationship toxic?

Fuller says people who consistently undermine or cause harm to a partner — whether intentionally or not — often have a reason for their behavior, even if it’s subconscious. “Maybe they were in a toxic relationship, either romantically or as a child. Maybe they didn’t have the most supportive, loving upbringing,” Fuller says. “They could have been bullied in school. They could be suffering from an undiagnosed mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety or bipolar disorder, an eating disorder, any form of trauma.”

That was the case for Carolyn Gamble, a 57-year-old, Maryland-based motivational speaker who says she fell into toxic relationships after a tumultuous childhood marked by losing her mother to a drug overdose, and suffering physical abuse at the hands of her father. When she grew up, she found some of the same themes in her marriage to her now-ex-husband, who she says became verbally and emotionally abusive. “I realized in this life, regardless of the cards that we’re dealt, sometimes there are things that we have to let go,” she says.

Sometimes, Glass says, toxic relationships are simply the result of an imperfect pairing — like two people who both need control, or a sarcastic type dating someone with thin skin. “It’s just that the combination is wrong,” she says.

Heidi Westra Brocke, a 46-year-old chiropractor living in Illinois, is familiar with these mismatches. Brocke considers herself an empath and a people-pleaser, and grew up “assuming everybody was nice and everybody wanted what was best for you.” Instead, she says her personality attracted controlling partners who forced her to sacrifice her needs for theirs, and constantly work for approval that never came.

Though they had very different stories, both Brocke and Gamble say they endured toxic relationships for years — underscoring that no two bad relationships are exactly alike.

3 ways your relationships could be killing you

In an environment where the rich and famous are as likely to have a divorce attorney on speed dial as their agent, it seems a celebrity couple is doomed to inevitable failure simply because they are famous, and divorce is a mere casualty of the job.

Yet when one puts aside the glitter and excess, we discover the reasons marriages involving people like Patrick Dempsey, Hilary Duff, Chris Rock and Mariah Carey ended was for surprisingly common reasons; reasons that much of the general population could relate. A multi-million dollar career isn’t above bouts of jealousy, infidelity, insecurity, obsession or depression.

We love to have love in our lives. The joyful distraction of thinking of him throughout the day, and the anticipation of the possibilities of this relationship progressing and growing in strength makes our heart race. But if the quickening pulse or clammy palms are the result of an overly critical boyfriend or a jealous girlfriend, your relationship could be killing you. Toxic relationships often lead to extreme stress, depression, and a weakened immune system. Here’s how.


Trying to maintain a relationship in a “fight or flight” state of being will surely break down your body’s ability to function normally. Anxiety, high blood pressure, and added stress of your heart compromise your health.

In a June 2013 article, How Relationships Can Make You Sick, published on Healthgram.com, the author referenced a study conducted at Ohio State University where researchers discovered married men and women who struggled with ongoing concerns about the stability of their relationships had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The study also found lower levels of T-cells, which help fight infections.

The research concluded, “Those who were the most anxious about their marriages had 11 percent more cortisol and 11 to 22 percent lower T-cell levels than those who were less anxious. The lead researcher said the results are most likely linked since increased cortisol can reduce T-cell production.”

Relationships plagued with poor communication, jealousy, deceit, fear, anxiety, and a conflicting goal set all run the risk of creating a chronically stressful environment.


He may be “killing you softly with his song,” but he is also doing some pretty serious damage with his words and actions, too. A relationship clouded with mistrust or emotional abuse takes a toll on the partner’s emotional and physical well-being.

When negativity leaves cracks in a person’s spirit, depression fills those empty spaces. The results could be devastating to one’s health.

In her article, 5 Ways a Bad Relationship Can Make You Sick, relationship coach Marcelina Hardy wrote, “When you are arguing with your boyfriend and feeling sick, you don’t love your life. Your love should be something that enriches you. It should make you smile in the morning, and feel grateful at night. It should be what lowers stress, rather than create it. For these reasons, take steps to improve your relationship, so it doesn’t make you sick. If you’ve tried to solve the problems and it’s just not working, it may be time to consider how much you really need this person in your life.”

If you are sustaining a relationship with a partner who is overly critical, constantly suspicious, or possessive, it could be making you sick. An unhealthy relationship invites feelings of hopelessness, a fear of abandonment, and a feeling of loss for unfulfilled goals or any hope for happiness.

Weakened immune system

One of the advantages of being in a healthy relationship is this euphoric energy that fuels your day. When depression invades your enthusiasm for life, it affects your lifestyle choices. Exercise becomes a burden, healthy eating becomes a distraction. Before you know it, you are facing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, weight gain, and a compromised immune system that is unable to ward off infections and disease.

“Unhealthy relationships can be like that,” wrote licensed professional counselor and registered nurse, Suzanne Jones in her article, Is Your Relationship Making You Sick. “Sometimes in an effort to be supportive and helpful, we find ourselves drowning in unrealistic and endless demands. We can’t bear the thought of hurting this person or letting him down, so we try and try to make adjustments to salvage the relationship. We go to extraordinary lengths to keep this person happy. We sacrifice our peace and happiness for theirs.”

She added, “In an effort to be patient and helpful, we may be putting ourselves in harm’s way. Like the rescue of a drowning person, we are at risk when we get too close and tangled up in an unhealthy person’s problems and issues. These relationships can turn us into a physical and emotional mess.”

Throughout the years, love has been blamed for a number of things. Sometimes, it stinks, hurts, even bites. At times, people have been accused of giving it a bad name. However a healthy, strong, solid and positive relationship isn’t like that. It enhances your life and improves health.

So, if any of those things apply to the love you have in your life, it’s time to drift away to a healthier and life-sustaining relationship.

Try these five tips when you are choosing friends and mates.

Many of us have had the experience of letting someone get close to us and then later regretting it. Toxic relationships can take many forms. We may have thought that someone was our best friend until she started making fun of us behind our back. Or, we may have idealized our handsome new lover without really noticing that he gets drunk every night, flirts with other women, and gets irritated when we complain. Some of us spend years in unhealthy relationships that make us very unhappy.

One approach to avoiding these toxic relationships is to learn how to quickly recognize psychological disorders that come with a lot of relationship baggage. Unfortunately, very few of us are trained to diagnose other people. However, we are very well equipped to notice other people’s impact on us. All it takes is for us to trust our gut reactions and pay close attention to how we actually feel when we are with new people. Below are some tips that can help you assess whether your new friend or lover is likely to be toxic for you.

NOTE: I am using the word “toxic” in this post as shorthand for all those things that we are exposed to in relationships that diminish our self-confidence and our physical and mental well-being.

Tip 1: How do you feel when you are with them?

This is the easiest way to tell if people are healthy or unhealthy for you. If being with them leads to you feeling inadequate, boring, discouraged, ugly, stupid, ashamed, or otherwise bad about yourself, they are likely to be toxic for you.

If, however, whenever you are with them you are so entertained and stimulated by your interaction that you forget to be self-conscious and you are comfortable and relaxed, they are likely to be healthy for you.

Example: Bob and Sara

Bob was a Narcissistic know-it-all who was always lecturing those around him about how to behave and what he thought that they were doing wrong. When he started dating Sara, she was an emotionally open and confident young woman. After a few dinner dates with Bob, Sara realized that her confidence was sinking and she had become defensive and uneasy in Bob’s company. His scrutiny of her behavior and his criticisms were making her very self-conscious.

Sara wondered: Did I always use the wrong fork for fish at dinner? Should I have left my napkin on my chair or on the table when I got up to go to the bathroom?

Sara eventually realized that she did not really care whether she or Bob was right or wrong about silverware or napkins. What mattered is that she felt very uneasy in his company and did not want to spend another minute being scrutinized by him.

Tip 2: Are you your best self when you are in their company?

Some people bring out our best self. When we are with them, we act wisely and kindly and say and do interesting things. We feel smart, interesting, and capable.

Other people lead us into trouble by evoking the less pleasant aspects of our personality. It may be as simple as engaging in nasty gossip or as dangerous as encouraging us to shoot heroin. Many people have found themselves drawn into destructive and criminal acts by so-called “friends” that they normally would have avoided. There is a reason we are warned: Beware of the company you keep.

Tip 3: When you leave, do you feel better, worse, or the same as before?

This may vary a bit if you are extraverted or introverted by nature, but in general there are some people who give more than they take and others who will leave you drained and in pain.

Energy Vampires: These are the people who suck the life out of you. When you leave their company, you feel drained and exhausted. Other people give back at least as much energy as they take. Obviously, if you repeatedly feel as if you are sucked dry after spending time with them, they are not healthy for you.

Put-Down Artists: These are the people who make jokes at your expense or subtly devalue you. After you spend time with them, you always feel worse about yourself.

