Relationships are not a steady thing. A relationship you once thought was loving, supportive, and healthy can quickly become toxic. That being said, it's not always super obvious that someone is hurting you, which is why it helps to look out for the subtle signs your partner is toxic. If you have an inkling that things aren't well — even if it's not with your relationship — you may need to keep an eye out for behaviors that might be lurking under the surface and perhaps make plans to make as clean a break as possible.
It can be difficult to leave a toxic partner for so many reasons. Depending on how long you've been together and the kind of life you've created together, dismantling all of that can be not only logistically difficult, but emotionally taxing as well. Ending a relationship with a toxic person, even one that you're not romantically involved with, can take a lot of work and careful thought. But in the end, it's worth it for your happiness and, in some cases, your safety. If you suspect that your partner may be toxic, even if it's just the slightest inkling, look for these subtle signs.
1. They're Controlling
Control can manifest in many different ways, but if your partner tries to exert control over you, chances are they're toxic. "Controlling behaviors are another sign of insecurity," psychotherapist Shirani M. Pathak tells Romper by email. "When a person is secure within themselves, they don't need to control your every behavior or what you are wearing or who your friends are."
2. They Want To Know Where You Are At All Times
Not only is wanting to know where you are and who you're with at all times a sign of control, but it's also a red flag that they're insecure. In an email exchange, marriage and family therapist Christene Lozano tells Romper that keeping you isolated within your relationship is a sign that your partner (or the relationship itself) is toxic.
3. They Can't Be Empathetic
Expressing empathy is important for healthy relationships. If your partner is unable to empathetic, that's not a good sign. "If they can't put themselves in another person's shoes and understand how that person may feel or why they behaved in a certain way, they are missing an essential component of emotional and psychological maturity," Rosalind Sedacca, dating and relationship coach and author of 99 Things Women Wish They Knew Before Dating After 40, 50, & Yes, 60, tells Romper via email. "Don't wait until it is you or someone you love who is the victim of this form of abuse."
4. They Guilt Or Shame You
Using guilt or shame to intentionally inflict emotional damage on another person that you supposedly love is a serious red flag. In an email exchange with Romper, clinical professional counselor Rebecca Nichols says that this is toxic behavior.
5. They Gaslight You
If you're being gaslit, chances are you're being made to feel as though your feelings and experiences are false or invalid. They're not. "[Gaslighting] is toxic because it is a form of psychological abuse that can make you start doubting your own feelings, question your own beliefs, and feel lost and confused about who you are," licensed clinical social worker Santiago Delboy tells Romper by email.
6. They're Unpredictable
According to experts, one of the most common signs that your partner is toxic is that you feel as though you have to carefully "walk on eggshells" around them. If you feel like you can't be yourself around them for fear of how they'll act, Nichols says that's a sign that things are toxic.
7. They Get Jealous
Too much jealousy is a sign of insecurity. If your partner is constantly exhibiting jealousy, especially when it's completely unnecessary, that can be toxic to a relationship. Additionally, Pathak says jealousy and other signs of insecurity can indicate that there are other toxic behaviors going on that are more concealed or could come up in the future.
8. They Pick Fights About Nothing
If your partner is overly critical or nit-picky and starts fights with you over the most minor of things, that is problematic, Toni Bergquist, founder and CEO of matchmaking company The Agency, tells Romper. Starting fights for no reason is not a sign of a healthy relationship.
9. They Need Constant Affirmation
The need for constant affirmation and reinforcement is another sign of possible insecurity, and also a potential warning sign that your partner may not be good for you. "Mostly this happens because deep inside they know that they are mistreating you to the point of probably being abusive, and they expect that you are finally going to leave them," marriage and family therapist Dr. Gary Brown tells Romper by email. They want to be assured that you won't leave, but ultimately, sometimes the best thing for you to do for yourself is to do just that.