Enliveners: They stimulate you. After you leave, you feel energized and better than before you were with them.

Obviously it is healthier for you to spend time with “Enliveners” than with “Energy Vampires” and “Put Down Artists.”

If you interact with someone and you leave the interaction feeling pretty similar to how you were before it, this person can be thought of as fairly neutral where your mental health is concerned.

Tip 4: Do you feel more creative and inspired after being in their company?

Muses: All of us have a creative side. Some people are very gifted in inspiring other people to think in a new way or come up with a new project. If you feel more creative and inspired after being with certain people, they are healthy for you.

Tip 5: Do you do physically and mentally healthy activities together?

There are some people who are good influences on us. In its simplest form, we find ourselves eating better, exercising more, and having mentally stimulating conversations when we are in their company. These are the friends who encourage us to sign up with them to study that new language we always wanted to learn, or take up tap dancing, meditation, or Tai Chi.

Example: Jessie and Joanna

Jessie tended to be a bit of a couch potato by nature. She knew she should get out more and exercise more and all the other healthy “mores.” But…it wasn’t until she met Joanna that she actually began doing any of those things. Joanna invited Jessie to go hiking with her, take Salsa dancing lessons, and eat out at healthy restaurants. Jessie discovered that she actually liked being active and having something to do on weekends that did not involve binge-watching her favorite television show. Joanna enjoyed Jessie’s company and had a good time introducing her to new activities that they could do together.

There are other people whose idea of an exciting social evening includes drinking, drugging, and eating till they pass out after having unprotected sex with strangers. Obviously they are on a self-destructive path, bent on wrecking their own health, and are happy to wreck yours as well.

Punchline: If you pay attention to how you feel when you are with specific people, what types of activities you do together, and how you feel later; you will be able to discern which friends or lovers are healthy for you and which should be avoided.

Unhealthy relationships come in many shapes and sizes, with varying levels of crappiness. For many, it may feel like you’re stuck, always seeming to end up with the same toxic types of people. If you find yourself in an unhealthy relationship again, it might be time to do a little self-exploration into what that pattern says about you.

You Unconsciously Pick Partners That Match Your Level Of Mental Health.
Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)
Typically without any awareness, we’re drawn to partners that are as mentally healthy or unhealthy as we are. Hearing this may make you feel defensive, and that’s okay. If this is the case, it’d be a great idea to examine this further because a big part of finding a healthy partner is being able to identify your own issues and directly addressing them.

You Repeat Attachment Issues Learned In Childhood.
Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)
As a child, your parent or parents become your first blueprint as to what a relationship is and looks like. If you grew up with parents who sent you unclear messages about relationships, communication, and emotional expression, you may find yourself replicating these types of attachment issues as an adult.

You’re Not Fully In Tune With Yourself.
Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)
AIf you weren’t taught about listening to yourself and your needs as a child, you may not be completely in touch with your gut instinct. For example, if a crying child is told, “You’re not sad,” it sends a confusing message and inadvertently informs the child that their sense of self is wrong and that they don’t understand themselves as well as the grown-ups do. As an adult, you may find yourself drawn to highly controlling, manipulative partners who can take advantage of this type of learned dependency.

Communication Is Difficult For You.
Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)
If you were sent mixed messages as a child, of course communication may be more challenging for you. Before you can communicate your needs to your partner, you need to become of aware of your needs and why they’re significant to you. You may be drawn to more narcissistic partners who are happy to do all of the talking or equally challenged communicators, which may recreate a confusing and ill-defined relationship.

Your Needs Aren’t Your Priority.
Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)
Taking care of yourself may not really be on your radar because you weren’t taught how to do it or the importance of doing so. When children aren’t taught to assess their own needs and address them, they tend to grow up having difficulty doing just that. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. It might take time and a concerted effort, but you can start putting yourself first and learn to give yourself the care you need and deserve.

You Lack Experience With Healthy Relationships.
Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)
If you’ve never experienced a healthy relationship before, you probably don’t know what it looks like and feels like. Typically healthy relationships are balanced, where the needs of both partners are addressed with open, honest communication, and no one party is prioritized more than the other. Both partners can admit to mistakes and work with the other partner when finding a resolution that fits the needs of the relationship.

You Feel More Comfortable Taking Care Of Others Than Yourself.
Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)
You may prioritize the happiness of others above yourself. If this is the case, it would be helpful if you could think about why, and where this notion came from. Yes, it’s awesome to take care of others, but it’s also unhealthy to always put others before yourself because you feel you have to.

You Have A Skewed View Of Relationships.
Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)
If you rely on movies and TV shows as your basis for relationship goals, you’re screwed. The most entertaining shows typically have the most mentally unstable, personality-disordered characters. Drama, miscommunication, gossip, lies, scandal, and affairs all come with the territory of being very emotionally young, like a bunch of toddlers throwing tantrums. Believe me, watching a show about healthy adults would be super boring and uneventful.

You Engage In Mind Reading.
Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)
Mind reading is when you assume you know why your partner is behaving a certain way and what they’re thinking. For example, if you expect your partner to contact you every day, but you never explicitly informed them of that, and one day they don’t contact you, you may come up with several assumptions as to why they didn’t reach out. You may think that they don’t love or care about you, that they’re going to break up with you, or that you’re worthless. When you’re nervous about expressing your needs to your partner or you don’t know what your needs are, you’ll probably engage in mind-reading as a way to try to understand the relationship in all the wrong ways.

You Feel Like You Don’t Deserve A Healthy Relationship.
Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)
Everyone has negative core beliefs that come up from time to time. The bummer about this is if you’ve had a core belief that was established during your childhood, you may be engaging in a self-fulfilling prophecy. This means that if you keep thinking this about yourself, eventually you’ll make it your reality.

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If you have ever been in a toxic relationship, you know how confusing, painful and destructive it makes you feel. It’s detrimental to your self-esteem, identity and children. You’re about to learn one essential truth about how to break free from this trap of getting yourself into toxic relationships and end this cycle of allowing men to treat you disrespectfully.

Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together. Marilyn Monroe

Most relationships, including the toxic ones, start passionately. The next thing you know things change. You’re bombarded by painful bullets of emotional abuse. Being called degrading names. You’re feeling broken and in physical agony even when there was no violence. Feeling out of control and always vigilant because you never know when he is going to lash out.

All of these are the red flags of you getting yourself into a toxic relationship. Yet, some choose to ignore it because they get attached to a fantasy or hope that one day everything will miraculously change. Often nothing will change. The longer you wait, the higher the emotional cost of a divorce.

Abuse as a new norm in toxic relationships

Here is the painful truth!

The longer you stay in a toxic relationship, the harder it becomes to leave, especially when children are also involved. But the truth is that you are only hurting your kids and yourself. My mother always says “if you tell a person she is a pig, sooner or later she will start grunting.” The same happens in toxic relationships. The longer you stay, the less self-respect, self-belief and self-worth you will have.

You are your rescuer

The only way you can break free from this pattern of getting yourself into another toxic relationship is to face the hot truth. You need to sit down and get honest with yourself. Create a plan on how to get off of that awful ride. Because if you don’t do it, no one will do it for you. The longer you stay in this toxic environment and remain a magnet to narcissists, the more desensitized you become to the abuse — and the more you collude with the abuse.

The interesting part about toxic relationships is that your bank account or your social status don’t protect you from getting into them. I work with so many successful women who don’t seem to be able to master their love life. In fact, they find themselves in a painful aftermath after divorce. Or they keep allowing men to enter their lives and destroy their self-worth.

Do you often find yourself stuck in toxic relationships?

Finding yourself falling for the same type of person over and over again may mean that you attract negative energy. If all of your relationships thus far have been toxic, abusive, or unhealthy, you need to be more cautious with who you let into your life. Of course, this is easier said than done. Nevertheless, there are several things you can do to ensure that you protect yourself and your happiness.

There are 10 ways you can avoid getting into toxic relationships.

1. Get comfortable being alone.

When people do not know how to be happy on their own, they settle for anyone who will make them feel less lonely. If you learn how to enjoy your own company, you will not tie yourself to someone just because you are afraid of being single.

2. Know your deal breakers and boundaries.

Make a list of the things you will not tolerate in a relationship. Moreover, familiarize yourself with your boundaries. Ask yourself, “What are my emotional and physical boundaries?” When you know what you want and need, you will be able to pick a partner who respects you and your boundaries.

3. Do not settle.

In every relationship, someone needs to make a compromise. However, making too many compromises and sacrificing things that are important to you will make you unhappy. Eventually, you will begin to resent your partner and inevitably, your relationship will fail.

4. Find someone with whom you can be vulnerable.

To be in a happy relationship you need to be with a partner who is caring and supportive. You will never find happiness with someone who dismisses your emotions and does not allow you to express your concerns, thoughts, and desires.

5. Seek mutual respect.

Without mutual respect, a relationship cannot survive. Your partner needs to respect your time, your values, and your boundaries in the same way that you respect theirs. Furthermore, you must show one another acceptance, support, and admiration.

6. Prioritize trust.

Before you find yourself in a relationship with someone, ask yourself if you can trust them. If you are not 100% certain that you can, walk away. A lack of trust will break your relationship. You deserve to be with someone you know is trustworthy, reliable, and honest.

7. Value actions over words.

Anyone can make an empty promise. They can say “I love you”, “I’m sorry”, and “I promise I will change”. These words are meaningless if they are not accompanied by actions that prove them. Be with someone who will show you that they love you or that they are sorry. Words are not enough.

8. Be with a partner who includes you in their inner circle.

When someone does not want to introduce you to their friends and family, you need to be careful. Keeping you away from their inner circle and their private life is a red flag. More specifically, it means that they are not serious about you.

9. Look for more than just physical attraction.

Of course, chemistry and physical attraction are important. However, they are not everything. To be in a truly happy and thriving relationship, you need someone with who you are compatible. Can you talk to them for hours without being bored? Can they make you laugh? These are important things to consider before diving into a relationship.

10. Be with someone who wants you in their future.

Do not waste your time on people who avoid labels and claim that they are afraid of commitment. If someone wants you, they will prove it. They will talk about the future and make it clear that they plan on being with you.

You deserve someone who makes you feel safe, secure, and happy. Do not settle for anything less.

Although removing toxic people from your life won’t always be a walk in the park, sometimes it’s the best thing you can do for your mental and physical well-being. It might not take you long to think of which person or people in your life are unhealthy for you. They may treat you cruelly, manipulate you, or criticize you constantly. They may cause you to feel bad about yourself to the point that the shame drives you to engage in destructive behaviors. Interacting with someone like this can constitute emotional abuse.

Despite these red flags, it isn’t always easy to understand or accept how dangerous these relationships are. You may think that such a person really does have your best interests in mind. It’s vital to be able to recognize when a relationship is causing you serious turmoil or is negatively impacting your mental health.

While the thought of creating space can be scary or overwhelming, it is important to prioritize your mental well-being. Although you are not responsible for how people behave, you can end relationships that do not treat you the way you deserve to be treated. Here are a few tips to help you end an unhealthy relationship to allow your mental health to blossom:

Identify the Toxic Relationship

The first thing you need to do is identify the person or people negatively affecting your mental health. You may already know exactly who this person is, or it may take some careful thought. Try to think about whether anyone in your life makes you feel bad about yourself or tries to control or manipulate you. Does anyone in your life make you feel anxious? Do you feel overwhelmed with dread by the thought of talking to or seeing someone? These may serve as indicators that this person is toxic. In general, people should not make you feel anxious, depressed, or cause you to doubt your self-worth. Instead, they should lift you up and bring joy to your life. Here is a list of toxic traits to look for:

  • They manipulate you
  • They make you feel bad about yourself
  • They judge you constantly
  • They are consumed by negativity
  • They are passive-aggressive
  • They are overly self-centered
  • They have issues with anger management
  • They are controlling or demanding of your time and attention

Stand Your Ground

When deciding to cut a toxic relationship out of your life, there is a chance that you may experience backlash. A toxic person is not likely to immediately go away or change their behavior just because you asked them to. They may make promises that they will change or attempt to manipulate the situation, sometimes even making you feel like it was your fault. No matter what they do, stand your ground. Be upfront with them about why you are choosing to move on with your life and stick to it. Although this conversation can feel uncomfortable, it is necessary for your mental safety and stability. You can be kind, but you must be firm.

Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries is an important tool to keep you from accidentally slipping back to old habits. For example, if you have decided that you will cut all contact with a toxic person, take measures to eliminate your ability to reach out to them and prevent them from reaching out to you. Block or delete their number, email address, and social media accounts. Remember that it is equally important for you to maintain your boundaries as it is for them to respect the boundaries you set.

Find Your Support System

Removing a toxic person from your life is a difficult process that can make you feel numerous negative emotions. It is important to find a healthy support network that you can depend on to help you maneuver through this painful time. Surround yourself with people who bring you joy and lift you up. Reach out to friends and family who will be there to listen, validate, and help you move forward.

In some cases, a toxic relationship can isolate a person from their friends, family, and others who might serve as a support system. Don’t hesitate to make first contact; you might be amazed by how many of those friends and family members have been waiting for this day and will welcome you back with open arms. In other cases, reaching out to a mental health professional who can help you through this new chapter is the healthiest decision you can make.

Choosing to close the door on a toxic relationship can feel challenging and scary. The person who is unhealthy for you might be a close friend, relative, work associate, or even your spouse. No matter who it is, if your relationship is harming your mental health, the best decision you can make is to cut them out of your life. Toxic people can make you feel consumed by a negative outlook on yourself or isolate you from people who truly are good for you. It’s crucial to take the necessary action to get your life back and be treated with the respect you deserve. Learning to stand your ground and set boundaries is one of the first steps you can take to eliminating toxic relationships. If you need professional assistance with this challenging process, or if you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues as a result of a toxic relationship, call Achieve Concierge at (858) 221-0344 for immediate help.

Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)

This is about one author's personal, anecdotal experience and should not substitute medical advice. If you're having health concerns of any kind, we urge you to speak to a healthcare professional.

After weeks of texting, video chatting, and playing virtual board games, Maxton knocked on my apartment door. It was April of 2020, and Chicago—and the rest of the country—was in full lockdown. Maybe it was irresponsible of us to meet in person; maybe we should have been content with our daily phone calls. But they say when you know, you know, and I was already certain Maxton was meant to be in my life.

We stayed outside, determined to be as Covid-compliant as possible. But by the end of the block, we were already kissing. Passing cars honked, either delighted or disgusted by our PDA. The sun was shining, the birds singing, and, for the first time, I was in the arms of the person I knew I’d be with forever.

And I felt… confused.

Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)

Unsplash / Design by Tiana Crispino

The Bad

My last relationship was hell. After nearly a year of dating, I emerged from the breakup emotionally battered, bruised, and broken. In retrospect, it was doomed from the start. We didn’t want the same things. We had totally different expectations for the relationship—and for each other. We complained, cried, and capitulated instead of communicating, and nothing was ever resolved. Things were toxic with a capital T. We both needed to get out.

Still, when it was over, all the bad aspects of our relationship dissolved into smoke in my memory. For weeks and months after, I struggled to remember what exactly had been so bad. I doubted everything. Had I really cried that often? Had I really been that miserable? Had we really been that poorly matched? Worse still, I began to wonder if all our problems had one common denominator: me.

I went to therapy. Eventually, I went to the hospital, and even spent a month in residential mental health treatment. I was already prone to depression and anxiety, and the crumbling of my toxic relationship pushed me over the edge. My thoughts turned into obsession. Every second of every day was dedicated to ruminating about what had gone wrong, what I had done wrong, how I could have fixed things if just given the chance.

I did a lot of hard, painful work in therapy. When I got out of residential treatment, I began to lead something close to a normal life again. I hung out with people, went on dates, and began to rebuild my confidence and sense of self.

When I swiped right on Maxton, two full years had passed since the end of my toxic relationship. I was finally ready for a partnership that was loving, supportive, and peaceful.

This article was co-authored by Kelli Miller, LCSW, MSW. Kelli Miller is a Psychotherapist, Author, and TV/radio host based in Los Angeles, California. Kelli is currently in private practice and specializes in individual and couples’ relationships, depression, anxiety, sexuality, communication, parenting, and more. Kelli also facilitates groups for those struggling with alcohol and drug addiction as well as anger management groups. As an author, she received a Next Generation Indie Book Award for her book “Thriving with ADHD: A Workbook for Kids” and also wrote “Professor Kelli’s Guide to Finding a Husband”. Kelli was a host on LA Talk Radio, a relationship expert for The Examiner, and speaks globally. You can also see her work on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/kellibmiller, Instagram @kellimillertherapy, and her website: www.kellimillertherapy.com. She received her MSW (Masters of Social Work) from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in Sociology/Health from the University of Florida.

There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

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Leaving a toxic situation can be confusing and scary, and it’s okay to seek help from friends or family if you need it. These kinds of relationships tend to be full of wild emotions, and freeing yourself from that can be tough. However, it is totally possible to break the cycle. Even if you don’t seek assistance from someone else right now, rest assured that we’ve always got your back. We’ll walk you through the process—from ending the relationship and getting some space, to healing in the wake of what has happened.

Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)

When you guys first met, it was just like a Nicholas Sparks novel. (He brought you roses and truffles! He held the door for you! He watched trashy reality TV shows with you, even the really embarrassing ones!) But now that you’ve been together for a while, you can’t tell if your relationship hiccups are totally normal or if the fights you’re having are unhealthy. Because when it comes to the roller coaster of relationships, it can be hard to spot the signs of toxicity.

It’s not uncommon for people in unhealthy unions to make excuses for their (or their partner’s) behavior or to be in denial about the way things are. But if you’re constantly dealing with feelings of jealousy, insecurity or anxiety, then you’re likely veering into destructive territory. Here’s another way to tell if you’re dealing with toxic love: Healthy relationships make you feel content and energized, whereas toxic relationships leave you feeling depressed and drained. And that could be a dangerous thing. In a long-term study that followed more than 10,000 subjects, researchers discovered that participants who were in negative relationships were at a greater risk for developing heart problems (including a fatal cardiac event) than those whose close relationships were not negative. Yikes. While no relationship can be happy and conflict-free all the time, how do you know if yours is unhealthy? Here, seven ways to tell if you’re in a toxic situation.

1. You’re giving way more than you’re taking.

We don’t mean material stuff and grand gestures, like those roses and truffles. It’s more about the thoughtful little things, like rubbing your back without being asked, taking the time to ask about your day or picking up your favorite ice cream at the grocery store—just because. If you’re the only one going out of your way to do special things for your partner and he never reciprocates or returns the gesture (especially if you’ve already communicated that this is something you’d like), it might be time to give the relationship a closer look.

2. You feel anxious when you aren’t together.

When you’ve spent a few hours away from your partner, you find yourself checking your phone, having trouble making decisions on your own and worrying that something’s going to go wrong. While you might have initially thought that this is a reason you should be together (everything’s so much better when it’s just the two of you, cuddling on the couch), this isn’t the case, says Jill P. Weber, Ph.D. If you’re constantly second-guessing yourself, it could be a sign that your partner has a hold on your life—and the decisions you make—in a toxic way.

3. You argue about the same thing every week.

He never takes out the trash. You’re always too tired to go out on Fridays. No matter what the actual topic of the argument is, most couples have a few cyclical fights that come up over and over. But if you’re just arguing for the sake of arguing without actually communicating what the core issue is or taking steps to resolve things for next time, your relationship is heading into toxic territory.

4. You keep score.

“The ‘keeping score’ phenomenon is when someone you’re dating continues to blame you for past mistakes you made in the relationship,” explains Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. Once you’ve resolved an issue, it’s an extremely toxic habit to unearth the same argument again and again, with the intention of one-upping (or worse, embarrassing) your spouse. So you went out with your friends last summer, had three too many Aperol spritzes and accidentally broke a lamp. If you’ve already talked it out and apologized, there’s no reason for your spouse to continually bring it up every time you and your friends have a drinks date.

5. You haven’t been feeling like yourself lately.

A healthy relationship should bring out the very best in you. When you and your partner go out dancing, you should feel like your confident, gorgeous and carefree self, not jealous, insecure or ignored. If you’ve been feeling worse off since you’ve been hanging out with your beau, there may be some toxic stuff going on.

6. You’re totally consumed by the relationship.

You’re completely obsessed with your new crush—you can’t stop thinking about him, and everything you do is to make him happy. While these feelings can easily be confused with love, Weber explains that this is a major toxic relationship clue. “You need to recognize that this relationship is taking over your entire identity,” she says. The biggest red flag? If you start keeping your partner away from your family and friends out of fear that they “won’t understand” and might tell you to break up with him. Take some time to yourself and remember what used to make you happy before the relationship, then decide if there’s room for both you and your partner to continue to grow and thrive together.

7. You feel like you’re on a roller coaster.

Toxic love often means oscillating between strong highs (excitement and passion) and intense lows (anxiety and depression). You revel in the highs but mostly experience the lows. “In a perverse way, it is the unpredictability of intense emotions that keeps a person stuck, like an unsuccessful gambler hoping that the next card will turn everything around,” says Weber. Recognize this pattern and step off the ride, she advises.

So if you’ve spotted the signs, how do you get out of a toxic relationship? The first step is to acknowledge that it’s the relationship—not you—that’s flawed. Next, seek help from a psychologist or counselor. Getting out of an unhealthy relationship is hard (take it from this writer who’s done it) and turning to a professional can help you figure out the best way to step away and how to rebuild your life as a strong, single person again. Surround yourself with positive people and put your own self-care first. Need some words of encouragement? Let these quotes about toxic relationships inspire you.

Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)

Most people question, at one point or another, am I in a healthy relationship? Is my partner right for me? Is our fighting normal? Are we really happy together? The answer is unique to the relationship, but one thing is almost always universally true: every couple goes through tough times. Even the best of matches and most compatible of people will have their downfalls. People aren’t perfect, so naturally neither are relationships. However, when the bad starts to outweigh the good and when we start to see real incompatibilities that are hard to reconcile, we may wonder, “Am I in a toxic relationship?” Here are some clues to help you find out if you might be in a toxic relationship and some tips on what you can do about if you are.

What is a Toxic Relationship?

A toxic relationship is often characterized by repeated, mutually destructive modes of relating between a couple. These patterns can involve jealousy, possessiveness, dominance, manipulation, desperation, selfishness or rejection. However, one common theme in a toxic relationship involves the partners’ intense draw toward each other, despite the pain they both cause one another. This is apparent with a couple who have entered into a “Fantasy Bond,” a term developed by psychologist and author Dr. Robert Firestone to describe an illusion of connection created between two people that helps alleviate their individual fears by forging a false sense of connection. A fantasy bond is toxic to a relationship because it replaces real feelings of love and support with a desire to fuse identities and operate as a unit. As the couple relates as a “we” instead of a “you” and “me,” their relationship becomes more about form (based on appearances and roles) than substance (based on genuine feeling and authenticity).

There are specific behaviors that have a toxic effect on relationships:

  • Being selfish or demanding, behaving as if you have power over your partner.
  • Acting out the role of parent or child, by showing submission or dominance.
  • Using emotional coercion or manipulation to get what you want.
  • Denying your own or your partner’s separateness or individuality, instead seeking a merged identity.
  • Confusing real love with desperation or emotional hunger.
  • Refusing to act in kind ways with actions your partner would perceive as loving.

How Do You Wind Up in a Toxic Relationship?

There are three major psychological maneuvers that are toxic to an intimate relationship. All of them work to undermine the possibility of having a loving relationship by repeating negative relationship dynamics from the past. The first maneuver involves selection where a person picks a partner who is wrong from the start. When you do this, you choose someone who reminds you of figures from your past or with whom you can replay scenarios from your developmental years. You may select someone who has similar qualities to family members or other early attachment figures who were misattuned to you, or hurt you or mistreated you. For instance, if you had a parent who was passive and held back emotionally, you might seek out a partner who is more allusive or cold. Conversely, you may choose someone who is the polar opposite, someone who is overbearing with wild mood swings. Either way, you are ignoring the qualities that really matter to you in the present, instead basing your selection on old and destructive relationships. You may then relate to your partner in similar ways you related to childhood figures, thus recreating painful relationships with complicated yet all too familiar outcomes.

When a person selects a partner who is different from early attachment figures, and establishes a close and meaningful relationship, there are other maneuvers that can still turn their loving relationship toxic. The second maneuver is distortion where a person distorts their partner to see him or her as being like a familiar figure from the past. When this is operating, you perceive your partner as having negative traits that are similar to those of people from your early life. In actuality, the very qualities you were drawn to in your partner may begin to challenge your negative views of yourself, forcing you to see yourself or your relationship in a different way, from a positive and compassionate perspective. As a reaction against this, you may distort your partner to fit in with old, familiar patterns from your childhood and respond as you did then.

When the first two maneuvers fail, people often employ the third, provocation where they provoke their partner to treat them like they were treated in their formative relationships. Most likely, you are unaware of ways you try to provoke your partner into treating you as you were treated in your early life. You may act out qualities you don’t like in yourself, such as jealousy, criticalness or aloofness. Oddly, enough you do this to recreate an emotional environment that may be unpleasant but is actually comfortable in its familiarity.

All three of these stages, selection, distortion and provocation, keep people from feeling too vulnerable or invested in another person. Although, people do this unconsciously as a defense from their deeper fears of intimacy, both parties in a couple can start playing out patterns that turn the relationship toxic.

So Why Do You Enter a Toxic Relationship?

Whether someone is driven to be with a person who is bad for them or compelled to push away a person who is good for them, people enter into a toxic relationship in order to repeat patterns from their past that are unpleasant but familiar. Of course, this is a highly unconscious process. People often choose a partner who fits with their defenses and are unaware that their partner’s undesirable traits match up with their own. For example, if you tend to be passive or indecisive, you may be drawn to someone who is dominating and stubborn. A toxic relationship exists when a person fails to recognize the destructive dynamics they’re subconsciously looking to play out with a romantic partner. This not only leads to an imbalance in the relationship, but it often limits an individual’s personal growth.

How Do You Get Out of a Toxic Relationship?

Getting to know one’s self and one’s patterns is key to avoiding a toxic relationship. If you find yourself in a dramatic or complicated relationship, you have to first decipher whether you have chosen someone undesirable for negative reasons from your past or whether you are pushing away someone you really care for, because of your own limitations, fears or defenses. If you identify the negative traits that have attracted you to your partner, you can consciously choose to look for someone different. If you realize that the person you have chosen has a lot of the positive qualities you desire, you can look for ways you are acting out in the relationship and aim to change your part of the dynamic that makes things turn sour. Once you understand yourself, you can clearly trace the paths that lead your relationship to unravel. You can take power over yourself and establish a healthier, more honest and fulfilling relationship.

Toxic relationships can often feel addictive in nature. The highs are high and the lows are low, leaving us reeling from the desire and the rejection.

This type of toxicity begins in our primary relationships. Our relationship with our primary caregiver sets the foundation for our attachments throughout our adult lives. When our caregiver provides the care we need, we feel safe and securely attached to them. This leads to a sense of safety and security attaching to romantic partners later in life. If our caregiver fails to create a secure attachment, we will feel insecure (and anxious) in our attachments later in life.

This has some biological underpinnings – our nervous system registers our initial attachments as “the norm” and we become biologically addicted to this type of attachment. If we were brought up in validating, loving environments, we will stray away from chaotic, abusive, or neglectful relationships later. However, if we were brought up in chaotic or toxic environments, this will feel safe to us – and therefore we will anxiously attach to this type of bond.

The other aspect of attachment is chemical. People in love have similar activity in their brain reward circuits as those in the throes of addiction. When dopamine is released in the brain and the reward circuit of the brain is triggered, our brain fires a message letting us know that this is a pleasurable experience and we would like to feel it again. This occurs in addiction as well as in relationships. At first this is a normal cycle of craving and validation, but as relationship continues we crave more and more validation to get the same high. In toxic relationships- ones that are chaotic, unpredictable, and unsafe – we will also feel withdrawal. The unpredictability, the red flags, and feeling disconnected are all signs that this toxic relationship is unraveling and we will do more to receive that validation we need to get our high.

What are some signs you’re in a toxic relationship?

High highs and low lows

You feel anxious most or all of the time

It feels like you are “out of sight out of mind” for your partner

You feel gaslit and/or like you are “making things up”

Self-denial and self-doubt

You often cannot find your partner or don’t know where they are

Your partner puts you down/is critical/or backhanded

What are some signs you’re in a trauma bond?

Trauma bonds are relationships where we repeat the same dynamics as we experienced during childhood with our primary caregivers. We learned what we needed to do to receive love, which is often self-neglect, and therefore we continue to neglect ourselves in order to receive love in our romantic relationships.

Some signs of trauma bonds are:

Obsessive anxiety over the relationship

Denying or ignoring red flags

Lack of boundaries

Ignoring own needs and own reality

What are some signs of emotional abuse, gaslighting, and narcissistic abuse?

Lack of empathy and unwarranted rage

The feeling that you are walking on egg shells and their anger feels unpredictable

Manipulation and lying

They have a grandiosity sense of self, and make you feel less than

They are overly critical about small or insignificant things

You feel persistent self-doubt or self-betrayal

Why is it so difficult to break free from a trauma bond or toxic relationship?

Because the familiarity of the pain feels like safety.

We learned early in our primary relationships what we had to do to receive love, and often times this meant giving up our own needs to serve somebody else. The chaos, unpredictability, abuse, pain, and suffering feel safe when they were entangled with love. It can feel very scary to break free from a trauma bond in favor of a healthy relationship because that healthy relationship feels foreign. Tips for how to break free from the addiction or trauma bond:

Do the work on yourself to understand your past traumas

Ask yourself what is being activated in you around certain people and in certain relationships

Boundaries! Set physical, emotional, mental, material, and energetic boundaries in the important relationships in your life

Individuate – ask yourself what are 5 things I need and 5 things I want in my relationship

Fact checked by experts and reviewed by young people.

Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)

If you have a friend who is in a toxic relationship, it can sometimes be hard to know what the best course of action is. Here are some tips that can help you be there for your friend.

What is a toxic relationship?

A toxic relationship is one that can be defined by the actions of one partner causing emotional, physical or psychological damage to the other partner. Some common characteristics of a toxic relationship are:

  • Criticising and ridiculing – attacking personal characteristics that you cannot change, your family and friends
  • Disengagement
  • Passive aggressive behaviour
  • Blaming you for problems
  • Unwilling to forgive for small mistakes
  • Verbal abuse
  • Physical, sexual and financial abuse
  • Narcissistic and controlling behaviour – not allowing you go out without them, not allowing you see friends or family without them with you
  • Threatens to leave if you don’t do as they say
  • Threatens to expose information or images of you (revenge porn)
  • Little or no trust – checking your phone, needing to know where you are all the time
  • Jealousy and blame – excessive jealousy and blaming you for everything that goes wrong

If you feel like you might be in a toxic relationship, you can read our article, “Am I in a toxic relationship?” for further information on what fully constitutes a toxic relationship.

How do I help a friend in a toxic relationship?

Sometimes, coming out and saying how you feel about your friend’s relationship adds a risk of your own friendship becoming strained and ending. Here are some things you can subtly do to help your friend cope with what they’re going through.


Let your friend talk and let them know you’re there for them, both now and in the future regardless of their decisions. Do not put pressure on them to drop the relationship. Being aggressive about your friend leaving their partner and providing ultimatums could just push your friend away and they may feel like they cannot talk to you. Let conversations flow and be a good listening ear.

Share unhealthy relationship experiences of your own or ones you have heard of

During conversations where an opportunity arises, confide any personal experiences of toxic relationships you have had or heard of with your friend. Not only might this cause your friend to realise something that they thought was normal in their relationship isn’t, but they will also know you are not judging them for staying in a toxic relationship if they have started to realise it for themselves. Talk subtly about how you made overlooked some forms of abuse and ignored red flags before coming to the realisation that it is not your job to allow them to do that. Stick to your own past and don’t try advise your friend on their relationship.

Be gentle

Rather than outright saying something, bring it up without outright naming it. If you bring up toxic relationships, the chances are your friend may say something to their partner, who will be able to plant a seed in their mind that you may just be jealous or don’t know what you’re talking about.

Use movies, songs, books or any other manner to subtly talk about abuse in the medium. Ask what they think the woman in the movie should do – should she stay with the partner or go? This roundabout talk seems like harmless conversation, but you are encouraging your friend to consider their own situation subconsciously.

Build up their self-image

Some people in toxic relationships start to realise they are, but take time to process it and weigh up varying factors. Consistently tell your friend things that will build up their self-image, giving them the strength they might need to leave their partner. Challenge what their partner has said about them, if they have called them stupid or weak tell them that they are not. This works much better for all involved if you avoid framing the situation in a negative way.

Don’t be judgmental and don’t criticise

If your friend is processing the problem but has yet to do anything about it, listen and do not judge – especially if they are trusting you enough to fill you and talk to you about it. Instead, allow them to talk, vent and get everything out that they want to say and ask questions to learn more about the situation to help them. The last thing you want to do is be controlling and instruct them to do anything, no matter how good your intentions are. Also be cautious about criticising their partner as they may not be ready to hear that.

When you’re asking the difficult questions, let your friend answer them and don’t interrupt or react negatively. Sometimes hearing the problem aloud can trigger them to be inspired to get back on track. Suggest that they look at websites against domestic violence such as Safeireland.ie for support.

Make sure they know you’re always there

Make sure you know they have your support, and that the door is always open, any hour of the night for them to come and stay with you. The second that your friend asks for help, be 100% there. Watching your friend struggle before this happens may be hard, but it’s much better to be patient for a better outcome.

Check in with them

Check in with them about how they’re doing and how things are going. Even if you just send a message every day or two, or meet up with them once a week for a coffee, this continuous communication will show them not only that you’re reliable and always there for them, but that there are support systems around them who care deeply for them.

Be honest

Being honest both works and doesn’t work in certain cases. If your friend specifically asks for your opinion, then tell them the truth rather than what you think they want to hear. Being direct and honest about your thoughts on the situation (when they want them) will make your friend value you you more for caring and looking out for them. Tell them truth about what you’ve seen about their relationship, and give them helpful advice and support, without overstepping boundaries.

If you don’t know what advice to give, that’s okay too. There are several services dedicated to giving a listening ear for those who have suffered an abusive relationship. A list of these services include:

    provides information on all specialist domestic violence services throughout Ireland for men experiencing domestic violence

Do you need someone to talk to right now? SpunOut.ie’s text message support service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We provide in-the-moment anonymous support and problem solving when you need it most.

Text SPUNOUT to 086 1800 280 to begin. Standard SMS rates may apply.

Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)

You can tell if a relationship is toxic when spending time with someone drags you down, belittles you, or makes you feel hurt, angry, and miserable. Some people think of a “toxic relationship” as the most dangerous kind of relationship – one that only involves abuse or addictions. These are, in fact, harmful characteristics of any relationship. However, the signs of a toxic relationship are often more subtle and less obvious. The underlying basis of any toxic relationship involves insecurity. Two common insecure relationship positions include what we’ll refer to as “Controllers” and “Dependants.”

Controllers as Toxic:

Involvement with a very controlling person is a sure sign of a potentially toxic relationship. For the controlling person, the offender is insecure and must have control. They do not feel strong enough as a person. They have an excessive need to always be in charge. They make all the decisions and define the relationship on their terms. The “controller” has an authoritarian attitude, blames others and denies any personal problems. They typically fear intimacy. They assume they are right about everything and take their mate for granted. A controller is also known as a “taker.” A taker controls the conversation, money, activities, and all other plans. When you relate to a controller, you tend to feel drained physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. You risk losing “you” – and therein lies the danger. At their worst, a controller can be abusive and violent. If you have a controller in your life, make sure you do not allow or contribute to a toxic relationship. Insist on mutual respect and accept that you can only control yourself. In a healthy relationship, both people should view each other as equals, and demonstrate this throughout all aspects of the relationship – in actions, in words, and in attitude.

Dependants as Toxic:

Dependant people come in pairs with controlling people. A dependant is insecure and weak and doesn’t feel worthy of respect, true appreciation, and love as a valuable person. They crave intimacy but are too vulnerable to express and request their needs. They give control to others. They avoid expressing anger or any true feelings. Dependant people in toxic relationships blame their own inadequacies for any problems they may have. They have low self-esteem and constantly worry about making the other person happy. They also make excuses for the controlling-type person they are involved with. In order to not be a part of a toxic relationship, the main goal for a dependant person is to separate their identity from their mates – to regain their power and control to influence and change their life.

Being in a toxic relationship may feel like you are pouring water into a vase with holes in it. What represents a “toxic relationship” to you? Here are some other signs that should be carefully examined:

20 Signs of a Toxic Relationship *

  1. It brings out the worst in you rather than your best.
  2. You put much more into the relationship than you ever get out of it.
  3. One person gives up his or her own values and dreams to satisfy the other person. You should not have to betray yourself by setting your dreams aside for another person. That puts the relationship out of balance and infers that one person is more important than the other. When we betray our dreams and values, we betray ourselves.
  4. You spend all your time with only that person to the exclusion of all other friends.
  5. When one person becomes what they think the other wants them to be rather than expressing themself honestly.
  6. Judgmental/critical/invalidating behavior – such as demeaning, cutting, and unnecessary comments.
  7. Excessive focus on the other person’s faults, to the exclusion of one’s own.
  8. When you’re working so hard to please and nothing seems to work.
  9. When you have to ask permission for any activities outside the home, i.e., seeing friends/family, shopping, etc.
  10. When no matter what you say or do, it still just doesn’t feel right, and in fact, you feel bad.
  11. A relationship that has some uncontrollable, subconscious draw to a person.
  12. A relationship where it seems your passion is out of control for someone.
  13. Going against your better judgment and gut instinct, due to intrigue and mystery.
  14. Constant sarcasm, put-downs, or “just joking”.
  15. When your close friends are not comfortable with the person you are seeing.
  16. Bad boundaries – when you feel you have no “voice” to say “no.”
  17. Abuse, blaming, complaining, shaming, jealousy, possessiveness…
  18. When statements or actions that would normally not become controversial, turn into heated discussions. When statements meant as compliments, become points of contention. When a simple sound, loud breath, or unusual look is followed by, “What is that supposed to mean”? Some relationships contain so much built-up animosity, that even harmless gestures and words are perceived as something else.
  19. It keeps you from experiencing the best that life has to offer (e.g., love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, from the spiritual perspective, but also fun, romance, intimacy, friendship, caring, communication, growth, etc.)
  20. It brings you the worst life has to offer. (e.g., anger, fear, worry, anxiety, judgment, hate, addiction, depression, selfishness, infidelity, negativity, self-destructiveness, manipulation, abuse, conflict, etc.)

What is a healthy relationship?

It is healthy, not selfish, to be clear about, and ask for what you want and need. It is healthy to hold yourself and others accountable for their words and actions. Negative feelings not expressed or acted on in a healthy, constructive way will eventually poison the relationship. It is healthy to expect only respect and kindness from all relationships. You are worthy of nothing less. It is okay to desire and seek intimacy within healthy boundaries. Control and abuse in love are not normal. Tolerating toxic behavior is not acceptable. Positive words alone will not make a relationship. Actions should match words.

If you find yourself feeling dependent or accepting disrespectful and toxic actions or attitudes within a relationship, the first step is to admit that. Admit your life is not working the way you want it to, or the way you deserve and acknowledge the emotions and consequences of living that lifestyle. Wishing and hoping for a change in someone is an empty effort. Give yourself permission to live a brilliant and abundant life! Call today for help and support.

For more information about how to regain your relationship strength and maximize your emotional health, or to improve any relationship that may be toxic, contact Centerstone at 1-877-HOPE123 (877-467-3123) and ask about counseling offices in your area, or fill out our contact form.

* “20 Signs of Toxic Relationships” is a collection of insights shared by the friends and colleagues of the Health and Wellness team.

It is often the case that after we get out of a relationship, we look back and we see all the things we couldn’t see when we were in the relationship: the pain, the rejection, the lack of respect and boundaries. But if it’s so painful, why isn’t it easier for us to see clearly what is best for us and leave a toxic relationship sooner rather than later?

What is a toxic relationship?

First of all, let’s define what a toxic relationship is and break it down to signs, or “red flags” that may indicate we are in such a relationship. By the way, this applies to all relationships, not only romantic ones but also the ones we have with our friends or family.

Walking on eggshells

One strong sign that you are in a toxic relationship is whether you feel you can be yourself or not. If you find yourself afraid to speak up, to share your feelings and your needs, or to express a different opinion, then probably there is not enough safety within this relationship.

Walking on eggshells means that you feel the need to pre-consider what the consequences of your words, actions and decisions will be for the other person all the time, and you feel afraid that anything you will do or say will disrupt their peace, and ultimately they will be disappointed with you and leave you.

Lack of boundaries

If every time you express a different need or feeling, your partner protests, this means that they are trying to stop you from doing so by turning it into an unpleasant experience for you. Shaming or making you feel guilty is one way they do this. By not respecting your “no”, it means they don’t respect your boundaries, and in order for you to stop setting those, they will make you feel guilty and uncomfortable for voicing your needs or your “no’s”.

“Look at what you have done now – with all your needs and demands!” is an example of them getting this message across.

Lack of responsibility

Being responsible for your mistakes and your decisions is one thing, but it’s another thing to be blamed for others’ decisions, feelings or mistakes. In a toxic relationship, the latter happens very often. You are told that you are responsible for every little thing that’s happening in the relationship to such a degree that you are confused about what’s right and what’s wrong in the end. And first and foremost, your partner barely takes responsibility for their decisions, as it’s easier to pass the blame onto you.

Too much control and entitlement

If you feel that your partner expresses themselves in a way that they always need to be right or to be the best or to know everything about your life, then there is a definite hierarchy in the relationship. The need to control is one of the needs human beings want to fulfil in order to feel safe. But in relationships, it can easily backfire.

The same goes for entitlement: your partner feels that they need to be comforted more than you do, they barely apologise, and every fight ends with the story of them “having been treated unfairly by everyone in the whole world” and you need to make amends for that.

Lack of empathy

It is often the case in a toxic relationship that your partner doesn’t understand when and how they hurt you. Actually, they aren’t even aware of their own feelings; they think that someone else caused them (“you made me angry”), and they don’t see that their feelings are related to their own thoughts or behaviour. Therefore, it’s highly possible that not only will you not be comforted when you are in distress, but on top of that, you will need to focus on their feelings and how much you upset them when you are in distress.

Lack of appreciation

Last but not least, in a toxic relationship, you may barely hear a heartfelt “thank you”. Or an honest apology. You constantly feel unappreciated and if you dare to bring some of your efforts and positive contributions into discussion, they will be downplayed and reattributed to them.

Why is it so difficult to leave a toxic relationship?

If all the above are happening in a toxic relationship, then why is it so difficult to stop the vicious cycle, to set boundaries, to protect ourselves or to leave such a relationship? There are many reasons, but let’s explore a few of them.


It is quite common for those of us who have been raised in families with intense dynamics, absent (physically or emotionally) or overly critical and toxic parent(s), that we find it difficult to leave such a relationship because we simply find the environment familiar. Not nice, not pleasant, just familiar. People who experience this feel a sense of calm in the chaos. Redefining “calm” is what is necessary in order to leave such a chaotic relationship behind.

Desire to change the story

Again, stemming from a toxic family, sometimes we are attracted to toxic partners because we hope that “this time it will be different”. This hope makes us try harder in order to fix it and give as many second chances as possible. We strongly believe that we can change our partner and the story will have a happy ending this time.

Damaged self-esteem

After a long period of being in a relationship like this, there is no way that we escape without being intoxicated with negative beliefs about ourselves. Having been belittled, disrespected, worn down, and rejected, has definitely left us exhausted and with little faith in ourselves. It is quite expected that we may think “I deserve this” and “It makes sense why no one would want to be with me”. We feel weak and helpless, and the thought of being out there all by ourselves is a very scary thought, way worse than being in a toxic relationship.


Another reason we stay in an unhealthy relationship is our own guilt. We believe we have played a big part in how things have turned out, we therefore feel responsible and remain in the relationship in order to fix our wrong-doing or our not-knowing.

However, in a toxic relationship where only one person tries to fix things, it is unavoidable that our efforts will be linked (once again) to another mistake. There is an eternal battle of overcompensating and making amends, and that keeps us forever chained in a co-dependent relationship.

Relationships are hard

Not all relationships with toxic elements are toxic. Not all unhealthy relationships are doomed to fail. However, knowing ourselves, and what is healthy and what is not, creates a basic foundation in order to set boundaries and recalibrate our relationship. In some cases, we need to redefine “love”, “joy”, “partnership”, “respect”, and other basic relationship terms, and for that, we may need the help of a friend or a therapist.

Reach out. Get the love you deserve. You are not alone.

Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)

Vassia Sarantopoulou

Vassia Sarantopoulou is a Counselor-Psychotherapist with more than 15 years of experience, the Head Psychologist and founder of AntiLoneliness. AntiLoneliness offers individual and couples counseling, workshops and support groups, in.

Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)

Getting into a toxic relationship can happen to anyone, and it’s frequently hard to know at the beginning of a relationship how things are going to turn out. When your emotions are running high, it can be difficult to navigate the minefield of getting to know a new person, and you might find yourself looking back months or years down the line wondering where it all went wrong. If you’re in a new relationship and finding yourself questioning some of your new partner’s behaviors, here are a few red flags that you can keep an eye out for. If you’re already in a toxic relationship and looking for a way out, here are some strategies that might help you.

Crazy Exes

This one can be a little subjective, but it mostly comes down to numbers and attitude. If the person you’re dating has one ex-partner that they describe as “crazy” or that they have wild stories about, it’s probably not something to be too worried about. However, if they start telling you about multiple “crazy” exes that they’ve had, or even go so far as to tell you all of their exes were crazy, that’s a definite red flag. Everyone can have a bad experience once or twice, but when a person tells you about a laundry list of failed relationships where they seemed never to do anything wrong and just kept getting involved with “crazy” people, you need to realize that the common denominator in all of these situations is the person you’re currently dating. Additionally, pay attention to the way they talk about their exes. It’s normal for people to have some sore feelings after the end of a relationship, but if they have a lot of anger and malice towards all of their past partners, it’s definitely something to watch out for.

Demonstrations of Violent Behavior

Domestic violence is a real danger, and being aware of the early warning signs of it is absolutely essential. A person who makes violent displays when they’re upset is not someone that you want to be dating, and this isn’t just limited to hitting or hurting you. Aggression towards other friends or family members, or towards animals is also something that you should take notice of. Even hitting walls or breaking furniture and possessions is a sign that this person will likely not have any qualms about hurting you in the future. The person will likely try to explain away these outbursts during calmer moments with lots of affection, saying that they just lost control and love you too much to ever really hurt you, but you need to be wary of anyone with these kinds of violent tendencies. Mature adults who are capable of healthy relationships do not lose control of their emotions in this way.

They’re Completely Fixated on You

The reason that many people end up trapped in toxic relationships before they realize that anything is wrong is because many toxic partners take advantage of the excitement of new love to draw you in. Sometimes called “love-bombing”, it’s when a person showers you with a huge amount of attention and affection, more than would be normal. This will sometimes happen very early in a relationship, and it can be hard to notice because you’ll be caught up in the butterflies, feeling flattered by the attention of a person that you really like. A good rule of thumb to help you in this situation is to take a look at their behavior and what the rest of their life seems like. Do they have other friends or family members they spend time with? Do they have hobbies or goals for themselves? On the flip side, do they seem to only ever want to spend time with you? Do you feel like they have an individual sense of self that is separate from yours, or does it seem like your senses of self are getting tangled up together? If this person seems to have no life of their own and only wants to be involved in (and control) your life, that’s a definite red flag.

Maintain Your Support Network

Toxic or abusive partners will almost always try to isolate you from your friends and family through controlling behaviors. If you have no support of your own to rely on, you’re easier for them to keep and control. Do your absolute best to maintain contact with your loved ones, and don’t let yourself be swayed by any guilt-tripping behavior. A partner who really cared about you would be happy about you spending time with people you love. Tell the people in your life that you trust if you’re worried or unhappy in your relationship. At the very least they can provide emotional support, and they may even be able to help you get away when the time comes.

Prioritize Safety

If your partner has become physically violent with you, the most important thing about breaking that relationship is ensuring that you remain safe. You may be hesitant to call the police or file for a restraining order against someone you love, but if you are in danger, it’s far more important to protect yourself. Have some safe places in mind where you can go if you need to, like the home of a trusted friend your partner doesn’t know the address of, and don’t be afraid to seek the help of law enforcement if you need to.

Cut Off Communication

Once you’ve successfully gotten out of a toxic relationship, it’s a good idea to cut off contact with the person as much as you’re able to. You may not be able to completely remove them from your life, for instance if you have children together, but the first step to healing from this relationship is distancing yourself from the person who hurt you in the first place. If you’re able, block their means of contacting you and engage with them as little as possible. It will help you to start feeling better in time, and it will ensure that they’re not able to hurt you any more or try to draw you back in.

Toxic relationships can be easy to fall into and very difficult to leave, but the situation is never hopeless. If you are in an abusive relationship or feel unsafe around your partner, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline , or if you live near Allentown, PA, try the Turning Point of Lehigh Valley .

Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)

No relationship is perfect, in the personal or the business sphere. But for the most part, a good relationship makes you feel secure, happy, cared for, respected, and free to be yourself.

On the other side of the coin are toxic relationships–the ones that make you feel drained, depleted, and sometimes even distraught.

Whether you’re running a business, working with a partner, leading an organization, or managing a team, the last thing you need is a toxic relationship.

Here are some signs to help you recognize a toxic relationship:

1. All take, no give. Any relationship in which you experience withdrawals of energy without deposits will leave you in the negative.

2. Feeling drained. If, instead of feeling happy and productive, you’re always mentally, emotionally, and even physically drained, it’s time to re-evaluate.

3. Lack of trust. A relationship without trust is like a car without gas: You can stay in it all you want, but it won’t go anywhere.

4. Hostile atmosphere. Constant anger is a sure sign of an unhealthy relationship. You should never be around hostility because it makes you feel unsafe.

5. Occupied with imbalance. A one-sided relationship can never run smoothly.

6. Constant judgment. In judgmental relationships, criticism is not intended to be helpful but rather to belittle.

7. Persistent unreliability. Mutual reliability is important to building trust and is at the core of any good relationship.

8. Nonstop narcissism. If the other party’s interest in the relationship is really just a reflection of him or herself, it’s impossible to achieve any kind of balance.

9. Loaded with negative energy. It’s almost impossible for anything positive to come out of a relationship filled with negativity.

10. Lack of communication. Without communication, there is no relationship. Period.

11. Continuous disrespect. Mutual respect is the first requirement of a good partnership.

12. Mutual avoidance. If you spend your time avoiding each other, that tells you all you need to know.

13. Insufficient support. If you cannot turn to each other, is there a reason to be in the relationship?

14. Ceaseless control issues. If one person is in control, or a constant tug-of-war is going on, you’re probably spending too much energy navigating the relationship.

15. Never-ending drama. Good relationships improve your life; they don’t make it messier.

16. Persistent self-betrayal. If you find yourself changing your opinions to please someone else, you’re in a damaging relationship.

17. Constant challenges. All relationships go through challenges, but good relationships work through them.

18. Feelings of unworthiness. It’s an insidious thing negative relationships do: They leave you feeling you don’t deserve any better.

19. Vibes of entrapment. Is the other person a positive force in your life, or are you there because you don’t see any way out?

20. Always undermining. If a relationship can’t be reassuring, it’s failing a crucial test.

21. Empty pretense. Smiles don’t always mean everything is OK.

22. Packed with uncertainty. When nothing is sure, forward movement feels impossible.

23. Brimming with envy. Partners are never equal in all aspects, but that should be a source of strength, not of a source of disruptive envy.

24. Shortage of autonomy. Anyone in any relationship should have the right to say no.

25. Permeates victimhood. You can’t move onto the future if you’re tied to someone who’s still stuck in the past.

26. Diminishes your self-worth. When you’re in a relationship with someone who doesn’t acknowledge your value, it can be hard to see it yourself.

27. Laced with dishonesty. Every lie between partners undercuts a little bit of the relationship.

28. Makes you unhappy. If someone is constantly making you unhappy, you owe it to yourself to let that person go.

29. Feels uncomfortable. Sometimes your mind needs more time to discover what your heart already knows.

30. Lowers your high standards. Toxic relationships can cause us to slowly begin accepting what was once not acceptable.

31. Senses stagnant. Growth and learning are vital, and you can’t afford to be cut off from them.

32. Cuts corners. Nothing is ever worth cutting corners, or accepting anything that is second rate.

33. Filled with criticism. A nonstop barrage of criticism never helped anyone improve; it’s not about making things better but boosting the critic’s ego.

34. Brings out the worst. If you are constantly being your worst, you cannot be your best self.

35. Cannot do anything right. If you cannot do anything right, maybe the relationship is all wrong.

Relationships are important, and a toxic relationship can cost you dearly in time and energy that you could be putting to much better use.

Stay true to yourself and your values, listen to your heart, and be strong if you need to extricate yourself from a toxic relationship.

Even though it can take some time to realize you're in a toxic relationship, getting out of one puts it all into focus. Your life gets a boost in so many areas that these 16 ways are just the beginning.

1. You don't have to walk on eggshells anymore.

Say goodbye to always worrying about your other half getting irrationally angry when you leave kitchen cupboards open!

2. Your memory gets a major break.

Both people in toxic relationships often have running lists of what the other person has done wrong or right lately. When you're on your own, you can forget all the grudges and eventually find a relationship where that kind of tallying isn't necessary.

3. Your friendships are back to the awesomeness they used to be.

When you date someone your friends know isn't good for you, they'll either pretend to like your partner or straight up tell you they suck. Even when you try to keep your relationship issues to yourself, it's pretty much impossible not to clue your friends in, thus leading to them hating your partner even more. Now, you can spend time with them without worrying about hurting your partner's feelings, and also without feeling like you're being judged.

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4. You can throw yourself into work without getting any blowback.

Resentment is a trademark of toxic relationships, and it often rears its head when one person feels like the other is leaving them behind in some way. Focusing on advancing your career can stir up that feeling for someone who doesn't fully support you. The second you kick a no-good-for-you partner to the curb, you liberate yourself from a lot of that guilt.

5. You're not constantly worried about getting broken up with.

Even small fights in emotionally poisonous relationships can carry the threat—either verbal or silent—that this time is it. There's no coming back from this argument, and the relationship is going to end. When a couple has a healthy bond, both partners realize that unless it's about a true deal-breaker, a fight is something you make it through to get closer. And when you're single, well, you just don't have to deal with relationship fights at all!

6. You can see affection as something nice and uncomplicated.

Instead of as something people withhold because of arguments, or something you can never get enough of because your partner doesn't think it's as important as you do but refuses to compromise.

7. You can give the constant worrying a rest.

Agonizing over whether someone is giving you the silent treatment or is actually in the hospital somewhere isn't good for your heart.

8. You stop worrying that you're always the one in the wrong.

With distance comes clarity. If you were routinely taking the blame in your relationship, once you're out of it you'll realize there's no way you were responsible for every single problem you two had.

9. You don't have to defend yourself to your family anymore.

When your parents hate the person you're dating, any mention of them can turn into your family's personal World War III. Breaking up gives your relationship with the people who love you more than life an automatic boost.

10. You won't wake up in five years and realize you somehow got roped into starting a family with the wrong person.

All because you had the self-awareness to get out before heading down that path! (And even if you do head down that path, it's never too late to make a change.)

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11. You no longer have to engage in power plays.

Constantly calculating how to win fights or prove your point is exhausting! Now, you can put all that energy toward something much more rewarding, like training for a big 2016 race.

12. You can figure out how to be consistently happy.

Sure, riding an emotional roller coaster is thrilling at first. But eventually, the lows just aren't worth the highs. Being single after a bad relationship helps you realize it's possible to feel pretty good most of the time instead of depending on an unstable source for your happiness fix.

13. You don't need to deal with jealousy anymore.

If your ex was always suspicious of what you were doing without them, you've washed your hands of that particular problem. And if you were the one who was anxious about your ex straying, you can figure out if that insecurity is sticking around now that they're gone, then tackle it head-on.

14. You can find someone who's right for you.

There's a whole wide world out there full of potential romantic options who will actually make you happy.

15. You're free from demanding criticism.

It's great when someone you're dating helps you become a better, more well-rounded person. Not so great? When they attempt to do that through controlling, unnecessary critiques about every single thing you do.

16. And you can finally grow without it setting off alarm bells.

In a toxic relationship, you growing may make your partner panic, since they might see it as a sign that you're going to change and leave. When you're free from that, you can broaden your horizons in any way you want. Whether it's by traveling alone, learning French, or scoping out a career change, you can do what you think will help you evolve into your best self.

Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)Written by Writer’s Corps member Felicia Lin

Forget your normal breakup protocol, healing from an unhealthy or abusive relationship can be a long process, especially when you had strong feelings for the person that treated you unfairly. There isn’t a manual to walk you through the recovery process and without the support of positive people that you trust, it can be daunting and you might slip back into old patterns.

There is no quick and easy formula to heal from the experience but, I thought, who better to ask for advice on this than someone who has actually been through it? This led me to reach out to several survivors who haven’t looked back since they bravely walked away from their unhealthy relationships . Here’s what they had to say:

Express Yourself

Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)

Over and over I heard many of the survivors say how important it was to take time to acknowledge and process what they’d been through, no matter how painful it seemed. “The biggest thing has been working with a therapist who helped me identify the covert tactics of my ex as abusive and heal from my abusive relationship,” said E.S.

While K.B. explained that if you are healing from an unhealthy relationship, you should “Write down what happened, talk about it with friends, express it in some way to get it all out. As challenging and intimidating as this may be, you’ll feel much better afterward and be able to move on to bigger and better things.”

Learn the Signs of An Unhealthy Relationship

There are no classes (yet) to teach people how to coexist in a healthy relationship so when you’re exiting an unhealthy one, know that you’re not alone. In fact, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 3 men will be in an unhealthy relationship. Despite these daunting statistics we’ve found the best way to avoid unhealthy partners is to know the signs of a toxic relationship before it escalates. B. says, “ For me, reading other people’s stories and just educating myself on what I was going through made me feel better.” And E.S. says, “Learning how complex abuse really is, how abusers operate, and how I could take steps to make sure I was never a victim again helped me take my power back.”

Process Your Feelings

For K.B, not taking the time to address what she had been through had real consequences. Here’s how K.B. explained what happened, “I woke up every day with a smile on my face, physically feeling lighter and knowing I didn’t have to answer to them anymore. I was so focused on the celebration and moving on that I never really processed what happened to me. A couple of months later, I was struggling with PTSD.” K.B. now advocates trying “anything that will help you talk and process everything you went through so that you can move on.”

Practice Self Forgiveness

Why you keep getting into toxic relationships (and how to stop)

While it’s essential to share and express what’s happened to you, it’s also important to take care of yourself while you’re moving forward. Many of the survivors stressed that self-compassion and forgiveness were just as important to healing as processing the breakup. Several were open to trying alternative healing modalities to deal with their emotional pain and mentioned the benefits of yoga, meditation, writing, and acupuncture.